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November 20, 2009


The Getaway

The two men are supposed to rob the store they’re standing in.  Their plan is to buy some items and scope it out, ride around and take some whiskey for the nerves, and come back when it is likely to be empty.  One is going to watch the front door from the outside and the other is going to get the dough.  But Rob (the lookout) gets antsy in the candy aisle and decides that they’re going to give it a go right then, even though Louie (the trigger man) knows this is probably not a very good idea.

They walk outside and Rob gives Louie a forward head tilt as he takes his place next to the Salem Lights poster on the front door.  Louie walks back in with his hood up over his head.  He has the distinct feeling that the light has become brighter than it was before.  It is almost thick, like a fluorescent fog.  He also notices the techno song thumping from the speakers located high up in the corners of the store, which he somehow missed before.  In fact, the only thing familiar is the smell of the hot dogs that have been spinning in their smudged glass case for the last nine hours.

Louie walks up to the counter, slow, too slow.  He knows the guy behind the counter is telling himself everything’s okay.  Louie knows it is not.  He has been here before, standing in front of someone who has no power, only fear and dread and sick anticipation.  The first time it felt better than anything he had ever known.  It felt like a purge.  A vomiting up of all the shit that had been thrown at him in his life.  Like a grand tilt back in his direction.  Louie can remember how he smiled, even though he didn’t really feel any connection to it, the same way sometimes a person feels a tear leave an eye without much of an understanding of how it got there.

But Louie doesn’t feel any of that right now.  This time he’s also overcome with fear. It starts in his gut and splays out from there. It doesn’t have anything to do with getting caught, so he’s not even quite sure where it is coming from.

The clerk breaks the silence, the sound of his voice suddenly like an avalanche replacing the quiet hum of a snowstorm.  “Can I get you something?” he asks.

Louie turns and looks at Rob, and Rob looks back, but he does it with a kind of focus and intensity missing from Louie’s eyes.  Then Rob nods his head, as though that will be the thing that will make this all get going and over as quick as possible.

Louie puts his hands in the pockets of his jacket.  In one pocket he has a cell phone and in the other he has a .380 caliber pistol.  He touches the fingertips of his right hand on the cold and solid and heavy metal of his gun.  He looks straight at the clerk, and with his left hand he dials three numbers on his cell phone.  A nine, a one, and another one.  He glances over at Rob, who has the look of someone who’s got something dawning on him, but isn’t sure enough to commit.  Louie takes his left hand out of his pocket and uses his right hand to point the still pocketed gun at the clerk.  It looks like a tent pole in his jacket.

“Get down on your knees,” he tells the clerk, who is now completely terrified of the moment he has been waiting for.

Louie walks behind the counter, and slowly gets on his knees beside the clerk and in front of the safe.  “Is the back door straight through there?”  Louie asks in a low voice, using his head to gesture to the back of the store.

The clerk nods yes, big and wild-eyed.

Louie knows Rob is getting more nervous with every tick of the watch that doesn’t produce Louie and the loot.  He sees him mutter, “Come on, come on,” outside the window.

Back in the store, Louie winks at the clerk.  And without saying another word he starts crawling toward the back of the store, like a toddler who has learned to move fast on his hands and knees because he can’t walk yet. This scares the clerk even more, and Rob doesn’t see a thing.

Louie makes it all the way to the back in very little time.  Once he is in the storage room, surrounded by stacks of clean smelling boxes, he stands up again.  He pulls the hood off his head.  He opens the heavy black metal door and a blast of chilled air smacks him.  He starts running into the limitless night, the boom of his heart competing with the thud of his boots on the frozen earth.  All at once, he feels the drunkenness of being trapped and chased, along with a kind of freedom that makes him feel like ripping his chest open with his bare hands as he runs through the dark woods.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2009 1:13 am

    You write some good fiction.

    And poetry.

    And crit.



  2. November 21, 2009 3:42 am

    Love the last line in this. Got me in the gut.

    I printed out your craving, to enjoy again with morning coffee. Thank you.

    Peace, Linda

  3. November 21, 2009 11:26 am

    Well I can’t say I blame Louie – the last thing a robber needs is an antsy lookout!
    This was fun, and I particularly liked the use of Louie’s heightened senses, it certainly increased the tension!

  4. November 21, 2009 4:03 pm

    I liked where this went. So glad the poor clerk did not end up in a pool of blood. Redemption, it seems, can be found in the most unusual of circumstances. Nice piece.

  5. November 21, 2009 8:26 pm

    Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone.

    Yes, on the antsy lookout. Can you imagine…geez.

    And redemption, I hope can be found anytime and anywhere, at least that is a notion which I cling to.

    Also, I’m honored to know someone would include me with their morning coffee. 😉


  6. November 22, 2009 4:20 pm

    Wow! wonderful tension in this piece. I don’t blame Louie one bit. When your gut says no, you’ve got to go!

  7. November 23, 2009 12:26 pm

    Thanks, Deb. I’m glad you felt the tension, and you’re right about your gut. We should all probably listen to it a little more. 😉

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