Miss Adele approached the counter and placed her corsets upon it. She stared down a teenage girl leaning on the counter to her left, who now, remembering her manners, looked away and closed her mouth. Miss Adele returned her attention to the side of Mrs Alexander’s husband’s head. He picked up the first box. He looked at it as if he’d never seen a corset box before. Slowly he wrote something down in a note pad in front of him. He picked up the second and repeated the procedure, but with even less haste. Then, without looking up, he pushed both boxes to his left, until they reached the hands of the shopgirl, Wendy.
“Forty-six 50,” said Wendy, though she didn’t sound very sure. “Um… Mr Alexander – is there discount on Paramount?”
He was in his own world. Wendy let a finger brush the boss’s sleeve, and it was hard to tell if it was this – or something else – that caused him to now sit tall in his stool and thump a fist upon the counter, just like Daddy casting out the devil over breakfast, and start right back up shouting at his wife – some form of stinging question – repeated over and over, in that relentless way men have. Miss Adele strained to understand it. Something like: You happy now? Or: Is this what you want? And underneath, the unmistakable: Can’t you see he’s unclean?
“Hey, you,” said Miss Adele, “Yes, you, sir. If I’m so disgusting to you? If I’m so beneath your contempt? Why’re you taking my money? Huh? You’re going to take my money? My money? Then, please: look me in the eye. Do me that favour, OK? Look me in the eye.”