The bells chimed against the door, and Jim Cramer tucked his bag of Funyuns away on the shelf below the register. He wiped garlicy Funyun dust on the side of his trousers and took a sip of Diet Sprite. Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” played over the tiny loudspeakers for the fourth time that day. A lot of gas stations have CD players and stereo systems that the employees can operate themselves, but the gas station where Jim Cramer worked was on a corporate broadcast system, the songs being selected and looped and put out to each franchise from some centrally located gas station compound out in an office park somewhere. He didn’t really have any idea how it worked, other than that it made his life a consistent headache-y nightmare. On particularly long days, he would open a Diet Red Bull and fantasize about breaking in at night and shooting out the speakers with a .45 and then putting the gun in his mouth and the end, but the fantasy didn’t even bring him any real pleasure. Nothing did anymore.
A man in dirty jeans and a well-worn Wrangler shirt walked up to the counter. “Can I get 15 dollars on pump eight, please?”
Jim Cramer hit a giant red buzzer next to the register.
“BOOYAKA BOOYAKA, TEN FOUR BIG BUDDY, LET’S PUT ALL 15 CLAMS INTO PUMP NUMBER EIGHT. TRUST ME WHEN I TELL YOU THAT I’M FEELING GOOOOOOOD ABOUT PUMP EIGHT, I THINK IT’S GOING TO GIVE YOU ALL THE GAS YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE YOUR SHORT AND LONG TERM TRAVELING GOALS.”
Jim Cramer hit a giant yellow button next to the red buzzer and a sound effect of a cow mooing played. The man in the jeans walked out of the gas station, got into his truck, and drove away. Jim Cramer stared out the window for a long time, watching salt-stained cars heading home in the fading winter light. It used to be he would pass the time tracing his life, trying to find the thread that brought him here, but he didn’t do that anymore. Jim Cramer stared across the street at the bright, clean BP station. He didn’t blink.
A woman asked if the Convenience Mart carried milk. Jim Cramer picked up a noisemaker and spun it in the air.
“SELL SELL SELL! A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CALLING IN ASKING ABOUT MILK AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HEAR ANY HESITATION FROM ME. MILK IS A BIG SELLER TODAY. WHETHER IT’S FULL OR HALF GALLONS, ADDING MILK TO YOUR REFRIGERATOR PORTFOLIO IS A SMART CHOICE. YOU’LL BE THANKING JIM CRAMER TOMORROW AT BREAKFAST.”
“So you have milk?”
Jim Cramer, his hand shaking, pointed back towards the coolers where the milk was stored. His face was boiled red. The fluorescent lights gleamed on his bald head. His armpits were dark with sweat. The woman paid for her milk and she didn’t even say thank you. No one ever said thank you. Apparently the market for civility had collapsed.
“Hey There Dehlila” by the Plain White T’s played over the loudspeakers. Jim Cramer looked up at the ceiling angrily as if he was searching for the face of God.
In a lull, Jim Cramer wandered through the bright, green-tinged aisles of the Convenience Mart, straightening rows of Grab Bags of chips, finding loose packs of circus peanuts or a copy of Field & Stream that someone had decided not to buy and simply set wherever they were standing when they’d changed their mind, not even having the courtesy to put it back where they’d found it. Jim Cramer hummed to himself to drown out the overhead speaker’s Top-40-but-from-two-years-ago-mind-loop; nothing in particular, sort of sounded like Willie Nelson’s “The Gambler” sometimes, but it wasn’t exactly that. Just humming. He found a dime on the ground and he put it into his pocket.
At 2 AM, the college freshman who worked the graveyard shift clocked in and told Jim Cramer he could go home. Even though Jim Cramer wanted desperately to go home, even though the kid’s arrival every night was an event he looked forward to with the need of a dying man for hope, an arrival the idea of which he spiritually curled around like a wintery homeless man tucked into the warm protective square of a subway grate, he still could not get over the casualness of the dismissal. “You can go home, dude.” Jim Cramer could go home, or not, whatever, this kid didn’t care. So Jim Cramer got into his car and drove home.
His wife and children asleep, Jim Cramer kissed each of them on the forehead in the dark. He wandered through his house like a ghost. In the bathroom, brushing his teeth, Jim Cramer stared at his reflection in the mirror. Even though he’d been inside all day, he felt like he reeked of gasoline. Maybe it was the sadness.
“BIG SHOUT OUT TO MY MAN JIM CRAMER AT HOME IN HIS BATHROOM! IF I ONLY HAD FIVE DOLLARS LEFT I WOULD INVEST IN YOU, PAL, TOMORROW’S A NEW DAY. WEATHER THE STORM. I’M UPGRADING YOU FROM A SELL TO A DO NOT BUY. I FEEL GREAT ABOUT THIS,” Jim Cramer said to himself. And then quietly, under his breath, he added a mournful bulls-charge “mooooo.”
In the bedroom, his wife stirred. “Jim, is that you? What’s going on?”
“NOTHING DEAR, GO BACK TO SLEEP. INVEST IN SLEEP. BOOYAKA.”
Jim Cramer crawled into bed next to his wife, turned on his side, and closed his eyes.