Monday, May 26
Weston was sitting in his basement suite on his grimy foldout couch, about to go work, when his flip phone vibrated in his pocket. A text from Terry:
Reminder that April and May’s rent is due at the end of the month.
“End of the month,” Weston muttered.
He put on his crimson coveralls and opened his front door. There was a brown cardboard box on the ground, just outside his door. It was about the size of a shoebox and its flaps were held tight by a strip of clear packing tape. There was no return address, no stamp, not even a name on it.
He ripped at the tape, which screeched then snapped, and peeled the box’s flaps up. Inside, there was a bottle of haskap dish soap. Weston looked over at his sink, at the lopsided pile of crusty dishes. “Huh?”
Weston walked to the Fast Gas, and when he entered the gas station, he said, “Just letting you know I’m here.”
Russell, a wiry man with a coarse, brown beard, nodded, muttered, “Thanks,” and went back to looking at his phone.
“And, well,” Weston said. Russell lifted his head, looked at Weston. “Rent is coming up for me and I’m wondering—”
“Can’t help you, Weston,” Russell said, throwing up his hand. “If I could, I would—for old time’s sake or whatever, but I can’t. That’s it and that’s all. Can’t.”
Weston stared at Russell, whose glasses reflected the white of his phone’s screen, the cars on it. “I’ll do odd jobs, under the table stuff, whatever,” Weston said. “I only have five days.”
“Can’t help you.”
“Anything, just to—”
“Weston, sorry. I can’t.”
Weston turned from the counter and walked toward the door, past a row of colourful chips and a swirling stand that held an assortment of hats, and as he met the door with his hand, Russell called out, “No hard feelings.”
Weston pushed open the door, twinkling the chime. “No hard feelings,” he muttered.
The spring wind was bright and brisk, swishing the elms’ leaves in the park across the street and swirling dust around the gas bar. A black Dodge Ram lurched up, its engine crackling until the driver cut it and hopped out.
“Fill her up?” Weston said.
The guy wore big, black sunglasses that partially covered an otherwise burned-red face. “Regular,” he said, walking from the gas bar into the station. Weston lifted the red handle, tapped the red button for regular, and put the nozzle in the tank.
“Thanks bud,” the guy said when he came out, hopping in his truck and rumbling off.
Weston filled gas tanks and squeegeed windshields, and as the night went on, the wind cooled, the sky darkened, and the gas station’s blue-white lights screamed into the darkness. .
Back at home, Weston opened his fridge. It held a few slices of bread, two kraft singles, an opened packet of thinly sliced ham, and a small bottle of yellow, no-name mustard. He laid the cheese and ham on the bread, squeezed the mustard, and ate the sandwich slow.
When he was done, he added the plate to the leaning tower of dishes, but they toppled over, crashing into the sink’s base. “Guess it’s time,” Weston mumbled, turning on the tap. As water pooled and then spilled over the dishes, he crouched down, opened the cabinet, and picked up a bottle of green apple dish soap. He held it to the light, squinted his eyes. It was empty.
Weston looked over at the box on the counter with the haskap dish soap in it. “Huh,” he said, squeezing soap onto the drowning plates.
Tuesday, May 27
Weston ate his last pack of instant cinnamon-flavoured oatmeal, rinsed the bowl, and washed it with a drop of haskap dish soap. Warm water was running over his hands when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He dried them. A call from Terry. He pressed ignore. The phone buzzed. Ignore. A text appeared:
Rent is due at the end of the month. Four days.
Weston looked in his wallet, found a few coins and a single bill. He sighed, put on his coveralls, and opened his front door.
Another brown cardboard box was in his doorway, its arms held by a strip of clear packing tape. He quickly tore it open and found an energy efficient lightbulb, with curlicuing threads of opaque glass. Weston scrunched his face as he put the box on the counter, next to the other one. “It’s odd,” he said.
“Not a cent over twenty-five bucks,” the man said. He was wearing a straw hat and a big, goofy grin. “That’s all I got. Here.” He put his arm out the window, dropped a couple bills and a pile of coins into Weston’s hand.
