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And so he walked on with his head held high up to the shop around the corner. Destiny. A local shop with wine, cookies, and gas for sale. The shop where he worked from nine in the evening to five in the morning. It was night time, the streets were heavy with traffic and the ladies were heavy with makeup. They were all going fast and he wondered where they could go so fast, but he didn’t ask because they wouldn’t stop.
The shop wasn’t crowded and rarely did they have much business between the hours of one and four. The drunks went home at two thirty and the early birds were the only ones making it into the store for coffee at five. Before the early jobs. Before the bustle of more traffic. These were the quiet hours of life when the crickets were done for the rest of the day.
He slid into the shop, saying hi to the two people who were still working. One would be let out just as soon as he got there, but Frank would still be there. Working quietly in the back, stocking something unnecessary for the need of customers. They would say hello, ask him how his day went, and as always he would say it was okay. Just fine. Nothing great, nothing horrendous.
“No news is good news!” Frank would congratulate him on his welfare.
Frank talked about his girlfriend in the next county. “Next week, she says she’s coming next week.”
“Oh yeah?” He’d say, listening quietly to the hum of the electric lights.
“Yup. Next week she’s moving into the city. The big city. My girl will finally be home.”
Customers would come in occasionally, always bumbling from somewhere unexpected. They never expected to show up at such a place at such a time. Who would be here at such a time? Why would they need anything? They always sounded as if their real lives had gone somewhere else and abandonned them at this particular store. He’d give them their cigarettes and maybe their cheap magazine to go and ring them up with ease. Sometimes he wondered what they were thinking and where their brain was when it left them, but he never asked. He never said anything but thank you and come again.
At four a.m. the weirdos showed up. They were unsettled with life. Angry and shouting. Drugged and wired. Steamed and tired. The ones with beards and uncombed hair stricken by insomnia would stand around admiring the shop like a jewelery case. They would mumble to themselves and point at the gum or candy that they needed to have at that very instant of four a.m. Why didn’t he have Orbit gum? Didn’t he know that people NEEDED that gum!? So what if it was late! They needed something to chew on. Something other than their life to shoot the shit with. This would do! If only he had the gum than they could survive. But where was the gum? He would get it for them and charge them the regular price until they whined or returned the merchandise to a different place. Then he’d have to get the piece of gum and return it back to it’s rightful place behind the never-bought bananas for seventy five cents a bundle.
The four a.m. crowd was haggard and displaced. Their minds had never returned for them and unlike the one a.m. crowd, there was no hope of return for them.
At five a.m. he would tell Frank he was going home. Frank never left. Eventually he had to leave, but no one knew exactly where he went because he was always back at the store with in six hours.
So He’d go back to his house, the dawn would start to rise and the traffic would start to blur together. The early commuters were just waking and the cars would start to move more and more between the stop lights and I95. The women were tired and drained and their perfume stank through the streets back to his apartment.
Tomorrow is another day. The man thought, sitting down at his bed in the apartment above another corner store. He wondered if he’d find any of those nice looking 9 p.m. girls in the store that he worked at. How he wished he had a girl like Frank’s. Frank said his girl always wore nice smelling perfume and little skirts that past the knee all the way up to the thigh. It was never tacky, said Frank. It was always just right.
9 p.m. happened again and again. He went back to the shop where Frank was working, but still nothing had changed.
“One more week,” Frank said, unfolding the box of refrigerated goods. “She can’t make it this Friday, but she’ll get here in another week.”
“No news is good news.” He said weakly.
Another week, he thought. One more Friday.