I stood there right in the median of North Salisbury Boulevard, staring at the place for a long time. The cheerful yellow and red colors of the sign were still there, though there are shards missing out of the plastic. Probably from bored kids throwing chunks of concrete at it. The gas pumps are shut down--prices still say $29.99 a gallon, so you can tell they been abandoned for years--and big old pieces of plywood nailed up over the windows.
I wonder what Mr. Patel would say if he could see the place now. He'd stand there in his sport jacket and tie and his neatly brushed gray mustache, shaking his head at the waste of it all, no doubt. He was prolly the best boss I ever had, even if he was more polite than friendly. The job wasn't too bad neither, 'cept when I had to drain the deep-fryers and clean the filters at the end of the night. Lord, how I used to hate that! If only I'd known then what was waiting for me in the broiling Arizona sun, the gang boss hollering at us as we worked:
"WHO'S GONNA PAY FOR THAT WALL!"
And us calling back: "WE ARE!"
The Shore Great Valu was paradise next to that. And I repaid Mr. Patel well, I like to think. When times got really rough in the fall of 2018, I went to the President's local HQ over on Church Street to see what they could do for me, all the work I'd been putting in for the President (truth is, Kaylea put me up to it). Tom Purdy was sitting in one of those spinning office chairs with his fat legs up on the desk and his hairy belly uncovered under a smelly old T-shirt. He heard me out and said, "You work down at the Shore Great Valu, right?"
"We're expropriating Joshi Patel," he said.
"You're doing what now?"
"Arresting him for being illegal and taking over the place, Rob! You can have it, long as your racial background check comes up All-American."
I thanked him, o'course, and came to work early the next day. I could see Mr. Patel was surprised to see me in before noon. When I told them they was coming for him his eyes got real big. He thanked me and run off afore I could hardly get the words out. So I had the place all to myself till they took me away eight or nine months later. Sure is a shame they let it go bust.
I wonder where Mr. Patel is now. Can't remember if he ever mentioned having a family or not.
Posted by Rob Stevens at 15:49:37, Wednesday, March 4, 2026