The automatic doors slid open and Mara entered the Piggly Wiggly with bored enthusiasm. She could smell the fake cold air and the latest creation from the bakery. Mara looked around for the manager untill she found him. There was Darren, the store manager, complete with clip-on tie, glasses, and nervously clutching his clipboard.
"You the manager?" Mara asked. The man jumped. He began to fiddle with his glasses as he scrambled for an answer. His intimidated reaction to her presence told Mara that a job was hers for the taking.
Mara began working a night shift stocking shelves. It was mind-numbing work, but it wasn't a bad set-up. People mostly left her alone, unless they could not find the green beans. Her favorite time of the night was when they began making the closing announcements. It was, to her, the alarm for almost quitting time. In the last hour Mara stopped stocking and helped bagging. After a couple of weeks of this Mara became friends with a cashier named Roger. Roger was a high school senior who didn't ask too many questions. This is why Mara liked him so much.
"Attention shoppers the time is now 11:30. Our registers will be closing in 30 minutes. We will re-open tomorrow at 7. Thank you and have a nice night."
Mara sat on the counter behind Roger as he was ringing up one of the last customers.
"You know, you could, I don't know, do your job. Maybe put some of this stuff in the bags."
"Aw, thanks Roger, but I'm good right here," Mara replied with mock appreciation and went back to filing her nails. Another dry announcement came over the speakers. "God. Nancy makes nails scraping a chalkboard sound like Mozart."
"I know. You'd think she's never seen Empire Records," Roger replied in serious disbelief. Mara had to laugh.
Where as Mara listened to music; Roger watched movies. He was constantly talking about movies and making references to them. Even when Roger was not watching movies, he was living in one. This is probably why he did not ask too many questions. Mara was his John Bender. The mysterious, bad-girl with a shady past. Mara didn't have a shady past, nor was she necessarily bad. All he knew was that Mara left home early and now she worked at the Piggly Wiggly in Happy Valley. Mara had no plans of shattering the character she played in his head so she continued to be vague about her life and a little outlandish at times.
"Well, what do you say we have a little fun?" Mara said with a devilish smile.
"Mara, no. Whatever you're thinking, no. Darren may be afraid of you, but he's not afraid to fire me."
"Oh, stuff it. Darren's off. No one else is here," Mara said as she grabbed his wrist. "Come on." She dragged him behind the customer service desk and handed him the mic. "Lay some funny on the vanilla people of Happy Valley."
"No way dude. You're the one with the 'flavor'," Roger said.
"You did not put 'flavor' in air quotes."
Roger just looked down in slight embarrassment.
"Fine," Mara snapped up from behind the counter, "Alllllright you late night shoppers. It's 11:45 meaning the veggies are wilted and so are your cashiers. Please make your finals selections and give us your money so we can go home. As always, thanks for choosing your local Piggly Wiggly. The only grocery store in town."
Mara plopped back down next to Roger and they both started laughing hysterically. "That was fun," Mara said.
"You sounded like a retard. I thought you were going to be funny," Roger teased.
"As long as I don't have to sound like an idiot," said a voice from over the counter. They looked up to see Nancy looking down at them. "Mara, you do the nightly announcements from now on. I hate it."
For the next couple of nights Mara gave the nightly announcements. She was comfortable speaking over the intercom. The only difficult part was avoiding being offensive or rude. Sometimes Mara would make the announcements like a TV new reporter and throw in a silly headline. A couple of nights she even rapped. As time went on, Mara almost had a following. If you can call a couplle high school kids hanging around to hear her announcements a following. Mara was still just making sandwiches, but now she was throwing a pickle on the side.
One night Mara noticed a new face to her "crowd." He stuck out because he was an older gentleman. He stuck out even more because he looked almost hip. A man Mara might see in a big city, but was surprised to see in her new, small town. After her first two announcements he approached her, "I'm Marcus Black. I like your style kid." Mara was forced to ignore the compliment at the word "kid." He continued, "Tell me, you listen to much music?" She nodded. Mara was still displeased about being called a kid. Mr. Black laughed and went on, "Look, I just bought one of the local radio stations just outside of town. I need someone to cover the late hours. Think you'de be interested?" Mara was absolutely shocked. Not many people could throw her for a loop like Marcus Black just had. She had never thought of radio before. In all honesty Mara hated the radio. Too many commercials, inane conversation, stuipd giveaways, and terrible music they played 20 times in a day.
"What's the catch?" she asked.
"No catch. Just a job. Why don't you meet me at the Buddy's down the street tomorrow and we'll talk?"
That night Mara stayed awake thinking about this strange man's offer. They had talked a bit more and he seemed legit. The more she thought about it, the more it kind of made sense. Mara was quiet, but not because she didn't like to talk. She didn't like to listen. If she had her own show that was several hours of talking without having to pretend to listen to anyone else. She would also get to play whatever she liked since it was a late night show. Mara could finally introduce the world to so many great bands. Well, the world of Happy Valley that is. The more she thought about it, the more excited she got at the prospect of it. Then Mara remember the one big reason not too. She made sandwiches and put a pickle on the side. This man was asking her to make chicken parmesian. And Mara didn't know the first thing about making chicken parmesian. It would only end in disaster.
Mara fell asleep to a voice running thorugh her head, "You're listening to 96.7 WKEL with Mara Massey. This is Damn The Man Radio."
((I know it took forever to get the second part out, but i promise part three, the conclusion, won't be far behind. I hope.))