BALLAD OF A HEIST
Man called Fu. Slap stepping. Into a New World. The drug store. Where he had never been. Not a foot. If you don’t count looking in. And wishing. They wouldn’t let him in. Been warned. No beggars in the aisle.
“Oh man,” he said. His eyes were wide open. “Look at all this shit! It hurts to look.”
He was wiped out. But why had he been drawn inside the New World? Something had whispered in his ear.
Today your future will be revealed in a lullaby.
Behind him. But not too far behind him stepped the Drug Store Bandits. Doing the Fox Trot and leading the way was Tony. Boy, did he look sharp? Pressed and put on a bright new Hawaiian shirt.
“Hey man,” he said. Even his voiced sparkled. “Don’t I look sharp!” He was glad that he showered and shaved that morning. The drug store was so clean. Wouldn’t want to look out of place. On the surveillance.
Now Teddy came in toe tapping. Put metal clamps on the bottom of his running shoes. On his toes. That made each of his steps tap. He had a few moves that he was willing to dump. But mostly he felt his routine was top rate. God, he hoped his mask was on straight. And who the hell was Tricky Dick?
Sean brought up the rear. Like doing a line dance. The Stroll. Stepping down the gauntlet of household products. Lead me to the drugs, he hummed.
Out of the back of the drug store stepped Mr. Edwards. He’d seen better days. His smile was a heavy load to bear that day. Deborah Hall winked at him.
“How are you doing today, champ?” she cried. “Where’s the spark? Bend your ear, and listen to my version. Life is its own reward. You don’t need a long face. Squint those eyes. I’ve never been happier.”
The cashiers, Bea, May, and Josephine, danced like a chorus line out of the room that read Employees Only. Singing, “We’re not really late, boss. We had a revelation. Who wants to complain about low pay and long hours? As long as you’re alive, there’s no reason to cry.”
Mr. Martins sat at the heart monitor. His arm stuck in the sleeve. He waved at Tony as he approached the pharmacy counter. Felt like a lounge singer. Aka Frank. All he needed was a tie. Loosened. A fedora. Tipped to one side. And a voice.
“I don’t know the kid,” Mr. Martins explained, “but it doesn’t do any harm to be friendly.”
Tony stepped up. Pharmaceutical counter. And demanded to be serviced. Teddy moved over to the west side. Took out his plastic gun.
“I was up bright and early,” he said to no one in particular. “God, the air was clean.”
Sean moved to the other side. And wished he’d had a smoke. There was a sign that read No Smoking. And it was by law.
“I’d like to find a tree that’s shady.” He smiled.
Tony took out his gun. And threw a bag over the counter.
“I want all your drugs. Especially the expensive ones. And don’t try to skin me. I know my meds. And this gun is loaded. Waiting to explode. And if I was you, I’d fulfill my requests.”
“You can say that again,” Teddy roared. “I used to be a cry baby. But if you think I’ll shrink from blowing a hole in your head, just try me.”
Most of the customers who were gathered around, including Mrs. McGuire, Mr. Johnson, Tom Payne, Fu, and the three cashiers, hit the floor. Smack. Smack. Smack.
Except Mr. Newton. The bank manager stood in front of Tony. He turned around.
“I was here first,” he said. “I demand to be served first. That’s my right. And I won’t give it up to the likes of you. Hooligans.”
Tony placed the barrel of his gun against the temple of Mr. Newton. And pulled the trigger. A flash sprang out the barrel. And burned Mr. Newton’s skin. Who winced. Tony had the lighter. At that same moment, Sean had grown tired of waiting and taken out a smoke. No Smoking. What do I care? When he lit his cigarette. Sean had the gun and not the lighter. How had things gotten so messed up. And if Sean could have rectified things he would have. The bullet fled up the barrel. Of the gun. Continued on up the barrel. Of Sean’s head. His nose. Into his memories. And out his skull.
“That was a mistake,” he might have said.
Mr. Newton fainted. Knowing the bloody brains splattered on the wall should have been his.
“What a thrill!” everyone else cried.
Teddy began to cry. His solace could not be eclipsed.
“He was my friend,” he sang. And once on key.
Tony was out the door. Which read Fire Exit.
Everyone else breathed easier. Except Sean.
Fu jumped to his feet and waved his hands in the air. “I see a chance to change my life. I’m going back to high school.”