Malone needed another man / and I was there. My first day as parking lot attendant at the Aviation mall; it was empty save for select groups of tourist families waltzing into various gift shops and purchasing mugs displaying the names of surrounding towns. Malone hired me yesterday because the attendant before me had a stroke and was no longer suited for the job, I on the other hand fit perfectly well. My outpost was wedged into the inner corner of the mall’s sports shop, looking out upon the sea of hot black asphalt hellishly unfriendly to human touch. You could feel it cook the soles of your shoes as you walked on it. You could feel the absence of footsteps before you, you could tell the mall was going to be empty.


Fourth of July: Today is my first day at work. My shift began at 6:07am, I drank a black coffee and read from “The selected poems of Ezra Pound”, as cars began to pull in, mainly other workers getting out to go to their stations, a round of fireworks went off, contrasting their neon reds and iridescent smoke screens to the crepuscular gray that hung over my view of the mall and the hill in which it was tucked into champagne clouds of smog rolled into the parking lot.

I thought to myself, “why on gods green fucking earth are people setting off fireworks already”.

I sighed and went back to the paper back. Hours passed; green corolla with bad brakes squeaking by, black Volvo with politically oriented bumper stickers, a red BMW 3 series parked crookedly in a handicapped spot. A tall man wearing all denim and pointed leather shoes walked out, locked his car multiple times and spit on the ground as he sauntered into the mall with a duck footed stride that was equally as wanna be Macho as it was infantile. The once champagne colored smog had now turned to piss yellow. Multiple bouts of fireworks had gone off over the past few hours, the smoke seemed to follow the man as he entered the mall. I watched the doors close behind him. I watched the smoke flutter out like an insect banging up against glass.


Lunch break: at most 7 minutes after the man walked in, it was time for my Lunch break.

I got two slices of pepperoni Pizza and a tall drink of Pepsi from an outdated paper cup with computer generated graphics of waves on it. Across the food court near sat two men face to face at a small plastic table in front of ‘Great China Wall’, I recognized them both: Malone, and the man from the parking lot. The man in denim wore a tall gray haircut, obscuring the fluorescent sign which advertised the 2 for ten combo meal of Sesame chicken, pork fried rice and an eggroll for $10. He leaned in close to Malone, a pencil width away from his nose, his hands pressed against the table. Malones expression was that of childs bed-sheet ghost costume, his posture was austere and his face was emptied like a trashcan. The man in denim pushed a mauve tray holding various plates of chinese food to the floor with a sudden angry stroke, grabbed Malone by the arm and dragged him upwards.  The workers at “Great China wall” watched without expression, I set my book down and felt my eyelids widen. The tiled linoleum floor caused for little resistance against Malones weathered clogs as The Man dragged him straight towards the middle of the food court where there was a childs size carousel and a photobooth staggered in the clearing of all the gray plastic tables. My lunch break only had 5 minutes left, I hadn’t even touched my other slice. The man’s grip on Malone looked tight as a vice, and as malone stopped into the photo booth I caught a perfect angeled look at my boss’s face; the veins in his forehead were swollen and reached back past his long since receded hairline, perspiration dripped from beneath his chin onto his pastel yellow oxford shirt which gave away the outline of a cheap looking tank-top below it, a sad excuse for an undershirt. His eyebrows were arc’d and bushy like electrocuted wooly mammoths, his lips were thin as printer paper and quivered visibly. That was one second, the frame was over. They were both in the Photobooth now. I watched the curtains blow, move like water, have a current all their own. A Mexican family walked to the pizza place and took too long to order. An old man stared at the empty movie theater with both his hands on a metal cane. Fireworks briefly sounded in the distance. Yelling noises reverberated for only a few seconds off tiles of the floor and the aqua-marine tinted skylights. Denim walked out looking disheveled, he glazed over his shoulder and walked crookedly across the Food court, pushed his way into the revolving door, and vanished from sight back into the filthy air falling down upon the gravel.


My stomach dropped like a rock from heaven; I touched my pizza and realized it was cold; staring at the photobooth I felt sick down to the calcium in my bones. I got up from my table and walked towards the center. One of the children from the Mexican family was crying loudly in a baby seat beside a table. No other people were visible.


Look at it: The curtain was pulled open, and strips of photos hung out the side, two strips of the same four pictures.


  1. Them sitting beside one another expressionless
  2. Malone looking down and Denim staring straight into the camera
  3. Denim kissing malone in an aggressive lean
  4. Malone alone with his head dropping over his shoulder


I took one of the strips and put it in my pocket. My hands were clammy, wet with cold sweat, Dirty with pizza grease. I pulled open the crusted velvet curtain and saw Malone leaned against the back of the booth, his neck gelatinous and his posture lifeless. I reached over to take a pulse, I accidentally rubbed pizza grease on him, there was nothing. I couldn’t feel either of our heart beats. I pulled away, shutting the curtain and shoving the picture strip deeper in my pocket, leaving the other one handing out of the slot like a languid tongue. My eyes didn’t blink on the way back to my table, my stomach hardened and my hands shook. I checked my casio watch for the time: 11:59, my lunch break was over, and everything had just now changed. The food court was empty. The lot was too. Malone was dead / I was there with him.