Jesus and Elvis were the big sellers. Marilyn did well, too. After them, it was a broad mix of pop icons, cowboys, sports teams and state flags that rounded out the collection of glossy driftwood clocks we’d sell in a tiny kiosk in a mall in the middle of nowhere. By “we” I mean a paunchy gray-haired woman who only looked up from her Orange Julius to greet shoppers by cradling her face with both hands, tilting her head to the side, and smiling without teeth. It was a weird greeting ritual, one that have been cute decades before when her hands moved quickly and without clicking. Whatever her name was, she was the one who hired me as her one boy assembly line.
The only time I wasn’t sitting in a semi-truck trailer in the parking lot were the rare moments when boss lady needed to deal with something in town. At night, she would sleep in the cab. The back doors of the trailer were cracked, and I had a little fan, but if you know Sacramento Valley summers, you know I was dripping sweat as I took plastic clock parts out a box and bolted them onto shiny wooden slabs. The artwork was just printed paper, but staring out from beneath a quarter inch of lacquer, it gained a certain authority. What time is it? Jesus knows. The tiny clock hands were really cheap. I broke quite a few.
After a week, I got my first check and spent it at Foot Locker on a white Diadora sweatshirt. I loved that sweatshirt with it’s red and blue embroidered logo. It was the first piece of clothing I bought with my own money; a big step up from a lifetime of hand-me-downs and thrift store fashion (excepting the occasional back to school splurge at Mervyns). The check spent, I decided I needed a new career. I spent a long night putting together dozens of clocks so that the face cradler would have time to find my replacement and said goodbye to the King and the Lord. And Marilyn, too.