“That’s not how it works. You have to go inside—” Weston was saying, but the man had rolled up his window, cranked the radio, and commenced drumming his fingers on the dash. “Can you at least cut the battery?” he asked, but the man ignored him and kept drumming.
Weston lifted the nozzle, pushed the red button, and flipped the sliver latch under the handle, then picked up the red squeegee as the gas kept pumping. He washed away the silty film on the windshield and scraped away filaments of water with the rubber end of the squeegee. As he did this, the man in the truck stopped drumming and bared his tobacco-stained teeth, his head following Weston’s squeegee, like Weston was using it to clean plaque off his teeth.
When Weston sheathed the squeegee and unflicked the latch, the meter read $32.00.
The man in the truck shrugged. “Sorry, bud,” he said, his voice muffled by the closed window. “That’s all I got.”
Weston narrowed his eyes as the man lurched off, his exhaust belching plumes of black smoke.
Inside, he dropped the bills and coins on the counter, his eyes low.
“Where’s the rest?” Russell asked.
“This is all he had.”
“You let buddy pay like it’s a drive through, and then overfilled his tank?”
“He wouldn’t listen,” Weston said. “I tried to get him in here.”
“Then I guess it’s your problem, huh? Looks like you owe me seven dollars. Call it a moron tax.” Russell’s eyes were tightened into a squint, but they still appeared droopy. He smelled like gas, cheap beer, and food fried in grease.
“I was washing the guy’s windshield, man. It’s not like I was taking a piss or something.”
Russell shrugged. “Some things never change. I know seven bucks is a lot for you right now, what with rent and all, but if you don’t settle it, I’ll be forced to fire your ass.”
“Got a vice grip on your one molecule of authority, huh?” He pulled out his leather wallet and flipped it over, raining nickels and quarters onto the counter. As they plinked and rattled, spilled to the ground, he pulled out his last five and laid it neatly in front of Russell. “Think that covers it,” he muttered, walking away.
“Lucky we’re friends,” Russell called as Weston pushed open the door and went outside.
Back at home, Weston opened his door and flipped the light switch. The kitchen light flickered on, sputtered for a few moments, and then faded out, leaving Weston in a hush of darkness. “It’s odd,” he said. He flicked off the light, scooted a chair beneath the light fixture, and picked up the lightbulb sitting in the cardboard box.
Wednesday, May 28
Weston woke up late to three missed calls from Terry. He set his phone down, got up,
and opened his fridge. Two slices of crusty ham, a bottle of mustard. He grabbed the slices, ate them quickly. When he opened his front door, a piece of paper fluttered from it. He picked up the note.
Weston, the rent is due. Last month, this month. It’s due in three days. No more leash. $1000. Three days.
As Weston folded the paper, he saw, sitting on the ground, a cardboard box about the size of a laundry basket, packed tight with a line of clear tape.
Weston shuffled it up and down, set it on the counter, next to the other boxes, and jogged to work.
Halfway into his shift, his hands grimy and brown from the pump, the sky still a limber light blue, Weston looked over at the empty gas bar three times, then walked toward the station.
Russell was behind the till, holding his phone. “Taking a break, are we?”
“Nothing to take a break from No one’s here.” He pushed air through his nose, almost like a laugh.
“I guess Blake McLeod didn’t teach you anything,” Russell said. “Got time to lean, got time to clean.” He brought the phone closer to his face, squinting even more.
Weston crossed his arms. “He was an asshole.”
“Was he, though? I think maybe we were the assholes?”
“Well, who isn’t when they’re eighteen,” Weston said.
“No one we knew.”
“Anyway, thought we might have a chat.”
“Is that right?” Russell put his phone down, looked at Weston.
Outside, an SUV rumbled up and cut the engine. Weston turned.
“Go ahead,” Russell said. “You want to chat, let’s chat. Just like old times—let’s shoot the shit, Weston. You and me.”
Weston looked at Russell’s phone. “It’s just that I’m a little behind on rent and things are tight—”
“—and I was hoping for more hours, a raise, an advance, anything. Just something to get me over.”
