Conditions of Employment

Olivia: Hey you busy?

Logan: Nope. I wish. Nobody ever shows up this time of night this time of year.

Olivia: So youre bored

Logan: Pretty much. Ideas?

Olivia: Read your book for eng class :P

Logan: Unhelpful. Goodbye.

Olivia: I was kidding! God!

"Bryant!"

Logan's phone was back in his pocket and he was standing straight behind the counter when the old man appeared from the back stairs. "Yes sir?" he asked.

"Seen anyone yet tonight?"

"Nope," said Logan, just a little more pointedly than he had meant to.

The old man looked at him. "Feeling a little bored, there?"

"Yeah." This time he inserted an almost-sigh into the words. Hamilton was asking for it now.

"Ah, well, one more hour."

"Yep." Would he just get out of here already? What was the point of this? For all he knew the guy was down here looking for company. He sure wasn't going to get any, not the pleasant kind.

The old man leaned on the counter. "I bet you're hardly waiting to get off here so you can go texting whoever it is you're texting on that thing."

Logan tried to keep his face calm as he panicked. The sound was off, wasn't it? Of course it was, and the thing vibrated so loudly that if it had been on vibe, Hamilton would have heard it. Probably blasted him out of here for it right now. You would think that an old guy like this, who knew what to call texting and what, generally, it was, would be cool about him doing it when there was no customers in the place. Probably there wouldn't be any for the rest of his shift. Hamilton should have known that better than he did, since he'd only worked her for a couple of months and the old guy had been running the shop since dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least as long as Logan could remember.

But no, the rule was no texting on shift, and Hamilton was probably smart enough to decide that if Logan had gotten a text from someone, he had logically texted them first. At the very least he'd ask to see the phone, and probably figure out how to check the outgoing messages, and see that the only employee in his shop had been texting multiple people for the past four hours. And then out the door he was. He wasn't even sixteen yet, where was he going to get another job?

So of course the phone was on silent. If he'd had a little more warning he'd have tucked it under the edge of the counter on the floor, so that it wasn't even on his body, but the old guy was sneaky when he wanted to be. Logan even hadn't heard him coming.

"So," said Hamilton, and he probably would have gone right into some unpredictable question, except that Logan cut him off.

"If you don't mind," he said, keeping it very calm and reasonable, "I'm kind of in a bad mood today. I think it would be better if I save the happy chattiness for the customers." -that there aren't going to be. "That okay with you?"

"Suit yourself," said Hamilton, heading for the back hallway. Logan's right hand reached for his pocket, then snapped away when Hamilton turned back with one hand on the doorknob. "Since when are you all that happy and chatty anyhow, son?"

"I was thinking I'd overdo it today. Better than underdoing it, right?" said Logan, with just a touch of a smile and a shrug.

As soon as it was shut, Logan's hand was back to his pocket and he pulled out the phone.

Olivia: I could tell you another trig story if you want

Logan: Hit me! :-D


"Back to work, Bryant."

Logan shoved his phone back into his pocket and turned around. "All right. You can go now." He hadn't meant to say it with quite that much attitude, but maybe Hamilton would take the hint.

Hamilton stepped out from behind the counter and jerked his chin at the pocket. "Who are you so interesting in talking to, anyway?"

Why couldn't he be a normal old guy, who didn't understand technology and called it all black magic or something? "Just people."

Usually the old man was decent at taking hints. This time he seemed determined not to. "Such as? Not your mother, I'm assuming."

Ha-ha. That was supposed to be pretty funny. "No, in fact, not my mother."

"All right." Hamilton started moving toward the back door. "Keep your secret love affairs secret."

"I don't have any secret love affairs, thank you." Logan glanced toward the door to see if anyone might be about to come in, and surprised himself by adding, "Love affairs out in the open are hard enough."

The old man chuckled. "You may be right. This is the kind out in the open, then?"

Logan tried to toss it off lightly. "Nah, she's way too smart for me."

"Sounds to me like you're interested."

He shrugged. "Whatever."

"As far as I can tell, you're a pretty smart guy yourself."

