Of course it broke. I had been laying in bed staring at the ceiling for nearly two hours. There was no way I was going to fall asleep until I went and got it. I rolled over her in bed and slunk into a pair of jeans and T-shirt on the floor. By pure chance, I happened to grab the pair of jeans that had my keys, wallet, and cigarettes in them. She stirred a little in bed as I left the room, but didn’t wake.

Out on the stairs, I made sure to avoid the night’s puke puddle on the second floor landing. Jack, my alcoholic ex-Marine neighbor, had his nightly puke a little early, so I almost didn’t see it on the way down. My roommate and I were running a betting pool on how much longer he would live. His leg had gotten fucked up somehow in Afghanistan and now he was living off disability. I never saw anyone go in or out of his apartment. He had two modes of existence: sitting inside and drinking or puking out on the landing. I tried to talk to him a couple times to figure out his story, but was never able to catch him in good enough condition to have an intelligible conversation. I got the gist, though. The Marine Corps license plate, limp, and nightly puke sessions told the story.

In the parking lot, my aging Honda sputtered to life in the usual pattern of near-mechanical failure followed by routine divine intervention. It spat and rattled all the way to the Walmart a few blocks away. Inside, the fluorescent lights dulled my senses and gave me an ebbing pain in the back of my skull. Fluorescent lights are vampires, sucking the color from the world and leaving your soul to drain out of the wound.

They were out of the off-brand. I would have to buy the actual Plan B. $55 for one little fucking pill. I had about $60 to my name, but I had to buy it. It’s called Plan B for a reason. I was being marionetted by the strings of my own reproductive ooze. This was the peak development of human society. Millions of years of brutality and toil so I could blow a wad in some crazy bitch with no consequences and pay out the nose for the privilege. Terminate life for one easy payment of $54.95!

I grabbed the box and headed for the checkout. The cigarette aisle was the only checkout open, and sweet old Matilda was working it as usual. I was fairly certain God saw to it that the only overnight cashier at Walmart was the sweetest old lady he could find to shame me for the evident degeneracy in all my late-night Walmart runs. She never commented on any of the items I bought and always had a saccharine smile. The judgement was in my head, but that didn’t make it any less real.

“Hi Matilda.”

“Hello. How’s your night?”

“About as good as it could be, I guess.”


“I’m getting a bit low. I guess I’ll take some.”

“All right, dear. You know I’ve got to scan your ID.”

“Sure thing.”

She went back to the rack and got my cigarettes as I fished out my ID and I realized I had never asked about her.

“How’s your night?”

“Just trying to get through the shift so I can get back home to take care of George.”

“Your husband?”

“Yes. We’ve been married for 50 years now.”

I stuck my card in the machine. I was $63 poorer in an instant.

“Damn. Is he sick?”

“Yes. Cancer. Started about five years ago, so I took this job.”

“Ah. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Sometimes I wish he would just pass. Merciful. You know? He must be in so much pain.”

I wasn’t really sure what to say to that and I was ready to go, so I awkwardly broke off the conversation.

“Well, you have a good night; the best you can, at least.”

“You too, sweetheart.”

With that, I went out to my car and sped back to my apartment. My roommate was standing out on the landing, smoking a cigarette.

“Hey man. What’s up?” he said.

“Not much.”

“Hey, this is my last smoke and I don’t get paid ‘til Friday. Can you spare a few bucks so I can buy a pack? I’ll pay you back. With interest.”

“Sorry, man. I’m broke.”