The Circle K
on Farmington Road was
empty when I
Barb the grey
haired clerk I
adore because neither of
afford to take
smoking a cigarette
she walked to the side
of the dumpster and
like I should follow her
although she didn’t say so
"See if there are any chips
in that bag.”
I walked over and examined it
with my pen
"Nacho cheese." I
gave the tip of
my finger a lick
Some guy had bought Doritos
filled the bag with cheese and
showed up looking for him
after he texted
claiming he’d been put in a
brown van and
Barb went back to mind
I set out looking for the strange
My flashlight had been stolen
it was dark in the lot behind
the station and there were
vehicles parked throughout
the weedy field
leading back to the woods
beside Swords Hill
The closer I got to the
treeline the more
watching me I
beneath the trailers and trucks
and old cars sitting back there I
to my belly and up again
I called out like a
Beatles song and got
the trail was cold
the first 48 was quickly turning into
the first 47 and a half
I wanted to continue
into the woods
my instinct told me
I couldn’t see
thing and there was
I’d find anything
Later in the
the deputy who found him
asleep in those woods
told me he’d run off in fear of
his friends trying to
I laughed at
Nobody ever sees how hard you try
when you’re a few steps shy
of being the hero every
I keep looking but it’s not
I used to have a flash light
now it’s dark
She asked me to break a hundred dollar bill.
It hadn’t occurred to either of the young academics to check and see how much cash they had while I was taking time out of the most lucrative part of my shift to run them through McDonald’s drive-thru on Western.
I could have said no, both to the breaking of the hundred and the unnecessary stop. And I could have run the meter from the second we paused at that intercom until the moment we left the parking lot.
I didn’t. I was too focused on trying to be nicer to the Bradley kids. For the sake of my own sanity, more than anything.
They were too focused on “Nugs.” Ten piece “nugs.” With “Barbecue sauce, obviously,” the dark haired one had repeated into the intercom obnoxiously.
Alcohol and money: her license to act condescending to everyone in the service industry.
She’d obviously never worked a job at “McDon’s” (as she called it), or considered anyone but herself for more than two minutes, or it wouldn’t have come as such a shock when we pulled up in front of their place on campus and found there was only a c-note to pay me with.
As it happened, it had been unusually busy all night for a Wednesday and I’d gotten in the cab with a little more scratch than I usually carried, so breaking the big bill was no big deal…
"Ninety-something back," the sweet one said, unsure of her drunk math. I knew she’d meant eighty-something.
"You mean eighty something?" I asked, because that was the only answer that made sense.
"Yeah, eighty something! How much?" she said looking to her friend.
"No! Ninety!" the dark haired one demanded, going from pleasantly oblivious to the world to totally indignant in two seconds flat. "What the fuck??"
The alcohol and the situation had turned on her. I handed over the ninety as soon as she landed on that figure.
"Remind me never to call you again."
"You didn’t call me this time," I said, reminding her that I’d fished the two of them out of one of the college troughs on Farmington Road.
"Fuck off, you’re going to go right back down to Crusen’s and make a shit-ton."
This is the part I like best: when ignorant Chicago suburb yuppies who have never really worked a day in their lives open their mouths about shit they do not know.
It is not possible for me to make a “shit-ton” of anything off of unappreciative people who waste my time, take almost all my fucking change, and then act like uppity bitches about it.
It’s almost a feudal fucking enterprise.
I let it go.
You can’t teach people like that anything, she stormed off, leaving both bags of food and a soda with her nice friend, who was apologizing to me as she labored to open her door.
"No reward is worth this," I murmured as I drove away.
I made my way back down to Farmington Road hoping to catch a redeemer.
I was driving past Kenny’s Westside when I saw a young guy with a Zack Morris haircut standing on the side of the road. That’s a nice bar, so I figured I’d probably be picking up a good customer.
As soon as he got in, and sat up front I deduced he was drunk, started walking toward Main Street from another bar, and had given up before even reaching the hill.
"Say, bro, could we roll through McDonald’s?"
"Yeah, why not."
"Nice, I’ll totally get you a sandwich."
"Thanks, but I don’t want a sandwich. Just remember me when it comes time to leave the tip."
"I got you, bro."
He ordered himself a couple quarter-pounders and another sandwich. The cute drive-thru girl at the first window remembered me and said “if ya’ll come through here again, you’re gonna have to buy me something.”
"I will," I said. And I meant it. We pulled forward.
I handed the clean cut kid his bag of food from the second window and he threw his receipt out the passenger side.
"Hey, don’t you know we have to clean that up!" the older woman complained.
He looked directly at her, like the defiant scum of the Earth, piece of shit he truly is, with alcohol or not, and said "Yeah, Yes, I do."
As much as it would have brought me pleasure to throw an elbow across the bridge of his nose right then, I knew none of what was sure to come would help anyone.
"I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it," I said, holding up an apologetic hand to her and pulling forward a few feet before any more could be said. I opened my door to step out, but this must have embarrassed him, because he actually managed to get out and pick up after himself.
Thankfully, his place on campus was very close and we were there in no time.
"You take card, right bro?"
FUCK. ”Yeah.” I filled his information out as expeditiously as I could on my receipt book and then handed it over for him to sign and write in a tip… all of which he did practically illegibly for no reason other than his aforementioned lack of character.
Believe me, he wasn’t that drunk.
"What is that… a dollar?" I asked.
"Yeah. I appreciate it," he said, genuinely intending to mock me with the words.
"You should," I said, twice as fast.
"Have a good night," he said in the same shit eating tone.
"Get out of my sight."
Yeah, he was a dickless piece of shit, but it didn’t mean half as much to me as he probably thought it did. I knew none of these “people” were capable of anything better the moment I picked them up.
And although I cursed the boring little Bradley parasite as I drove away…
I didn’t feel good about it. And if you read the newspapers, you probably heard what happened next.
Poor little Morris went up to his room, frustrated and alone, shoving food into his face. Only knowing how to breathe through his mouth, he ran into trouble as 1/8 of a pound of greasy McDonald’s burger was caught in his windpipe.
He desperately tried to dislodge the beef, or run for help, but because he’d been masturbating at the same time, he tripped on the pants around his ankles.
The body was found the following afternoon when he failed to report to Glee Club.
His head purple and disfigured, the rest of him blue… the initial report, given both to his parents and the media, was auto-erotic asphyxiation, but only an autopsy would reveal the rotting beef in his trachea.
That’s when it all came out.
They knew I’d been the one to drop him off, who cursed him for the drunk behavior he couldn’t possibly be held responsible for, who allowed him to purchase over half a pound of McDonald’s sandwiches, and who’d ultimately caused his distress that led to his untimely death.
We all knew it. I’d always been the villain.
And they all came after me.