Kreg and Squirrel’s Quest for Food
It was a half-hour walk from the punkhouse to downtown Detroit. Kreg enjoyed walking with his friend. They would push each other in a shopping cart they brought along with them and would reminisce of the times they stayed out all night. They told those stories hundreds of times, but they always had a good laugh. Squirrel sat down in the shopping cart while Kreg pushed it gently down the sidewalk like a baby in a carriage. Together they sang their favourite songs and sometimes stopped to search through mailboxes. On the rare occasion that they did find mail, it was usually a letter from a bank, warning the recipient that their loan must be paid off soon.
“This country’s really going to hell,” Squirrel stood up in the shopping cart to look at the deserted residences.
“Yeah, times like these prove that capitalism doesn’t function after a while.”
“Is this the part where we argue about anarchy and communism?” Squirrel grinned, turning towards his companion.
Kreg smiled, “it doesn’t matter who wins the argument; we wouldn’t be able to make the system change anyway.”
“You’re just backing out of the debate because you know I’m right.” Squirrel turned around in the cart and gently jabbed Kreg in shoulder.
“Don’t make me push you down a steep hill.” Kreg threatened.
Lots of people avoided Kreg and Squirrel on the sidewalks downtown. A businessmen walked by them at a speedy pace, relieved that they didn’t steal their suitcases. The two friends were used to it; they’ve been getting weird looks like that since high school. They continued to walk, rolling the shopping cart on the cracked concrete. The city was their supermarket. Kreg wheeled the shopping cart into an alleyway next to a small convenience store. Kreg and Squirrel had a process of getting food, it worked most of time.
“What you do here again?” The short Asian shop-owner shouted from behind the counter. Whenever Kreg and Squirrel walked into the store, the near-sighted owner would yell at Kreg while Squirrel stuffed his clothes with as many groceries as possible. Squirrel looked like just another blurry customer to the owner, but Kreg’s dark skin and leather jacket stood out like an ink blot on a white page.
“All time you here, food go missing! I know you up to no good,” the owner said in broken English, almost spitting in Kreg’s face.
“You don’t have any proof I’m stealing anything.” Kreg said calmly, “I just want to buy this chocolate bar.”
Kreg slid a dollar bill across the counter. The owner picked it up and held it up in front of his eyes, trying to make out the number on the bill. Kreg briefly looked behind his shoulder at Squirrel, who was furiously trying to shove a box of cereal down his pants.
“I no trust you. Chocolate bar two dollars now.” The owner said, tapping his finger violently on the chocolate bar.
Kreg had a choice, he could either pay with the last dollar bill in his pocket, or he could stall for more time by complaining and arguing.
“Yo, just because I’m black, right?” Kreg tried to sound as ethnic as possible, but he couldn’t help smiling when he yelled. “It’s racist people like you that keep America from progressing.”
“It people like you make city so dangerous!”
“Another racist remark! Listen, man, I can have you reported for racially profiling your customers!”
They continued to fight, while Squirrel walked towards the door, one step at a time, his clothes packed with so much food that the owner assumed he was morbidly obese. Squirrel reached his arm out and tried to grab the handle of the door, but just then, a bottle of beer slipped from the sleeve of his jacket and fell to the floor. It crashed with a loud shattering sound, interrupting the argument. Kreg stared at the broken glass. “We are in so much shit now,” he thought.
The owner frantically searched for something under the counter. When Kreg and Squirrel saw him pull out a revolver, they bolted outside and headed towards the alleyway where they parked their shopping cart. Squirrel waddled like a scared penguin and ducked into the alley with Kreg. They watched as the shop-owner ran the opposite direction, waving his gun in the air.
“I kill you black mother fucker!” He screamed, disoriented of his own whereabouts. Kreg let out a sigh of relief. His heart’s frantic beating slowed to a normal pace. The Detroit air cooled the sweat on his forehead. His brain stood still in his skull; he had avoided almost certain death once more.
Chris Aitkens is the go-to Punk Rock Guy of Verbicide. If you try to search for him on Facebook, you will find a black trombone-player from Florida and a white trumpet-player from Montreal. Don’t bother adding any of them. We don’t like strangers. But the white one writes for Verbicide.