Melissa didn’t know why she was surprised that you could see all the gum stuck to the parking lot. You could see it right through the clunky gray snow and ice drowned by exhaust fumes. Every frostless patch shone with a newer squashed piece of color against the old, worn black tar. She imagined future gum archaeologists studying the rise and fall of the Clear Valley Mall.

Ah yes. Here we have a fine specimen of Big League Chew. I’d say probably from around 1984 or 85. Hmm. Could be from a mall rat or arcade junkie. Oh, and it looks we could have a teeth whitener, circa 2012, over here.

She remembered giggling in school when the nuns got riled up about gum in any form, whether it was being chewed, stuck under desks, or shoved in notes. Gum took them under siege—it was everywhere.

Melissa felt a little overwhelmed when she thought about the things they were right about, but even more so about the things they got wrong, and in that brief few seconds, before she continued walking toward the mall entrance—when her eyes perused the vast parking lot wasteland filled with dirty snow and chewed up gum—she wondered if she really believed in anything.

J.M. Breen

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