One summer on Martha’s Vineyard, I worked for a friend, Rob, who owned an import clothing retail store that carried brightly woven mildly hippie-ish fabrics in all shapes and sizes from Guatemala.
Being a hippie and being me, I loved the fashion. But the real reason that this was one of the best jobs I’d ever had was due to Rob himself. You couldn’t ask to work with anyone who was more fun.
Since he was in the position of not really having to make or worry about money, our lack of customers never stressed him out.
His favorite part of the day was at 5:00 pm, or sometimes 4:00, hitting the “No Sale” button which opened the cash drawer, allowing him to remove the day’s income. Then we would stroll across the street to the Colonial Inn (and Bar), sit on the porch drinking Long Island Iced Tea and discuss “business.”
What more could a gal ask for in an employer?
Feliz the store was named after Feliz the bird.
Feliz the bird was some large brightly colored talking thing that Rob had brought back from one of his trips South. Feliz lived in the store; his cage, which he didn’t spend too much time in, sat on the counter next to the register. He was great company.
Except when he wasn’t.
He would sit on top of his cage when someone entered the store and sweetly say, “Welcome.” Well, it won over any and everyone that came in.
“May I pet him?”
“Sure,” if you want to take your life in your hands.
“You must just love having him in here to keep you company.”
Yeah, love him like I love a hole in the head.
Sometimes he would make little “hmmmm” of “tisk tisk” sounds which innocent shoppers would attribute to him giving fashion advice.
I knew he was just gearing up for the real show.
Eventually, the potential buyer would approach the counter with a few select items and that’s when it would start.
“What did he just say?”
“Oh that’s so funny,” then, “Oh silly bird, I’m just buying this dress.”
“GET OUT! GO!!!.”
Yep, just like the Amityville Horror.
At this point, the emphatic harassment would begin to included some wing flapping and feather rustling. He also swung his head from side to side which made it appear as if he might be having an epileptic fit.
The average person would drop their items and run. The very bravest would ask if it was safe to approach the cash register.
I would then put on a big show about reprimanding Feliz and putting him in his cage. If he continued his abuse (which he always did), I would then throw a bright Guatemalan serape over the cage which would silence him long enough for the customer to grab her wallet out of her purse.
Seriously, this came from under the blanket, sweet and curious and forlorn – heartbreaking, really.
If you didn’t know better.
No wonder we had to go to the bar at the end of the day.