This story first appeared in Electric Cereal.
Reviews of the Corner Bodega
September 7th 2007
1. flickering light, foggy deli case
2. animal noises behind onion bin
3. clerk with veiny neck never there
4. beer in case is warm and not beer we want. price is reasonable though.
5. even the toilet paper is expired.
November 23rd 2007
1. nothing to cook here for Thanksgiving.
2. lobster ramen almost killed us once.
3. they’re out of beer.
4. meat in deli case is expanding inside it’s shrink wrap. Looks like a processed meat bomb. Sandwich guy has another tear drop tattoo.
March 8th 2008
1. sign on window:
CLOSED NYC BOARD OF HEALTH. PEST WASTE. MOLD. MILDEW. INFECTIOUS DISEASE.
July 10th 2010
1. activity at bodega
2. crew removes deli case
3. removes the desk with register
4. rips up entire floor
5. have a ten minute conversation with worker out on the street while he tries to get me to leave him alone, explaining the situation, saying, “You have no idea how my life has degraded since this bodega has closed. I have to walk up the hill for beer. I have to get lousy sandwiches at the place over by the hospital.
6. rest of crew getting annoyed at worker who is standing there talking to me instead of helping lug the onion bin out.
7. I tell all the workers I love them.
8. they ignore me.
9. they drag out a soda case and one guy rips his hand open on the door, blood everywhere. disconcerting. bad omen.
Christmas Day 2010
1. bodega still closed.
February 20th 2011
1. bodega still closed.
August 9th 2011
1. bodega still closed.
2. newspapers pasted onto windows. can no longer see inside.
3. sign from the Board of Health tagged by prankster:
CLOSED NYC BOARD OF HEALTH. PEST WASTE. MOLD. MILDEW. INFECTIOUS DISEASE. YOUR MOM’S A WHORE.
March 2nd 2012
1. wake up one morning and realize I miss the bodega even though I haven’t thought about it in three months.
September 13th, 2012
1. store reopens!
2. completely renovated.
3. deli case is not fogged up
4. the guy who makes the sandwiches is a different guy now, no teardrop tattoo!
5. no onion bin, but I hated onions.
6. place is brightly lit and reeks of fresh strawberries and cut flowers.
7. girl at register is very kind. does not have veiny neck. she tells me “$13.76. But, yeah, forget about the 76 cents.”
8. that night I have a dream that I’m electrocuted by my cellphone. I die. I go to the afterlife. the afterlife happens in the newly re-furbished bodega. I cry in the dream. I’m so happy. I’m sitting on the floor, indian style, eating Haggen Das ice cream. I’m glad to be dead and in my bodega.
September 14th, 2012
1. wow. just bought the coldest beer I’ve ever had in my life.
2. I’m drinking it at the bodega by the ATM machine.
3. they’re so kind in here, they don’t even care. I offer them beers. the deli guy almost takes one but he’s nervous because he’s being filmed.
September 15th, 2012
1. they let me sit behind the register and say I look like a natural. I’ve never been a clerk before. it feels right.
2. I don’t quit my job.
3. the girl says, “If you worked here, you’d never be able to afford to buy anything here.”
4. “What about the bean aisle?”
September 16th, 2012
1. I make someone a sandwich while the normal deli guy is in the bathroom.
2. when deli guy comes back, he doesn’t get mad at me, really. but I can tell he’s a little put off.
3. I hang out back there, leaning against the meat slicer for a while, and finally he says, “Okay man, maybe you should go back around to the front.”
4. slicing swiss cheese, thin, is high art. only the most skilled can pull it off.
October 8th 2013
1. New sign on door, “WE WERE SO HAPPY TO SERVE YOU OVER THE LAST YEAR. OUR BUSINESS HAS BEEN BOUGHT BY DEVELOPER. THIS LOCATION WILL BECOME A NAIL SALON.”
2. “NAIL SALON!”
3. the clerk is not speaking.
4. deli guy is not speaking.
5. I lean back, and crush an entire display case of Halloween cupcakes.
6. “I DON’T EVEN HAVE NAILS!”
7. well, I do, but I don’t get them painted.
November 1st. 2013
1. crew returns, they haul out the non-foggy deli case. they haul out the desk with the register. they haul out the cupcake display. they haul out the ice cream freezer. carrying out the soda case, one of the workers rips their hands open on the front door. blood everywhere.
2. “Seen this dog and pony show before.”
April 12th 2014
1. nail salon finally opens.
2. I go in there and scream at the receptionist.
3. I also scream at all of the people getting their nails done.
4. I scream, “I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH YOURSELVES!”
July 6th 2014
1. walking uphill to buy beer.
2. sweating bullets.
3. see the original tear drop tattoo deli guy!
4. say, “hey man, what’s up.”
5. he doesn’t remember me.
6. I say, “we used to do business together.
7. he thinks I mean cocaine.
9. ‘Oh!” he cracks up. I’m serious though.
10. I shake his hand and lean in for a quick hug. a show of respect.
11. we’re cool.
12. at the top of the hill, I pause. I look at the shitty bodega I have to go in. I look down the hill in the direction of the nail salon. I decide against the bodega at the top of the hill. I go and buy a lousy sandwich at the place by the hospital, like a savage.
Bud Smith wrote the novel F 250, among others. He works heavy construction in NJ, building and maintaining powerhouses and oil refineries. His writing has recently been at Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Word Riot, Smokelong, Big Lucks and Spork. He lives in NYC with wife, a textile artist. Find him at his website and Twitter.
Image: flickr / Shawn Hoke