A Coward in Blue

Chuck Wendig is pulling those puppet string again, 1,000 words about flea markets.  What follows is my bullshit:

“It’ll be ok, trust me…”  She could barely look me in the eye.  She is so scared.  Those lips that I have kissed a thousand times mouth the words “my God,” in an endless litany.  “Shhh, baby, it’ll be over soon, just stay cool and we’ll get through this.”  She finally catches my eyes and the anguish and fear is palpable, a pale horse driving a wedge between us.

The groan of a turning combat boot startles me with its nearness.  I could smell the gun oil.  He is so close.  “Just don’t look at him honey, eyes to the floor.”

“Hey, fucko! You got something to say?”  He pushes my head forward savagely, I stay quiet.  “I’m talking to you mother fucker!”  He presses the gun barrel to my temple.

I raise my head and can’t help but take in the scene.  Lunchtime, first of the month, bank is packed with people trying to deposit checks to cover their bills.  Twenty hostages all on their knees with hands behind their heads.  Four heavily armed men, two white, one black, one Latino, all wearing masks but leaving their forearms bare.  Living machines of guns and knives.

My wife of twelve years kneeling beside me, weeping, desperately wanting to grab my hand and bury her face in my shoulder.  We were on our way to lunch at Tessaro’s.  I was planning on giving her an early anniversary gift.  The small hinged box in my pocket feels heavier than it should.  But first we had to deposit a check…

“Like I thought, fucking pussy.”  He drives the gun barrel into my head hard, and I piss my pants.  Then he walks off.

I lower my head in shame.  I should be at work now, miles away from this bullshit.  It’s all her fault.  I can’t walk in a fucking straight line.  Over a decade of “hey babe get this, hey babe let’s stop here…”  Again and again.  I wanted a fucking burger.  Lunch hours aren’t that fucking long, a fucking hour.  Sixty god damn minutes to steal in the middle of the bullshit day.  But no…

She is crying again, hard, agitating the robbers.  One of the whites and the Latino are at the counters, the black guy is on crowd control and the other white guy is watching the street.  There are five kids here.

The security guard is dead.  Shot in the very beginning of the event.  His blood has been making a straight red line to where I kneel in a puddle of my own piss.

The white guy on the door starts screaming profanities and runs back to the counters.  “That fucking cunt hit the alarm!” He unloads four bullets into the fat lady behind the computer.  I think her name was Gloria.

“Fuck man, we have to get out of here.”

“Too late, three fucking berries just pulled in.”

“What the fuck…Jake what are going to do?”

“Not use our names you fucking dipshit.  Grab a couple of hostages.  Bitches.”

The robbers, now full of direction, dash into action.  The black guy walks over to my wife.  “Come on bitch.”  As he grabs her arm savagely, I think two distinct thoughts:

The first thing I think is that the black guy as a weird scar on his inner forearm.

The second is that this is the moment you always see in movies.  “No, take me, not her.”  Chivalry, heroism, all that shit.  I look into my wife’s eyes as she is pulled pleading towards the front door.  We are locked.  We see each other souls at that moment and I turn my head.

Heroes die, cowards live.

The leader, “Jake” starts asking us to empty our pockets.  I slide the little hinged box as far away from me as hard as I can.  The security guard’s blood makes it a difficult task.

Jake is smiling as he picks it up.  He kneels in front of me, “This is a nice locket, Jennifer and Mike until the stars turn off…”  He turns his head to wear the black guy is holding her like a shield against his body, the non-gun hand fiercely molesting her breast.

“Sure, you don’t want us to, you know, take you instead?  Seems like you love her a lot.”

Jake gives me a mocking smile through the hole in his ski mask, snot comes out of my nose as a snob racks my body.

“Didn’t think so, what a fucking hero.”

The run out of the door shielded by my wife and three strangers.

I roll on my side covered in piss.

***Six Months Later***

I am walking in a flea market over at the La Costa Drive-In.  There are kids everywhere, screaming, the noise nearly kills me.

My phone rings, collection companies hunting me down.  Since the divorce my credit went to shit, so here I am looking for a used coffee table.

Yet I don’t find much.  I wander down the aisle and tables.  I spend much of my time alone.

In the back, near the main screen I see a table with some nicer things.  Silver vases, televisions, DVDs, and jewelry.  My nights really consist of me hiding from the reporters that hang out in my yard every night.  I jerk off two or three times before going to bed.

I cry a lot.

DVDs are always a welcome distraction so I head over, killing time browsing.

“Hey man, what are you looking for?  I kind of have a hard on for organization so you want horror, mystery, anything like that I’ll show you what box.  The uh, adult stuff is in the red box.”  The speaker is a burly black guy with a not-quite-there mustache.

I mumble something and continue looking.  I can’t find anything I can’t live without and get ready to walk away when I see a small hinged box with a locket.

My knees buckle a bit and great sob wracks me.  The black guy comes over, “You like that one?  Fifty bucks man.”  When he points I see a funny looking scar on the inside of his forearm.

I throw everything in my wallet on the table, grab the locket and run away.

Behind me I hear the guy say, “Thanks Officer.”


6 thoughts on “A Coward in Blue

  1. BA,
    This story of yours was one of my favorites this week. I really the like the way you kept the tension up and paid it all off in the last line. Well done.

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