I go to the 99¢ Only Store to have a look around. I look up. On a two story metal pole, in a five foot by three foot metal box, the wood sign for the store. From the parking lot, I can see the paint on the sign is about to start peeling in long, two-inch fat, vertical streaks. In a long, red oval on a white background, I read: “99 cents ALWAYS +UP.” Barbed wire tops the parking lot fence.
On a card table in the parking lot, a man around seventy-five years old sells five dollar phone cards: 100% Guatemalteco, California Champ Latino, Max Honduras, Bocon Cellular, Buena Suerte. I like the Buena Suerte card that shows a smiling rabbit sitting inside a magician’s top hat. In the window of the store, more phone cards, in rows... inside of the store, light through rows of more cards.
I look around the 99¢ store. I’m not buying anything. I don’t need anything. I’m just looking: A claw hammer with a black, perforated rubber grip... I beat the air with the hammer handle, a slight sonic whip-whip of air catches in the handle... Jr. Bag Clips, Mini Clips, the Giant Bag Clip snaps shut, hard... Boxes lining almost the whole aisle, boxes of fresh green scrubbing pads, an impressive abrasive ground... dish soap in green and purple and clear, vats of hair gel in orange and purple and Clear Ice ultra hold gel... red lilypad accent lights growing fake roses, some are $1.49, some $2.49, price based on size of lilypad and how many roses... Banded together: five big, black, plastic, slotted pasta spoons... I shove these five, black, plastic spoons into the left arm of my sweatshirt, hold them inside my sweatshirt, try to pick up a rose in a lilypad using the five spoon set instead of my hand. I knock three roses out of two lilypads... Everyone else in the store is rushing, phone card calls to make when they finish shopping, I guess... I leave.
Around the corner from the 99¢ store, I stop to gawk at the machines—machines from ancient history—at a tiny place called Tom’s Shoe Repair. I ask the elementary-school age boy behind the counter if I can take a picture. Looking through my camera, I back into a man coming out from a haircut. “Oh, sorry, excuse me.” The man puffs up, tells me to watch where I’m going.