At the Mall – A Short Story

 

Sharp elbows. Sharp like shark fins, serrated like old kitchen knives with wooden handles. A smell like skunk and burnt canola oil, something stuffed away and long hidden from sunlight. There is no overhead music but—velcro, children’s shoes, spilled fountain drinks left sticky on the tiles. Glass boxes filled with plastic cloth, on plastic people whose faces look like stones, and bags and shoes and plastic jewelry, and the small, plastic eggs where children receive machine candy.

 

A glass elevator slides up, smooth as moving water. Two elderly women look out, their arms bulged upon shoulder bags. There is a long line. One of the escalators is broken and wrapped off with shining yellow tape that is almost see-through. Caution. No one thinks to use them as stairs. That is not their purpose.

 

Inside one glass box are lotions on white cubes. Everything is clean and white and overly perfumed. The women wear aprons. They hold up plastic bottles, move slowly and stand in one place like perched birds. They exist in other boxes too, tinted, plumed, manicured; extinct creatures who have risen again, who scratch and scathe, immortal.

 

The bathrooms are safe except for the screaming. Plastic-children blunder and peer under stalls, their hands and knees impressed upon stains that look like long insect trails, which the children sniff and then follow. They end up in another glass box. They are everywhere, on every corner; hard to digest meals in glass tummies, scarves and hats, movies and wristwatches. Holed-up sweaters that are not warm, stump-shoes that are unwalkable.

 

At the very highest point are two plastic bubbles, side by side, plastered to the ceiling like a sky mural. Sunlight spits down in a funneled tube like a hurricane, meeting one spot on the tile where it dries up. Two teenage boys walk over it. The sunlight remains.

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