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Next Paycheck

Larry sprints across the muddy lot as the crossing gates descend. Rain pelts his jacket and drowns his cigarettes. His umbrella is behind, in the bar.

"Can you help me out, man?" rasps from the dusk. An unshaven face peers around a rusted pillar. "I need ten dollars to get home." A grimy hand stretches toward Larry's chest. "I'll pay you back Friday when I get my paycheck."

Ten dollars - a beer, a pack of cigarettes, the change on the bar. No next paycheck waits for Larry. His severance pay bought heat and phone and food. He carries his train ticket and pocket change. He no longer bears a briefcase, or a tie, or a plan.

"Hey, you know I'm good for it. You see me here all the time."

At eleven that morning, Larry's future froze. His college bum-rushed him. Agencies folded. Larry walked into the last store with a parking lot, Ninbot's Toy Box Gifts For Adults.

"No positions open," Ninbot sneered.

Larry had nowhere to be.

Tuesday special was deviled clams. Larry ordered the special and a beer, and another. He drank, and watched the patrons sitting in the bar. He ate, and saw the cook sweating in the kitchen. He finished his beer and stood.

"Come on, train's coming," mutters the bearded one.

Larry reaches into his pocket and touches a folded banknote. He slides it out: a fifty, crisp, new, unsullied. "Here, buddy, get your train," Larry says. He extends his hand.

Story by:

J. L. Haines

30 March 2015