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by Steve Passey

On Monday, alone for lunch, I go to the food court at the mall. Mall security, and the cops, are embroiled in something with a woman in lime-green pants. Her lipstick is smeared across her face. She looks like Heath Ledger’s Joker. She looks like she has thrush. Seriously, she looks like she’s been sucking on the kind of whore-titty you get when you pay in meth because you spent all your money on meth and all you have is meth and you have no money but there will be another addict who will abide anything to share a hit of meth.

Last week someone shit in the parking lot of the discount liquor store I go to. I didn’t see them do it, just the shit, but on balance of probabilities I think it was her.

Meth is the worst, the absolute worst.

Miss Ledger is tweaking hard, and now the minimum-wage mall cop steps back to let the better-paid police do their jobs. I hope they break her fucking head open on a curb. I hope that she spits on them before they break her fucking head open on the curb. It is not enough that I’m mediocre, it is that others should fail and in failing, suffer. I imagine it’s a Bruegel painting. I look around at the other people in the food court. They are old, or young, they are anything and everything and some watch the tweaker and the cops and others don’t, busy with their own thoughts and ingesting their own carcinogens. It is a Bruegel painting. I look at my lunch. I bet it was ugly as a child too.

Fentanyl doesn’t bother me so much. They fall asleep and they die. It is an inconvenience for sure but no terror to the minimum-waged or anyone having a hot dog and a coke on their abbreviated lunch break. Meth on the other hand, meth makes murderers. The “safe consumption site” has drawn them all in to this lonesome place. Lost boys and broken girls from the small towns, big cities, and reservations where chief and council draw six-figures per year tax-free from the D.I.A. and, relieved, conclude that drugs are bad. The dealers have come now too. They are as sympathetic to their clients’ shit as they have to be, no more, no less. Your dad was bad? Your mom wasn’t so great either? I got your hate and confidence ready, here’s what it costs.

I grab a coffee from a little kiosk on the way out. It is the worst coffee in the world, no commercial coffee you ever had tastes as bad, but it’s a family-run enterprise and Jeannie, the owner’s daughter at the till, has Down’s Syndrome and is unfailingly polite. She has remembered my name from the very first cup and she thanks me by it and I thank her back by hers and Jeannie, God bless her, is supremely happy that everyone knows her name.

Steve Passey is originally from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the short-story collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock (Tortoise Books, 2017) and Cemetery Blackbirds (Secret History Books, 2020), and many other things. He is a Pushcart and Best of the Net Nominee and is part of the Editorial Collective at The Black Dog Review.