Bright paint in a faded neighborhood: a sign of the end. I’m part of it. I push shiny carts in blazing heat and bitter cold, my head hanging low, past staggering souls wondering why I’m in the vest and they’re on the streets. I wish I had an answer.
“We finally have something nice around here!” say all the people who can afford to shop here. Then they get in their fancy cars and drive away.
We sell everything and the Mom’n’Pops shut down. Soon, Ms. Richards around the corner won’t be selling flowers. People will choose our plastic ones. When I walk home at night, neighbors stare death into my soul. They’ve known me as a nuisance or a friend. Now, they know me as change. At least people can buy expensive washing machines.
I think I hate them all. Not just the suburban moms, red faced and spitting since we don’t have the newest baby doll, but the ones who can’t afford what’s past these sliding doors. They do laps around the store, reeking of shit, until security chases them off. I think I feel bad for them until I’m mopping up the urine puddles they left in the market. My blood pressure gets so high I think my veins are about to pop. That’s what happens when people don’t work, according to my boss. I tell the story to friends as a joke.
Ms. Richards came by the other day. She played with a fake rose, caressing the petals. Her eyes were shining and her head hanging low. She brought it up to the robots at checkout and paid a dollar ninety-five.
One day, I’ll buy a backbone. I’ll tell my bosses this isn’t right, and they can’t keep pushing people out. Eventually we’ll have nowhere. Then, I’ll strip the vest off and march out with my head high. Maybe even kick a cart over in my travels. But I need the money. I’ll just sneak an extra bathroom break on shift and claim victory for the revolution.