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Published by: stumbleupon on Aug 15, 2012
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Hernandez, Angelica V.GumballsThe Laundromat was being demolished. Reddish brown rust rings outlined thefloor where the washing machines had been lined up like soldiers. Deep gauges torethrough the linoleum, making a path toward the back door. The dryers were pulled fromthe wall, leaving gaping holes in the wood paneling. The soap dispenser that once hungnear the window was ripped from the wall, and a trail of pulverized detergent led to thefront door. But despite the ravages, the floor was covered with dime-sized plastic discsthat glimmered among the dust and lint. Grabbing handfuls and stuffing them into thepockets of my cut-off Toughskins shorts, I swept the floor with my hands.The Toys R’ Us was half a block away; my overstuffed pockets and I couldn’twait to get there. The automatic doors slid silently apart and into the wall as I crossed thethreshold. The powerful air-conditioning unit deafened me; I reached my destination.There it was, just as I had anticipated, the red shrine. Behind each glass display was anassortment of colorful gadgets, super bounce balls, key chains, stickers, tattoos, and myfavorite: gargantuan gumballs. I was overwhelmed by the choices; even moreoverwhelmed that each colorful slug shoved in my pocket guaranteed me a gumball.Directly in front of the gumball dispenser, I dropped to my knees, reached intomy pocket, and pulled out a couple of slugs. I always root for a red one, though I don’tknow why, because after a few chews, each one tastes the same. When I won a red, I felt1
Hernandez, Angelica V.like I was playing the slot machines and on a winning streak. My left hand slipped theslug into the slot; my right hand grabbed the metal knob and turned to the right until Iheardthe gumball drop. I propped my hand under the metal door, lifted it, and scooped up myprize. I shoved each gumball into my mouth and chewed until my jaw hurt—each chewis followed by a slurp, an attempt to keep the sweet saliva from dripping onto my chin.I am not sure how long he had been standing there; I was focused only on mygumballs, feeling a little nervous that I would get caught using slugs instead of dimes—but that didn’t stop me.“ Boy, you must love gum.”I looked up thinking I’d been busted, but he just smiled down at me. I smiledback and continued my quest. He kept talking to me, only now my mouth was so full of gum, I couldn’t respond. Still on my knees, I scooted onto the next machine. Out of thecorner of my eye, I could see his tan construction work boots. He wasn’t going away.He kept talking. Everything he said was friendly, though I paid little attention to thespecifics.“Do you live around here?”“Yeah, across from the theater.”I usually took a right past Man-Jo’s Burgers, A& P, and the now-emptyLaundromat, and crossed the street at the corner fruit stand, but not today. He and I2
Hernandez, Angelica V.walked out of the store and made a left, passed the White Castle and behind the Toys R’Us. I had never gone home this way, but I could still see Milwaukee Avenue through thecracks between the rows of gray stones and alleys. We kept walking and talking. Iremember his hands swinging across his leg, brushing his denim pants. His nails werebitten short, his cuticles were red and irritated, and the crest of his nail bed was stained,like a mechanic’s. We made a left down the alley alongside the Congress Theatre; Icould see the door to my apartment.“ I live above the shoe store,” I told him, but he didn’t care. He didn’t speak again.Instead he pushed me down the dark stairwell, and my legs buckled under me.My feet skipped several stairs at a time; as I tried to catch my balance, I fell to theground. He grabbed me by the hair, pulled me to my feet, jerked my head back andplaced the blade against my neck. I could see the walls in the dimly lit service entrance;they were covered with crossed out and re-written Latin King and Latin Hood insignias.The smell of urine was pungent, the air thick and heavy as I tried desperately to stopcrying.“Shut the fuck up,” he said through gritted teeth. “Lay down.”I dropped to my knees, and he slammed my torso against the ground. My cheek was pressed against the concrete as he wedged his arm under my waist, unbuttoning myshorts. He pulled my Toughskins and underwear to my knees. His body was crushing3

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