Cornerstore

He had sat in the same coffee shop at the same table many times. But today it was for real. Or, at least, that was the plan. Why were there suddenly doubts again? He’d been through all this before. He had told himself that the world hadn’t been good to him, so why would he have to be good to the world? Maybe there were people who could afford conscience, he couldn’t. But, then again, what if the question about conscience wasn’t whether you’d be able to afford it or not, but whether you had it or not.

He looked across the road. A cornerstore, for christ’s sake! A fucking cornerstore. Why not a gas station, at least? Or a Walgreen’s? Yes, because they all had security cameras. And that was a fair enough reason to avoid them. After all, he had no experience in this. Everyone had to start with manageable tasks. And he didn’t have the skills for fancy white-collar crime. And not the confidence to rob a bank. And not the connections to get in on a big deal. All he had was this lousy gun some dude had sold him for twenty bucks. He didn’t even have ammunition. He didn’t even know if the thing worked. Hell, he didn’t even know if the thing was real. But it looked real to him, and so it should look real to the Korean in the store, too. At least, that was the theory.

A cornerstore. Very Robin Hood.

He thought of the Korean. Would he be scared? Ah, maybe. But since he knew he wouldn’t do anything to the Korean, he wouldn’t have to worry much about that. Plus, he was sure the Korean wouldn’t be too scared, anyway. Wasn’t getting robbed part of the job when you run a cornerstore? He stirred in his coffee for no apparent reason.

He had tried to get work. He really had. He just hadn’t gotten any. And his savings were simply gone. And not for boozing and gambling, but for rent and food. He wasn’t a bad person. He was a victim of society. But did that allow him to do bad? But, what was bad anyway? And good? Fuck that. He had tried to be good all his life, and where had it gotten him? Nowhere. Struggling to survive. Or, at least, to stay off the streets.

Maybe crime didn’t pay. But righteousness didn’t either. And that he knew for sure. Crime he hadn’t even tried yet. Oh, but righteousness would pay in the afterlife, some of them said. But what the fuck did they know? He wanted to eat. And he was hungry now. He could worry about the afterlife when it came around.

A cornerstore. Did the Korean have a family? Probably. And one of those cute little Asian girls running up and down behind the counter. His wife was probably just preparing some chop suey for lunch. Or whatever they ate in Korea. But, damn, that wasn’t the fucking point here. He was procrastinating. Once again. And he had decided that today was for real. So it had to be. Or had other days been for real before as well? No, not as real as today. He finally had to make a move. Act. Be a man. Take a stand. Show the world he wasn’t to be played with just like that. Take life into his own hands. Determine his own destiny.

He checked his watch. A quarter to twelve. He looked over to the cornerstore. He finished his coffee, put a dollar and fifty cents on the table, and left. Probably, he’d be back next week.

(2001)