DEBUT FLASH: 'Bodega' by Rita Mortellaro

Pico rides on his father’s shoulders to the bodega five blocks away. Occasionally, when Pico isn’t holding Omar under the chin, his father lifts up Pico’s legs and the boy flies backward, giggling, feeling like he’s about to freefall and knowing his father holds him tight, never letting go.

Just before they walk into the bodega, Pico sees the kid look up at him. The sun must be behind them. His head slowly tilts back and back, taking in the height of them. He squints and Pico feels powerful.



The bodega owner struggled, but is now legit. He’s bent over in the back, swamping out the cooler.

As Omar opens the door, the bell jingles. He bumps and the kid bump each other. The timing of the bump is everything. As they bump shoulders, the jolt is enough. Omar is a big man with the weight of himself and Pico, and the kid is looking ahead, somewhere else, maybe at the cash register. Not at Omar. This is the kid’s first time with live ammo, so to speak, his first real jacking, finally worked himself up to this from casual shoplifting. His nervousness presents in the way he holds the weapon loosely in his hand, agitating his hand just enough that it hits alternatively between the palm of his hand and his curled up, though not clenching, fingers.

They bump into each other and the weapon drops. Clangs. In one smooth motion Omar sets Pico down, putting his body between the weapon and the kid, picks up the weapon, slips it into his belt at the small of his back,palms a business card that he always carries in his back pocket, hands the card to the kid.

“I think you dropped something,” Omar says as a cop, hand on his service revolver fidgeting with the snap on the strap that keeps it secured in its holster, steps out from behind a rack of adult magazines.

“Is there a problem here?” the cop asks.

“Nope. This young man was just telling me he needed a job. I think I can use a smart kid like him at my firm,” Omar says. He turns to the kid, “See you tomorrow.”

Pico walks up, Skittles in one hand, pack of gum in the other.

Omar’s hand grazes the shiv as he reaches for his wallet, hands his son a five-dollar bill.

“Evening, Officer,” Omar says.

“Evening,” Omar says to the kid.



“Evening,” the kid says back. He looks at the card, the cop, the card. He walks to the rack of adult magazines. The owner is deaf and now cleans the glass windows of the cooler. The kid grabs a copy of Penthouse, rolls it to tuck it into his pants in the back. Opens it, instead to look at the centerfold. A subscription card falls to the clean bodega floor. The kid puts the magazine back, mumbles about a lousy beaver shot and leaves.

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