The Night Shift

by Olivia Yayla

“Have you ever seen the Devil?”

Nima paused mid-chai sip, returning the teacup to its dainty saucer. With her pointer finger and thumb trained on the cup’s waist, her middle and ring finger choking an ashy joint, and her pinky delicately curved upward as if she were dining with the queen, her eyes found Carmen’s. Though Carmen’s eyes were searching elsewhere, lost in thought, stuck someplace between present, past, and deep regret.

Nima gulped, “I don’t believe I have.”

Carmen was stuck staring at her fresh 21 ID, frozen in time as she glared at her 17-year-old picture she thought she could live with until its next expiration date.

The silence settled like dust in a war zone, and though Nima couldn’t smell the fire, Carmen was still stuck in the barricades, shell-shocked by a landmine that had yet to explode.

The two dwelled in nature’s lullaby, comforted by the hooting owls, creaking crickets, and distant hisses of whatever serpents dwelled at ground level. But far up above the whispering tall grass in the rotting treehouse still preserved through decades of twisters, hurricanes, flash floods, and hell’s fire, they sipped their chai from the porcelain tea set Carmen still had from her 5th birthday.

Nima’s muddy red Converse paired well with her aged, torn stockings, obnoxiously puffed tutu, and her dad’s extra large Metallica tee-shirt, all tied together with dozens of stringed pearls draped haphazardly around her neck.

A mermaid’s failed suicide.

Carmen’s tea party attire matched Nima’s odd aesthetic. She wore two skirts, one knee-length crafted from silk, layered beneath the lace-frilled sage green church skirt her mother got her in the second grade. Her sweatshirt was plum purple, stained with ash burns and mud from years of climbing up the tree.

Carmen was smaller than most, if not all, of the girls in her age sector of 21.

She’s always loved her petite frame and her ability to stretch her childhood mini skirts over her adult hips; her gift of childlike physical traits that shed light on male red flags within the first conversation they share.

But as her fresh legality ripened over the past few months, she realized that the mirage of adulthood has, if not always been, soiled.

“Do you intend on finishing that thought?” Nima interrupts Carmen’s sulking, passing the joint from her neon pink, zebra-striped nails to Carmen’s bloody-bitten fingertips.

The rings on her fingers clink as she lifts it to her lips and inhales deeply, “Have you ever found yourself in a room full of people, but then someone looks at you? And when they do, they don’t stop. And it feels like they can really see you, the fact that you don’t belong there? Like you’re pretending to be something you’re not,” she exhaled, taking a beat. “I think I saw him. Yesterday.”

Nima’s face stiffened, “You didn’t go back to that tattoo shop right?”

Carmen exhaled slowly, smoke dancing out of her mouth and waltzing with the wind, “No. Barneby’s.”

Barneby’s was the sole convenience store in town, roosted against a once busy, now vacant gas station. Yet its regular customers have kept its ghoulish aura alive and well. Its reputation exceeds itself in their town of Somerton. So when the name left Carmen’s lips, Nima could only nod softly.

The devil can be found in Barneby’s, and every Somerton girl knows it. At least the pretty ones. At least the ones who can pass as children.

Carmen couldn’t begin to explain what happened, partly out of fear that Nima would think she was overreacting. But mostly because Carmen wasn’t asking for an opinion. She saw the Devil. And he works the night shift at Barnenby’s.

It was 5:08 pm, and Carmen had just gotten out of work. She stepped outside, shoving her hand into her tote bag in search of that little box filled with her favorite stress reliever.

She found the box, crinkled against the weight of her sketchbook, and alas, she had forgotten that her last preroll was savored after yesterday’s shift. Yet amidst her anxiety, her bad habit offered an immediate fix.

The light of Barenby’s gleamed a sickening lime green from across the street, taunting her; beckoning her back for another hit of what she knew would be her forever vice. Though she wished she would stop. One day. Not soon.

She stood in the vacant gas station, where the gas pumps were once rooted, watching as countless men; bikers, waiters, cashiers, and common bums, waltzed in with empty hands and minds, and out with one less brain cell and one more problem.

But their duration within the store? 3 minutes tops.

There was a single customer before her, and though his interaction with the devil couldn’t have been longer than 5 minutes, it was already 2 minutes longer than she hoped to feel this illegal. The man before her grabbed his lottery tickets, and as soon as he turned around, his head dropped to her level, his eyes glued to her.

Carmen tried to ignore it, looking away for as long as she could have, yet she couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking.

“Wrong place, wrong time, little girl,” she imagined.

When she stood face to face with the devil, he smiled with all teeth, like a shark before a feeding frenzy.

“What can I do for you?” he sang, too chipper for her liking. The devil wasn’t good-looking as they say. No. He’s unbelievably tall with acne-scarred skin, yellow teeth, and fingers that resemble spider legs. His nose hooks as if to catch sinners and his hair is unwashed and greasy. The store wreaked of mildew, cigarette smoke, and body odor, but Carmen could see the prerolls from across the counter.

“Indica preroll please,” she said, unable to meet his eyes, slamming the cash on the counter as if it were on fire. She even wished she had omitted her ‘please.’

“3 for 25,” he said, giggling slightly as he turned to reach for 3, instead of the one she asked for.

“No,” she said. “Just one.”

“You sure?”


“I don’t think you are. It’s been a long day for you.”

She looked up to catch his eyes, burning into hers even before she looked up.

“No. Just one.”

His face stiffened, leaning forward before assaulting her with that yellow corn smile, “ID.”


“You have a baby face.”

She was stupid to ask. Yet this place was known for its underage debauchery. As she rummaged through her tote bag for her ID, she was suddenly overly aware of what she looked like. Her tee shirt was large enough to reach her mid-thighs, and her basketball shorts fit just beneath it. It looked like she wasn’t wearing pants. She looked like a child just before bedtime.

This wasn’t part of the plan she thought. It’s already been 12 minutes. She found her card and slid it over.

He stared at it without scanning it. He could feel her discomfort, and Carmen sensed that he liked it.

“I didn’t actually want to see Your ID. I just wanted to see your picture.”

She felt sick, regretting ever beginning this habit all those years ago. Maybe she could have saved herself from this fear. This uncomfortable feeling of being a woman in a child’s body, preyed on by men who savor their Lolita complex. He saw right through her; though she was legal, he had yet to scan the ID. What’s worse is that both the preroll, her change, and her ID were still in his possession.

“Have a nice night now,” he leaned over the counter, inhaling deeply as he slid over her personal effects, “Carmen.”

But now, a day and a half a joint later, she and Nima blew out the candles before the wind had a chance, and carefully reversed their way back down from the treehouse.

Carmen’s rubber rain boots squeaked with mud as the two walked trekked through the tall grass, ignoring the wind’s desperate pleas for attention.

The moon was yellow, less so than the devil’s teeth, and it gleamed upon Carmen’s cobblestone driveway and bounced off her white mailbox.

“Hey Nima? Do you think someone would memorize an address from an ID? Like a bouncer or something?” Carmen fibbed, hoping to hear a quick ‘no’ to release the anxiety that had been clutching her gut since the night before.

But before Nima could respond, the two both noticed that the mailbox was slightly ajar.

Nima skipped over to it and creaked it open despite the resisting rust.

“A. You liar, you said you didn’t have anymore. And B. Your mailbox is a horrible hiding spot,” Nima laughed, reaching inside the mailbox to pull out a joint, hand-rolled, tied together with a small red bow.

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