LUCKY • by Chris Grebe

“If it doesn’t come from Safeway or Target, you can’t have it.” That’s the rule Marlo made up for herself a while back, after she lost the job at Wendy’s. She had stuck to it too. All through the winter, which was the really hard time, the hardest in her twenty-five years. And then she had just kept sticking to it. Good thing too, because by then those were the only stores open.

And then as winter began the icy turn around the corner toward a cold, steel-gray spring, even those had closed. Wendy’s and McDonald’s, those two went down fighting. Soon, fast food was a memory too.

Marlo was going down fighting herself, but it did seem as though she was going down. Her apartment still had heat, and the eviction embargo held long enough that the landlords seemed to have just given up. So that was good. But the heat wouldn’t last. Even rich people had it rough now, Marlo supposed, as she walked the aisle in the dark and empty Target store. Rough for them and rough for her, though. She thought that those must be quite different things.

She kicked aside some piles of fuzz that would once have been part of pillows, though the pillows were long gone. Ahead, a blackened section of the linoleum showed where earlier visitors had kept a fire burning, for some days by the look of it. For a while the abandoned stores had been some shelter for some people, even with all the windows smashed out. Those people had moved on.

Or are gone, Marlo allowed herself to think.

The empty Target echoed as she stepped around the blackened spot, a shuffle that sounded like someone else was there. But of course there wasn’t. Mostly no one came to the big stores to scavenge anymore, Marlo never used the word ‘looting’, not ever. And mostly they didn’t because there was nothing much here to find anymore. But Marlo found things. Like today.

She stopped, and picked them up. A small green bag of peanut butter flavor dog treats. They were unopened, and tasty when she tried one. They were food. Enough for today, and another two days besides if she was careful, which she always was.

Safeway tomorrow, Marlo decided. Maybe she could turn this into a streak. Going down fighting.

Marlo stepped out into the wind and turned her fuzzy acrylic collar up against it.

Spring was going to be a cold one.

Chris Grebe writes in Colorado, USA with the best pit bull at his side.

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