The World is Full of Dangerous Places: Dark Places - A short story about a bad neighborhood

Dark Places – A short story about a bad neighborhood

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 and blogged, titled, “You, Me and the Rest of US: #NewYorkStories” More info soon. : )

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*Images Courtesy Kris Van de Vijver

Comments
10 Responses to “Dark Places – A short story about a bad neighborhood”
  1. Hi Alex, just read your short story. I liked it.

    …”He scrolled down its timeline, which was filled with a mix of candid and professional photos of women’s bikinied asses. Though I didn’t like it, I admired the fact that he was able to surf the net for borderline porn while I worked.”..

    :)

    I’m going to check out some other stuff here..

    Take care,
    Kris

    • Alex Clermont says:

      Hey Kris, I’m glad the story meets with your approval. This post is covered with your great photography work so your opinion means a lot. :) If you share “Like” it, or otherwise share, it would be appreciated.

      Also, if you like anything else on this site enough to comment don’t hesitant do so. I need to see more of those too.

      • Konstantine Matsoukas says:

        Hmm, no, sorry, that didn’t work well for me.
        It’s too wordy, structure lacks economy, feels like it’s undecided about where to concentrate its weight/focus.
        (plus I can’t think of a lazier word choice than ‘shitty’.)

        • Alex Clermont says:

          Well… Thanks for reading, I suppose. You’re free to like or dislike.

          Here’s a note about “shitty” though: It’s coming from the character. That’s how he talks. The language I choose for him helps create the image of an apathetic late teen. I think “shitty” helps in establishing his age and mindset. Also I thought it’s repetition was pretty humorous.

          The laziness of the word is debatable. Though I think it was used pretty well, and pretty liberally, in the New York Times Bestseller The Magician King. If it’s good enough for Lev Grossman, well shit, it’s good enough for me :).

  2. Jasmine says:

    Stumbled Upon your site. So weird.

    • Alex Clermont says:

      Thanks for the stumble. :)

      What was weird? Finding my site randomly, or the story on it? If it was both that would be cool too.

  3. Rooster Smith says:

    Hey, Alex. Found out about this from the third sunday blog carnival.

    INteresting piece. I dig the setting. My favorite part might have been the sheer randomness of Daryl beating off in public. Certainly didn’t expect that. And to little Wayne?

    picked some bits out here…

    ***

    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.

    GOOD LINE THERE.

    YEAH, WARM WEATHER IS A PEOPLE THING. THE STREETS ARE ALWAYS MORE CROWDED. THAT’S ONE OF THE REASONS I DIG THE COLD. I LIKE HAVING THE STREETS TO MYSELF.

    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 three hours. Luckily, that was all the time we needed.

    3 HOURS SOUNDS ARBITRARY. IS THERE A REASON?

    Outside, after putting down the last of the products, we waited. In office chairs we removed from the break room, Jackie, Daryl and I sat around in anticipation. OFFICE CHAIRS IN A PHARMACY’S BREAK ROOM? FOLDING CHAIRS MAYBE.

    “WE DID THE WORK ON THE CHEAP FOR THE COMPANY – THOUGH EVERY ONE OF US THOUGHT WE WERE GETTING OVER.”

    WHY THE QUOTE HERE? THE WAY I SEE IT, THAT WASN’T HIS ANSWER RIGHT? PERHAPS I’M READING IT WRONG…

    Jackie was screaming with shocked, wide-open eyes. Daryl was tucking in his chest with his shoulders in a reflexive, but sympathetic, movement. He had his hand near his mouth, oh deep in an oh shit.

    THIS IS AN ODD BIT OF DESCRIPTION. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    I ran to Doug to see if he was still breathing. He was. I pulled out my cell phone and called 911 MIGHT BE BETTER TO END THE SENTENCE HERE. while frantically looking Doug up and down.

    I could also hear a crowd that had gathered by our gate, presumably by Jackie’s horror movie scream. WHAT KIND OF CROWD WAS IT? LOCAL RESIDENTS? PEOPLE WOULDN’T BE OUT THAT LATE.

    I looked for who that was and as I told the operator where we were I saw a tall man with dreadlock DREADLOCKS right out side the gate.

    The man outside the gate climbed it until he was inside. He ran past Jackie to Doug and while looking at him much less frantically than I did, he told me he was an EMS worker. I agreed. AGREED TO WHAT?

    ***

    Let me know if you’re looking for more feedback. I’m on the carnival blog too, Rooster Smith.

    I could always use another perspective. Peace, man.

    • Rooster Smith says:

      BTW, awesome looking blog.

      • Alex Clermont says:

        Hey Rooster. Thanks for taking the time to go over my story, workshop style. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. lol. I’ll took a look at your suggestions and will definitely change a few things based on them.

        If you do want to do some kind of over the internet workshopping of each other’s stories I’m certainly open. Shoot me an e-mail with what you’re thinking.

        BTW, awesome comment :).

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