“You need a hat in your hand, or puppy dog eyes, coming in here with this Oliver Twist shit.” Russell picked up his phone again. “Like I’m not just trying to get by too? Like we all aren’t? What you’re getting is all I can offer. Even that’s a favour—even that’s for old time’s sake. Even that’s…never mind.”
Weston stared at him as he looked at his phone. “Appreciate your charity, man, really do. Stingy bastard.” He walked toward the door and pushed it open.
When Weston got home, he opened the fridge and found a slimy, empty packet of ham next to a bottle of mustard. “Right,” he murmured. He turned to the counter, toward the box. “What do you have for me today?”
Inside the box, he found cans stacked on top of one another. He picked one up: tomato soup. Then another: mushrooms. There were ten cans in total, an assortment of beans, tuna, vegetables, and a thin saucer-shaped can with a scruffy dog on the label. Weston picked up a can with peas and carrots and stabbed it with a knife, cracking open a small hole, peeling it wider, and pouring the goo-coated veggies into a bowl. “Thank God,” he said, grabbing a spoon. With his mouth full of mashed peas and carrots, he said, again, “Thank God.”
Thursday, May 29
Weston opened his door and found another cardboard box on his doorstep. “Another one,” he said to himself. When he ripped it open, he found a crimson baseball hat. He held it out, inspecting its colour, vibrant and deep, like freshly spilled blood. He flipped it over, looked inside it, and when he saw the gesture he was making, he laughed. “Oliver Twist.” Weston put on the hat. “Oliver Twist.”
At Fast Gas, Weston’s first customer was an older lady with white curly hair. As she rolled down her window, an overwhelming smell of butterscotch escaped from her car and intermingled with the sweet reek of gasoline. “Fill it with regular,” she said from her window.
“Sure thing.” He pushed the red button, lifted the nozzle, and plugged it into her gas tank. Weston squeegeed her already spotless windshield; the nozzle stopped pumping with an abrupt thunk, and as the lady eased her door open and leaned out of it, Weston dunked the squeegee and raced around the car to meet her.
“Tips,” Weston murmured. He took off his hat and held it out. “We’re taking tips?”
“You are?” she said, rising from her seat. She was tall, almost as tall as Weston, and her mouth was totally flat. “I see.” She looked in her purse, grabbed a five-dollar bill, and tossed it into the hat.
Weston’s face was sideways, shocked. “Thank you so much.”
For the rest of his shift, Weston ran this routine, pumping gas, cleaning windshields, and rushing with his hat to meet the customer at the door. “We’re taking tips,” he said.
Some walked right by him without saying a word, their faces scrunched, their eyes squinted, and others told him to get lost or to shut up.
But others, like the droopy, slick-haired man with a black Lexus and black suit, nodded and said, “Oh my, of course,” and some older ladies called him “dear,” and waterfalled quarters into his hat. And others, the young and pimply, the nervous twenty-somethings, the avuncular and unsure sort of muttered, “Tips?” before pulling out their wallets and dropping in a few coins.
“Thank you so much,” Weston said to them all.
Near the end of his shift, a silver Mercedes with a whirring, cracking engine pulled up and a bald head emerged from the rolled down window.
“Fill it up?” Weston asked.
“With the best you got,” the guy said. He had a black goatee, pointy eyebrows, and a burgundy turtleneck.
“Supreme, then?” Weston said.
“You think this thing can run on regular?” He patted the car like it was a horse.
Weston shrugged, pushed the yellow supreme button, lifted the nozzle, and fit it into the gas tank.
“What do you drive?” the guy said.
Weston grabbed the squeegee, pulled it from the water, dipped it up and down. “I don’t.”
The guy made a throaty noise.
Weston kept flicking the squeegee until water stopped dripping from it, and then he brought it near the Mercedes. The guy leaned way out of his car window. “I know you’re not about to touch my car with that raggedy ass mop.”
“What?” Weston placed the squeegee on the windshield, bringing it across the window with a big wipe.
