We came back from Pennsylvania. Apparently, whilst on the plane, I caught some shitty little bug that had been floating around in the recycled cabin air. Within 24 hours I was violently ill, barfing up and shitting out everything I'd eaten in the last year in merciless, high pressure jets that put Linda Blair to shame. My mom broke every traffic law, speeding me to the hospital at 2am. I was given a cotton johnny and a plastic bowl. I was also given an IV and diagnosed with a particularly nasty stomach bug. I wasn't released until well after dawn and spent the next couple of days in bed, miserable and sweaty.
I went back to work. Tori was still out, back and forth between home and hospital. Tammy was the default manager now and it was shaping up to look official and permanent. She spent the days talking about how she'd saved lives that weekend at the abortion clinic, and lamenting the fact that she was not yet married. At age 26, she should have been on her second kid already! My initial sense of awe and respect for her - because she was older and In Charge - began to wear thin. She was vacuous and dumber than a boxful of sticks. She dated guys and agreed to go away with them for weekends in the wine country, and then would come back outraged, horrified that Said Guy had expected her to share a room with her.
I woke up one morning with the shittiest migraine I'd yet experienced in my young life and called into the deli. Upon hearing my plea of illness, Tammy coldly told me that I could not call out sick. Period. No reason, just "no." I told her "tough shit" and went back to bed. I didn't get fired, but Tammy seemed to have it in for me from that point forward. She hired a couple of her uppity church girlfriend to cover the busy lunch rush hours. They were rude to me right off the bat, so I knew she'd shit-talked me to them. Well, I mean, I have no proof of this, but it stood to reason. Tammy had all of the intellectual depth of a stump grinder and her behavior wasn't hard to predict. I made the mistake of complaining about their rudeness to Tammy, who snottily dismissed me with a curt "Well I don't have a problem with them." I gave up. I started job hunting. There was a new record store opening up on the other side of town, so I applied and dutifully made two long bus trips to a slightly bigger town forty minutes away for an interview and a follow up. Finally, I was hired. I put in my two week notice at the deli with barely suppressed glee. The very next time Tammy started bellowing on and on about her fucking anti-abortion protest hobby, making the profound statement that had Beethoven's mom gotten an abortion, the world would have been deprived of his brilliant music, I snapped back without fear of reprimand: "Okay, #1, abortion wasn't an easily obtainable medical service back in 17-fucking-whatever when Beethoven's mother got pregnant and #2, maybe if Charles Manson's mother had gotten an abortion, Sharon Tate would be alive along with her baby. You know, the one they tried to rip out of her womb?" For that one, she had no answer.
I was still working at the deli while training for my new job at the record store. There wasn't much work there yet as the store was still under construction and awaiting shipment of its merchandise. In the meantime, I developed a crush on the new guy that worked next door at the hot dog shop. His name was Jeff. I always had bad luck with guys named Jeff. Later, it would be Steve's, but for now it was Jeff's. We flirted with each other in passing and began to time our afternoon visits to the dumpster so we could talk. Romantic as fuck, hoo boy.
Eventually, the day came when I left the deli for good. I still stayed in touch with Tori and her kids, still visited for dinner and Headbanger's Ball, but Tammy could go fuck herself raw with the proverbial flavor straw for all I cared. We started unpacking boxes full of cassettes and vinyl records (more so of the former than the latter) and labeling white plastic placards for storage bins. I made new friends. I had a new boss named Teddie, who reminded me a lot of Tori. I wasn't getting very many hours at my new job - I think my shyness and insecurity had a lot to do with it. I worried about things like money for the first time.
And then, just as Spring started getting serious about hanging around and staying for a while, Mom made an announcement. She wanted to move back to Pennsylvania. Soon. Like, by the end of summer. And was I coming with her?