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I was filling the yogurt racks when an old lady opened the cooler doors and grabbed some cottage cheese. She put it in her cart then looked at me with her eyes wide and a stunned look.
“I saw something weird in the cooler behind the food, I don't want to sound crazy, but it looked like a ghost.”
“You aren't going crazy there is a ghost in the store,” I said. “He actually follows me around most of the time.”
“I'm not really supposed to tell customer's this story, but since you've seen the ghost I will.”
“Don't more people see the ghost?”
“He tends to stay in the back. I know it sounds weird, but I think he's afraid of people.”
* * *
Charlene had grabbed her purse and walked down the stairs from the break room to leave for the day when her boyfriend, Dave was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. She got to the bottom and gave him a kiss, and he went down on one knee and pulled a ring box out of his pocket and proposed to her. I was working the register when it happened and kept ringing groceries up until the customer told me to stop and pointed it out. I watched along with everyone one and it was pretty cliché. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth and you could see Dave start sweating bullets, but he was a pretty sweaty guy anyway. Finally she said yes and they hugged and kissed and everybody started clapping. I don't want to be a spoil sport, but mostly I just wanted to go back to doing my job.
That was definitely a weird day of work, but things went back to normal pretty quickly. Dave and Charlene went back to just being a normal couple despite the fact that they got engaged at work, and they didn't really make any plans. They spent their breaks together more often than before and they'd start and end shifts with a kiss. Basically couple stuff, but they did it at work instead of quietly at home. I think part of it was Dave bragging. He was the kind of guy who always wanted to be in a position of power, have the girl, and let everybody know it. I wasn't the biggest fan of the guy, but that has nothing to do with how the story's going to unfold.
Two months into their engagement I moved to the Deli department and started working with Charlene, and found out what Dave saw in her. She made work seem a little less like work and wasn't as depressing as a lot of the other people who worked here. Not to mention she was close to my age in our late twenties than all the people in their forties who had nothing to talk about except what their kids were doing and in general being out of touch with what pop culture was to me. About once a month the Deli manager would get everybody to go out after work together to a bar and have a good time and I spent a lot of time with Charlene at those. Occasionally Dave would show up, but not always and spending time with him outside of work didn't make me think he was any cooler of a guy.
One of those times when Dave didn't show up I stayed late with Charlene after everybody else had left and like any two employees who have been drinking we started complaining about people at work. It's like a disease. You don't want to do it, but there's something about it you can't resist. We were sitting in a U shaped booth sitting close to each other, but with a respectable distance between us and talked about all the ways our coworkers made work harder for us.
Finally she brought up the subject of Dave, something she didn't do often, and when she did I'd hold my tongue.
“He just doesn't seem serious about the commitment,” Charlene said. “He put a ring on my finger and now he doesn't want to make plans for a wedding yet and just kind of wavers in his opinion about what we're doing.”
“Some guys just don't appreciate what they've got.”
“Thanks for saying so.”
“Shit. I mean, you know you're attractive, and maybe Dave doesn't really appreciate how lucky he is to have you. That didn't make things any better, did it?”
“I liked hearing it, but don't worry a girl likes to be complimented at times. I don't hear that all the time.”
“That seems unlikely to me,” I said.
“You're sweet,” Charlene said and put her hand on my leg.
“Just being honest. You're a cool person to hang out with.”
“It's fun going out drinking with you too,” she said.
I slid over in the booth, our legs were touching. I leaned over and we kissed, and it was great. We went back to my place and had intimate knowledge of each other. I was cool about it and didn't tell anybody, but it's not easy for a fiance to not show up at the end of the night and not have to answer questions. She eventually told him what happened and he kicked her out and ended the engagement. Dave never confronted me or anything, and just seemed to let it slide on my front, but I felt bad. I didn't like the guy, but I didn't intend to ruin his life.
Work was awkward between all three of us and I moved out of the Deli to get away from Charlene, but I often ended up working in Dairy with Dave. A lot of the time I was coming in when he left and never noticed him. Two months after I spent the night with Charlene I came into work after Dave and didn't see him leave, but that wasn't too odd. I finished a load of merchandise and took the cardboard back to the baler and dumped it in. I turned the machine on and walked back to do more work. I came back an hour later with more cardboard and the floor in front of the baler was covered with blood.
We watched the security cameras and found out that Dave had climbed into the baler and hid under some cardboard. I just happened to be the one to push the button after he had gotten in. Ever since then his ghost has been in the store. The first time anybody said anything about seeing the ghost was when I saw it. I was taking a load of cardboard to the baler. I looked into the machine and it, or he, was standing there pale and see through and I froze. The ghost didn't move so eventually I came out of it, threw the cardboard in there, then went to management and told them what I saw, and predictably they thought I was crazy.
Eventually other people started seeing the ghost as well and they couldn't just lay it on me like I was crazy. Once the store director saw the ghost everybody accepted it and the ghost's presence just became a thing everybody accepted, because there wasn't really anything to do about it. The first time Charlene saw it she ran screaming from the store. She called to quit and none of us have seen her since. Now he follows me around and spends a lot of time in the cooler. The ghost freaks me out once in a while, but it hasn't done anything to me, and being the Dairy manager is too good of a job to pass up just because of the ghost.
* * *
“So everybody is just working here, unafraid of the ghost?” the customer asked.
“Most of them haven't seen the ghost, and probably don't really believe in it. I find the ghost creepy, but not scary.”
“I'm just going to go now. This place seems pretty messed up.”
“Just like any other place of business,” I said. “There are always some kind of ghosts hanging around. I'm just glad this one is pretty much impotent.”
The lady walked away and her husband followed without the cart. I should have known that would happen after the story, it didn't make me look good. Not that the store looked much better. As soon as I finished the yogurt I'd take the products in the cart back to their home.