The guy hopped out of his car, slammed the door. He was shorter than Weston, but wider, thicker; he yanked the squeegee from Weston, walked over to the water bucket, and spiked the squeegee down into it, handle first. Water splashed up. “Don’t touch my car again,” he said.
When the sound of glugging gas clicked off, the man got out of his car, and Weston said, “We’re taking tips?”
The guy laughed. “I’m sure you are.” He walked past Weston and the hat in his outstretched hands.
Weston turned, watched the guy talk to Russell, saw the guy point at him, saw the guy hold out his hands like he was holding a plate, and then point again. Weston looked down; he was still holding his hat.
“Do you think we’re at church, Weston?” Russell said. “Is that where you think we are? Church?”
Weston looked at his feet.
“Or Mrs. Smylski’s class perhaps? Did you think we’re eighteen again—that it would be a funny prank? Some sort of joke?”
“You’re insufferable,” Weston said.
Russell was standing behind the register, both hands on the counter, his body tilted forward. “And what does that make you?” He reached across the till and grabbed the hat off Weston’s head. “A thief!”
Weston kept his head lowered. On the ground behind the till, amidst the bulging black garbage bags, a stack of flattened boxes, plastic crates filled with glass bottles, he saw what looked like a sleeping bag, and beside that, a small gray safe with a black dial.
“Rent,” Weston said. “I need to pay rent.”
“I have rent to pay, too, child support, all sorts of shit,” Russell said. “Scrape, steal, whatever, I don’t care. Just not here. I’m not about to lose my job over your shit.”
Weston said nothing, kept his head bowed, his eyes on the safe.
“Figure it out,” Russell said.
Weston walked away; as he pushed open the door, he turned, looking back at the till. “I’ll figure it out,” he said.
“And do it before I have to fire your ass,” Russell called out.
Friday, May 30
Weston woke to banging on his door. His eyes were heavy and red, his hair tufted up in the back. He lifted himself from the couch and went and opened the door.
A man wearing a brown corduroy jacket and slim black pants stood there. His glasses were clear, and he was pulling his thinning, brown hair back.
“The rent,” Terry said.
“Nice to see you, too. Do I not still have a day?”
“Ah, I see. So you do know that. I wasn’t sure because you haven’t been responding.”
“Right,” Weston said. He looked down at his bare toes.
“End of the month,” Terry said. “Tomorrow.”
“I’ll have two hundred bucks by the end of the day, easy,” Weston said. “I’ll get you that, then I’ll get you the rest. A few days. I’ll have five hundred by the end of the month, when I get paid, just when rent’s due.”
“You have a day Weston,” Terry said. “And no more.”
Weston exhaled, turning the backyard, the wilted yellow grass. On the ground next to Terry was a brown cardboard box the size of a small fridge.
“You keep bringing me these things?”
“What? This?” Terry asked, kicking the box. “Why would I give you anything? I give you a place to live, and you give me money—that’s how this works. Boxes are not part of the deal.”
“Speaking of which,” Weston said. He patted his pockets, pulled out his wallet, picked the bills from it. “Here’s an advance—an apology for my tardiness. I’ll have the rest soon.” He put all of the bills, crumpled and reeking of gas, into Terry’s hand.
Terry sighed as he counted them. “I guess it’s a start. Still close to a grand. One day.”
“A day,” Weston said. “I’ll figure it out.”
Terry nodded and left.
Weston brought the box inside and set it on the counter next to the others before ripping it open. Inside was a jerrycan with a yellow nozzle. Weston picked it up by the handle, shook it, and set it on the floor.
When Weston arrived at the gas bar, he placed the jerrycan behind a pump and walked into the gas station. “Just checking in,” he said.
Russell grunted but kept scraping a loonie on a scratch card. Grey film was piled up against it. Weston leaned forward, looked at Russell, then at the safe behind the counter.
“Wanted to say I’m sorry,” Weston said.
