Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 8

      After walking three more blocks together, Jet and Rubber Boots parted ways. Rubber Boots continued towards his house while Jet went to the left, walking down the center of the tree-lined street, moving quickly from the protection of one street lamp lit area to another. Halfway down the next block he walked across a lawn, crept along the side of a house, then stopped to stand on his tiptoes to watch television through the family room window. He then cut through the backyard, under the hedges, down someone else’s driveway, and onto the next street.

     Jet's shortcut brought him to Broad Street. As he neared the corner he could see a large supermarket on the opposite side of the street. It was a plain, square, cinder block building with a tall flat tower on one side which jutted up towards the sky. Near the top of the tower were nine huge fire engine red letters, spelling out the name of the supermarket:

FOOD HOUSE

     Jet reached into the right front pocket of his Levi's, searching for the bus fare his mother had given him for the ride home from the library. One of the finer coincidences in life was that a package of Twinkies cost exactly the same as a ride on the bus.

     Jet walked up to the front doors of the supermarket and, without breaking his stride, stepped on the rubber mat that activates the doors and smacked right into the glass. He rubbed his nose as he backed up and looked at the large decal on the door that said "IN". He stomped his right foot hard on the mat. Nothing. He stomped on another part of the mat. Still nothing. He jumped on the mat with both feet trying to trip the mechanism but the doors refused to budge. He peered into the store and saw a man wearing a tie and bib apron walking towards the manager's office. Jet knocked on the door.

     "We're closed," the man called out to Jet.

     "Can I just get something real quick?" Jet yelled.

     "We're closed."

     "My mother sent me up here to get some Twinkies."

     "I......said......we're......closed," the man called out slowly, exaggerating each word.

     "But she'll kill me if I come home without them," Jet said. The man looked at him and shook his head in amazement. "My father's a diabetic and he's in insulin shock. He might die if I don't get them."

     The man shrugged his shoulders and continued towards the office.

     Jet turned and walked along the sidewalk in front of the store, his hands thrust in his jeans pockets. As he reached the corner of the store he looked in the window and saw the racks of bread and rolls, English Muffins, doughnuts, and Twinkies. Row after row of glimmering Twinkies, their spongy yellow cake beckoning to him from within their wrappers. Tearing himself away, he followed the concrete path around the side of the building and was about to cut through the rear parking lot when a beam of light caught his eye—the back door was wide open. It couldn't have been any more enticing had there been a neon sign flashing "Free Girls Inside". In fact, at twelve years old Jet found an open door to be infinitely more alluring.

     He peeked in. There was no one to be seen. He cautiously entered, finding himself in the loading docks, a wide open area big enough to allow a tractor-trailer to back into the building and unload at once. Directly in front of him was a doorway with strips of clear plastic as a curtain. Jet approached it and listened carefully. Hearing no sounds of activity, he walked through the plastic strips and into the warehouse, a huge room filled with cardboard boxes of every size and shape. He made his way through the narrow aisles until he came to a set of double swinging doors. Pushing one open just a hair, he cocked his head and listened intently. All he could hear was the gentle hum of refrigerator compressors chanting Om to the Mighty Freon God.

     Jet walked through the double doors and into the store. To his right was the produce, to his left the dairy section. There were no mothers on a Shopping Mission From God. No children kicking and screaming for every sugar-coated cereal they'd seen advertised on the morning cartoons. No spine-chilling screech of crippled shopping cart wheels, fathers standing in front of the ketchup asking a woman in a too-tight sweater where the ketchup is, or teenagers packing candy and condoms under their shirts and down the front of their pants.

     The store was his.

     He picked up an apple and shined it against his shirt, then took a big bite, the crunch reverberating through the deathly silent store. As if in response, he heard footsteps. He ducked behind an island piled high with onions and held his breath, his mouth stuffed full of partly chewed apple. He watched a pair of legs walk by the opposite side of the onion display; it was the man in the tie and bib apron. Jet remained perfectly motionless, sucking on the piece of apple in his mouth. Alternate banks of ceiling lights went out.

     Night comes to the Food House.

     Jet tiptoed to the double doors, where he heard footsteps echoing through the back warehouse and a voice saying, "Who the hell left this door open?" to no one. Then the back door slammed shut and there was silence once again.

     Jet confidently walked beside the dairy counter, past the meat and poultry, and down an aisle of canned goods. "You could live in here forever," he thought. "There's tons of food to eat, books and magazines to read, bathrooms in here somewhere, and all the toilet paper imaginable." But as he wandered down the rows he realized there was no way to cook the meat, prepare the vegetables, or worse yet, open the cans. If trapped he'd spend the rest of his life eating cold sandwiches and potato chips. And Twinkies.

     He spent several minutes carefully examining each package of Twinkies on the rack, looking for the best one. He chose a package, tore it open, pulled out one of the cakes and bit into it. He chewed it slowly. Disappointed, he put the remainder of the unnaturally colored yellow cake back in the package with its mate.

     There were foods like liver and lima beans and salmon croquettes which Jet knew he didn't like. Then there were foods like sweet potatoes, candy corn, and Twinkies which he thought he liked. At least until he went ahead and ate them again. Like so many things in life, the desire is often far better than the reality.

     Jet put the package of Twinkies back on the rack. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the unused bus fare, placing a nickel of it in the opened package where the whole Twinkie once lived. He walked back through the store, into the warehouse, and out to the loading docks.

     As he was about to leave, he noticed a wooden palette stacked taller than he was with brown paper grocery sacks with the words "Food House" printed on them in fire engine red. There must have been thousands of them. And not ten feet away was a big blue dumpster waiting for a morning pickup.

     Reality always demands a response.

 

Chapter 9 ]



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                 19   20    21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34  



  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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