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Corner Store

The black revolver fit Kareem’s hand perfectly. Davin called it a thirty-eight special, and told him not to worry about the size, the snub-nose was the shit. It was as reliable as his mother yelling at him through the fourth floor window to call him inside for dinner.

“See,” Davin said, pointing at Kareem’s face and smiling.

Kareem gripped the handle tight, his finger hovering over the trigger. The thin bar of metal was placed perfectly in range for him to squeeze it. How easy it would be to pull the trigger, Kareem thought. How easy it would be to let off a shot.

“Alright, check it, here’s the plan. Me and Jay, we gonna run in and let the chinese bitch know what’s up.”

“She’s Korean,” Kareem interrupted.

Both Davin and Jay gave him an odd look.

“What? She’s Korean. You can tell by the --”

“Nigga, I don’t give a fuck! Chinese, Korean, Japanese, that shit don’t matter. We need what she got in that register, ya feel me?”

“I hear you. I’m, I’m just sayin’ --”

“This ain’t school nigga! We gotta get this fuckin’ money.” Again, with a finger in his face, Davin leaned closer to Kareem. “You wanna eat, right?”

“Of course.”

“Then shut the fuck up and listen.”

With that, the three young men continued to kneel in the alley they played in as children, hidden from the bright street lights above. But, as the plan began to unfurl, Kareem began to remember. Mrs. Park, she was never a nice lady. He could hear her voice screech out his name and ask what was taking him so long. Some days he even fantasized about turning over the crates of fruit, just to show her ‘what’s up’.

But, those thoughts were soon followed by good. He remembered the time she hid him behind the counter, when he was being chased by two thugs. The many Halloween nights she and her husband filled up his and his sister’s plastic shopping bag with candy.

Sure, they were not always pleasant, but they were good, and she was always good to him.

The Park Grocer, resting between Spring and Fulton was more than another shop on the corner. It was... she was family. Yet he held a thirty-eight special preparing to threaten the life of a woman who demonstrated what hard work looked like, even if she didn’t look anything like him.

He knew he couldn’t do that to her.

“Yo Davin, I… naw, I can’t man.”

“Fuck you mean?”

“Yo! I knew this nigga was gonna punk out on us!” Jay said, swaying his head from side to side.

“Reem, what you sayin’?”

“I’m sayin’... I’m sayin’ I can’t do this. Not to Mrs. Park.”

“Mrs. Park? That chink bitch ain’t your people, nigga! We your people, muthafucka!”

“Yo Dav, fuck him man. We can do this shit without this bitch.”

In that moment, Davin and Kareem locked eyes. As Davin tucked his bottom lip into his mouth and bit down, Kareem wondered if this refusal would escalate here, in this dirt alleyway.

“Gimme the fuckin’ gun.”

Kareem hesitated.

“Gimme the fuckin’ gun!”

It was difficult to relinquish the power it gave him, yet he did it nevertheless. Sure, it fit perfectly in his hand, but the wrong he was preparing to commit didn’t fit in his heart.

“Don’t let me see you again. Word is bond, don’t let me see you, Reem.”

With that, Kareem ran toward his apartment building. It was just around the corner from the Park’s store. Before he passed it, he looked inside and saw Mrs. Park sweeping the floor. He stopped and waved. Mrs. Park looked up and smiled, nodding before she continued her daily chore.

Then and there, he thought it would be in his best interest to advise Mrs. Park to close just a little bit early today.

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