Corner store, p.2
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       Corner Store, p.2

           Mobashar Qureshi
 
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  Jessie nodded.

  “Do you have coverage?” he asked.

  She didn’t answer.

  “The medicines are expensive,” he said.

  “We do,” she lied.

  “Good. Make sure she takes them regularly.”

  ***

  The drive from the hospital was quiet. Mama was sitting in the passenger side and she was staring out. Crissy was in the back and she had fallen asleep. Jessie thought this would be the best time to speak.

  “Mama,” Jessie started.

  “Don’t say it, Jessie,” Mama said. “I know what you’re going to say. So don’t say it.”

  “Why not?” Jessie said, looking at her. “What, I don’t have any right to ask my mother why she isn’t taking her pills, the pills that keep her alive?”

  “No, you don’t when you have a child to take care of.”

  “I can take care of both of you fine,” Jessie shot back.

  “Baby, look at reality. Don’t think I don’t know how much those pills cost.”

  “When I get a good job, we’ll get a good health plan and then we’ll not have to worry no more.”

  Mama said nothing. Whenever Jessie spoke of the future or her plans, Mama kept quiet. She didn’t want to break her heart or her optimism. That was all she had.

  Jessie drove quietly.

  “Mama,” she finally said. “Believe me, everything will work out. I promise.”

  ***

  As days passed, Jessie went about her daily routine. She didn’t tell Mama about Ben. She knew that would kill her.

  What if Ben found her? Jessie thought. He would hurt her, or worse, take Crissy away from her. No. She wouldn’t allow that. She had to do something. Ben had told her before he went to jail that when he got out she better have disappeared, or else all those years that he suffered, he would make her suffer.

  She called O’Malley. “I need help, Carl.”

  O’Malley understood. “I’ll arrange something.”

  “Anything,” she said.

  “Don’t worry yourself. Everything will be alright.”

  ***

  Jessie completed her exams but she still felt apprehensive. She wasn’t sure how she did. Other things were weighing heavily on her mind. She hoped O’Malley would do something for her, at least be able to lend her some money.

  The next morning at 5:30, Jessie went through the motions to open the store. She placed the newspapers on the stand outside, restocked the shelves, swept the front, and placed the change in the cash register.

  “Mornin’, Jessie,” Peter Corlige said. Corlige was unemployed and looking for work. He bought the morning paper only for the classified section.

  “Damn,” he said, reading the paper. “I didn’t win.”

  “How much was the draw?” Jessie asked.

  “Twenty million.” He shook his head. “I had so many plans. A nice car, a nice trip to the Caribbean, and a nice little mansion.”

  Jessie smiled. “So what were the numbers?”

  “8, 11, 19, 21, 24, and 42. I wasn’t even close.” He paid and left.

  Jessie attended other customers, who were purchasing cigarettes, gum, and other goods. All the while the numbers kept reappearing in her head. Once the store was empty, she picked up a paper and went to the lottery winnings section. ‘Last night’s winning numbers for $20,000,000 were 8, 11, 19, 21, 24, and 42.’

  Jessie’s knees buckled and she fell on a stool.

  “Oh my God. Oh my God,” she said hysterically. “Those are Mr. Johansen’s winning numbers.”

  She picked up the phone but quickly realized he didn’t have a phone.

  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Relax, Jessie,” she said to herself. “Don’t get carried away.” She opened her eyes and the numbers didn’t change. She screamed with joy. “We won!” she yelled.

  Suddenly her heart sank. What if Mr. Johansen didn’t want to share the money? People change when they get rich. They always change. But no, she shook her head. Mr. Johansen was a good man. She had known him for a long time. Plus, even if he gave her a small amount, maybe half a million or even a quarter, that would be more than enough for her.

  Her heart leapt up in joy again. Anything would be good at this time. “Thank you, thank you,” she kept repeating.

  Maybe she should call Mama, she thought. No. She didn’t want to raise her hopes. She should go and meet Mr. Johansen right this minute. No. She couldn’t leave the store unattended. Who cares? a voice in her head said. You’re rich; you can buy the whole store. No. Carl O’Malley was a friend and she couldn’t do that to him.

  She calmed herself down. She mustn’t act like this, she told herself. She still had a job to do. Later she would go and meet Mr. Johansen.

  The rest of the morning, Jessie was on cloud nine. She tried hard to reveal nothing. This was just another day, she kept reminding herself.

  Close to noon, Jessie saw a car pull up to the front. A middle-aged man got out and opened the passenger door. Mr. Johansen slowly got out. The middle-aged man hugged Mr. Johansen and then drove off.

  Jessie braced herself. This was it. She rushed and opened the door for him.

  “You didn’t have to do that, Jessie,” he said, labouring over the cane. He made his way to the counter and placed himself on a stool.

  Jessie waited for him to say something.

  “I have good news, Jessie,” he said with a broad smile.

  Jessie was on the verge of screaming. “I know…”

  “No, no, let me talk first,” he said, putting his hand up. “I took your advice and I got the courage to call my son. He had been thinking the same thing. He came down and took me to the city. I spent the whole week there. I was able to spend time with my son, his wife, and most importantly, my grandchildren. They want me to visit every week. The most enjoyable time I’ve had in a long time, and, Jessie, it’s all thanks to you.”

  “The lottery…” Jessie began to say.

  “Oh, is it Thursday?” he interrupted. “I entirely forgot about playing last night.”

  Jessie was speechless.

  Mr. Johansen pulled off his cap and rubbed his forehead. “Tell me,” he smiled. “What were the winning numbers?”

  Read CORNER STORE and other stories in the collection:

  TEN TYPEWRITER TALES

  MOBASHAR QURESHI was named one of the ten rising Canadian mystery writers to watch by Quill & Quire Magazine. He is the author of RACE, THE OCTOBER FIVE, and THE PAPERBOYS CLUB.

  Visit the author’s website:

  www.mobasharqureshi.com

  Visit the author’s blog

  Mobashar’s Musings

 
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