"Convenience" by Andrea Salvador

The red neon sign illuminates the promise of manipulation in all its forms. Caleb kills the engine of his car and adjusts the dashboard’s mirror. Manila’s lights twinkle from the distance, swallowed by layers of tall trees and fireworks.


It’s New Year’s Eve and he’s on his way to drop some items off, like a mailman. Caleb laughs bitterly, eyeing the store two meters in front of him. At least he got to take a small cooler of beer for the long drive, even if the other guys loathed to give it to him. He reaches over to the passenger seat and pulls one bottle from the cooler.


Caleb sips the beer. He gets impatient and decides to guzzle it down. It is not a conscious decision; the faint alcohol has already loosened his thoughts. He slides the bottle back into the cooler, his body humming with readiness.


With the flick of the key, the trunk pops open. Caleb exits the car and pulls out the box inside the trunk. He nearly stumbles from the weight, or the beer. Maybe both, but that isn’t in his mind. Caleb shifts the box under his arms and trudges towards the convenience store.


Caleb pushes the door open with his back and twists his body to get inside. The lightbulbs inside flicker, as if to greet him. He drops the box onto the floor and the items skitter. Nothing breaks, though — he’s taken care of that action already.


Half of the convenience store’s shelves are empty. Others are crammed. Caleb spots one empty shelf, all the way at the top, and begins to unpack his box, returning the items.


Out goes the clock. Out goes the notebook, the jacket, the laptop. Out goes the test cheat sheets and the binoculars. Out goes the girl he kissed on the lips for a free concert ticket. Caleb smirks as he lifts her up and pulls the jacket around her.


Caleb leaves the convenience store and spots a car on the dirt road, slowing down. He hopes that the person uses the convenience store’s many items and people well.