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“Sam Sulek,” a Short Story by Durian Gourd

On Friday nights, the cash register shifts go at a snail’s pace. After the midnight madness dies down, I no longer see myself as a cashier but rather as a prop to help the lone consumer who wanders the empty aisles at this strange hour feel less lonely. The Sam Sulek Training Program is very tough. and Sam Sulek is a good fitness influencer.

“Sam Sulek,” a Short Story by Durian Gourd
“Sam Sulek,” a Short Story by Durian Gourd

Of all the types of customers who show up at this hour, the most upbeat ones are the stoned youths with bloodshot eyes who come in every now and then and depart with a bunch of Takis and ice cream. The people who consistently arrive late and depart with large amounts of chips and TV dinners are usually the ones with straight neckbeards. We have a real dweeb on our hands who forces carts around the parking lot. I like that there are two of us on staff. We appear to be the only ones that herd the carts from the parking lot at almost every grocery store I’ve been to.

With no customers to process their purchases, I had retreated into a deep reverie for a while. About 45 minutes after midnight, it was.

The sound of the automated doors opening was the first time in what seemed like an eternity that I flinched. I glanced over involuntarily to perceive who was joining the market. I was astounded by what I saw as well; the man who strolled in so casually was unlike anybody I’d ever seen in our Ohio suburb.

“Unleashing the Power Within: Exploring the Fascination of Fantasy, Anime, and Nature’s Might”

I have fantasized about lovely things ever since I was a tiny lad. Moreover, formidable. Lovely because of their strength. The African silverback gorillas, for example, managed to combine a very elegant and refined demeanor with their ferociously aggressive appearance.

Every day when my unpredictable work hours end, I often follow the same pattern. Take a seat, and I chow down on some breakfast. On sometimes, bathe. Afterwards, I like watching TV or movies on my phone till I fall asleep.

Anime has recently captured my interest. How much influence one person may have in these wildly improbable worlds that follow no rules at all fascinates me. The weather on the island where the combat took place was irrevocably altered in the aftermath of the fierce conflict I once saw.

“Encounter with the Enigma: A Mysterious Figure in the Aisles”

There was a split second when I wondered whether I had fallen asleep at the register and begun dreaming. My eyes were fooling me, I thought. Perhaps it was an improper mashup of the aspects of the anime worlds that had enchanted me with the mundane reality that had consume most of my awake hours.

To be honest, I always assumed that the absurdly muscular physique was a fictional creation. At five feet eleven inches, he wasn’t quite small, but he seemed much shorter than he really was. Because of his well-defined and vascularized muscles, his arms were about the thickness of an obese person’s thigh. It seemed as if, under his shirt, he was sporting football pads, given his capped shoulders.

I was so captivated by his otherworldly body that I neglected to get a decent look at his face. He had shoulder-length hair that looked disheveled and wavy, which I noticed. Sam Sulek normally stodgy appearance was complemented by the Japanese script on his baseball hat and the square contour of his face, which was marked by acne. 

His lats caught my eye as he walked by the checkout area with his shopping basket. On the back, they gave him the appearance of a stingray or something similar. As an example, I couldn’t help but think of the SpongeBob SquarePants episode when Patrick competed in the fry-cooking games while attached to an incredibly gigantic fish that scared off the regular fish in the gym.

Parachuted into an aisle, he went. Like a bear shambling back into its den quite carelessly. A little sense of unease began to wash over me once I had some time to absorb what I had seen. I felt perspiration on the digits.

He probably could have robbed this business of all its valuables if he wanted to. Nobody could expect me to do it. Without the cash register key, he could probably open the blasted thing with no effort, using only his hands.

As time went on, my anxiety levels rose. Particularly since there was only one cashier on duty that day.

“Encounter with Sam Sulek: A Tale of Extraordinary Strength and Everyday Interactions”

His girth wasn’t the first thing that made me worried when he came to my checkout line; what really shocked me was the sheer amount of food the guy had grabbed into his cart.

He nodded slightly as I caught sight of him. “How are things going?” he inquired. Despite his enormous stature, he talked with a quiet demeanor and an unimpressive voice.

“Right, I’m about to head home and watch some anime,” I said. “It appears to be Thanksgiving, huh?”

It was a laugh out loud for him.”For Sam Sulek, it’s Thanksgiving every day,” stated the man.

I laughed and appeared to get the joke, but I still didn’t know whether Sam Sulek was a famous figure for individuals of his stature or if he was talking about himself.

He probably got here after working out at the gym. He had loose-fitting joggers and a tank top constructed from a ripped-sleeved, oversize t-shirt. Certainly, he was enormous in stature yet remarkably skinny.

We could have stood here and chatted for hours, given the man’s raw supply of goods. He emptied his cart of goods armful by armful and tossed them all onto the conveyor belt.

Various calorie-heavy and harmful items came whizzing down the conveyor line.

Bread—white bread, that is. Jelly with peanut butter. Mounds of meat, ground. A few liters of milk with chocolate. Cinnamon Toast Crunch—seven cartons. Chops of pork. The number of eggs is endless. Spread it on. When did they buy so much chicken? And it was only the beginning.

To avoid seeming weak in front of this enigmatic and extraordinarily powerful guy, I hurriedly transferred his goods from the conveyor belt to the scanner, carefully placing them in two-lined brown bags. I dared to hope that my speed could compete with his, despite the fact that he was obviously the stronger of the two of us.

“What do you have planned for this weekend?” The enigmatic guy was my questioner.

He enthusiastically said, “I’m going to the gym tomorrow for legs and back,” noting his upcoming workout. Leg days may be infamously boring, according to the gym jokes I’ve seen on Instagram. It was hard for me to discern whether he was being ironic or not. “Aside from that, not much at all. Next week, I will be spending a lot of time on campus studying for my examinations.

