Sixty Dollar Candy

by John O'Hagan

        The trees along Cumberland Street seem to be perspiring and gagging along with every other living thing engulfed in the summer humidity that encases Brooklyn. It is about nine o'clock at night, and even now, with the sun out of view, taking its wonderful rays with it to be replaced by dim streetlights, it is still hot.         Troy leaves his apartment to go down to the corner store that is past the two closer stores, because he likes their selection and prices better. All he wants is a beer, maybe a little bag of chips. Maybe a few beers.         Troy is a short and skinny guy. The three guys standing at the corner, about half a block down from Troy's location, notice this. Only one of them is dressed for the weather, with a cut-off shirt and baggy shorts. The other two are wearing big black jackets, which they imagine in the mirrors that occupy in their own minds make them look bigger and tougher. In reality the jackets only accentuate their skinny bodies. It is summer vacation for them, and high school is not going to start for another month.         Troy could not be more oblivious to the jackets. In fact, he is thinking about whether he is going to have enough money to go to that movie later on in the evening, and whether he can go to the bars afterwards.         One jacket comes up from behind Troy and the other one hops in front of him.         Troy stops and looks at them, sensing trouble. His sweaty palms wipe against his pants, in preparation.         "Give me your money, or I'm going to fuck you up," the front jacket says to Troy.         "Come on, I don't have any money on me right now," Troy replies, and opens his wallet to show him how empty it is.         "They got an ATM at the corner store," the back jacket shoots back. Troy has not turned around yet, but can sense the wannabe giant directly behind him.         "Yeah man, we only want, like, sixty dollars anyway," the front jacket says, in a pleading tone.         "Fine. Why are you wearing a jacket?" Troy asks.         "Shut up, motherfucker!"         All three walk into the corner store together. The narrow aisles are packed with cheap foods like peanuts, pasta, rice and candy. If one was to run down one of the aisles, they would certainly knock bags of rice or cans of tomatoes off the shelfs. The ATM stands directly between the front door and the beer fridge. Troy thinks about how to escape, but when his brain tells him to shove the jackets to the side and run, his body does nothing. His body has decided that running the risk of being punched and pummeled is not worth it, so instead he pulls out his ATM card and withdraws eighty dollars. The front jacket is standing directly behind him and as soon as the money comes out he snatches the twenty bills from the slot.         "Hey, you only said sixty! I pulled out some for myself," Troy yelps.         "Too bad," The front jacket says.         The two guys working behind the counter are of Puerto Rican descent, and are speaking Spanish to one another.         "Ellos estan robando mi dinero," Troy says to the guys behind the counter, figuring that they must recognize him, and like him for the frequency of his appearance. That somehow his bodega loyalty may pay off.         "Es Verdad?" The cashier responds, "lo que es un fastidio." He smiles and starts nodding his head. That is all he says. He is smiling and looking straight at Troy, as if Troy said something very cute and childlike.         So it’s like that, Troy thinks. The back jacket shoots Troy a look, and he raises his eyebrows in a non-threatening way.         Two tall cans of PBR are on sale for $3.99 and Troy decides that is the deal for him. After grabbing his beer, he waits behind the two jackets. Skittles, Milky Ways, M&Ms, and a whole variety of other candies are set on the counter like a mound. The bill comes out to be fourteen dollars. The bill is paid and the two jackets leave.         Troy sets his beer down on the counter and does not say a word. He is fuming, andvows to never make the extra three block walk to this store. The store where he has been coming to for the last year and a half, where he always asks the men how they are doing and what is new in Spanish. The cashier starts chuckling, and hands Troy back his change. The brow that occupies Troy's forehead shirks down, and the eyes narrow. He walks outside without a word.         Outside, without the help of the fan that lives inside the store, the temperature immediately climbs five degrees. The two jackets are reunited with their more appropriately dressed friend, and all are eating candy. All of them immediately turn to look at Troy as he exits the store. Troy stands there, and an awkward silence is pickled by a car alarm going off a few blocks away.         "You want some skittles?" The front jacket asks Troy.         "Yeah, sure."         The front jacket shakes the skittles bag enough so that half of the bag comes out into the palm of Troy's hand. The other jacket offers him his choice of a Snickers bar or a Three Musketeers, and Troy chooses the Snickers.