“You’re going to regret that, young lady,” said Billy Thompkins, who kept an eye on the register while Mildred Conrad took a quick bathroom break. Most people in Bolton were trust-worthy, but the rich folks had to be watched carefully.

Calista Jordan, the pretty teen daughter of a local banker, a girl who was a regular in the general store, probably out of boredom and the fact the closest mall was fifty miles away, gave Billy the stink-eye and smeared lip gloss on her mouth and put it back on the shelf where she found it.

She sampled the cosmetics in the clearance bins--breaking the seals on everything.

Mildred returned. “Thanks, Billy.” She waved him away from the register and resumed her position.

“Keep your eye on that’n,” he whispered in Mildred’s ear as he made his way around to the other side of the counter.


“No, putting her germs all over your makeup.” He turned and scowled at Calista.

“Calista, you can only test the stuff marked ‘tester’. If you need help, let me know.” Mildred smiled.

With a defiant smirk, Calista took the lip gloss back off the shelf, opened it, coated her lips with another layer, and promptly screwed the lid on and sat the gloss on the edge of the shelf. Wiping her hands on her jeans, she kept rubbing her lips together as she sauntered down the aisle—periodically glancing up at Mildred.

“The nerve of that girl…” Mildred mumbled under her breath to Billy.

He kept his back turned to Calista—refusing to give the brat his attention. He’d seen her many times before—spoiled, beautiful, and disrespectful. “I done told you, young lady, you’re gonna regret that. You best be getting on outa here before things get ugly.”

Mildred frowned and shook her head at Billy. “Don’t threaten.”

“I wasn’t. I’m just stating fact.” He looked in the surveillance monitor and watched Calista’s reaction. She got fidgety, like they always do, tough stuff ‘til somebody stands up to them and he hadn’t even tried to scare her, yet.

A few minutes later, Calista came to the register with a soda in her hand. She placed it on the counter and dug money out of her designer purse.

“Guess you ain’t noticed our new security camera.” Billy inched himself closer to Calista to get a good view. He could almost smell her nervousness.

Her eyes grew wide; she took a tiny gasp and stopped scrounging around in her purse for a second. She stiffened her back. “Whatever, old man.” With a dramatic head toss, she turned toward him.

He grinned and savored the anxiety in her eyes. “Daddy might like a private viewing of his little princess and her escapades about town.”

“It’s not against the law to sample.” She squared her shoulders with Billy and hid her fear like a girl accustomed to lying and manipulating. Typical.

“No need to make a big deal out of this,” Mildred said—winking at Billy behind Calista’s back. “Calista’s been coming in here since she was a little thing. She knows we don’t have a security camera.”

A wide grin spread across Calista's lips as she stuck her hand on her hip.

Her triumphant glow amused Billy. He pulled the digital camera sized monitor from his pocket and held it in front of her face and pushed rewind and play.

She leaned in and stared.

“Where’d you get that?” Mildred asked while trying to stifle her laugher as her voice quivered.

Calista was too busy studying the images on the monitor to notice the giggles hiding in Mildred’s question.

Staggering backward, Calista raised a hand to her face and felt about. She opened her mouth as if to scream, but only a whimper came out.

Then, she summoned her voice and wailed, “What the fuck happened to my face?”

“I told you to stop before things got ugly.” Billy snarled and played the video again. This time, Calista watched with tears in her eyes--fingertips tracing her porcelain skin and classic features.
Mildred regained her composure and said, “It ain’t so bad, Calista. Some folks just have nasty reactions to that brand of makeup.”

Calista turned and asked, “Is it permanent?”

“Usually, “ said Mildred.

Purse held over her face, Calista ran out of the store and sped off in her little sports car--wheels squealing out of the parking lot and cellphone pressed to her ear.

“She’s calling Daddy now, I bet.” Billy walked over to the window and watched her disappear over the hill.

“That was the best one yet.” Mildred held her sides--laughing. “Oh no, now I gotta pee again.” She ran to the restroom and Billy took her place behind the register.

He pulled out the Illusions Security Monitor instruction manual from his pocket and read the next section: Stop an armed robber in his tracks by showing his face, name, phone number, address, and driver’s license info beneath the video footage. Aim the scanner at his head and all the information will be retrieved and flashed up on the screen. For an extra kick, his worse fear will be accessed and shown to be nearby. If he is afraid of snakes, he’ll think there are snakes behind the register and they are headed his way. Warning: some robbers have been known to soil themselves while fleeing the premises. Don’t use this feature unless you have a mop handy.
Billy laughed out loud, “Damn, too bad we never get any of those around here.”

An old lady walked in and headed over to the coffee area. He set the camera to record. She stuffed a handful of single creamers, sugars, and napkins in her purse then grabbed a newspaper and shuffled toward the register. Slapping fifty-cents on the counter, her diamond rings glittered in the late afternoon light.

Billy grinned, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Jordan. You just missed your granddaughter. Calista was in her less than five minutes ago. She favors you more and more every day.”

"Security Monitor"
Copyright: © 2010 Paula Ray

Paula Ray is a musician from North Carolina who repairs musical instruments and writes fiction and poetry in the margin of her life. Her work has appeared in New Flesh Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, SNM Horror, Everyday Weirdness, and others. For more information about Paula, visit her blog: http//:musicalpencil.blogspot.com/


  1. Neat, Paula. I liked it but it didn't seem to have as much punch as some of the other stuff I've read by you. Still, you got serious talent. Keep at it!

  2. Ha! Love the gadget and the ending.