Thursday, May 19, 2016

SHOT IN DETROIT: Albert Flowers


    When John's mother died, the bungalow outside Detroit was sold to pay off the nursing home, sending  him to live in the basement room of a shabby boarding house.
     "It's dry," the landlady said, sniffing encouragingly. "No mold or radon." When he picked up a mousetrap from the closet floor, she shrugged, "Just a precaution." After telling how to use the microwave, wear to place his trash, and where to find his mail, she climbed the stairs one step at a time, shutting the door behind her. He had to turn on a lamp even on the sunniest days, and not two days went by before he heard the solid clamp of the trap.
     He landed a minimum wage job on the Loss Prevention detail at the Dearborn Walmart. The two classes he'd taken in Criminal Justice at the Community College impressed HR but not his boss who told him. "Don't try any of that fancy stuff in my store."
     Two weeks into his mission (which was how John came to think of it) he spotted a large man half-asleep in the husband chair off Ladies Wear. He was about to radio for advice when a screech cut through the din,
    "Hey, Daddy, what d'ya think?" A bitty girl, maybe sixteen, with reddish corkscrews dashed up to the dozing guy, her twiggy legs skidding to an unsteady halt. She twirled like a bauble on a Christmas tree. "Gonna wear this to the party tonight. Whaddya think?"
     Her father's eyes fluttered open. "Real nice, baby. Lookin' good."
     She modeled her hot pink skirt some more, showing off parts of herself better left covered. John closed his gaping mouth when he heard another girl, hidden by a clothes rack, giggling behind him. Bitty held some huge sparkling hoops up to her ears. "Ain't these sick?"
     Her pal burst into view then, squealing. "Girl, you look like an Eight Mile ho." She doubled over with laughter, her lime-green jogging suit rippling with her mirth. "Don' she Mr. Flowers?"
     "Don' neither." Bitty glanced at her father, sensing potential displeasure. "Go back to sleep now, Daddy. You look kinda peaky." Bitty ran the back of her dewy hand down Daddy's cheek and he quivered like a stroked rabbit. 
     A muscle in John's cheek twitched too.  
     As Mr. Flowers eyes closed, the girls ducked out of sight. John thought about giving the man a tap on the shoulder, certain the Store wouldn't approve of him sleeping in their chair. And John's inclination toward sending Daddy Flowers on his way grew tenfold when the sleeping bear's snores increased in volume. Holiday shoppers tittered, jabbing each other in the ribs. 
     "Maintain decorum," he'd been advised by his red-faced superior. "You need to keep on your toes."
     The two girls popped up again an aisle away. Bitty had pulled on a silver tank top, adding more splash to her ensemble. Eight inches of mid-riffed pooched enough to make a man think. She sashayed back and forth, performing for her friend, giving passersby an over-sized wink. 
     She was up to something. Was she headed for the door? John couldn't tell, so he swung over an aisle, magically landing his hand, which seemed to move involuntarily--on Bitty's upper arm. Her legs flapped wildly, like someone just hanged, as he swooped her up without even trying.
     A collective gasp punctuated by an angry shout or two, exploded from nearby shoppers. Daddy's snore became a roar as he erupted from his doze, located his daughter, and tore after them, knocking over the husband chair, a lady exiting sportswear, and a rack of clearance items. He galumphed through the merchandise, the sounds of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town blaring from the speakers.
     Bitty struggled loose from John's grip. Damn, she could run--skinny legs pedaling despite that tiny tight skirt, darting and dodging her way through the door, past the carts, into the lot. John took off after her, ignoring the heavy footsteps behind him.
      Thinking quickly, John grabbed a shopping cart, shoving it hard in her direction. She went down like a duck over water. A second later a huge arm encircled John's neck, nearly squeezing the life out of him. Daddy didn't let go until one of the courtesy vans circling the lot pulled up. It was then things turned tragic when a portly guard exited the van, stopped Mr. Flower, and a struggle ensued, ending only when too tight of a stranglehold put an end to Daddy. 
     Albert Flowers watched the light fade as Bitty, rising up from the ground, did a frightened dance in front of him. The glitter, rising and falling was the last thing he saw. 
     In his dank room that night, with the scuffle of tiny feet inches away, John dreamed of Bitty at the party: lighting up the dance floor in a dizzying swirl, earring flashing, bare midriff pooching in that glittery costume that cost him his job. It didn't occur to him that it was much more likely Bitty was at a mortuary pricing coffins where Albert Flowers would spend eternity.

2 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Glad I live where I can see some trees.

Margot Kinberg said...

Please keep doing this feature, Patti! I'm so enjoying 'meeting' your characters.