Jack reached in his shirt pocket for his cigarette pack, but it wasn’t there. As if snapping out of a dream, he was suddenly aware of his surroundings. It was nearly four a.m. His kitchen was dark except for the lights under the cabinets at the far end of the room that shed just enough glow to cast faint shadows on the opposite wall and door. Jack looked around and found the cigarette box on the table in front of him. He picked it up. It was empty. He got his shoes, reached in his pocket and found a balled up ten-dollar bill, grabbed his keys and went out the back door toward the gas station at the corner.
The morning air was humid with a slight chill. Fog hung high in the alley, gathering around the lamplight like a swarm of mosquitoes. Though it was six miles east of his alley, Jack could smell the lake in the air, a mix of fresh water and stale fish. He liked it.
The city was quiet on Sunday mornings. The four o’clock bars were just emptying out and a few muffler-less cars roared down Montrose Avenue, but for the most part, everything was still. Jack breathed in the Lake Michigan air as deep as he could and exhaled slowly.
At the gas station, the store area was closed and locked. Jack had to make his transaction through an aluminum drawer and a tin speaker. From behind the glass, the muffled voice of the attendant reverberated through the speaker in a thick accent. Jack assumed he’d said something along the lines of ‘how may I help you’ or ‘what the fuck do you want’.
“Box of Marlboro Lights,” Jack pulled the ten out of his pocket and placed it in the waiting drawer. The drawer closed then opened again. The sawbuck was gone, a box of cigarettes and some change left in its place. Jack walked off smacking the pack against the palm of his hand.
When he got back home, he sat on the back steps smoking and admiring the peacefulness of the pre-dawn, the sky dark as night but on the verge of daybreak. Jack teetered between the peaceful city around him and the clanging clatter in his mind.
— In The Sanctity of Revenge is a gripping tale of anger, betrayal, and vengeance set in Chicago in the wake of the Great Recession.