The Paradox of Sustenance

Black Cats and Witches Brooms

Nick tossed the bag into the dumpster and leaned back against the brick wall to light his cigarette. His shift was almost over, second of four for the weekend, and as he inhaled he silently cursed Jason for taking off with some tramp two months ago.  It shouldn’t be difficult to find a dishwasher, but corporate obviously felt that they could make do with a line cook doing double duty.

He was staring at the moon and pondering his options when he heard a rustling from the far side of the dumpster. He stomped around the corner of the metal bin and startled a young woman with her arm halfway in a bag of trash.

“Hey, shove off,” he snapped at her. “No diving!”

She gasped and dropped the bag. “Sorry,” she mumbled and started to shuffle down the alleyway. He saw her sniff something in her hand, then nibble it.

“Shit.” He stubbed his cigarette against the wall. “Wait a sec.”

He returned from the kitchen to find her sitting quietly on a milk crate. She was absently teasing her matted hair with her fingers. He handed her a roll and a cup of chili.

“Thank you.” She picked at the bread as if the texture were foreign. “I haven’t eaten in so long…” She sighed. “I don’t know if I can eat this.” She sniffed the chili and made a face.

Nick frowned slightly. “Might help to get high.” She looked at him sideways. He shrugged. “We should go somewhere else though.”

She smiled uncertainly. “I know a place.” He followed her across the parking lot, up through the trees into a graveyard. They walked up a moonlit hill to a small marble mausoleum.

“You … live here?” He pulled out some paraphernalia.

She bit her lip. “It’s quiet,” she said, “and I don’t have to worry about anyone disturbing me while I sleep.” He took a puff. She furtively pulled a handful out of her pocket and chewed thoughtfully. Nick gagged. “That’s got to be rotten.”

She shrugged. “I got tired of my usual fare. Sometimes I just want something different.”

“Rotten is better than your usual? What’s your usual?”

She waved her hand toward the graves. “What do you think?”  Nick stiffened, then laughed. “Yeah, nice. Good one.” He exhaled smoke. She sidled next to him. This time her smile was less than pleasant.


Sean tossed a bag into the dumpster and leaned back against the brick wall as he lit his cigarette. His shift was almost over, his third double in as many days, and he was beginning to understand why Nick walked off the job without a word a couple months ago. It was just like corporate to pull a server to the back to be a line cook and a dishwasher.

He was mentally composing his resignation when he heard a rustling from the far side of the dumpster. He tossed his cigarette on the ground and stomped around the corner of the bin.


This story is part of flash fiction week VII.

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