Liquor Store Stories: The Three Marks

Liquor Store Stories Downsized

It was a lonely night on the main drag of a very small town.
The electric signs were the cheeriest things around. Since it
was Friday night I had another liquor store clerk working with
me. I was at the beginning of the night shift with my partner
for the night. He was a young, black guy named Mark who I
had gone to high school with. Another clerk had come by to
pick up his weekly paycheck. His name was Mark, also. I was
in the back room loading liquor bottles into a shopping cart to
take out front and stock on the shelves.

Suddenly the clerk who had come to pick up his paycheck
came to the door and said, “Mark, get out here quick!” I was
the sort of unofficial, night manager there at the time. I had no
idea what was going on but I guessed it was one of those times
I would have to take responsibility for what happened. No one
had ever said to me, “Get out here quick!” like that before. I
followed Mark to the front of the store. He was already
standing outside on the other side of the other Mark. With me
on the right end we formed a line of three young men in front
of the liquor store.

Standing in front of us was a line of three other individuals
and an old pick-up truck. The three young men all had blonde,
short hair. All three wore faded straight leg, blue jeans and
white tee shirts. They were suntanned and muscular like
construction workers. I looked at the Mark I had gone to high
school with, standing next to me. Mark was wearing a tight,
dark colored, double knit shirt. He always had a naturally
round, chubby face but he was in good shape and very
muscular himself. His muscles were bristling but he was
facing three, burly guys. Probably as far as he was sure of it
was his own fight. He was visibly scared but every muscle of
his body was twitching. He was ready to fight for his life.

I looked over at the other Mark. He was a young, white guy
with brown hair. He was calm and stood steadfast. He had his
hands in the pockets of his windbreaker jacket. This Mark was
not a big guy. He was about my size. However in his full time
job in the Air Force he was with the military police. He just
had a desk job though but he was one of those guys who just
wanted to be a cop. He didn’t like just having a desk job.

The question mark was with me. I’m a smaller guy but as I
looked over at Mark with his muscles twitching and I looked at
the other Mark who was calm and steadfast I realized it didn’t
matter. Just the fact that there were three of them and three of
us was enough. The black Mark in his anger and fear was the
really scary one among us. I stood there with my hands in my
windbreaker pockets in line with the others facing these
irrational, young men. I mainly just felt a sense of sadness. I
recognized these young men as boys I had seen in high school.
They always walked around together in a group. I felt sad that
this had to be happening. It was like something that I knew
existed, that I had heard about or read about but never expected
to see. Who could believe this was actually happening? But it
was real.

I looked at the young men in front of us. Their hands were
at their sides with fingers curling as if to make fists, then
relaxing and curling. Then they relaxed their fingers again as
they noticed that I was watching their hands. The large
muscles of their arms were twitching. I looked over my left
shoulder and glanced at the large, plate glass of the storefront
behind us. This was my main concern. I imagined if this
really turned into a fight the danger of the glass shattering and
cutting us.

Now that there were three of us standing side by side things
were different. They actually started to back down. They
started to head for their old, primer gray, pickup truck. We all
automatically started going back into the store. When we went
inside I automatically started to go back to work stocking
liquor bottles.

We heard the sound of the truck starting up. Soon the truck
was driving slowly past the open, front door. One of the guys
yelled, “You’re all a bunch of nigger lovers!” which wasn’t
very insulting to any of us actually since we had nothing
against black people. It was sad to hear the n word though.
The truck roared off into the night.

I brought the shopping cart from the back of the store and
proceeded to stock the bottles. The black Mark started helping
me stock liquor on the shelves. Soon we were all joking and
laughing as if nothing had happened. The other Mark said
goodbye and left with his paycheck. We finished out the night
shift and locked up the store. As far as I know no one has ever
mentioned the experience since.

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