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November 1, 2018 Fiction


Derick Dupre

Merchandiser photo

Esther rises and pulls the cord and moves to the front of the bus, whereupon it brakes and kneels and Esther debarks as she peels the gloves off her hands. It sounds like someone ripping off a condom but for Esther it’s a larger and more satisfying pleasure, the lifelong pleasure of manual sterility that is not be fucked with no matter the circumstance. She stashes the used gloves in her bag for a more practical disposal later. Esther mutters Fuck as she makes her way down the sidewalk. She shuts her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose in the manner of one losing patience, then rubs the eyes with a thumb and two fingers, blindly making her way down the sidewalk and blindly giving no fucks for other pedestrians, if she were to be tapped for a symposium on pedestrian safety, her address would be titled “My Right To Senseless Movement & Other Ungiven Fucks.” The horrible ordeal of the bus has whet her appetite and she decides that when she opens her eyes she’ll stop in the first store she sees, except she does just that, and what she sees is a bankrupt storefront, a defunct deli of sorts, there appear to be long dormant glass deli cases thick with dust, each case bearing the legend YOU CAN’T BEAT OUR MEAT, and rows and rows of empty glassdoor merchandisers, some with open doors, and Esther thinks she could probably crawl inside one of those and fit, she thinks she could probably just live in one of those, surely if they’re equipped for cooling you could rewire them for heat, why not install a thermostat fit for a human living in a glassdoor merchandiser, just take out the racks and you could probably even stretch out a bit, build a tiny ledge for a clock or a book or a mug of something, and otherwise furnish it with a nice down duvet and you’re in business, which is what Esther wishes this business was in, because she’s feeling starved and humiliated and now that she thinks about it, she realizes she’d never set foot in this place when it was open, if it ever was, and that saddens her a little because if she had gone in, she would’ve asked them about the possibility of rewiring a glassdoor merchandiser for heat and then living in it, and surely if the businessowners didn’t have the answer, then they would refer her to their HVAC guy, he’d be the guy to talk to regarding the specific benefits and impracticalities of living in a glassdoor merchandiser. Esther is shielding her eyes from the glare of the storefront, dual shields above and around both eye sockets, her frontal bone pressed against the glass of the storefront, the living effigy of one peering in, so her rearview is virtually blind and prohibits her from seeing the man approach her from behind. He says, It’s closed, and Esther screams and startles and bangs her head on the glass of the storefront and screams again, peak frequency vocalizations with frightening layers of complexity, and the startling man starts repeating the word No as Esther stops screaming and starts a low growl, a revving up that grows louder and louder and culminates in the word Fuck. The startling man says, I didn’t mean to startle you, and Esther says, Fuck you hard, and he says I know, I’m sorry, I just, and Esther says Seriously, what were you, and she rubs her forehead with the heel of her hand, checks for blood, none, and mutters Jesus a few times while the startling man just stands there, as though he can explain how he has control of the situation through his mute presence, as though if she’ll just wait a minute he can explain everything, that’s what people say right after they fuck you over, I can explain, except here there is no explanation necessary, the last thing Esther wants to hear is some stranger, some man explaining to her why he thought it was okay to scare the shit out of her in broad daylight. I know it’s closed, she says. The startling man says I’m sorry, I just, and Esther says You just what? and he says I know, I just, I don’t know, and Esther says I don’t give a fuck what you don’t know about, an unplanned zinger, a line she delivers with such accuracy she can tell it sprang from a feeling she’s been suppressing, likely work-induced, likely a feeling triggered by her dumbass accounts with the sad and weird excuses or her dumbass immediate supervisor with the voice like french-tipped nails on a chalkboard or her dumbass coworkers who study the genealogy of reality stars but don’t know the first thing about workplace protocol, if she could just tell them all she doesn’t give a fuck what they don’t know about, just do your job, own up to your responsibilities, and stop being such soulless fucks, if she could tell them that, she might not have to fantasize about blowing her brains out at work. But instead, she unleashed on this guy, and now she’s a little sorry, maybe he was just passing by and looked at her and saw somebody who needed help, she can imagine that maybe someone with her posture and demeanor, sad single woman peering into old deli, maybe that’s a person who looks like they need help, or at least advice, or just straight-up facts: It’s closed. Esther says, Sorry I, and the startling man interrupts her, assures her that It’s okay, and she says No, let me finish: so, she pauses for dramatic effect, while at the same time her stomach loudly growls and she looks down and grimaces, the dramatic moment shattered by g.i. tract, so, I was having a bad day at work, and then the bus was overcrowded and I fell over on the bus and no one noticed, no one offered to help me, nobody even fucking looked at me, like who does that, apparently everybody does that, so I got off the bus around here and was looking for a place to eat and I saw this place, so anyway, she continues, so I was just looking in, obviously it’s closed, I was just looking. Do you happen to know anything about heating, ventilation, or air conditioning? The startling man stammers the word I and says No, I don’t know about that, I just, and Esther says Thank you, sorry, thank you, and departs from the creepy company of the startling man and crosses the street, hungrier than ever, whoever said that hunger sharpens the senses was clearly someone who was never humiliated and frightened in public on an empty stomach. She stops and turns and looks at the man as he too peers through the storefront, looking in. Esther’s ravenous senselessness is at an all-time high, and she makes a hand into a mock pistol and says aloud, alone, pronouncing each syllable with great care, Merchandiser, and mock snipes the startling man right in the parietal bone.

image: Aaron Burch