Convenience Store by Ian Smith


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4 AM. The corpse of a tourist town on the Jersey coast. Junk and sleeping junkies heaped on the beach. Rotting boardwalk slats pushed into a pit of filth.

One of them moves along the well-worn path to the convenience store. Interior musty, roof peaked, fluorescents dim through flier-papered, tinted glass. All sorts of things for sale inside. Things that could help. Stacks of plastic packages full of sickly relief: cookies, cakes, candy. Beer, wine and malt liquor. Soda and cigarettes. An ATM. Lottery tickets. Magazines and newspapers with pictures of things in them. Pictures of people and stories about things that happened to them. Pictures of far away places. This month's movie magazines with slick covers he had not seen yet. Sickly slogans and jokes. Evidence of a world other than this one. A sickly-sweet demanding one, though. That could help?

He pauses. Surely there is something sweet somewhere.

The lines of the freeway, the cars and semis, and thickets alongside had been promising. Until he found that they went to other places like this. Other gas stations, convenience stores, rusty bars and laundromats. Other tombs.

Surely there is something sweet somewhere.

He looks in and sees the cookies and the cakes and the malt liquor and the old guy putting away the cigarettes and the lottery tickets and there's a TV on with images of people doing things in other places. There is one dollar and eighty-eight cents in his pocket.

Turn away. Not today. There ain't nothing for sale in there can save your soul.

Death is coming to cast himself in your movie.