Hey all, sorry for the little interruption. I’ve been exhausted and stressed as of late. At the brewery, I put in for overnights again. I don’t want to be asleep these days, defenseless when it’s dark out. Shadows are where potential rests and things hide, curled and tense waiting in ambush to reach out from behind. The shadows are still there, of course; they’re there every night but, if I’m awake, maybe I can see it coming. I might have a chance, at the very least. So, I’ve been working the forklifts, packing orders from dusk till dawn; always with another packer nearby, usually an older guy, Antony, who’s there to “show me the ropes.”  

Anyways, the change in schedule has been rough. More than a little coffee has been required to reach just below feeling normal. Everyone naps at “lunch”–had at one in the morning–a bunch of pot-bellied men in torn and stained t-shirts, all passed out on the stacked pallets. I’ve yet to succumb to that habit, it’s still dark out, even if we’re under the harsh glow of fluorescents. Sleep, of course, comes for me as much as it does for any other man. Sometimes when and where I’d rather it not take place.  

Like the other day, while driving back home, school buses and early risers all bustling past me, it started. Leaden eyelids falling, a flush of warm comfort washing over my limbs. I fought against it, stabbing at my thighs with a pen, screaming what few lyrics I could follow on the radio, all for naught. I didn’t trust it. I didn’t trust me. I did the smart thing and pulled over. 

Someone slammed their car door, tearing me from my slumber, before waddling their way up the parking lot toward Wal-Mart. It was stifling inside my car, the air thick from the flatulence only working the night-shift can create. Fumbling with my phone, I checked to see if Laura had texted, it was 10:30AM. The coffee from the Dunks inside pushed me back into something like wakefulness but, it was the lone cigarette alongside it that really helped. It was a nice morning, even through the various chemical veils I was wearing. There was enjoyment had in watching others move about during such a pleasant morning, all smiles and caffeine.  

Across the entrance there was some screaming, I jumped a bit looking for its source, my eyes straining to find a shadow on the move. They were running around, slapping at each other and screeching. The smallest one, so young, her hair a nest of dirty blonde curls, shimmering gold as they bounced in her merriment. Pure, unadulterated energy. Untainted youth.  

The coffee turned bitter in my mouth, I spit it onto the boiling concrete and noticed the ache in my back from slouching on the iron bench. I flexed the dark purple, nearly black, scar relishing the flirtation with pain it brought. I’m old, I thought, not in the grave but, old enough to feel my body start to give way. And, there she was in stark contrast. That beautiful little girl, glowing ever more brilliantly with each giggle. Her dress and curls bouncing with youthful elasticity. Her unguarded smile. Her porcelain skin turned beet-red from exertion.  

Arms, thick with fat, penetrated the scene, wrapping themselves around her perfect form. The girl cried out in protest. I stood, as if to rescue her but, the mother’s glare stopped me dead. That stare, an assault, an accusation. She stomped away with her daughter snared in her arms and her son trailing closely behind. I remained seated, fighting the urge to run after them. 

I wasn’t being a creep. She was just beautiful, I was simply admiring her, like a landscape or some bird of paradise. Actually, that still sounds creepy. 

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