Fifty Bucks

He checked the note again to be sure that he’d read it right: it wasn’t exactly a normal shopping list.

  • dental floss
  • a 30 inch 2×4
  • yellow spray paint
  • a map of Arizona

Yeah, all here in the black plastic grocery bag.

Kevin looked around to make sure no one was watching him before setting the bag in the doorway as he’d been instructed. He peeled off the envelope that was taped to the door and tore it open. Yup. Easiest fifty bucks he’d ever made, but it sure was weird.

It had all started yesterday morning when Kevin was walking to the corner store for a half gallon of milk. There was this dude hanging out front by where the pay phones used to be, just chilling against the side of the building. Kevin gave the man about half a glance; there were always crazies and drunks hanging around the corner store. Fact of life around here.

But when Kevin came out, milk in hand, the guy turned towards him and just stared. It was like he was trying to hypnotize Kevin, only it worked. Kevin didn’t even notice that he dropped the milk on the ground, didn’t hear the glug-glug-glug as it chugged out over the curb.

The man’s lips started to move, but Kevin didn’t remember what he was saying. Just whispers, faintly itching around in the inside of his skull.

What Kevin did remember was the smell. He couldn’t describe it because he didn’t know the right words, but it was thick, not just permeating through everything, but actually making the air solid in Kevin’s lungs when he breathed it in. It was sawdust and wet dog and lemon-scented furniture polish mixed in a jar and buried in a shallow grave for two years. It was fear and anger and grief, and joy at them all.

The dude leaned back toward the building, away from Kevin, and faded, not into true invisibility, but into the background as just another homeless man panhandling for his next meal.

Kevin blinked, and went home.

When he sat on the couch, he heard a crinkling, and reached into his pocket to find the grocery list that wasn’t groceries. He scratched his head, trying to get at the crawling itch that he couldn’t reach.

A crisp, clean, Ulysses S Grant for you when you drop these off for me tomorrow, said the itch.

Kevin shook his head, got up, and walked to the corner store for a half gallon of milk. He had this sense of deja vu the whole way, but he got that all the time when he hadn’t had a fix in a couple days.

When he set the milk on the counter and reached into his pocket for his money, the list crinkled at him again. Kevin told the clerk to hold on, and grabbed the four items to pile on the counter next to the milk. The clerk didn’t bat an eye. People bought some crazy stuff in this neighborhood. He bagged it up for Kevin and dropped the coin change in Kevin’s palm.

Thankshaveanicedaycomeagain. The words ran together in a jumble, not even registering on Kevin’s ears.

Kevin stepped around the spilled milk in the street on his way home. What a waste of cash, buying milk to throw on the ground. He’d never do that. He stopped, and squinted at the wall to his left like he was trying to see a ghost. Nothing.

When Kevin got home he put the milk in the fridge and left everything else in the bag, which he hung on the doorknob. Got a favor to do tomorrow.

Weird favor for a weird dude.

Whatever. Fifty bucks is a lot of money.


2 Comments on “Fifty Bucks”

  1. KarmenF says:

    Freaky! I’m imagining that within a month of doing that “favor”, he’s going to get a knock on the door from some detectives with serious questions…

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