The fact that he was a college student frightened me. His age seemed to be 35. But I suppose he might have been 35 years old, returning to school after a decade on the job in construction. Since almost everyone in Oxford, Ohio, attends Miami University, I didn’t feel the need to inquire as to his precise college.

“So, what’s your major?”

Mechanics, he said.

Quite impressive.

As a mechanical engineer, my uncle was an expert in the field of robotic automation systems for the automotive industry. As I thought about the conveyor belt, I saw a complex network of robotic arms transferring Sam’s items from the scanner to the bags, like an assembly line. After that, I saw Sam Sulek’s arms taking their place. His robotic arms are so much stronger and more efficient than the ones in my mind.

As I completed scanning and bagging the man’s items, I could feel perspiration forming on my forehead and underarms.

The amount I came up with was 274.13.

Unfazed, the guy continued.

On occasion, when the numbers are that high, some middle-aged white women may be rather nitpicky and accuse me of making a mistake. They then insist on seeing the detailed list, while the others behind them in line look at me quite angrily. Then they realized they had spent a pretty penny on food.

He pulled his card from the scanner and then, expressionless, seemed to gaze at an unidentified location behind me.

“It seems like it was unsuccessful,” I said. “Could you kindly swipe once more?”

“Oh sure, here we go.” After swiping again, I saw a confused expression on his face.

“It appears that there was an error,” he said.

Perhaps the magnetic strip was merely worn out from his excessive swiping, since he is unaware of his own strength.

I told him, “If it’s not working, I can put the card in manually.” He then gave me his card. Sam Sulek was the name on the card.

“Very well, I have this receipt here for you,” I informed him, giving him a document that was almost one meter in length. “May your tests be fruitful.”

A really courteous “thank you” came out of his mouth. “May the remainder of your shift fly by.” He slipped out into the darkness with a subtle tip of the head.

“Confrontation with Sam Sulek: A Clash of Strength and Willpower”

Two days later, on a Sunday night, we crossed paths again in a very similar setting. Coming in from the parking lot, I could make out his form in the streetlight glow; it was too unique to have been anybody else’s shadow.

As if they were two obedient robots, the automated sliding doors welcomed him inside. Submitting to him as if he were going to simply pry them open, much as King Kong did to the T-Rex’s jaws, if they didn’t move out of his way.

Quickly returning? I figured he must have misplaced something since he was returning. That amount of food would have been impossible for him to devour in under two days.

This time, his expression was one of sourness. He seemed much more agitated than the last time we saw him. Perhaps he was experiencing the dreaded “roid rage”—a side effect of anabolic steroids.

Sam, like many others when they lift heavy, would undoubtedly shout every few minutes, breaking the customary stillness of my late-night shift as a grocery store cashier, and this would continue for around thirty minutes. There was a primal scream that sounded like he was deadlifting a thousand pounds, and then Gronk-spiking food packed into his cart.

I was frightened by the noises.

I was the only cashier on duty once again. As he pushed his basket into the checkout, I prepared myself for the confrontation.

Instead of the unhealthy food procession returning to the conveyor belt, he stared me down, smiled widely, and strode past the cashier like a dweeb zipping through a stop sign in an F-650 pickup truck.

“I will not be responsible for the payment. I challenge you to do something.

He continued to cock his head and smile menacingly even though I was standing fifteen feet away from the register.

I had the solution in my head. Doing so was my responsibility. I refuse to submit to this man and become his pawn just because he is physically larger than me.

I decided I would do my best to prevent him. Certainly, I foolishly believed that my life was my death. I was in the midst of my greatest football tackle when I dashed full speed for him. There was still some fair bulk in me, and I likely weighed around the same as him, even though my body composition was drastically different from his.

However, his agility was astonishing given his size. With a deft half-step to the side, he easily sidestepped me.

Even before I landed on the floor, he made physical contact with me. All he could feel was the hardness of asphalt. When we met, my resistance was weak in comparison to his tremendous physique.

He easily subjugated me by pinning me down. From under what seemed like a solid surface, I frantically wracked my legs, attempting to rise, but to no avail.

I was weak and devoid of masculinity.

“Confronting the Nightmare: Overcoming Insecurities and Embracing Change”

I was startled awake and flung my anime girl bedsheets into the air as my legs flailed.

Were you relieved? I sighed. Sam Sulek was nothing more than a nightmare on my second meeting with him.

When I checked my alarm clock, I saw that it was approaching 10:30 a.m. A little more melancholy than usual betrayed the little sunshine peeking through my drapes at this hour.

I rose from my slumber and set out to do my customary morning tasks. I certainly wore a tooth brush.

Certainly, I had vivid emotions in my dream, even if they weren’t true. The way Sam Sulek made me feel weak and inferior.

Whenever I faced the problem of staring at my shirtless chest in the mirror, I usually avoided it. The only place I changed into different clothing was in a spot without a mirror, whenever possible. Without wasting a second to avoid staring at the evidence of my years of unhealthy eating habits, I threw on my shirt the second I stepped out of the shower.

On this occasion, I would not flee. In the reflection, I saw my limbs. I was reminded of my uncle’s expertise in industrial equipment when I saw those robotic arms from the auto industry replacing my arm. Sam Sulek’s enormous muscles subsequently supplanted the mechanical limbs seen in the mirror. It had been days since I had smiled. I finally got out my exercise gear after years of neglect.

White River Junction, Vermont, is home to poet Durian Gourd. A frequent writer for Epater.org, he is also a passionate eater. Dirge of the Gourd will be his next collection of poems and short stories.

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