"I thought I wasn't supposed to be distracted while I was on the clock," Logan pointed out.

Instead of taking that hint, Hamilton waved a hand at him. "There, proved my point."

Talking was not going to convince the guy. Logan turned his whole body to face the door and stared at it, trying to forget Hamilton was even there.

"All right, I can see I'm not getting through that thick skull." Creak as the door opened. "Just don't keep selling yourself short, son." And the door clicked shut and footsteps started up the stairs.


Logan reached into his pocket for his phone.

Olivia: I dont think you want to talk to me today. Im not going to be much fun

Logan: In that case talk.

Olivia: No I mean it. You really dont want to hear this

Logan: TALK!

And of course right after that the door opened and a couple of dark-haired kids burst in. Logan shoved the phone into his pocket as an older girl, looking slightly frantic, ran in after them.

"Guys! Slow down!" The girl looked over at him and said apologetically, "Their mom gave me a few bucks so they could walk down here and buy candy- to give me a break. Believe me, right now I'm really starting to need one."

Logan nodded and wondered whether he should risk pulling out his phone or not.

"Noah! Calm down and walk like a human being, or you are not going to get any candy!"

Probably not a good idea. One of them would knock something over, and then somehow Hamilton would find out that it had happened while he wasn't paying attention, and he would have no way of paying his mom back for Driver's Ed. He needed this job. It would just be really excellent if these customers- if you could call the kids that- would hurry up here, pick their candy, and be gone so that he could find out what was wrong with Olivia.

"Hey, can I get this, please?" The little girl was waving a candy bar in his face.

He looked up at the older girl for confirmation.

She looked at the younger girl. "Are you sure that's what you want? Make sure you're sure, because I don't want to hear how you wish you'd bought something else as soon as we get home."

The girl started to say yes and push it across the counter, and then changed her mind and pulled it back down. "Wait." She went back to the rack of candy bars, folded her hands with her original pick behind her back, and studied it carefully.

"Hey Jess!" called the boy's voice from across the shop. "We could put our money together and get a whole bag of jelly beans!"

Jess took off and disappeared around a shelf out of sight.

"I know they're insane," said the girl. "Sorry."

Logan could have lied and said that he'd been bored anyhow, but here was his chance. "No, it's okay. Listen, do you think you could keep an eye on them for just a sec? I need to check my phone and I don't want to get in trouble for something going wrong while I do it. My boss is real big on the no-phone thing."

The girl looked a little disappointed, but she nodded- "Okay. No problem."- and then wandered off around the shelf towards the jelly bean barrel. "I think you guys have enough for a small bag of jelly beans and a bag of Choco Butters, if you want to do that..."

Logan pulled out his phone. The message was from immediately after his last one, a couple of minutes ago by now.

Olivia: Ill tell you if you really want to know but im telling you you dont

Logan: Tell me.

"Noah!"

The phone was back into Logan's pocket by the time the girl appeared, this time dragging Noah behind her. "Tell the guy what you did."

Jess popped around the shelf and dashed up to the counter, leaned her chest against it on tiptoe and started in gleefully. "He tried to put a whole-"

"Jessica, get back here. You are not in trouble yet, but you are getting ready to be."

Jess dropped back down and slunk over to the others in a put-on guilty fashion. "Can I go get the jelly beans, then?"

"You may go get a bag of jelly beans, and you may pick out something else for your mother. I'll tell you if you have enough money. Noah is not going to be getting anything today, for the reason which he is about to tell this guy here, or else be in even worse trouble, he may take his pick." The last half of it was addressed to Noah himself, who was looking truly guilty, staring at the floor and not looking in the direction of Logan or his babysitter.

"I already put it back. Can't I just not buy anything?"

"You want to try me, pal?"

His eyes went down again and he mumbled, "I was going to put extra jelly beans in my pocket and not pay for it."

"You didn't tell him, you told the floor."

Giggles could be heard from behind the shelf.

"Jessi-"

"Mmm! These jelly beans look sooo delicious and yummifuls!"

