2am found me once again walking the streets downtown. A cold front blew in upon a brisk and chilly wind. I shivered, not used to the cold, and wrapped myself in my fleece pullover as I pulled my backpack tightly upon my shoulder. I stopped after walking a mile at the all-night convenience store to buy a candy bar with the last bit of change in my pocket.
“You sure keep odd hours,” The clerk tells me with an air of familiarity at my regular presence these days when I walked inside the door.
“I have terrible insomnia,” I reply, “And nothing is on TV at two in the morning except infomercials. I walk to pass the time until sunrise.”
“You don’t get scared and shit of getting robbed in the middle of the night?” He asks.
“No,” I reply loudly as I stand in front of the candy counter surveying the offerings.
“I see some weird shit go down in this store after midnight,” He says. “Drunks come out of the woodwork after midnight and last night I caught a guy drinking beer without paying in the bathroom.”
“Oh,” I say as I chuckle, trying to feign interest.
The shopkeeper was clearly lonely and just wanted someone to talk to.
“He would drink a six pack and then stuff the empty cans up above the ceiling tiles and act like nothing happened. I finally caught that son of a bitch and called the police.”
“Did they arrest him?” I ask, now interested.
“They sure did. Took him straight to jail. I have to go to court next month.”
I grab a pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups and head for the counter. The clerk rings me up and I count out the change to pay.
“You be safe tonight,” I say as I start to walk out the door.
“You too,” The clerk says, looking forlorn at being left alone without sober company.
It must be a lonely existence working the dead shift at a dumpy little convenience store in Podunk Alabama. The clerk clearly would talk to anything showing signs of life. I thanked my lucky stars that most of my living existence wasn’t being spent in such a dead end job earning minimum wage for food tokens. I did chuckle to myself once again as I thought of the clerk’s story of the little black man drinking beer and then stuffing the cans up in the ceiling to hide his crime. Only in small town Alabama, I thought as I walked on home.