The Stories We Whisper at Night - Sky Corgan Page 0,1

Avenue and W 254th Street and poured all of their time into making it the best neighborhood grocery store that they could.

The store did well for a while. Only two years after opening, my parents had made enough money to move from the apartment into a proper two bedroom home. Still, we spent more time at the store than we did in our house. I was practically raised there. Some of my earliest memories include helping my mother stock shelves and playing in the water from a busted pipe behind the building.

My parents never made enough money from the store for us to be considered wealthy, but we had everything we needed. Things were good throughout my childhood, but by the time I hit my teen years, the neighborhood that the store was in started to go downhill. Most of our regular customers began moving away. Ruffians came to take their place. Not only did we have to deal with the decline of business, but we also had to worry about getting robbed. My father finally began pouring money into tightening security around the place when my mother got robbed at gunpoint. It was such a traumatic event that my father even talked about closing down the store. In hindsight, they probably should have. Because if they had, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. But my mother, with her big heart, convinced him to keep it open—that things change all the time and they just needed to weather the area's economic decline. She insisted that business would eventually get better, so they decided to stick it out.

Eventually, business stabilized, though it was barely enough to keep the store and my family afloat. For a while, we thought that everything would be okay, but then a new threat rolled into town. It started with thugs at our door, making threats and breaking things. My parents called the police several times, but they turned a blind eye. Then the source of the discord rolled in. Giovanni Bianchi. Don of the mafia. Pervert. Asshole. The thugs were his, sent to instill fear into my parents. He offered my parents 'protection' for a not so small fee. And by 'protection' I mean that he'd stop sending his thugs to harass our store. If my parents didn't pay up, he promised to destroy them.

Of course, my parents told all of this to the police. But what they didn't find out until later was that Giovanni had guys on the inside. The police department didn't give a shit about what he was doing as long as no one got killed and big businesses with actual influence were left out of it. So basically, Giovanni had all of the power.

My parents had no choice but to pay up or move. Fed up with all of the misfortune they had encountered in the past several years, my father finally decided to put the store up for sale. No one was interested in buying a struggling business in a bad area of town, though. So we were stuck. We were stuck, and Giovanni's fees for protection gradually increased while the profits dwindled into nothing and we were plunged into debt.

And that brings us up to two weeks ago. Giovanni's goons stopped by for their monthly visit. My father refused to pay—couldn't afford to pay. Giovanni himself made a grand appearance a few days later, threatening to loot the store and break every bone in my father's body. He made a halfhearted joke about how they'd take me instead of the money. I had been standing there behind the counter. Seeing a man twice my father's size with his fist balled, clutching the front of my father's shirt, had spiked fear into my heart the likes of which I had never experienced before. And at that moment, all I cared about was saving my father. I hadn't even thought before I had spoken the words, “Take me.” They came out in begging and pleading tones over and over again until the goon let go of my father.

Giovanni sauntered around the counter to approach me. I shrunk back, which seemed to amuse him greatly. He gripped my chin and forced me to face him, looking me over. He nodded in approval before walking away, nonchalantly telling my father that he'd return in a week and that if we didn't have the money they were going to take me instead.

After they had left, my mother and I had rushed