The convenience store smells like Solarcaine and orange soda. Lolly’s bubble pops and gum plasters over her mouth while the delivery man smooths a Band-Aid in place on his elbow. The door rattles shut behind him and the mini cathedral bell from the dollar store clinks. Lolly picks the waxlike bubble gum off her chin. She remembers she needs to get a new razor, because in a week or so she’ll have to shave her legs.
A woman comes in, her skin the color of caramelized onions and her hair a dark cocoa pulsing with yellow highlights. The flesh of her face is stretched taut, as if she’s pinned all the wrinkles back behind her ears, except for the crow’s feet at her eyes, which are more like sparrow’s feet. She’s wearing a billowing coat of brown leather, lined with mustard yellow fur, that doesn’t particularly match her slinky turquoise scarf.
Lolly doesn’t realize the woman’s brought the boy until he pops out from behind her cavernous coat. His skin is a shade lighter than his mother’s, his hair a shade darker, his sunglasses framed in orange, hers, leopard print.
Through the radio static that crackles around the store, an announcer starts to deliver the weather. Lolly fishes the remote out from under the cash register and changes to a station playing bluegrass. The boy winces and the woman opens the cooler so sharply it slams against the wall. Lolly knows the woman doesn’t like country or hip-hop or classical. She adds bluegrass to her mental list and returns the remote to its resting place next to the dusty medical kit. It hasn’t been opened since Lolly started working at the corner store. Whenever someone gets a scratch or a cut they just crack open a new box of Band-Aids, fresh off the household necessities shelf.
Lolly can’t make out the woman’s eyes through the sunglasses; she never can, but she knows when the woman pauses like this, in front of the counter, she’s glaring at Lolly. Or maybe she isn’t, but she’s definitely staring, and it’s definitely a dare. “Gonna charge me again, bitch?” It’s what the woman said the second time she came into the store, and she hasn’t said a word to Lolly since.
The woman leaves and the door clatters. Lolly breathes out a gum bubble to critical mass and lets it hover, blotting out all of the boy except for the stray hairs of his bedhead. Alone like that, the hairs almost look black. As black as his eyes look through the sunglasses.
Lolly’s bubble pops and the boy is gone, the citadel bell echoing as the door beats itself back into place. There’s a little origami heart covering the top prize for a stack of cheap lotto tickets: $200, in big, bold gold, as if that were enough to keep someone comfortable for more than half a year. The heart is metallic and, on its left bump, sports the cleaved image of a milk chocolate candy bar.
Granny Ma is muttering something either vulgar or about a poodle. The fuzzy, neon-pink bath towel Lolly wrapped around the elderly woman fell to the floor immediately after it was situated. Sometimes Granny Ma tries to reach for it with her toes, even though it’s around a meter away.
Until tomorrow: I believe in living today. Not in yesterday, nor in tomorrow.