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The Boston Globe

Metro

Yvonne Abraham

Stealing hope

Twice in two weeks, the couple has been confronted by an America that seems to mock their dreams.

The first time, the man was wearing a gray hoodie, and a scarf over his face. He went to the back of their Roxbury convenience store just after it opened, pulled a gun on an employee loading milk into the refrigerator, and cleaned the place out.

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Last Sunday, minutes after another employee unlocked the door, it happened again. Same routine, what looked like the same gun. And the owners of the Quick Pick convenience store believe — the same man, possibly one of their customers.

“I am proud of America,” said the husband, an immigrant from India. “I am an American citizen. They set Osama bin Laden as a target and they get him. Why can’t they get this guy?”

Thin and worn and afraid to have his name printed, the husband, 39, leaned against a wall in the back of the store, taking a break from dispensing Marlboros and Set For Life scratch tickets. His wife, small and resolute, stood beside him. They came here from Gujarat because they believed America was a place without corruption, where you couldn’t help but get ahead if you had talent and worked hard enough.

In India, the husband was an engineer, a shift supervisor at a tire plant. His university-educated wife worked at a gas station in Canada before joining him not long ago. Two summers ago, they opened their store from scratch, using their own savings and money borrowed from family.

Until recently, it was all going as they had hoped. The business was building nicely. They had their first child four months ago. It didn’t matter that they no longer made use of their educations. It was all about their son now, and his future.

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“Our dream, you know, you want to be a success in your life,” he said. “I don’t want to be a millionaire, or a billionaire. I want to save money. My dream is to have a normal life. My family, peace, sleeping well at nighttime.”

But peace eludes them these days, especially at night. They can’t bear the thought that their employees were in danger, and could be again. The man police seem unable to track down has stolen so much more from them than money.

“I’m nervous,” the husband said, weeping. “We have this dream, we spend all this money. I cannot sleep.”

His wife pulled his hands away from his face and held them: “There is nothing going to happen, OK? We do business. That is life.”

There is so much they don’t understand about this country. They cannot fathom why so many people have guns, why they see murders and robberies so often on the news.

“Even the banks are not safe,” said the wife, 38. “I thought we were in the number one country.” And they cannot understand why so many people choose to take things from others, instead of earning them for themselves.

“The government feeds their mouths like babies,” the husband said. “They don’t want to work. . . . That guy, he brings his gun to my store like that is his job. I work 15 hours, seven days a week. I never have a day off in my life. [After] I pay my debts there is only money left for our nourishment. We do the right thing.”

They are not naïve. They have worked in enough stores to know that they are sometimes robbed. Sometimes. Not twice in two weeks.

“They have their target,” the husband said. “I’m scared now. It’s one kind of terrorism.”

Their regular customers are angry — and worried about them.

“They are very supportive to us, the older people and the younger people,” the husband said. “The neighborhood I like, and they like us also. They say, ‘If you need us, we will stay here for you.’ ”

They are grateful for this goodness. But is it enough to keep the Quick Pick’s owners from giving up on this particular dream?

They don’t know yet.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham

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