Amp slowed his pace and jogged over to the monkey-bars, where he stretched out a little more and did an array of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. With every set, Amp visualized all of the ânoâsâ and brush-offs he had been subjected to over the last couple of days. Then his thoughts traveled further back in time, and Shannonâs face popped up in his mind. He double-timed his push-ups, trying to erase the image. Her face disappeared, only to be replaced by flashbacks of the disappointed expressions of his mother and father in the courtroom. Amp drew in deep, angry breaths and went even harder with each exercise. It felt good to take his frustration out on something. He needed this.
A few people watched him from a distance, including a woman pushing her infant in a stroller, who could barely keep her eyes on the pathway as she admired Ampâs immaculately sculpted frame. Amp was too focused to notice. As far as he was aware, it was just him and the trees.
Amp was covered in sweat as he stood up, dusted off his hands, and caught his breath. He felt better nowâcalmer, stronger. The determination was back in his eyes. He didnât care how far he had to search; he was going to find a job. His life depended on it.
He also decided that in order to move forward, he would need to let go of the past. He could only do that if he talked to Shannon and tried to make things right. First, he would have to find her.
After an intense workout, he headed back toward the house. On the way he noticed a small, run-down convenience store. Thirsty as hell but unwilling to drink from the filthy fountain in the park, he stopped in to grab something to drink.
âGet out! You steal from me!â an older Asian guy shouted out. He was ushering a young black man out of the store, nearly running Amp over as he entered.
âCome on, Mr. Lam,â the black dude pleaded. âYou know I wouldnât play you like dat.â
âYou steal from me!â Mr. Lam continued. âYou fired. No come back here again. Fired! You come back, I call police. You go to jail.â
Amp watched the young, alleged thief walk away while Mr. Lam stood there pointing, ranting and raving, now in his native tongue. If Amp had been a cartoon character, a little light bulb would have hung over his head as an idea popped into his mind.
Mr. Lam reentered the store, still fussing under his breath.
âExcuse me, sir,â Amp said, trying to get the store ownerâs attention.
Mr. Lam was too busy muttering to himself.
âUh, excuse me . . .â His eyes happened upon the manâs name tag. âExcuse me, Mr. Lam.â
Upon hearing his name, Mr. Lam turned and faced the customer he was noticing for the first time. âYes,â he snapped, still very much agitated.
Instinctually, Amp was about to snap back, but then he remembered what Paul had told him about his attitude. He cleared his throat and tried again. âUh, Iâm sorry to bother you.â
Mr. Lamâs eyes traveled down to Ampâs workout clothes, which were now covered in sweat. Another one of Paulâs lessonsâthe one about appearanceâcame to Ampâs mind. He wasnât exactly dressed professionally, but at least it wasnât saggy jeans. He straightened himself up as best he could before sharing his idea with Mr. Lam. âMy name is Amp Anthony. Forgive my appearance. I was out jogging.â
Mr. Lam nodded and said in broken English, âCome on and get on witâ it. I very upset right now. This not good time.â
âIf you just fired himââAmp pointed toward the doorââdoes that mean that you have a job opening?â
A look came across Mr. Lamâs face, as if for the first time he was realizing he was in a fix. He was pissed, but there were a lot of empty shelves and racks that needed inventory placed on them before the neighborhood kids got out of school. He looked Amp up
Robert Asprin, Lynn Abbey