Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz - Fiction (Two Stories)


The 50 cents I was saving for a soda, I use to buy a newspaper. Manny's mad, so tonight he's got me outside with Jesse cleaning the parking lot. Jesse got gloves, I didn't. I haven't eaten and I was looking forward to the drink, but I've got to have something for my hands - there is at least one disposable diaper with shit in it out here. I tear the newspaper pages in half and then again so they'll last.

      I want to get my work done, so maybe I can go inside, give Manny a break from waxing the floors. I try to move quickly but I'm shivering and the wind keeps whipping the plastic bag tied to my waist around. I spend too much time untangling it from my thigh.

    Some guys, they look like college boys, make their way across the lot. They don't wait 'til they get to their car to rip open the beer carton one of them's carrying. I watch strips of cardboard fly. The guys are laughing and joking around. One says something as they approach but I turn away. Our work is contracted; I don't have to be nice to the store's customers.

      I keep working. After awhile, I look around for Jesse.

      I notice the college boys are still in the lot.  They're pumping Nelly in the SUV's stereo as they sit there, drinking. I can hear the song pretty clear. If they're college boys, they're stupid ones to sit with open windows in this weather.

      I look toward the main doors for the security guard but he's not there.

     And where is Jesse? I wonder if Manny's already called for the lunch break. I wonder if he's gonna get me something. My stomach twists, agreeing with my thoughts.

      I look across the street to the digital clock on the bank.  It's only 11:30.

      I squat to get at a paper trapped under a shopping cart wheel.  A car pulls up beside me. It's the college boys.

      “Just making sure you earn it!” a guy in the back says window as he tosses a beer can toward me.  The hollow sound of aluminum rings across the lot. As the SUV drives away, arms extend out the windows. More beer cans rain down.

      I turn away, yank at the flyer. Except for a ragged corner still under the wheel, it's suddenly free. I catch myself before I fall backward.  My hand gropes for the opening to the garbage bag.

    A sudden gust turns the can over. I stand and the cold breeze slaps me as I dare face it. Tears dot my lashes.


I blink several times as I reach for the can, trying to bring it into focus. The wind, picking up again, scoots it from my grasp. I step toward the can.  It skitters. I should let it go, but I follow it still, across the lot, even as it tumbles and tumbles away from me.

The Day Superman Died

The day Superman died, Billy Wilson went home late after school. He opened the front door and found his mother in the living room, crying as she cowered on the couch, his father towering over.

    His first thought was that she too had heard the sad news, but then he remembered his mother had no interest in Superman; she'd only seen him on television once and that was when he'd appeared on “I Love Lucy,” which was her favorite show because you could tell what kind of man Ricky was, putting up with all the crazy things his wife did. Loving her, no matter what. Even Superman had commented on Ricky's patience that time he was on the show.

    Billy's next thought was that the principal had been able to get a call through and his mother was disappointed that Billy couldn't just be good. He'd hit Troy Absher during recess because Troy had dared to make fun of Superman, him dead now and everything.


Billy had been waiting for Superman to return to television. How he had prayed and then someone had decided yes, they would bring the show back. Billy's faith had been restored and he thought if he just kept praying that the same god or network executive might help his father. Maybe someone could tell him that even when you weren't in disguise you could be kind.


“Is it too much to ask? Is it?” Billy's father roared.

     Billy watched his mother shrivel further into the couch, her arms cradling the liquor bottle. She met her son's eyes, and in time, his father turned to him.


“Where the hell have you been?” he demanded as he strode toward Billy.

     “The man of steel, squashed like a can.” That's what Troy had said. And that's when Billy slugged him.

    He was given a note to take home with the  instruction to have it signed by both parents and returned the next day.

    The folded paper in Billy's hand trembled. His father would be madder because of it, though Billy wasn't sure why. You could hit someone if you didn't like what they did.

    Billy inched back toward the door, the note slipping from his hand. Once outside, he took off like a speeding bullet. Blocks away, Billy collapsed and on his back, he looked up in the sky, but there was only the sun blazing hard enough to bring tears to his eyes.


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