The air was hot and sticky as the mid-July sun scorched the sky. Once-manicured lawns had become brittle and wilted as sprinklers fought in vain against the festering heat. The sidewalks had become giant griddles, encompassing the dying grass like electric fences. Mounds of exposed flesh bounced up and down, rippling out from underneath thrift store T-shirts and undersized cut-off shorts. The faint smell of body odor and discount cigarettes lingered in the air and clung to anyone who waddled through it on their way into the MegaSaver entrance.
The grocery store stood in the middle of a neighborhood long forgotten by anyone who could afford to. The building, with its flaking paint and leaky roof, was surrounded by empty parking lots and vandalized gas stations. Pot holes littered the streets leading to the store. The parking lot was pocked with trash and missing concrete.
Larry Prescott eyed the herd of customers wandering aimlessly, stalking them with his lion eyes. Behind his blind-drawn windows, Larry studied the position of each customer, cart, and carry-out boy, waiting for his moment to pounce. Would a box of chicken wings fall out of a basket? Would an employee duck behind a car for an unscheduled smoke break? Larry wished he could smell the draw of blood through the glass window of his air conditioned office.
At five feet, seven inches, most people would not consider Larry Prescott tall. In fact, many who did not know him would say he was short. Those who worked for him, however, knew the true power behind his small frame. He was a beast at heart; a man to be feared and respected. Though wisps of hair were plastered over his growing bald spot, most would swear to the thick mane surrounding his head. He was king of his domain; master over all that he surveyed. He protected his own, and ripped his enemies to shreds. He was powerful and terrifying, yet commanded love and admiration from those beneath him.
            A soft knock startled him from his stalk, and Larry turned bitterly towards the office door.
            “Come in,” Larry’s voice roared. There was a pause. His eyes bore through the wood in disgust. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Come in.”
            The door opened to reveal the nervous smile of a twenty-five year old employee named John Turner. He stood cautiously as the door squeaked open. A bead of sweat dripped down his forehead as he stared at his boss.
            “I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t hear you…” John’s words trailed off.
            Larry stared at him for a moment, unable to believe that his voice had not carried through the door and down the hall. He swallowed his anger and met John’s eyes with his own.
            “Well… what do you want?” Larry’s voice barked more than bellowed.
            John took a step inside the office. His hands shook slightly, and he grasped his baggy, denim pants to secure them.
            “Oh, well,” John swallowed hard, trying to find the words. “I’ve been thinking…”
            A snort from Larry cut him short.
            “Do I pay you to think, son?”
            John looked down towards the concrete floor.
            “Uh…no, sir. Not really…” he stammered.
            “You’re goddamned right I don’t. I pay you to check in my produce and keep my freezers full of dead animals.”
            John licked his lips.
            “Well, isn’t that right?” Larry had cornered his prey with just a couple of sentences.
            “Yes. Yes sir. You do.” John’s knees began to quiver.
            “What’s with all this thinking then?” Larry bent his back legs, preparing to pounce.
            “Well, I was just thin….I mean, I believe that yesterday was my one year anniversary with the company, and I just wondered if maybe a raise…”
            “A RAISE?” Larry’s mouth was wet with spittle. “Do you know what a raise is, son?”
            John opened his mouth to reply, but Larry continued.
            “A raise is a reward for someone who does a good job. No, screw that, a fantastic job. A raise is something you give someone who works his ass off and makes things happen. Do you think you make things happen, John?”
            A tear formed at the base of John’s eye. Larry grinned, exposing a portion of his stained, crooked teeth.
            “Yes, sir. I think I do make things happen.”
            “Not for the better!” Larry was enjoying the juicy soft meat of his lamb’s throat.  “Remember that pallet of pork chops that came in April? You remember what you made happen then? You made the fuckers spoil! That’s what you made happen.”
            “No, sir. That’s the way they came in…” John attempted a feeble protest.
            “Then, “ Larry continued without pause, “You let a whole shipment of hamburger patties get freezer burned.”
            “It was just two cases…” John’s dying corpse flapped once more in Larry’s jaws.
            “And not just two weeks ago, you left a whole pallet of ribs out of the freezer and they completely thawed! I had poor Jose scrubbing the blood off the floor for a month afterwards. Hell, that’s probably what put him in the hospital!” Larry’s breath was hot and heavy.
            “Jose? He was in a car wreck two days ago…” John took a step back only to bump into the office door that had mysteriously closed behind him.
            “I’ll tell you what, John.” Larry’s voice had suddenly calmed and almost invited him to have a seat.
            John took a step forward towards the chair in front of him. He placed his hand on the back. Larry’s stare rebuked him for such a brazen act of affability.
            “I’m gonna make something happen for you, John,” Larry stood protected behind his desk as he prepared his final blow. A small sliver of a smile curled his lips.
            “Yes, sir?” John asked; his was voice hopeful and na├»ve.
            “I’m gonna make you fucking unemployed!” Larry blustered.
            “What?” John’s voice cracked as the tear finally fell from his eye.
            “You heard me, son. Take your raise and your thoughts and get the fuck out of my store!” Larry’s volume challenged defiance.
            John turned and accidentally hurled himself into the closed door. His face burned with pain and embarrassment; his eyes stung with tears and anger. His hand fumbled for the doorknob as Larry growled behind him. Eventually, the door flew open and John ran out, never to be heard from again.

Larry chuckled to himself. He wiped the blood from his lips and picked up the phone. He dialed a three digit number and hit the “Intercom” button. He was surprised, but not displeased, to find an erection bulging in his pants.