Gerald crawls out.

He got the idea while stocking shelves at ShopMart. It closed to customers at midnight. From then till 4 a.m. the cleaners and stockers took over. After that the store was empty till 9:00. Not even a security guard prowled the premises so confident was management in the door sensors and glass break protectors.

One morning Gerald clocked out at 4:00 with everyone else, but couldn’t bear the thought of going home. So he quietly ducked into the men’s bathroom and waited for the night crew boss to go through her routine and lock up. Then he crept out into the store to the huge mountain of toilet paper packages. It reached nearly to the ceiling and sprawled across four aisles. Valuable real estate for sure, but it was practically a tourist attraction. Hell, it was a tourist attraction. People posed in front of it, came from out of town to see it, and put make-a-wish sticky notes on it. The staff even decorated it for holidays.

He carefully repositioned eight-packs to create a crawlway to the center of the mountain. Once inside, he removed and re-stacked packages to hollow out a living space. When he was finished, there was room for him to stand and more than enough for sleeping and moving about. It was good enough to live in. So he does.

He likes knowing there’s so much commotion outside, yet the super-absorbent walls muffle the noise of the busy store to a soft relaxing murmur. He passes the time sleeping, taking advantage of the store’s free WIFI to browse and listen to music on his phone, and reading by light of a lantern from Outdoor Life. A bucket gets him through the day.
During his 4-9 a.m. excursions, he takes care of hygiene, charges his phone, and pilfers supplies — usually chips, candy bars, peanut butter, and cola. He strolls through Magazines, his personal library. He’d take in a movie, but too many security cameras eye Electronics. Same for Jewelry. There’s a necklace his wife would have loved. Ex-wife. “I want more, Gerald. You just don’t have any ambition.”

Maybe she was right. He looks out as dawn creeps across the parking lot. Maybe he should strive for more. A magnificent mound of paper towels is taking shape over in aisles 42-46. It would make a real castle. Maybe then he could convince Doris to move back in with him. It’d take a lot of work to make it livable though, and he doesn’t care for that side of store, he thinks, as he posts another sticky wish and crawls back inside.



DaveHensonDavid Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years. They now reside in Peoria, Illinois with their dog, who loves to walk them in the woods. David’s work has appeared in two chapbooks, Literally Stories, 365 Tomorrows, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Dime Show Review, among others. Find him online at