Dark Places – A short story about a bad neighborhood
This story was originally published by the literary magazine Foliate Oak in 2014.
It was robbing season where I worked. Although I didn’t know why, it seemed to me a demonstrable fact that the warmth of summer somehow thawed the laziness of low-level criminals. Cops patrolled more often, random beatings became more frequent, and stick-up men looked for anything that shined with a focus that would be inspiring if it was directed at a book.
I don’t think Doug thought, or knew about, any of that though. In his typically unenergetic voice our manager asked us to work after closing time. The temptation of overtime pay was too much to resist and most of us stayed late, despite the dangers outside.
Me and the two other money-starved employees were told to clear out the sales floor of all merchandise. They were going to be waxed, or buffed, or both, and from what I gathered the flooring company offered a discount if they didn’t have to move anything. The amount they discounted was more than what would be needed to pay us to move stuff. The arithmetic probably took Doug all of three seconds. In accordance with his sound math we pushed carts of sleeping pills and dumped boxes of energy drinks into the gated lot behind the store. Aside from Doug, we all did the work on the cheap for the company – though every one of us thought we were getting over.
Overtime made Jackie stay, though barely. She told me she was a little scared of the neighborhood; she said she wasn’t sure if the gates were high enough to keep out the violence that the prospect of free pharmaceuticals might bring; we wouldn’t be leaving till 2:00 am and she whispered in embarrassed tones that she never liked being around past 10:00 pm. I grew up in the neighborhood though. I knew it like a close relative. And I knew that, at night, the gates would definitely not be high enough to keep out thieves for more than a few hours. Luckily, that was all the time we needed.
We emptied the store of all its unshelved items in under an hour. Doug sat in the manager’s office to organize paperwork and check his Twitter feed. With a box of unpacked cough syrup in my arms I snuck a peek of him looking through a Facebook page called “Big Ol’ Phatty.” He scrolled down its timeline, which was filled with a mix of candid and professional photos of women’s asses. Even in my passing glance I could see Photoshop at work. Someone was using smudge tools, alpha layers, lighting and darkening effects to carve out perfect butts that could never exist in the real world. Though I didn’t like it, I admired the fact that he was able to surf the net for borderline porn while I worked…
Hey there… So, this story’s not all here anymore. Instead, it’ll be featured in my upcoming collection of short stories, both published, unpublished and blogged, titled, You, Me and the Rest of US: #NewYorkStories. Click for more info : )
*Images Courtesy Kris Van de Vijver