e’d done ten years and he’d done them hard, upstate. It’d been especially hard on him, hammering away at his cherubic face, his buck-toothed smiled. He was now just a collection of right angles. They gave him a plastic bag with his clothes. The brim of his hat was all bent out of shape. There was no one there to meet him.
They dropped him off at the bus station on the outskirts and stuck a pamphlet in his hand. He wandered until he found a driver outside on the platform, having a smoke. There was a blue tattoo on his forearm, too smudged to make out anymore. He understood. He took him downtown. Everything seemed so fast. People, cars. The world in fast forward, and him stuck on rewind.
He found the shelter, a hump of brick squatting on the corner. There was a park across the street, but not the kind you’d want to walk in without a HAZMAT suit. They put him in a room with three other guys. The food was bad. Things hadn’t changed much.
He went to see his parole officer. They set him up with a job, just down the street from the shelter, cleaning a burger joint after hours. The sign only had one arch, instead of two, and it was so rusty you could hardly call it golden. Still it was like throwing him in a candy shop full of razor blades. Maybe they did it just to screw with him.
At the end of his shift, he’d sit in the change room, naked. He’d put on the cape, the hat and the red gloves. He’d imagine the sound of grease popping as the slabs of meat fried. He could still smell it. It would be so easy. Just one bite. But that’d be the end of him, he’d tell himself, pretending it wasn’t all over already.
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Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.