At night, the neon sign above the storefront glows half-enthusiastically, so much so that most of the letters are completely burnt to their end. The remaining ones spell out “Land rat” — a welcoming endorsement for a place where people come in to wash the crumbs off their pants.
Cheyenne just hangs in there. A few bucks an hour and a few thankless looks for mopping the linty floors, picking up left-behind underwear, and getting lost a little too deep in her own thoughts.
Do bed bugs drown in the soap and water? Do they feel pain? Should I even care if they feel pain?
What if all the missing socks in the world magically transport to the random shoes you see on the side of the highway?
Why does that guy’s shirt have a wicked bloodstain on it? Or maybe it’s just ketchup. I hope it’s just ketchup.
It’s 10:55 PM, so the neighborhood night-roamer with the drinking problem stumbles in on the dot, as usual, to spout a series of incoherent-isms. Cheyenne decides to give him the rest of her gas station sandwich. It gets him to leave, but she also feels sorry for him. She wonders where he sleeps at night.
Before closing up the perpetual cleansing spot for the city’s dirt and shame, Cheyenne does a thorough sweep under the machines and scrounges up just enough coins to catch the bus back to the thin walls of her mildew-tainted studio apartment.
And the cycles continue to spin.
Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born, multi-faceted writer who somehow ended up in the charming but often chilly land of St. Paul, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in Haute Dish, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, WINK, and the Wayne Literary Review. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly and loves cats and movies.