Russell kept scratching. Two cherries emerged, back-to-back. “People want your job, Weston. I could replace you.” He snapped his fingers. “Like that.” He scratched the third box in the row, revealing a seven. “Or I could fire you and not replace you—get a big bonus for cutting down overhead,” he said. “But I know you need it, so don’t screw it up, for the sake of whatever friendship we had, or whatever the hell.” He flicked his hand at Weston, the loonie still in it, as a white Chevy sedan pulled up to the gas bar.
“Just wanted to say I’m sorry,” Weston said, again, and walked back outside, toward the car.
“Regular, fill it up,” the woman said through the slit in her window. Her hair was black and her jacket was white.
Weston nodded, lifted the nozzle, pushed the button, uncorked the gas cap. “Pump three,” he said, nodding toward the gas station.
When she went inside, Weston grabbed the jerrycan, fit the nozzle into it, and flicked the trigger. The gas poured out, landing with a slosh at the jerrycan’s base; as it filled, he peeked out from behind the gas pump. Weston lifted the nozzle and fit it into the Chevy’s gas tank, pressed it down, flipped the latch. Then he grabbed the squeegee and shook it up and down, flicking off excess water, and wiped her windshield until the meter thunked to a stop at $80.
The woman came back and got into her car. “Did you fill it with supreme? Good grief.” But she didn’t say anything else, just tossed her Gatorade and gum onto the passenger seat, slammed the door, and drove away.
A black Nissan pulled up a little later and a short woman with a red shirt and high waisted jeans hopped out. “Regular,” she said.
“Pump three,” Weston called out. He put the nozzle in the gas tank, but before it clicked, he took it out, hung up the pump. “$35.”
After the woman had paid, she walked back to her car. “You fill it up all the way?”
Weston leaned against the pump. “It’s a promo thing. Last fifteen litres are half off,” he said. “But you gotta pay cash at the pump.”
The woman frowned. Bits of stray blonde hair fluttered in the wind. She opened the door, turned, and sank into the driver’s seat. “Why?” she said.
“Just a promo thing,” Weston said. “Giving back and that.”
“So how much to fill the rest?”
“Ten bucks.” She dug into her purse and pulled out a ten. “Here.” Weston grabbed the bill as it flapped in the breeze and then he squatted behind the gas pump, fit the jerrycan nozzle into the tank and poured the gas into it.
“A promo from a jerrycan?”
Weston lifted his shoulders but kept pouring the gas. “Money is money is money is money.”
“We could all use more money,” Weston said.
“Got that right.”
Soon, the jerrycan grew light, and Weston tipped it nearly vertical, like he was pouring the last drop of beer into a glass. He screwed the gas cap on and slapped the car twice; as it drove away, Weston leaned out from behind the gas bar. Inside, Russell was looking in his direction, but the sun’s reflection obscured his face.
Weston ran this scheme throughout his shift, overcharging half the customers and selling their stolen gas to the other half, until at 7PM. He’d just counted $120 in his wallet when a yellow Volvo pulled up, its engine deep and gassy, rumbling like a sore stomach.
The driver was tall, his eyes barely below the windshield, his blonde hair short and floppy. “Supreme,” the man said, getting out of the car. “To the top.”
“Pump three,” Weston said.
“I know.” He closed the door and then circled the car, tapping his tires.
“Not everyone does,” Weston said, fitting the nozzle into the tank.
“I’m not everyone.” The man grabbed the squeegee, shook off the stray water, and wiped it across his windshield. Lines of grey, soapy liquid streaked down the windshield; the man flipped the squeegee to the rubber side, scraped it away. “Just like that,” the man said. He handed Weston the squeegee and walked inside.
“Just like that,” Weston muttered, wiping the windshield. “What a goof.”
Weston looked toward the gas station, saw the man and Russell talking. He knelt down, fit the nozzle into the jerrycan and flicked the silver latch. As gas poured into it, Weston jogged to the rear windshield and scrubbed. When the jerrycan was close to full, he pulled out the pump, inserted it into the car, and then turned toward the gas station again. Russell and the man were still talking, Russell with his arm’s crossed, the man tapping the counter. Weston went to the front windshield, scrubbed.
