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‘Help Me’
The State of Loss Prevention in a Baltimore City Supermarket

J, this place is off the chain. They used to wait until food stamps ran out before they started shoplifting in force. It’s only the fourteenth and we have this older woman walk in, break open a box of hefty lawn and leaf bags, take one, and then begins loading it with what she wants. That is just one of three shoplifters that Eddy caught and showed the door in our first three hours of business. You can see them—the ones you don’t catch—selling the stuff across the street at the bus stop.

Then there is the one right next to me.

I’m outside on my break, sitting on the railing and she comes up to me and says, “Miss Ezz, could you spare a light?”

“Sure, Hon, here you go,” and I hand over my lighter and she lights up this butt she picked out of the gutter. Her skin is all blotchy, her hair looks like a bird’s nest and she is filthy. Her hands look like she just got down scraping out the bottom of the dumpster.

Then she asks me if I have any money and I say, “Sorry, I don’t bring money to work with me.”

“Why not?” she says.

“Because I’d be picked clean—wouldn’t have a dollar left to buy anything on my way home!”

So she lays down on this dirty, filthy concrete walk where so many people spit, and there she is, you hear her, “Help me. Help, help me!”

And there they go, walking on by, oblivious to her, as if she is nothing more than a facet of my imagination.

I gotta go, J. This is too much—later Shuge.

-Miss Ezz

The Violence Project

An Omnibus Volume of James' First Two Books

Nice Day for a Funeral

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BobAugust 18, 2018 1:17 AM UTC

Weimar Republic, but without hyperinflation. It's hard to remain unmoved by these unfortunate wretches.