‘Don’t Be Like That’ by Andrew Pippos
I started the job in my last year of high school, when the possibilities of cash were starting to impress me like a fad. Friends said I got lucky. The video store specialized in martial arts and animated films: the owner was an estranged father of two sons who possessed a high-up belt in karate.
My friends didn’t know about the orange phone. It sat on a schoolroom desk behind a wall of VHS cassettes, in a space concealed from customers and lined with pornographic posters. “Here it is,” said the owner. “We call it the orange phone.”
It turned out that in the basement, behind a locked door, he ran a side business that sold mail-order XXX-rated videos. The porno setup, he explained, had a nice and sanitary company name and advertised in regional newspapers across the country. Customers saw the advert, called the orange phone, and I would mail them a catalog: the idea was that they’d eventually phone back, select a few videos, and give me their credit card details. He told me to pretend I was well acquainted with the latest pornography trends and sex toys. I asked him how often the orange phone rang. He said all the time. We both stood there, looking at the receiver. I asked him which took precedence, the proper video store or the mail-order porn video store, if for example the orange phone started ringing while I was serving a customer. He said to take care of both, please.