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A Sandwich Shop in Chicago, 1 AM

by Jeremiah Tolbert

The door of the sandwich shop blew open in the harsh Chicago wind. Something darted, low to the floor, through the gap and inside. James couldn't make out the blur of the shape, but it had four legs. A small cat or dog. It happened sometimes. Strays took shelter wherever they could from the cold winter. His boss had once found a raccoon in the backroom near the bread ovens.

"Shit, what was that?" said Toby. James was supposed to be training Toby on the register, but it was too cold for customers.

"Dunno," James said.

"It ran behind the drinks into the corner," Toby said. "You want me to go kill it?"

"No way," James said. "I've got seniority. I'll get it." He stretched yellow rubber gloves that they used when cleaning the baking sheets over his hands and lower arms. Armed himself with a broom, and opened the half-door out in the lobby. He approached the corner cautiously.

"Damn, man, I hope it don' have rabies or nothing," said Toby.

A small silver and brown dog was curled up between the wall and the drink fountain. It looked strange, stretched out and longer than any dog James had ever seen. There was blood, from some unseen wound.

"Please don't kill me," it said. "I'll be dead soon enough without your help."

"Why did you come in here?" James asked.

"It's just some dumbass dog, it can't answer you," Toby said from over James' shoulder. James didn't take his eyes off the coyote.

"I want what everyone wants," it said.

"What does everyone want?"

"To get high," Toby said, wandering back to the register. "And for their shift to end."

"To not die alone," said the coyote.

"I could call a vet or something," James said.

"Just push it out onto the sidewalk, it looks all fucked up anyway," Toby said.

"It's too late for that," it said. "Please."

James crouched down beside it. Its eyes were the same color of the gloves. Brilliant yellow, like sunflowers. He reached out to pet the coyote's fur. It whimpered softly.

"Can I leave early?" Toby asked.

"Yeah," James said without moving. "Leave whenever you want. I'll stay here."

The coyote closed its eyes. Toby clocked out.