Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mr McGee remembers Prince

I first met Prince a few years before he obtained his royal title. Back then he was just an ordinary kid called Rogers Nelson.

I was running a five and dime store in Minneapolis. I had filed the paperwork to re-open as a quarter-dollar store. For my application to be approved I needed to demonstrate to officials in the city's chamber of commerce that we could move items priced at 25 cents.

We were making next to nothing on the five cent items so I required strong, motivated sales people to really push those ten cent impulse buys.

I employed Prince on a part-time basis because I had a gut feeling about the boy. I instantly regretted the decision. It seemed like he was always busy doing something next to nothing. I told him several times daily that I didn't like his kind. What I meant was that, as a business owner, I didn't appreciate employees who adopted a leisurely approach to their job, and lacked a decent work ethic.

There were clearly marked entrances and exits in and out of the Five and Dime. This was to cut down on disruption during peak hours when we had lots of customers coming and going. The out door could be pushed open from the inside. There was no way of opening it from the street. Prince would always rile me by anchoring it ajar with a bit of cardboard under the bottom corner.

There was this one time when a girl dressed in a raspberry beret, and not much more, came brazenly sashaying into the store through the out door. I don't think it was an accident either. I think that she wanted to make an entrance.

I looked over to where Prince was stacking boxes of Pussy Control cat litter into a pyramid. The boy was clearly smitten. After he clocked off I saw her climbing onto the back of his bike.

Later that afternoon, Old Man Johnson caught the pair of them making out in his
milking barn. Prince claimed that they had taken shelter in there from heavy rain but there ain't been no big storms in Minnesota for decades. The state can't afford the kind of fancy weather that you get in places like New York.

Old Man Johnson gave the pair of them a thorough dressing down and tried to set them straight on a few things:

Milking barn ain't for intercourse. Bedroom with the lights off, on the first Saturday of any month with 30 days, is the correct time and place for those kind of shenanigans.”

One day at work I took Prince to one side. I said to him:

Son, take a look around this store and tell me how many raspberry-toned items you can see.”

The boy looked around, and up and down all the aisles.

Mr McGee, there sure is a lot of raspberry-coloured packaging.”

When you see all these raspberry coloured items for sale in a five and ten cent store, what conclusion do you draw from that?”

That raspberry is a cheap colour.”

Now tell me how much purple you see.”

Again Prince looked around the place.

Apart from the grape soda machine I don't see any.”

I showed him some recent sales figures from second hand stores in the U.S. and pointed out to him how they get less less purple clothing donated than any other colour.

Purple is the colour of money. You stick with purple and you wont' go far wrong in this life,” I advised him.

The following week the grape soda machine exploded, showering the pair of us in sticky purple rain. I think Prince took it as a sign of the times.

The next day he handed me his letter of resignation, which turned out to be an early draft of the lyrics to Soft and Wet.

I saw him a few years later eating one of them fancy purple bananas that rich folk seem to enjoy.

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