The babysitter strained not to laugh. Once her face was serious again she said, "I mean it, Noah. Tell him what you did."

Noah squirmed for another minute, looked up for exactly as long as it took to say, "I tried to put some jelly beans in my pocket," and then returned his gaze to the floor.

This was taking up too much time! And what was he supposed to say anyhow? "Well... that wouldn't be very good. I'm glad you didn't." He could not possibly take out his phone again until these people were gone, so he might as well stop thinking about it.

"You know stealing isn't right," the babysitter was saying very seriously to her charge, who was still staring at the floor.

"Yeah, I know."

"Because if people just keep taking stuff and not giving the store any money for it, and the store keeps spending money to get it, then the store is-"

"I know, I know, I get it!" Noah waved his arms in her face until she backed off. "I didn't take it and I said sorry so just forget it!"

He was still thinking about it. Stop thinking about it!

"You didn't say sorry. Did he?" she asked, looking up to get Logan to confirm it.

"Nope, I sure didn't hear that."

"I bet you'd feel a lot better if he did, right?" She had her back to Noah enough to give Logan a smile here.

He didn't have to worry about fighting to keep a straight face. He was not finding any of this the least bit funny. Couldn't they just be done with this already? The kid hadn't actually taken the candy! And yeah, it was a good idea to try and get him to know stealing was bad, and not just that he would get in trouble if he got caught, but couldn't she do that on the way home or something? "Yeah, a lot better," he agreed. He was still thinking about that thing he shouldn't be thinking about. There wasn't even enough of his brain free to come up with an answer that wasn't an exact copy of the question.

Noah looked at him. "Sorry," he finally said, and then swung around to look at his babysitter. "Can we go now?"

"Jess?" the girl called over the shelf. "Finish-"

"I'm finished!" Jess reappeared so quickly it was obvious that she had been listening. "I got a bag full of jelly beans and I got these for Mommy." 'These' would be a big bag of cherry drops. "Is that good?"

"Go give them to him, and we can see."

The girl ran up with a sweet smile and plopped the candy in front of him. "Mommy loves cherry drops. It would be really good if we have enough to get her this many!"

If it hadn't been enough he would have found some way to discount it just to get them out of here. "Yep, plenty," he said, ringing the stuff up, handing the candy back to her.

"Don't we get it in a bag?"

If he hadn't been in such a hurry he would have asked instead of assuming that they would want the candy by itself. "Sure, if you want." Grabbed a bag, stuck the two bags of candy into it, handed that over the counter. "Here you go." Now get out of here!

"Thank you!" said Jess. She was clearly proud of herself for being so polite, but at this point it was grating on Logan. He wouldn't have cared if she had stuck her tongue out at him as long as she had done it through the window when they were out the door and couldn't be considered customers anymore!

"You're welcome," he said, half-wishing there was someone here to be impressed by his good manners, so he could consider it worthwhile.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" Noah tugged on the older girl's hand.

"Okay, let's go!" Jess hopped away from the counter, executed some kind of dance step- at least that was what Logan figured it was probably meant to be- and a flying leap, and ran out the door, banging it behind her. Noah pulled his hand free of the babysitter's and ran after her.

"Thanks for being so nice," said the older girl, starting very slowly toward the door. "I don't know what got into him. I didn't even know it ever crossed his mind to steal something. They spend their money here all the time."

He knew. He had seen them. He didn't need to be hearing this. "I think you better run and catch them before they get home without you."

"Yeah," she said kind of reluctantly. "I guess I should. Well, bye."

She was out the door by then, and while he did bother to say goodbye back, he did it while pulling his phone out of his pocket.

Olivia: Im in trouble for not getting a good grade on my project. And now you laugh

Logan: What's not a good grade?

Olivia: A 88. now you laugh

Logan: I'm not laughing.

Olivia: And mom is yelling because I didnt spend enough time on it and so thats why I failed

Logan: 88 is a b.

Olivia: I know that but mom says I should of worked more on it and then I would have had an a.

Logan: It's okay. You did good. Who cares what she says.

Olivia: But I have to be yelled at about it for getting it. So I kinda have to care because I kinda have to listen while she yells at me.

