Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Eric Burbridge

Photo by Donald Tong on

            Is that an ATM envelope on the curb? Lamar pushed his empty shopping cart quickly towards the Citibank ATM center outside Kroger. The closer he got, the harder his heart pounded. Could he be so lucky? He looked down…brand new twenty dollars bill fresh out the machine. He picked it up and counted discreetly…two hundred bucks. Somebody is sick, really sick. A car door slammed. “Mister, mister!” A female shouted. He rushed to the entrance, but she caught up and grabbed his arm and he spun around. A thirtyish looking woman with a pimply complexion, dingy blouse and dirty jeans blocked his entrance to the store.

            “Excuse me, get your hands off me lady.” He pulled away, “You in my way,” and tried to go around.

            “You picked up my envelope, that’s mine.” Her lips quivered and tears formed in her dirty eyes.

            “What envelope…what money?” Where did this low-life come from? She was lying, but what if she wasn’t? He didn’t need the money. Newly retired he was in good financial shape. “Move over lady you blocking the way.” Shoppers gave them strange looks as they squeezed by.

            “I dropped it and didn’t know until I got to my ride.” She continued to sob.

            Nice try. He did hear a door slam, but his gut said liar. He scanned the lot, next to the shopping cart storage area there was a banged-up car with a couple of guys in the back looking their way. Lamar smelled drugs and its companions; lie, cheat and steal. “You know lady,” he sighed, “I hope you telling the truth…”

            “I am!” She got in his face. “There’s two hundred bucks in there and I need it all, I got kids to feed,” tears rolled down her cheeks.

            She was right about the amount. He ignored his gut, took out the envelope and handed it to her. She snatched it and gave him a nasty smirk, turned and hurried back out the entrance doors. A car pulled up. She hopped in laughing and they sped away. He stood there.

What just happened?

You got played, that’s what happened.

He let a junkie con him. A second later a car pulled up with a senior couple. They crept by with their eyes glued to the ground. They were upset. It was their money. His heart went out to them. He pushed his cart to a bench by the service desk and sat. He felt like a fool; he knew better and did not listen.


            The extreme high winds pushed the clouds out the way. His spirit needed the sunshine. He finished his errands and noticed the gas warning light was on. He headed home down 87th street instead of 95th. He did not want to see that Kroger for the rest of his life.

            He was running out, the last thing he needed especially in this area. He spotted an Ultra-Gas station a couple of blocks ahead. Was it open? Yes, a car turned in at the light. He paused in the intersection to turn when the car started to sputter. He made the turn and turned off the engine not to run the remaining gas out of the injectors and coasted to an empty pump. Thank God. This place had seen better times; the main marquee needed replacing, not to mention the dangling numbers, wind damaged canopies covered the pumps and several obsolete public phones with no receivers lined a rusty chain link fence that separated the adjacent property. The card reader was broken; now he had to go in. The inside was a maze of narrow aisles lined with outdated can goods and junk food. He gave the clerk behind bullet-proof glass a twenty and waited for his change ahead of impatient, rowdy teens and old folks.

            When he stepped outside a gust of wind caught his cane and caused him to stumble; a quick adjustment kept him from falling. Females hollering and screaming headed his way. A woman in a dirty blouse and shredded patches on her jeans ran past with three women in pursuit. She stumbled and fell; fists flew everywhere and two of them grabbed her hair, kicking and screaming obscenities as they bounced her head off the pavement like a ball. The other continuously kicked her in the lower torso. People across the street ran off their porches nearly surrounding the battling trio. Sirens in the background headed that way; the crowd dispersed except a heavy-set woman who shoved her hand in the motionless victim’s pocket and ripped it open. The high wind scattered the contents, but she caught the money and ran across the street between two houses. Lamar was shocked at the lack of concern for the lady. The nurse in him reacted, he hobbled over to check her out. “Leave that bitch alone old man or yo ass is next!!” Somebody across the street shouted. He froze in his tracks, but a closer look revealed it was the woman who conned him at the store. He saw red.

            “Good for you!” He picked up a couple of lottery tickets that might have been the victim’s that nobody paid attention. Cop cars with flashing lights and sirens blaring came from all directions. He pumped his gas and squeezed through the cop cars and ambulance and drove away.


            “Hey, how are you?” Lamar asked his wife as he headed for his usual gas station.

            “Good and you?” Emily replied.

            “Okay. I ran out of gas on 87th street, but I coasted in a station and got enough to get me to Kedzie. I’ll fill up here and boy do I have a story to tell you. I’ll be there in a few.” After witnessing poetic justice, he was not as embarrassed to tell his wife.


            He looked at the tickets he picked up at the other station. He could not help but wonder what happened to Ms. Slick. Did she survive that well deserved beating or what? He finished filling the tank and as usual went in to buy five dollars’ worth of scratch-off tickets. They were a buck a piece and sometimes he won a couple of bucks or a free ticket. He got back in the car and decided to check the free one from Ultra-Gas. The maximum prize 500 dollars. He started scratching; it looked like a winner so far. That final number came up. Bingo!! Five hundred bucks, that beat the hell out of the two hundred he lost earlier. Since he was still there, he might as well cash in. He slipped the ticket in his shirt pocket and struggled against the strong gusts of wind to open the door. The ticket flew out of his pocket.  “Oh shit!” He grabbed at it, but he watched in horror as it flew through the air and bounced off car after car in the station. He hobbled after it as fast as he could, but it blew into heavy traffic on Kedzie and landed across the street. Lamar saw a little old silver haired lady jogging at a slow pace, stop and adjust her pants. Don’t look down lady, please don’t! But she did. She picked it up, started smiling and stuffed it in her pants pocket. She saw him staring at her; it was obvious it was his. She took off running fast for a senior.

            He could not believe it. Twice he lost money. He was almost in tears. Who would believe this? He decided to put it in his fish and UFO story file and forget it.

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