Dead Mall

by Kevin Reigle

            “That was the second time I died, you know,” Albert said as he shuffled the dominoes.

            Foster drew a double six and held it up to show Albert. “No need for you to draw now. I thought that was the third time they resuscitated you?”

            “Nah, it was the second. The third time I was really dead.”

            “Not dead enough, I guess,” Foster said as he caught sight of the lone plastic Christmas tree over Albert’s shoulder where the JC Penny used to be.

            Albert began to reshuffle the dominoes. “What are you looking at?”

            Foster adjusted his glasses. “They still haven’t taken that tree down yet. It’s February for Christ’s sake.”

            Albert finished shuffling and waited for Foster to choose. “What’s it matter? When’s the last time you bought something here?”

            “I remember when this place first opened. The girls you’d see walking around, let me tell you. That was seventy-one wasn’t it?”

            “Are you going to start picking, or what? I thought it opened in seventy-two.”

            Foster chose a domino. “I’m pretty sure it was seventy-one.”

            “And how would you remember that?”

            “I was just out of the service. That would have been seventy-one.”

            They each picked seven dominoes completing their hand. The loudspeaker in the rafters crackled to life. A tinny voice echoed through the mall. “Good morning shoppers. Remember that tomorrow the Mingo City Adult Band will be playing at 7pm in the North Plaza. Also, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Make sure and visit Rose’s Garden and King’s Jewelry for those special gifts. Finally, our walker’s program resets next week, so make sure and get your new point card. It’s a great day to shop at the South Mingo Mall.”

            “I haven’t seen a walker all morning,” Albert said.

            “They probably walk downtown.”

            “I wish these people would make up their minds. First, we have stores downtown. Then that’s not good enough. Everyone wants a big indoor shopping mall. Now, they want stores downtown again, Jesus.”

            Foster shrugged as he looked at his dominoes. “Downtown was deserted for years. I didn’t know Rose’s Garden was still here.”

            “She’s hanging on,” Albert said waiting for Foster to make his first move. “You gonna go, or what?”

            Foster glanced at one of the empty chairs. “I miss Dustin. How old do you think Rose is?”

            Albert watched him place his first domino on the table. “I didn’t see you at the funeral. Rose was a couple years ahead of me in school.”

            “I bet she retires soon. I couldn’t bring myself to go to Dustin’s funeral.”

            “Why?”

            “I don’t like thinking about it,” Foster said as he followed Albert’s move.

            “It’s not a big deal.”

            “Maybe not to you.”

            “I know what I’ve seen, and I know what my Bible tells me.”

            Foster watched Albert match a four against his four. “I guess I can’t be as confident as someone whose had a sneak peek.”

            “You shouldn’t need a sneak peek.”

            “That’s easy to say when you’ve had one.”

            “Do you think Dustin was scared?”

            “I have no idea. I never heard him talk about it.”

            “Well, he wasn’t. Are you going to move?”

            “You know, I really miss the Sears,” Foster said as he matched a six.

            “Do you remember Emily Porter? She used to work there.”

            Foster felt a chill on the back of his neck. A rumble came from the air conditioning unit above the drop ceiling. Condensation fell onto the edge of the table. “She was a looker. Whatever happened to her?”

            “No idea. She was really something though; sweet as maple sugar. I wish these tables didn’t have that hole in the middle.”

            “That’s where the umbrella goes,” Foster said as he contemplated his next move.

            “We’re inside. There’s no need for an umbrella. Unless that roof gets any worse. Whose turn is it anyway? Is it mine?”

            “I think it’s mine.”

            Albert counted the remaining dominoes in his hand and then the ones on the table. “I don’t think that’s right. Do you think that’s right?”

            “Do you remember when they had that carnival in the parking lot?”

            Albert perched his lips as he pointed at the last domino played. “I don’t know. When was that?”

            “It’s not been that long ago has it? Maybe a few years.”

            “Did you go last?” The phone in Albert’s pocked began to ring. He tried to pull it out but struggled to find room between his body and the metal arm rest. “This damn thing. It’s always chirping. If it wasn’t for my son, I’d throw it in the dumpster.”

            “Mine never rings,” Foster said, looking at two mall walkers dressed in sweatpants and running shoes. “Who’s calling?”

            Albert pried the phone out of his pocket. “Does it look like I know?” Just as he raised it, the phone went silent. “Jesus, there’s no patience anymore.” Albert slammed it on the table.

            Foster noticed the one walker flinch and look at them. He rubbed his forehead and focused on the dominos. “Is it your turn?”

            “Yeah, I think It’s my turn.” The phone lit up and started ringing. Albert glared at it. “Forget it. You go. Let me see who this is.”

About the Author

Kevin Joseph Reigle’s short stories have appeared in the Pensworth Literary Review, Bridge Eight, TDR Daily, The Yard, Drunk Monkeys and The Dillydoun Review. He works at the University of the Cumberlands.