After he’d peeled away the final streaks of water, the latch thudded. He took the nozzle from the car and, as he screwed on the gas cap, he saw the man walking toward him. Weston began whistling.
“You think I’m stupid,” the man said. Weston kept whistling, his tune vaporous, barely audible. “I’ve filled this car thousands of times,” the man said. “I know it doesn’t cost $78.”
Weston stopped whistling, pushed air through his nose as he looked the man right in his squinted eyes. “That’s what the meter says.”
“The meter might not lie,” the man said, taking a step toward Weston, “but people do.”
“You want to say something like that, you better say it with your chest.”
The man almost smiled. “Well, either you’re a liar or I’m a liar, and I know I’m not a liar.”
Weston sneered. The man looked at his car, the meter, then at Weston—and the jerrycan behind Weston, sitting at the base of the gas pump, tiny drops of golden-brown gasoline crawling down its side.
“Not just a liar.”
“Weston!” Russell jogged toward them. “Weston, what is this?”
Russell came to a stop next to the man, who pointed at the jerrycan, gas sliding down its side.
He looked at Weston like he was a wounded animal. “You didn’t.”
“Little side hustle, huh?” The man pointed at the jerrycan.
“My fuck, Weston!” Russell yelled. “Get out of here. Go home, fuck off, you’re fired.”
Weston’s sneer disappeared. He walked to the corner of the gas station’s lot, but before crossing the street, he turned, looking back at the gas station, at Russell. “Sorry,” he said into the blue-black evening. He took one more look at the gas station, peering through the window. “Sorry,” he said again.
When Weston opened his door, he found an eviction notice on the floor with a date circled. May 31st. He picked it up. The third line read, “This notice is null and void if payment of total owed below is received in full by May 31st.”
Weston’s eyes shifted down to the numbers. “April rent $500 / May rent $500 / Total owed: $1000-80=$920.” Below that, Terry’s swirling signature.
Weston put the paper next to the four boxes and opened the fridge. A few cans were left: creamed corn, a small saucer of tuna, and the small can with a scruffy dog. Weston grabbed the corn and tuna, stabbed them open, poured them into a bowl and stirred. Together, they looked like greying, dead flesh, but smelled like salt and custard. He took a bite and chewed, staring forward, not looking at the bowl.
Saturday, May 31
Weston re-read the note on the counter, then he opened the front door and saw a small brown box; he brought it inside and ripped it open.
Inside the box was a black exacto knife. Weston slid the sharp, triangular blade up and down.
When his stomach growled, he went to the fridge and stared at the lone can with the dog on the label. Weston stabbed at the lid with his exacto knife and pried it open. The pink, packed mush smelled like liver and rain. He scooped some up with the exacto knife’s blade and brought it to his mouth, taking a meager, careful bite.
After eating, he grabbed the can and the knife, but as he stood, he kicked the table on accident, which threw his body forward; the can slipped from his hand and as it fell, he reached for it, still holding the live knife; its blade slid against his other hand and the can and then the knife clattered against the floor.
Weston shook his hand. There was a line of blood on his thumb, and drops were already dripping to the floor. He grabbed a towel, pressed his thumb tight, and looking down at the knife laying on the dirty carpet.
Weston put on his coveralls and slipped the knife into his pocket. He looked at the row of boxes, the eviction note beside them, and then walked outside. The sun buzzed as Weston walked; he pulled the knife from his pocket, flicked the blade up and down. Sweat trickled from his hair down onto his grainy, unwashed face. As he neared the gas station, he saw Russell through the window, a paper in front of him, a pen in his hand.
Russell kept writing as Weston came through the door. When Weston reached the counter, Russell flipped the page and looked up.
“I could call the cops.”
“You haven’t hired anyone,” Weston said. “I thought people were begging for the job.”
“If you think I owe you an explanation, I’d tell you to fuck off,” Russell said.
“I need to pay rent,” Weston said.
“You moron,” Russell said. “If you can’t comprehend that you don’t work anymore, you have much bigger problems than paying rent.”
“I need to pay rent,” he said again.
“Time to go.” Russell walked around the counter.
