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Lisa Lahey is an Associate Acquisitions Editor for After Dinner Conversation Magazine. Her short stories and poems have been published in 34th Parallel Magazine, Spaceports and Spidersilk, Altered Reality Magazine, Why Vandalism? Suddenly, and Without Warning, Five on the Fifth, Vita Poetica, and she will be published in upcoming issues of Epater Magazine, Patreon Magazine, Creepy Podcast, Bindweed Anthologies, Piker Press, and Spadina Literary Review.


Trigger Warning

She might have been fifteen at the most. A little Black girl, a waif, scurried inside his store. She wore a synthetic blonde wig that bounced to her shoulders, false eyelashes that reached to her eyebrows and glitter lipstick. Her mohair jacket covered her mini skirt, making her appear nude from the waist down.

“For God’s sake hide me! Please!” her squeaky voice grated on the grey-haired clerk’s nerves.

He lifted his eyes from his newspaper, looking at her over his wire-framed reading glasses. Whores came in here all the time. They bought breath mints or bottled water to wash the cum out of their mouths. Others hovered near the counter, staring outside with fear in their eyes until he ordered them to leave. He didn’t work for an orphanage.

He felt safe behind the bullet-proof glass that was attached to the counter and reached the ceiling. Still, it wasn’t foolproof. Two teenagers wearing gang colors had pulled a gun on him once.

“Keep your hands up where I can see them. You touch that button beneath the counter I’ll pop a cork up your ass,” one of them snarled.

The clerk wasn’t playing superhero; without hesitating he’d emptied the cash register till, shoved all the bills into a plastic bag and passed it to the piece of human garbage that held him up. It hardened him. But then again, so had life.

He was sixty-eight and working in a bloody convenience store for minimum wage. In high school he planned to become a vet, not a minimum wage clerk working until he was seventy. Life was full of surprises and most of them were shit.

“Are you going to buy something?” he asked, with a yawn.

“He’ll kill me! Please call the police!” The little Black girl wept, leaning over the counter towards him, tears in her large, mahogany brown eyes. Thin scars criss-crossed her forearms, left by the razor she’d used as she searched for a vein.

“I asked you if you were going to buy something.” He licked his fingers as he flipped the page.

How had this kid ended up here on the streets of New York City, hooking her body until she died of AIDS, or was stabbed to death by her pimp? She looked like a sophomore in high school. She should have been wearing a cheerleader outfit instead of platform shoes and a spandex bodysuit.

“Please can I hide behind the counter with you?” She scooted around the side of the counter.

“Stay where you are, or I’ll call the police!” He snarled at her.

She flinched and moved away as if he was a guard dog poised to attack.

“Yes, please call them or he’ll kill me!” she cried openly now, sobbing until she hiccupped.

“If you aren’t buying anything then leave,” he said, turning back to his newspaper.

“He thinks I spent the money on drugs! I didn’t spend his money!”

“Didn’t your mother tell you not to do drugs?” The clerk picked up a pen and started to fill in the crossword at the back of the paper.

“My mother is dead. Please can’t I hide here? He’ll hurt me!”

He looked at her more closely and saw a lifetime in those eyes. She reminded him of roadkill; struck down before she saw it coming, thrown into the road, her eyes unseeing, her body stiff in its death throes.

Typical hooker stuff.

Was his story any better? No one gave a shit, so they had no aspirations for him. No one popped a cork in his ass to propel him forward. To add insult to injury, Cialis was too expensive for his budget; he had no insurance.

He turned back to his crossword. “What’s a five-letter word for I-don’t-give-a-shit?”

He ignored the jangling doorbell.

A Black man in a low-slung hat and leather jacket walked in and grabbed the girl by the arm. She screamed and fell to her knees.

“Please Jamie! I’m sorry!”

“You’re not sorry yet bitch!” He hit her on one side of the face then the other.

Without looking up, the clerk flipped the page on his newspaper, one page then the next.

The pimp pulled the little girl outside. She dug her heels into the sidewalk, screaming herself hoarse. The pimp threw her into the back seat of his Camaro, pulled away from the curb and roared off into the night. The clerk glanced at the clock.

“Closing time, thank God,” he muttered.

The following night he started his shift at 11 o’clock and picked up the newspaper.

“Girl, 14, Murdered in Alley,” the headline read.

“Whores,” he muttered. “They gotta clean up these streets.”

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