“I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not.”
Sammy’s startled reaction when he first sees the three girls in bathing suits in the store.
“She didnt look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didnt walk in her bare feet that much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it.”
Sammy has singled out one of the girls as the leader and christened her the “queen.” He now observes her very closely, noting such small details as how she walks.
“You could see them, when Queenies white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed.”
Sammy has been observing how the other customers in the store react when they see the girls in swimsuits. They are startled but quickly recover and mind their own business.
“All that was left for us to see was old McMahon patting his mouth and looking after them sizing up their joints.”
McMahon is in charge of the meat counter in the store. Sammy and his colleague Stokesie watch as the girls ask him something and then move on, disappearing from their sight. Sammy notes how lustfully McMahon looks at them.
“Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top. The jar went heavy in my hand. Really, I thought that was so cute.”
Sammy gets another treat as the girl he has called Queenie pays for her purchases, pulling the dollar bill out from the top of her bathing suit.
“Girls, this isnt the beach.”
Lengel, the store manager, reproaches the girls for their attire as they stand at the checkout register.
‘Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.”
Lengel has just told the girls that it is store policy that customers must dress appropriately—shoulders must be covered. This is Sammy’s reaction. He thinks that the rules are too strict and people should have more freedom.
“The girls, and whod blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say ‘I quit’ to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping theyll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero.”
The idealistic Sammy makes his grand gesture of quitting his job in protest at how the manager has treated the girls. He genuinely feels that they have been hard done by but he also wants them to notice what he has done and applaud him for it.
“‘Youll feel this for the rest of your life,’Lengel says, and I know thats true, too, but remembering how he made that pretty girl blush makes me so scrunchy inside I punch the No Sale tab and the machine whirs ‘pee-pul’ and the drawer splats out.”
Lengel advises him that his actions in quitting his job will have consequences, but although Sammy knows this, he does not care. He is still indignant on behalf of the girls about what happened.
“His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if hedjust had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.”
In this last sentence of the story, Sammy, now his impulsive reaction to the treatment of the girls is playing out, realizes that it is not going to be so easy for him to fit in with the ways of the world in coming years.