Weston put his hand in his pocket as Russell approached him. He pulled out the exacto knife and flicked up the blade. “I need to pay rent,” Weston said, pointing the knife at Russell.
“Whoa,” Russell said, moving back and raising his hands. “Whoa. We’re friends.”
“Call me a moron,” Weston said, walking toward Russell. “You cheap bastard. Minimum wage, no raise, part-time. I ate dog food today. This is how you treat a friend?”
“No,” Russell said faintly, moving behind the counter. “It’s not like that. It’s not. Even giving you this job was a favour. I could have fired you, pocketed the cash, taken an incentive.”
Weston came around the counter, the knife still extended. Russell retreated further, his hands still in the air.
“I gave you chances,” Russell said. “I didn’t have to, but I did.”
Weston flicked his head at the paper on the counter. “What’s this?”
“After all the chances I’ve given you? This is what it is? Can your caveman brain even appreciate how much I’ve helped you?”
Weston kept pointing the knife at Russell as he turned the paper.
New Employee Payroll: Clark Getson.
Next to “SIN” it said, “N/A,” and a black X was scrawled over the bank information. Russell had written, “N/A. Cash Only.”
Weston’s eyes narrowed as he turned to Russell. “You janky bastard. Clark Getson. Super convincing, Russell. HR’s gonna love this. Hiring yourself with a fake name.”
Russell sneered. “You know who else has to pay bills, Weston? Literally everyone.”
“I guess that’s why I’m here,” he said, extending the knife. “The safe.” Weston turned. On the ground, next to the safe, was an ashtray, an orange sleeping bag, and tucked under the counter, a green bedroll.
“There’s no point,” Russell said. “It’s a waste of time. There’s nothing in there. It’s a decoy, just where I keep some shit.”
Weston took a step toward Russell. “The safe,” he said again. They were chest to chest, face to face, eye to eye.
Russell’s eyes softened. “You’re going to stab me over a decoy safe?”
Weston reached forward with the knife; the blade sang through the air and met Russell’s flesh. Russell screamed and fell to the ground, doubled over. Blood immediately pooled through his grey t-shirt just beneath his ribs; he curled into a ball, holding the gash, the blood staining his hands.
“The safe,” Weston said, looking down at Russell. “The safe, you moron.”
Russell was moaning on the ground, deep gurgling sounds that caught in his throat, his eyes shut, his face creased with sharp, taut lines.
“What is wrong with you!” The words caught as he struggled through a series of wet, raspy coughs.
“The safe,” Weston said.
Russell squirmed on the floor, twisting his body toward the safe. He groaned, coughed, and rotated the dial with one hand while holding his wound with the other. The dial ticked like a clock as he twisted it, and then made a clicking sound. “All yours.” Russell exhaled.
Weston squatted down, pulled the handle. Inside, a stack of papers on a brown cardboard box.
The paper on top read, “RE: Past-Due Child Support Payments, $250.00 bi-weekly.” Below that, “As of the date this letter is being sent, you have not complied with these provisions. My records indicate that child support payments now total $2,500.” Weston flipped through sheets. They all said the same thing, but the numbers grew smaller and smaller, the dates older and older.
He lifted another paper from deeper in the pile. “Notice of Eviction” and “$2,000.00” dating back to March. All the papers were notices and bills, demands for money Russell owed but didn’t seem to have.
And there was Russell, bent over, still wheezing, holding his side, blood spilling from him.
Weston set the papers on the counter and picked up the brown cardboard box.
It was about the size of a shoebox and its arms were held tight by a strip of clear packing tape. There was no return address on it, no stamp, not even a name. Weston laid it on the counter, sliced through the tape with the blood-streaked exacto knife, and peeled the box’s arms up.
Inside was a bottle of haskap dish soap.
About the Author:
osiah Nelson is an MFA in Writing student and sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan. His work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Existere, Vast Chasm Magazine, Queen’s Quarterly, and Fractured Lit. He lives in Saskatoon. Find him on Twitter @josiahhnelson
*Featured image by Goran Tomic