Gig Economy by Michael Grant Smith

Flash Fiction

On my way home from a job I stop at the 24-hour supermarket. Essentials only, I tell myself. The cashier pushes my brioche across the scanner and says, “Whoa, this bread is really soft!”

Checkout kid is tall and gangly. Invisible hands squeeze either side of his baby-face. Cheeks, lips, and eyes puff out and bulge. His eyeglasses catch the bloodless fluorescent lights and flash a semaphore I haven’t the skill or desire to decipher.

I bare my teeth in a smile and hate him for talking about my food. He can’t control his word-hole: 

“My mom buys the healthy kind. It’s different than yours. I didn’t know bread could be so soft.”

I want to escape to my unlit apartment. Delete from memory tonight’s assignment. Let vodka replace my bodily fluids.

Other customers shuffle nearby and dome cameras pimple the ceiling. I reflect on why I strive to be forgettable — to the extent of not appearing as if it’s an effort — when in the end I’m noticed anyway. Simply because I had a hankering for a smoked turkey and fucking gruyere sandwich with a sprinkle of capers. We’re past where accepting the kid’s compliment is the best way out of this. I give my cap’s visor a tug.

“Yes, the loaf is nice,” I whisper. “Maybe I’ll use it for a pillow.” 

The woman in line behind me sighs; her stale carbon dioxide tickles the nape of my neck. Just to piss her off I dangle my debit card inches from the reader. The cashier bags my bread as if he’s transporting a captive finch.

“Your bread is as fluffy as one of those thirty dollar pillows.” His voice cracks. “Thirty dollars for a pillow!”

This is a “respectable” neighborhood so posting a security guard at the front door probably hadn’t occurred to the store manager. After the ruckus settles I’ll shop at the all-night bodega six blocks west of here. Longer walk, mediocre selection, but the proprietor’s blind tabby who sleeps on top of the lottery machine recognizes me by my scent, and boy do I love cats.

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing appears in elimae, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, Okay Donkey, trampset, Tiny Molecules, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. For more Michael, please visit www.michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.