A Short Story
When my mother died, my father was able to scrap up enough money to buy a ticket from Vietnam to America. He had family friends in a big Midwestern city and they put us up for a number of months until he was able to put together enough money to rent a small apartment for the two of us.
After a number of years working all types of low-paying, dirty little jobs he was able to buy a small convenience store in a suburb of the big city. It wasn’t much, nothing as big as a 7/11. Just a small place in a bad part of town.
He was very proud of it, though, proud of the fact he was somehow heading towards what people talked about as the American Dream.
But tonight, the American Dream was burning up outside. Fires all around and the scream of police cars and the mad, rioting crowd outside. We watched from behind the locked glass door wondering when the swarm of angry protestors would turn toward us.
The angry voices got closer until a crowd was running towards our store. Soon, they broke the glass door and we moved to the area behind the cash register to take a stand. We didn’t have guns just baseball bats to meet the rioters.
A few guys came through the door. They yelled at us and began taking items off shelves. One came over and asked for money from the cash register. My father raised his baseball bat but the guy hit him and knocked him out and took all the money.
In a few minutes, the store was in shambles and the group gone. Before they left, someone tossed a Molotov cocktail against the wall and the store exploded in fire. Another Molotov Cocktail came in but didn’t explode and I grabbed it along with a Bic lighter and then pulled my father outside and stood watching the crowd run towards another store. Over the street in front of our store, I could see the big banner hanging over the street that said “Seasons Greetings” and in the distance behind the rising flames the St. Louis arch.
Somehow, there was a doctor nearby and I left my father with him. I had something on my mind as the store – his life – burned to the ground behind us.
I had the Molotov cocktail in hand more as protection than anything else. But then, I saw the guys who had first broken into the store get in a car at the end of the block. I ran as fast as I could for the car and tossed the Molotov Cocktail under it. I saw the license plate of the car said California. It exploded. I turned around and went back to the smoldering ruins of my father’s store. I don’t know if any of them made it out of that car.
It didn’t concern me all that much.