By Amber Gordon
My friend’s old Buick Le Sabre rattled into the Perkins parking lot. I held two notebooks and two pens as Cory shifted into park. Handing a set to him, I asked, “Are you ready?”
“Let’s do this,” Cory said. He only half smiled, but his eyes were lit with excitement.
It was a gray, foggy day in mid-March. The air was damp and snow had begun melting into puddles of slush and ice water. I felt the impending season of colors, warmth, and new life. This was exciting after yet another long, cold winter, and I wanted to find a way to share that feeling with others. My plan was to write compliments on paper, and leave these notes on random windshields. With this small gesture I hoped to make at least one person smile and feel as though somebody, even a total stranger, cared. I mentioned this plan to a friend, and he decided to join me.
We wrote sentences such as, “You are such an amazing person!” “Smile, you deserve happiness!” and, “I hope you have a wonderful day, a wonderful year, and a wonderful life!” on sheets of college lined notebook paper. We were writing furiously, the only sounds being pen swishing across page and the fffrrrrp of paper being torn from its metal spiral. Write, tear, and add to the pile. Write, tear, and add to the pile. After about ten minutes passed, we each took half the notes and set to folding. Finally, we were ready, and we had enough notes to cover most of the windshields in the parking lot.
But I let Cory go out by himself with the notes.
I made the excuse that it was too cold and wet outside, when in reality my mind raced with doubt. What if I got caught? What if somebody wasn’t happy about this at all, and was actually really upset or offended? I sat in my warm bench seat, watching Cory run around the parking lot, smile on his face, lifting windshield wipers to hold the notes in place. Most of all, I was nervous about how Cory would react because I had written a note for him. I just needed an opportunity to put it in place.
I finally stepped out of the car just as Cory was returning. “Hey,” I said. “I haven’t given any out yet. Want to help?”
“Sure,” he said, taking half my pile and jogging back across the parking lot. With his back to me, I quickly placed a note underneath his windshield wiper, and ran to the next vehicle before he caught on to what I had done. My short stature made it difficult to place notes on the many large pick-up trucks, so I stuck to smaller vehicles such as cars, vans, and station wagons. I flew through the lot, half-watching Cory, half-watching the restaurant door to make sure a customer wouldn’t come out and catch us, and totally excited about what I was doing.
Cory and I finished and headed back to his car at the same time. We got in, smiling, laughing, and talking at the speed of our adrenaline-pumping hearts. I swear my heart stopped a moment when I saw the note I left for him, still on the windshield. He didn’t notice. He turned the key in the ignition and drove away, the note I left for him flapping in the wind.
Pick Me Up
By Jennah Kelley
The SUV pulled right up next to me. As was my habit, I kept looking at my phone. Wouldn’t want to make eye contact with another human.
I was forced to look up, shocked that someone had talked to me. He was in his twenties, wearing a baseball cap with the wide lip, and his voice was disturbingly soft. His eyes looked glazed and it might have been my imagination, but I swore I saw smoke drifting from the backseat. He was doing that thing that guys do with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his chin, elbow resting on the window jam. He was looking everywhere except at my eyes.
It became clear to me that a deserted parking lot was not a good waiting room. My reluctance to get a table without the rest of my party seemed silly now. Don’t wanna sit at a table by yourself? Yeah, lot rape is so much better, right?
“What you doin’ girl? Wanna hop in?”
I didn’t know how on point I was with my sarcastic musings. I never expected for one second that this was actually the way girls got hit on. Then it struck me. That sticky feeling that something was wrong. That greasy feeling you get from a grown-up who gave you hugs and looked at you funny as a kid.
This man’s gaze lingered on my legs. Legs wrapped in tights, wrapped in shorts. Fashion is an exploitive bitch, I thought. This wasn’t how girls got hit on. This was how hookers got picked up.
I was walking and dialing at the same time while I heard the gear shift click and the tires roll away. With a slight shake in my hand I heard my roommate Tricia pick up on the other end.
“Some guys just tried to pick me up as a prostitute. Where the hell are you!?”
She didn’t stop laughing till dessert. I never wore tights with shorts again.
Trawling for Trash
By Jonathan Nguyen
It’s a sunny day as I step out of 4th St. Tesoro and into the open parking lot for my cigarette break. The hourly rush is over, but stragglers are still at the pumps getting gas, and some kids in a Sunfire parked off to the side of the store are rolling a blunt. A white kid in a flat-bill cap shoots a furtive glance around as he tries to be incognito about the lick. He’s not very good at it.
