He looked down. Black. Burnished. There was a gun in his hand. It wasn’t the first time and he now understood how his bad side could burn. A smoldering soul. Looking through the front windows of the 7-11 store, he cursed at the police lined up in the street. This was no mercy show. Squad cars were row on row… standoff. End game scenario. His road to ruin. SWAT were on the roof across the street and he periodically saw them changing position. Silhouetted. “They should know better…” he mumbled, reaching for a beer from the six pack cooler behind him. His nerves were close to snapping like a dried up rubber band and thoughts scurried through his mind like ants. He couldn’t think straight. “Damn!” The phone rang. He moved deeper into the shadows… “Yeah?” Stern voice. Police. Negotiations. The negotiator asked him if he was alone and once assured that he was, told him that he alone held the power. A safe outcome could only occur if he walked out now. “It is the right thing to do.” he added. He let the line go dead after asking for some time. They said that they would get in touch with him in an hour or so. He didn’t think the police would storm the building. They knew he was armed and obviously dangerous. The first police officer through the door behind him found out. He turned and shot him through the leg. Broken glass splintered across the room with his next two shots and fellow officers quickly dragged the wounded officer clear of the building and out to safety. Sweating and in a full-blown panic, he squatted behind an ice cream freezer, awaiting a furious assault that never came. His ears were humming. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” He cursed himself with fury. His heart hammered and his eyes darted frantically around the edge of the freezer. Watching. Waiting.
After a time… loudspeakers. The police broke it down for him into easily digestible pieces. Surrounded. Doom. He knew that it was over for him. That had been three hours ago and they still tried talking him into leaving the building. Capitulation. He smirked under the glare of the nearby revolving police lights outside. “Surrender myself to what!? A cage for the next fifty years?” He didn’t find such a prospect very appealing. Well, he had an hour left to figure things out. Things would be what they would be. Sitting on the floor, he couldn’t quite comprehend how he had ended up here. He had a son… Well, his ex-girlfriend had a son. He had a restraining order against him, preventing his contact with the child and the mother. Once, they had been a happy couple. They had named the boy Charlie… he liked that name. Yet, a few short years of his being gone, not paying support and remaining, “A loser…” as she frequently referred to him, had shown them both that what little remained between them wasn’t worth saving. A few days ago, he found out through her family that she had desperately needed money. Charlie’s asthma was pretty bad lately, his health problems worsened and bills were piling up. He sat up all night and in the morning had found himself standing in front of the Comerica Bank.
The bank opened, he walked in and slipped the teller a note. Things went fine. He barely spoke and simply showed her the pistol under his jacket. Compliance. A small cloth bag was slid across the counter and he stepped into the morning light outside. He made a straight line for his truck. The line quickly unravelled… Police. Running. People pointing and frantic. 7-11 loomed in front of him and in he went… they followed. In his mind, he had taken it to the end, where it begins. Munching on cashews, he set the pistol on the floor. He reached over and picked up a skateboard magazine off the shelf. He once skated. He missed it. Life had been so much better when his friends would get together and ride the bowls at the park. He paged through it as he tried to settle his nerves… He needed to stop thinking for a few minutes and calm down… “Whoa! This dude is pretty good.” A photograph showed a skater named Brad McClain in a backyard pool.
Youth. What had happened to his? He didn’t know. He looked up from the magazine and thought of his friends and skating. Things sure were simpler back then. He shook his head at the thought. A chasm had opened up between what he was and what he had now become. It was probably better not to think on these things, as somewhere along the way, venom had taken up residence inside his heart.
He had flipped the page. It was a full page photograph of McClain doing a huge hip transfer. Unreal. He set the magazine down and took a look outside. The police were still there, caught up in what they deemed to be right. Right? Them. Wrong? The rest of us. Well, they sure were stoic. ”The waiting awaits them…” He grabbed another beer and sat back down. He was feeling a bit less stressed. It would all be undone soon enough… The great end. He felt a strange calmness. He took a sip of his Corona and picked up the pistol again. He wiped it off and checked the magazine. Four rounds… “One for me and three for all of them.” he murmured. Disturbed by such thoughts, he set the pistol on the floor between his feet. Looking at the clock, he rubbed his eyes and he tried not to sink… it was hard not to sink. He felt like he’d been sinking his whole life. Titanic. Not enough life boats…
“How the fuck did it come to this?” Mumbling. Pacing. The store lights flickered and the isolation he felt was staggering. All he wanted to do was go back in time. He wondered if he should just run outside shooting. At least they’d kill him. It sure beat fifty ears in prison. It was hard to die. He was startled as the phone rang. It jolted him. “Yeah….” Negotiator. “Last chance kid. Make the right decision. You’ve made far too many wrong ones this day. Let’s end this thing and set it right.” He hung up. Silence fell and all he ever hoped to be would never come to pass. He knew it and it overwhelmed him. He started walking toward the door. He saw revolving lights. They momentarily lit his face in crimson. He wondered briefly of Charlie. His boy. Legacy. He hoped Charlie didn’t see him being arrested on the evening news. His skin felt hot. Flushed. The pistol in his hand hung forgotten at his side. He saw movement as he approached the glass doors. Muzzles. Guns. He reached out with one hand. “It is hard to die…” He pushed the door open and stepped into his destiny.
Thanks to MRZ and Deville Nunes for the images. Skate- Ozzie