Cash and Carry-oke
Assistant Manager Mateo Couch bounced from foot to foot, looking at the bank of security camera feeds in the Cash and Carry’s main office. Corporate management had given him one chance to turn around the store’s profits and make it competitive with the Wull-Murt superstore that had just opened across the road. He had put everything he had into this.
The TV screens were set up all around the store, currently showing the specials for the day and the store hours. The shoppers drifted through the aisles to the soporific Muzak coming from the speakers.
“It’s all yours, Couch,” the Manager said. Her name was Jillian Feeney but everyone just called her the Manager, which she preferred.
Mateo hit the switch and the Muzak died away. The screens around the store went dark.
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing.” The sounds of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline came over the speakers. A few shoppers looked up and smiled at the lyrics now scrolling across all the screens.
“Hands, touching hands.”
Then it happened, one lone tenor voice coming from the baked goods aisle, singing along. “Reaching out, touching me, touching you.”
“Sweet Caroline. BAM BAM BAM!” The store exploded into singing. Shoppers all over the store were singing now. In the dairy aisle, a small conga line of shopping carts had formed, heading towards the yogurt case.
It was working, it was actually working. Mateo looked back at the Manager. She permitted him a quarter smile, which was the equivalent of a bear hug from someone else.
Someone in the bakery section was filming the scene on their phone. Perfect. This might go viral. They’d be famous as the cool grocery store. He saw people dancing, throwing groceries into the cart with glee. Yes.
The song ended and there was a cheer from the shoppers. This had worked better than he had even dreamed.
The next song came on. Mateo looked at the name. He didn’t recognize it. It started with a whisper. It was too quiet. He turned it up a bit.
“Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the FLOOR!”
Shoppers screamed. A glass bottle of artisanal olive oil shattered in the International Foods aisle. An old man went down, clutching at his chest.
Mateo dove the power button, and the music died. A few seconds of ringing silence passed before the soothing strains of Muzak came over the speakers.
“Great concept,” the Manager said. “Truly original. But please let me approve the song list from now on.”
Since this story incorporates music into fiction, I thought I’d give a shout out to my friend Miles Rost over at Music and Fiction, a writing blog he has been running for about as long as this blog has been going. Go read some of his stories, if you get a chance.