I light the cigarette clenched between my lips and heft a broom and dustpan in my hands. A plume of smoke rushes out my nostrils as I stride over the patchwork of worn asphalt and fissured slabs of concrete that the Frankensteinesque landscape of the parking lot consists of. My eyes scan the surface for the usual prey: cigarette butts, cellophane, and candy wrappers. I trawl from spot to spot—brushing up the detritus of impulsive consumers into the dustpan as I go. A red pickup pulls in and stops precisely dead center between the pumps and the curb. I suspect the customer wants to contribute to fucking up the day of as many folks as he can. It’s a common trait.
I round the corner of the store to avoid the temptation of telling the pot-bellied man who crawls out of that douche-canoe to go fuck himself. Too early to be telling customers to go fuck themselves, and I adhere to proper form when Boss is around. The north-side is a wasteland. Really no point in sweeping. The decades of erosion and general weathering have reduced it into a sandy valley of death and broken glass.
Plenty of trash around the vacuum so I come around to do a sweep. I check the steel cylinder for any new holes or dings. The damned thing barely works and I end up refunding customers for it more often than not. Yet there are those who persist in trying to break it open for cigarette or booze money with screwdrivers, hammers, or drills. Seriously though—fucking power-drills.
I check both ways for any potential unpleasantness that can often be found creeping about downtown Bemidji’s back alleys. Fortunately it’s the middle of the day and the alley is devoid of life save for a pickup truck parked behind the Maytag store on the opposite side. There’s a torn up couch between the dumpsters—courtesy of the asshats who live in the apartments on the other side. A girl’s voice from the window of one of them tells me to fuck off and stop creeping around. I look up and grin at her with the burning smoke still in my mouth. She smiles and says she’s coming down to bum one later and disappears back into the window.
I flick out my cigarette in the dumpster and drop the contents of the dustpan in with it. I do one last check for sleeping bodies and continue back into the store.
Parking Lot Guardian
By Sarah Pirila
Looking for a Chinese restaurant next to some place that started with a ‘W,’ I cursed my terrible memory and began to turn back to the main part of town. I paused when I saw a big, rusty beetle-bug statue rearing up in a flower garden. I cheered and drove into the small parking lot, glad I found something interesting after driving in circles for so long.
I walked up to the strange statue which was right next to the small parking lot of an arts n’ crafts/office supplies store. I was surprised such an impressive statue ended up on the outskirts of the shopping district. The metal statue rested in a garden bordered by curvy-edged bricks. It was about the size of a big dog, and it had the large mandibles of a stag beetle and the forearms of a praying mantis raised to attack. It looked like it was about to step into the gardens rows of color-coded plants and magenta flowers, flick its antennae and open its metal wing case to reveal fluttering transparent wings.
I slowly walked around, trying to get a picture without the big neon yellow “Space for Lease” sign that rested between the beetle’s outstretched arms. As I circled, I noticed a trio of elderly women walking across the crosswalk toward me. They all had curly white hair. I turned back to my picture-taking and heard their shaky voices as they began to discuss the bug.
“What do you think it is, Ellie? A grass-hopper?”
“Some sort of beetle,” a slightly deeper voice said, sounding a bit unsure.
“Hey,” one called out loudly, so I turned and pointed at myself to make sure. The tall lady wearing a pink sweater nodded in a serious manner that made me think she was either a teacher or a Marine.
“What kind of bug is it?” she said and slightly cocked her head to the side.
“I’m not sure,” I said shrugging and glancing back at the insect. “Some kind of beetle? I will use these pictures to find out tonight.”
Two of their faces crumpled in disappointment that I didn’t know the answer. The one with the biggest cloud of hair smiled. I guessed she was the one who guessed beetle. They said good-bye, walking into the bug’s territory, but it let them walk safely from the parking lot to the arts and crafts store.
Turning back to my beetle friend, I reached out and curiously felt the brown wing-case. Its metal was hot from the sun and rough from the rust. Its segmented antenna curved forward towards the intersection. I could almost see them twitching in the wind as it leaned down to munch on the sign.
Amber Gordon is a student at Bemidji State University earning a BA in humanities, BFA in creative writing, BS in art and design, and an electronic writing minor. Jennah Kelley is a Jane Austen, Once Upon A Time, fairytale-obsessed senior at BSU. Jonathan Nguyen says, “I want to think of myself as an aspiring writer, but as you can see, I’m just a pretentious store clerk.” Sarah Pirila is a creative writing major at BSU; she can be found watching too much Netflix and writing at one in the morning.