Look Up, Brandon Mark
[Trigger Warning: brief mentions of drug use]
He tripped. His name was Jason and he tripped over his shoes that were too big. His brother had given him shoes when Jason’s finally disconnected at the souls. He didn’t have any money, his brother was gone, and his cat gave him little comfort anymore – so he did it. He took a kitchen knife from his friend’s house, slid it into his back pocket, and tossed on a hoodie.
The convenience store door flung open with a bang, startling him. He slouched further inside himself and slunk through the aisles. He knew he looked shady, scoping out the cameras and other customers. Only one other customer but they look shadier than him. Maybe this would be easy.
You hate your job but that’s OK. You hate that nothing has ever been mopped and nothing will ever be swept. You hate that your manager is too cheap to install cameras that work or register glass. Last week your coworker was robbed of his finger and all the money in the store. Your manager told him that he was lucky he wasn’t fired. That’s why you keep a baseball bat under the register.
There’s a junkie in the store and you stare him down with all the loathing anyone could feel for another person. Not because he shoots up, you do too. Not because he’s Latino and you’re white, you’re above that. No, he looks like he might rob you. So you stare and you judge and you chew your gum without flavor; the way it always is.
The door bangs open as if someone would want your attention but you are immune after five years of apologies. It has never opened correctly and you could care less who enters. You care more about who leaves because once they are gone you are alone in this shit hole. A kid walks in, startled by his own entrance. You continue chewing.
You think about how, in two hours, you get to go home and sleep. In twelve hours, you will be on your way to Michigan to visit your mom. It will only be three days but she misses you, and you miss your friends.
The kid walks up to you, shakier than the junkie. He reaches into his back pocket. He draws something out. You reach for your bat. You see a flash of brown, and the kid is on the ground. The junkie tackled him, and you see a knife sliding across the floor. The junkie is gone, and you go back to chewing your gum.
The kid doesn’t wake up for a while and you call the cops.
I can’t think and I can’t breathe. The White Lady is leaving me and I cannot see. I go somewhere but I don’t know where, it just is. Do you know where I am? He says no, or maybe she does. I don’t see anyone so maybe I am talking to myself. It’s not the White Lady, she is gone and drawn-out, creeping from my veins into my heart and out through my lungs. She leaves me and I’m shuddering.
I think I’m in a store. There are aisles and rows and pigs. No, not pigs. There is bacon, made and ready. I slip it into my jacket and slink into a corner. I see a camera, pointing at me. There’s the nose, it’s big, my eyes are huge and knotted and no – that’s not a camera, that’s a mirror and I can see my reflection and I’m hideous. I withdraw, as does she. She is almost gone from me and I’m sweating. Everywhere the pools are gathering to drown me. I need to get home before I drown, but where is home? Do you remember? 86th and 4th, or was it 4th and 86th? No, the city doesn’t move that way it doesn’t groove that way. You can’t go that far over and that far up because then you’re in the ocean and it’s unforgiving.
I remember the ocean, its salty waves stinging my freezing face as I slunk into the water with him. He was all I knew back then. The White Lady had come and gone and I had been fine, with him. Now he’s gone. Why, why Lord is he gone? I can’t remember. I can’t remember anything.
Things are fading into view and I walk. I keep walking towards the door then something happens. There’s a kid. There’s a kid here and I think he has – he has a knife. No, he won’t ruin his life, he can’t. We’re all drowning here kid — let us flounder alone.
The knife is almost free. No, I can’t. I jump, I fly. I fling myself against his body and knock him down. I’m on the ground, why am I on the ground? Oh god, there’s a knife. Is it mine? There’s a kid, is it his? There’s a man, a man behind the register. I can tell I’m not wanted.
About the Author
Miriam Shapik · University of Cincinnati
Miriam Skapik is a writer and student at the University of Cincinnati. “Robbery Unnoticed” first appeared in Short Vine.
About the Artist
Brandon Mark · State University of New York
“Look Up” first appeared in Gandy Dancer.