With her first collection of short stories, Auxiliary Skins, about to launch, Christine Miscione is currently working part-time at a kiosk in a mall. She has never liked malls, and never spent more time in them than she’s had to, but she can now say that she has sat all day, eight hours, in a mall—and liked it. It’s rife with inspiration. “Tales from the Kiosk” is a fictionalized account of one such day, and she asks that you note she has nothing against Bowring.
Tales from the Kiosk
Saturday. 9:25am: Mall sleepy-eyed, quiet. Yawns through the hallway. The dusty sun, skylights. Store doors opening, gates opening, intercom opens the day, GOOD MORNING SHOPPERS. Stores are not islands. Stores are closets of a greater continent. Stores like organs bound by mall arteries. People entering and exiting. Entering and exiting. Blood cells entering and exiting all day long. Blood cells married and bickering and tired because the dog barked all night. Blood cells pregnant. Teenage blood cells on their cell phones and the blood pressure pill Vietnamese-Hat Lady who is not Vietnamese tells me makes her feel like dancing again. The blood-red door propped open beside my desk, frameless, keeping nothing in or out: a showstopper. The one behind it the colour of lymphocytes with a large glass insert, then the maroon door next, the razor grey, the hunter green, and finally the token blue door; it reminds me of my nails when I get cold. An array of doors to my left, a bouquet of doors. Fibreglass doors can be made to look like wood, indestructible. Otherwise: 24-gauge steel doors. Fireproof doors. Resilient. One grade below the banks’ doors. Or the slider doors behind me. Double-lock and cathedral glass bevelling; elegance in a suburbia kind of way. And to my right, another bouquet, this time windows. Casement. Double sliders. A pair of double hung which are too naughty for the man in the argyle suspenders who says he doesn’t like my French. From the skylights nearby, sun like a checkerboard across the ARDENE sign visible through those glass walls of Bowring. I can see it from my desk. Little toddlers squeaking come running through sunbeams, run to the door bouquet, hide between, put their faces on the glass inserts. I’ll break their hearts if I tell them to stop. I’m hungry. 11am. Greek food in the food court. ‘Spinach and cheese pie’ is a boring way of saying spanakopita, but I’ll take it. It tastes like the spinach and cheese pie of a North America that loves Bowring. They just love Bowring. In and out of BOWRING. Gift baskets of Bowring. Parade of Bowring bags. Do I like Bowring? And the gift baskets with yellow, green and orange ribbon tied beautifully, I see them a mile away while I’m walking back from the washroom. I have a blister on my foot. I smell Kernels popcorn: heaven. I return to the kiosk and find my first lead waiting for me. A woman who reminds me of Tinker Bell’s red-haired nemesis; she’s been planning on coming all day. All day long I was going to meet her, destined to, inescapable. In and out, she knew exactly what she wanted. Wave goodbye. And the sea of people swells around 2:30pm while an elderly woman tells me about her cape-cod-style home and would we make sure to do three layers of silver paint on the virgin vinyl trim? Could we do a wrought iron inlay of her miniature schnauzer inside each windowpane? And could the ashes of her late husband be sprinkled inside the glass panels with argon gas? Everything is customized, I say. Everything. She winks at me and walks away, passes three Italian men lounging in leather wingbacks, and a young girl carrying a kitten. I’ll never see her again. I’ll never hear her voice again. In and out, in and out, in and out. I notice the sea falls away around 4:45pm. I’m training my brain with puzzles – PARIS written in every direction. Find it – training it for a future when brains are finally given their own Olympics. Can you work out the logic between the numbers in the limbs shown, determining a number sequence to replace A and B? OR: Only two of these twenty images of teeth are exactly the same – be a dentist, spot the matching pair. And suddenly, looking up, only a trickle of people. The last-minute missions, the stragglers, moms dragging kids, husbands picking up wives. When does it happen—the dying down of a Saturday? The mall feels light-headed now, all the blood rushed from it, the sunlight waning, and everything is pale, tired, yawning. 5:59pm and the closing of gates, the closing of doors, the intercom saying, THE MALL IS NOW CLOSED.
Christine Miscione visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with Valentino Assenza, Catherine Hernandez and Sheila Toller.
Watch this space for more with each of our readers in the month leading up to the event!