Logan: Then just don't care. Everyone else would be happy with an 88.

Footsteps. The phone was back into his pocket before the door to the back hallway opened.

"Everything all right down here?"

"Fine," said Logan, leaning on the counter with his arms crossed over his chest- see, he couldn't possibly have had his phone out a minute ago, because there was no way he could have crossed his arms that fast! "There was a kid who tried to steal some jelly beans, but his babysitter caught him and made him apologize."

Hamilton nodded. "I have a feeling kids have been trying to steal from that thing for years. Probably succeeding half the time. Jelly beans are cheap."

If he didn't need the old guy to get out of here now, he would have made some comment about the sister being happy to turn him in, and hope for the future, and stuff like that.

"You're quiet today."

Logan shrugged. "Tired, I guess." He gave a good fake yawn, clapping his hand over his mouth 'politely'. "Long day."

"Seems to be happening a lot lately," said Hamilton, with a slightly suspicious look again.

"You know. Almost done with school for Christmas, all that stuff. And I can't even go to bed when I get home even though I'm completely dead because Mom said she wanted to talk to me about some stuff."

"Uh-huh. Well-" he looked at the clock. This time it seemed he was going to take the hint, thank God. "Guess you can start closing up right about now."

"Thanks!" Logan said, with real enthusiasm now. He watched the old man walk to the door, open it, shut it, waited two seconds, and pulled out his phone.

Olivia: Not my mom. Sorry im so depressing tonight

Logan: No it's fine. You sh

He was being watched. He was definitely being watched. And he knew the front door hadn't opened so that meant- Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

"Bryant?" Hamilton was looking right back at him, so their eyes met as soon as Logan looked up from the phone.

"Uh, yes, sir?" Logan's first reaction was to shove the phone into his pocket, but he stopped himself before he did. That would look really stupid, since he'd already been caught and the better thing to do was face up to it. Not to mention he didn't have much of a choice.

"Well..." Hamilton raised his eyebrows, as if he was waiting for an excuse or an apology or something. When Logan didn't say anything, he continued, with no expression on his face or hint of what was about to happen, "Considering that you have to get home to have that talk with your mom, why don't you just finish closing up here and we'll have a discussion tomorrow?"

Pause. This was the part where Logan was supposed to say something, but he still couldn't think of anything appropriate.

Hamilton left him more than enough time, but finally he said, "Well, then, that's fine," and turned around and went back through the door and shut it behind him. This time Logan did hear the footsteps and the stairs creaking as he disappeared.

He thought about pulling out his phone again to finish that message, but he didn't feel like talking to Olivia right now. He doubted very much she was worth losing a job over.


She tried the shop door, but it didn't open, so she ended up working her way around back until she found the private door and rang the doorbell there. It was a long minute before the door finally opened. "Yes?"

"Hi. I'm Olivia Nagel?" she said in her best perky voice.

"What are you here for?"

Okay, this guy was not a perky-voice guy. In her calm and adult voice she said, "Is this where Logan Bryant works?"

"He should be in school right now if you're looking for him." He frowned at her. "Shouldn't you be in school right now, in fact?"

"We still have fifteen minutes before warning bell. I just walked up to tell you not to fire him."

"Hmm?"

"I said, don't fire him," Olivia said firmly. "It was my fault he was texting yesterday. He even told me if he would get caught texting when he was supposed to be working he would be in huge trouble, but I kept texting him anyhow, and I guess he just felt like he had to answer." He was supposed to have interrupted her somewhere in there to tell her it was fine and he hadn't been meaning to fire Logan, but she had gotten through the whole thing and the old man was still just standing there looking at her. "So don't fire him," she said again, since that was the main point and he still wasn't saying anything.

"I'll take this under consideration," said the old man, already leaning back to shut the door. "Now get to school. You wouldn't want him to be responsible for you being late."

"That's still less than fair, me just being late for school when he's worried about losing his job," said Olivia, and she hopped down the steps and was running down the street before he could answer.


"Well, Bryant."

