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Fiction #490
(published June 10, 2010)
by Emily Dufton
"Which one's Franklin?" She was white and chubby, droopy with age. Her nasal voice chirped out of aisle seven, with a hint of a laugh. The two women behind the counter, one old and one young, drolly smoothed hair gel and maxi pads across the red blinking light of the scanner, listened to her but did not move.

"You don't know which one he is?" The older of the two women shouted back at her, drawing out the 's'.

"Mmm, oh I don't know," was the response from aisle seven. Thick accented, a kind of Midwestern mutt. She was sitting on the floor, surrounded by cardboard boxes stuffed with little plush Charlie Browns.

"The list here says there's Charlie Brown, and Linus, and Snoopy, and Woodstock, and Lucy... hell, there's a Sally too, but Franklin? Mmm, I don't remember him. Was he the genius?"

"Genius?" The older woman behind the counter snorted.

"Yeah, the piano player. The genius."

"Mmm, he ain't no genius." Her gray hair was kinked, greased down to her head. Old brown hands took vitamins and condoms across the scanner and rang up the sale.

"Wa-a-a-a-ait, you sure? Franklin? I thought he played the piano while Snoopy danced."

"He ain't no genius." The older woman said it again. The customers dispersed for a minute and she stooped over the counter, staring down aisle seven. The other woman, beautiful, young, black hair thick with braids, her shirt tight around firm young breasts with a nametag that she penciled on "assistant store manager" over her name, "Clarrise", stood on one foot, the other foot resting against her ankle. She laughed, unsure of what was going on.

"What y'all talkin' about?" Clarrise is laughing, but also staring at a man, shifting her gaze briefly to the magazine stand near the front door. "Mmm, child, Peanuts. You never read a newspaper?"

"I read the paper!" Clarrise is briefly offended; then she rests.

"The comics, baby. The one with the little round-headed white boy and his dog. It's an older one, baby girl." The older woman laughs. "'bout as old as me."

"I don't know what y'all are talking about."

"That's all right. Susan there jus' stockin' some shelves. Hey Susan?"

"Wha-a-a?" comes the voice from aisle seven.

"You look real good at those dolls. Which one don't look nothin' like the others?"

"What're you talkin' about, Grace?"

"The other dolls, Susan. Which one look different?" A customer comes up. Grace traces his items—envelopes, a box cutter, a jar of almonds—across the scanner. She rings up his total and asks him for the cash. She places the items slowly, malcontentedly, into a bag. She's been doing this for more than ten years.

"I always thought Franklin was the one that played piano."

"Girl that ain't the truth. And where's Peppermint Patty?"

"Peppermint Patty? The little red-headed girl?"

"No honey, that ain't the same one. You never did see the little red headed girl. She was never showed. Charlie Brown loved her but she ain't never showed. I'm talking 'bout Peppermint Patty. She was in lots of them cartoons." Grace draws out the 'oo' in 'cartoons' as a sweet summer wind enters into the store as another customer walks in, setting off the sensors that open the folding front doors. "Susan honey, we gonna need you to print some photos soon."

"Well I got this list in front of me! I gotta set up these stuffed dolls for the holiday!"

"The ha-liday?" Clarrise seems indignant.

"Oh honey, the Fourth of July!" Susan emerges from aisle seven, aching as she stands up after ten minutes of sitting down, old knees popping loudly enough for customers to hear

"That don't need no dolls."

"Su-u-u-ure it does! They're wharin' flag shirts!" Susan tromps out of the aisle towards the counter, the list, printed up from headquarters, in her hand. "And it says right here that they go in the Seasonal Aisle, along with them napkins printed with firecrackers and the Frisbees and the tiki torches. That's where they go." She waves the paper up near Clarrise's face.

"Ga-a-awd, girl, I see it! I do!" Clarrise pushes the paper away from her and immediately inspects her nails. Susan laughs and walks back towards aisle seven before Grace calls her back. Warm summer air and no one at the counter but them.

"Susan now, you listen to me. Which one is Franklin?" Grace asks this pointedly, her nail reaching down towards the scanner, its red flashing laser beam beating, underneath the counter, like a heartbeat, waiting for another item to scan. Her long nail, nearly an inch in length, yellow and thick, taps a beat over the scanner, waiting for Susan's answer. "Which one is he?"

"Grace, honey, you know I think he's the piano player. Ain't he the blond boy, the genius?"

"That Charles M. Schulz is a racist." Grace says this adamantly, still leaning over the counter, her old back curved, the arch showing through the red polyester vest she has to wear, the nametag where she wrote 'Grace' ten years ago still hanging by an old safety pin over her removed left breast. "Bad man, that Charles M. Schulz."

"What are you talkin' about?" Susan asks, momentarily mystified. The list from headquarters rests near her right doughy thigh.

"Franklin... He's..."

There's silence in the store for a minute, strangely. It's never silent. There's always the music, piped in. There's always the stock boys in the back, getting stoned and throwing boxes of tampons at each other until one gets somehow cut in the face and comes running to the front for Grace's help.

"Franklin's the black one, Susan." Grace finally says. "Ain't no others like him in that pile, I tell you what."

"Oh my god," Susan says, pausing between each word. "You right, Grace. That's right. Franklin, he's the black one."

"And Peppermint Patty?"

"Peppermint Patty what?" Susan asks this with just a touch of fear in her voice.

"Peppermint Patty, she the lesbian in the group."

"No, lawd, Grace, what you talkin' about?" Susan is still standing in the same position, the paper still there at her side. Clarrise is still disinterested, too young, looking at a magazine and periodically checking out who might be looking at her, which is no one. The store seems empty for a moment, and then for two.

"Marcie. You know who I'm talkin' about."

"Waaaah waaaah waaaaaaaaaah," Susan says.

"What that?" Grace asks, momentarily perplexed.

"You know!"


"The adults!"


"The adults in the 'Peanuts' cartoons! They never talked, just went 'waaah waaaah waah waaaah waaaaaaaah waaaaaaaah'. That's how they spoke." "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, Susan."

"That's all right, Grace."

The store is still empty, with no one checking out. Susan walks back down the aisle and begins stocking shelves.

Emily Dufton is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the George Washington University. She lives in Washington, DC.

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