Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fiction: In the Window

Jacob never liked TV much.  He liked true stories, real life.  That’s why all of his furniture was turned towards the windows.  Every evening for the last thirty years Jacob sat down in his chair after dinner.  He watched his street corner from 7:00 o’clock until he went to bed at 11:00 o’clock.  His routine never changed.  Much like the scene on the street never changed.

This is what he saw every night: Outside of the Walgreen’s a Streetwise vendor stands selling his papers by shouting, “Streetwise!  We don’t want it all, just one dollar!”  In the Walgreen’s parking lot a tow truck sits waits barely hidden in the alley waiting to spring like a trapdoor spider.  Across from the Walgreen’s, Mr. Jin lingers in the doorway smoking a cigarette and suspiciously eyeing anyone who enters his store.  A True-Value Hardware store stood next to Mr. Jin’s convenience store.  It looked closed, but it was always open.  Early in the evening, groups of young professionals would file through the intersection every ten minutes from the ‘L’ stop.  As the night wore on, those young professionals would become drunk young professionals stumbling home from the neighborhood bars.  Occasionally, Jacob would see a drunken scuffle on the street.  Usually, he’d just see a few cars get towed and watch the Streetwise vendor make a few new friends.

On this night, Jacob was relieved that everything was proceeding as usual; he was distracted.  He had been having trouble concentrating all day.  It felt good to sit in his chair and watch familiar things happen on his familiar intersection.  He smiled down at the Streetwise vendor turning people’s heads with his clever slogan.  He checked his watch at 7:45 and wondered why he hadn’t yet seen Mr. Jin take a smoke break.  He noticed the True-Value had new lights on the street, it now looked like it was actually open.  Jacob laughed to himself.  Sometimes things do change.  Then he fell asleep.

When Jacob woke up, he checked his watch.  It was 12:17.  He looked out at the street.  Things had changed.  Mr. Jin was in the Walgreen’s parking lot with a cop.  They exchanged a few words and Mr. Jin handed the cop something from his (Mr. Jin’s) pocket.  The cop turned towards the street just as the tow truck was pulling up with his cruiser on the back.  The truck bed tilted and lowered the police cruiser back onto the street.  Once the car was detached from the wench, the cop tipped his hat to the tow truck driver and drove off to the north.  Mr. Jin nodded to the tow truck driver.  As the driver crossed the parking lot, Mr. Jin produced an envelope from his pocket and held it out to the driver.  The driver took it without a word and walked back to his truck.

Jacob noticed that one of the new lights was out over the True-Value.  It had clearly been broken.  He checked his watch again.  He’d never watched the parking lot this late before.  He didn’t know if this was standard procedure for his intersection after midnight or if this was a one time thing.  Everyone in the parking lot seemed familiar with each other and the process.  He wondered how they were able to consistently tow a cop car.  Jacob grabbed a notepad and pencil from the table next to him and jotted down what he saw.  He made a note to stay up later tomorrow night.  When he looked up, he saw Mr. Jin standing in the doorway of his store smoking.  As Mr. Jin put out his cigarette, he paused and seemed to look directly at Jacob in the window.  He held his gaze and Jacob froze.  When Mr. Jin turned and walked into the store, Jacob knew that he wouldn’t sleep.

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