gas bottle of grape soda bbq chips
ice cream sandwich newspaper cigarettes
gas beef jerky bottle of aspirin candy bar
6 pack of beer magazine chewing gum
The customers came, the customers went.
One of the neighborhood regulars stomped in from the rain, shaking long hair and coughing, wiping eyes on sleeve, wiping nose on other sleeve.
You’re out late said the kid behind the counter.
Me and the missus had a fight, I decided to take a walk.
No joke, that.
There’s coffee fresh made.
And a lottery ticket, pick me out a winner.
The regular pulled a couple of singles from the pocket of his jeans jacket. The regular looked like needing to sneeze, but caught midway in the action. He stared up into the store’s buzzing fluorescent lights, but nothing happened.
I think it only works with sunlight said the kid behind the counter.
Someone neither of them had seen before staggered into the store. An old guy, the sort that made you tired just looking at him. Worn out, probably should have died a long time ago, kept hanging on. How did some people manage the perpetuation. Worse than pocket lint, lingering without end, the world couldn’t clean itself of them.
You win anything the kid asked the regular.
Gimme another one the regular said, throwing the scratched-off lottery ticket into the trash and digging another dollar bill from the jeans jacket.
Let me tell you about the greatest love of my life the old guy said to nobody in particular. Back at the beginning of time. I cannot speak her name because the mere sound of it makes me weep. Her hair was captured sunlight, her face sculpted by angels. She was the definition of heavenly beauty, her only flaw a set of weak lungs. It brought an ache to my soul to hear her breathe. Those shallow gasps, reminiscent of autumn breeze rattling bare-branched trees. Was it tuberculosis? Back in those days you didn’t ask too many questions. The sickness left her thin and trembling, she didn’t weigh more than eighty pounds, a butterfly could have knocked her over. She lived with her mother and father in a shack by a swamp. Her mother blind, her father deaf. They had a dog with two legs in the front and one in the back, at night I’d stop by for a visit and the dog would run in lopsided circles. The dog would head into the swamp and bay at the moon. Memories of those visits still haunt my dreams, it’s been fifty-nine years and feels like yesterday.
The old guy purchased a box of Swisher Sweets and walked silently back into the rain.
The kid behind the counter shook his head. The neighborhood regular scratched off the second lottery ticket and made a disgusted sound.
Another loser asked the kid.
That’s hard luck.
Only kind I ever seem to have said the regular.
For a moment the store lights dimmed.
What do you bet we lose power said the kid.
The regular said something unintelligible and checked his pockets in the hopes of scouring up another single.