"Yes, sir," said Logan. The old guy didn't seem like he was too mad. Maybe he was just going to get off with a warning, or docked yesterday's pay. That was worth it. He might have even gone for that if he had known going in that was all it would cost him.

"Olivia Nagel."

He could feel the confused look appear on his face. What did she have to do anything? More than that, how did Hamilton even know her name? The guy taking his phone and looking at his texts had just been a crazy idea of his, not something that had actually happened. Right?

"Hmm?"

"Yeah, what about her?" he said, in what he realized a moment later was a pretty defensive tone, and probably not a good idea. Still, what did she have to do with this?

"Is Olivia Nagel the girl you were texting yesterday when you should have been working?"

"Yes."

"Is Olivia Nagel this girl who's too smart for you to have a chance with, and so not worth bothering with? Is that what you told me?"

Well, one thing was sure, and that was that the old man was way too smart for it to be fair. How did he even put that together? "Yeah, that's her. What's..." He had been going to ask what the point was, but his job was on the line here. This was not the time to kick in the attitude. "I just don't know why you're bringing her up. I'm sorry about the texting. I won't do it again."

Hamilton would normally have answered that by saying that he most certainly would do it again, and an argument would have followed until Logan was forced to admit the guy was right. This time, though, his boss just looked at him. After a long minute he said, a little more quietly than normal, "Olivia Nagel turned up on my doorstep at a quarter past seven this morning."

"What?" There was almost attitude in that word, but really, it did not make any sense. Why would Olivia have been up here with fifteen minutes before warning bell? Although it did explain why she had burst into homeroom barely two seconds before it.

Actually, he was starting to think that maybe he did know why, but he didn't want to be thinking it in case it wasn't true.

"Olivia Nagel was here this morning to tell me not to fire you because she forced you to text her yesterday, when you would have otherwise been doing your job."

He did not sound like he believed that one bit. "No, she didn't force me to. In fact, she was in a really rotten mood because of something out of her control, so I was trying to talk her out of it. If you want to yell at me for that, fine, but you don't have to act like she was being stupid."

"The explanation she handed me was stupid."

"Well, there was a good reason for it."

"It was stupid."

"It was trying to keep you from firing me!" And once he said it, and Hamilton just crossed his arms and nodded at him like he was the stupid one, he figured out what he had just said, and what the point was. "Well..." he said, starting to feel quite a lot like the stupid one, partly because he had no idea what to do next.

"All right then. Now, you get behind that counter, and do your job."

That was definitely worth feeling and being considered stupid. "Yes, sir," he said, with huge relief in his voice, and started to do as he was told.

"Ah-" Hamilton was holding his hand up when Logan turned. "One condition."

Probably wanted him to give up his phone. Logan reached for his pocket. "Can I have it back for my break, though?"

"Keep the phone," said Hamilton, which would have been enough of a shock even if it hadn't been for the next thing he said, which was, "Condition..." a brief pause, and then, "You guys have a Christmas dance of some kind down there, don't you?"

Logan was about to give that question an automatic 'yes' before he realized why it had been asked. "You want- I can't ask her!"

"You want to keep this job?" said Hamilton in his sharp voice.

"Since when do you get to..." Wait, the guy had just given him his job back when he really had no reason to. But of course he couldn't ask her out when... But he had to keep this job! Besides, she had done the whole thing in order to keep the job for him, so if he just threw it away... Besides which there was the obvious fact that- Oh, no, no thinking that when you don't know how she feels about it! Do you really think... Logan's thoughts trailed off into utter confusion, and he found himself still staring blankly at his boss.

"She was late to school today, wasn't she?"

"No..." Logan was able to say flatly, because it was true.

Hamilton wasn't even thrown off. "Fine. She could have been, and you know it. Either way, an employer is responsible for his employee's well-being, and if you let this one get away, you won't be being very well, and what's more you know it." He pointed one finger at Logan and started out the back door. "Ask her. But not on my time."

"How are you going to know if I do or I don't?" Logan hollered after him.

The voice called back as the footsteps started up the stairs. "I won't. You will."