“Don’t forget,” he says, as he drops her off at the Sweet
She smiles and promises vaguely. She unlocks the door and ties on her pink apron
and goes about the business of running a business. It’s this business, this busyness that allows her to get through the day.
She turns on lights and puts on music and runs a feather
duster along the shelves. She gathers wastebaskets
and takes them to the back of the building where shopkeepers stow shattered
glass and plastic bags—the detritus behind the façade. Directly behind her shop, a group of homeless
people has constructed a city of cardboard.
The bell over the door sounds. A man walks in. She smoothes down her pink apron and puts on
her pretty jelly bean face because no one wants to see the truth beneath the candy
coating. She looks at his face. Feels the backs of her knees pull. “I know you.”
She returns to the shop and officially opens for
business. She sips her coffee and calculates
overtime and wonders about a new chocolate distributor.
He gives her a dangerous grin. “Open the register.”
She presses the No Sale button. The register makes a hollow and desperate
ring and she tries to remember what her husband said an hour ago.
“Not again,” she thinks as he empties the register and slips
between buildings; tripping down the dark alley to the city of cardboard boxes.
She chases him, screaming.
She allows her mind to return to the wheres and the whens and this time
she is consumed by fury not fear.
The residents of the city of cardboard boxes awaken and
He is easily caught.
She watches, later, as the garbage men empty the dumpsters. She pours out coffee for the residents of the
city of cardboard boxes. And she is glad
that she forgot to call the police this morning to complain about the cardboard
city that has recently sprung up behind the Sweet Shoppe.
Labels: fiction Trifecta Writing Challenge