Posted: March 25, 2010 in Fiction

I start my new job on Sunday. The atmosphere at Charlotte Russe has become so toxic that I can’t take it anymore, but I had been flirting with PacSun for a while now, and the timing couldn’t be better. I’ll be training at the Flatirons Crossing store, but I’ll eventually end up at the Colorado Mills store. I’m pretty damned excited. In other news, my post-Gulf Wars- funk continues, but at least I’m not the only one. It’s not that I WANT other people to be unhappy, but misery does love company… And now for today’s story. Don’t know when or where the idea was born, or if it was even mine. Probably not… There are no new ideas. So as usual, I’ll just try to tell the story well.

I knew that dame was trouble the minute she walked through my door. Nobody who looks like that has ever been good for my health. It’s always some story about how she’s in trouble with the mob, or she needs to know if her professional-athlete-husband is cheating on her, or something equally bad for my health. The worst part? I know exactly what’s going to happen, and the girl bats her eyes and I get a bad case of the stupids. Sure, honey, I’ll protect you. Christ, I’m an idiot. I duck into the nearest alley. It’s dark and wet and filthy, but the air has a lot fewer bullets in it so that’s a plus. I duck down behind the first dumpster I get to, and slide to the ground. I need a couple minutes to get back in fighting shape if I expect to watch another sunrise.

I reach into my vest and pull out a small toolkit. It’s not easy to do, but I get it unzipped and opened in front of me. I lay my right arm in my lap, and pick up the utility knife with my left. I hate this part. I press the blade into the skin of my arm. Blood pulses out in time with my heartbeat. I carve a nice Roman numeral into myself, and open the flaps. I love trying this kind of thing in the dark. Wait – I fish out my lighter. Laugh at me for having a zippo all you want, but that little spark wand they sell at the gas station wouldn’t cut it for this. I curl my right hand around the lighter using my left. The motion coincides with a wet grinding noise. Guess I know what at least part of the problem is. I ignite the wick. The guttering flame shows me a red glittering mess. It’d be kind of pretty if my life didn’t depend on my ability to fix it.

I take a small rag from my toolkit and smear it around inside the wound. Not exactly hygienic, but it helps me find the plastic casing for all the machinery. I grab up the utility knife and slice a hole in the casing. Inside is a tangle of wires that snake a trail through a series of metal rods. I drop the knife and poke around with my fingers. There it is: a bullet is lodged between a couple of the rods. I feel around a bit more and find some severed wiring too. Fantastic. My fingers come out covered in something that feels like Crisco. I haven’t been covered in both blood and machine goo in a while. I take a pair of needle-nosed pliers and tug at the bullet. It’s stuck in there pretty good, but I can’t really afford to give up. With a squeak, it pops out. Now for the really fun part. I count about six loose ends in there, and I still can’t move my right arm. I squint in the flickering light and start trying to figure out which one goes to which.

I’m so busy working out my little wire puzzle that I guess I didn’t hear the footsteps. I look up to the sound of a voice in the dark. “Look what we got here,” it says. One of the big dudes who was chasing me. I can’t see him because I’ve been looking into the light for the past couple of minutes, but he’s close. Probably got a gun trained on me too. I know I would.

“Gimmie a second,” I say. “I’m almost done with this.”

“Take yer time,” he says. I hear the sound of motion, and everything goes white for a second. He punched me in the face. My head bounces off the wall I’m sitting against, and everything goes black.

I must’ve only been out for a second. I’m still sitting up against a wall, and I
can feel something dripping from my nose.

It takes effort, but I hold still and listen. The ape who hit me is still here, and he’s
I don’t hear the other side of
the conversation, so he’s on a phone.
risk opening one eye.
He’s not looking
at me.
I feel around with my good hand,
slowly, and find my utility knife.
gather it up and hold it along my forearm.

Now for the waiting game. I can’t
get away with charging the guy.
For one,
he’s huge, and for another he has a gun that’d bring down an elephant.
He’s saying something about how he found me,
which means they want me alive.
That can’t
be good for me.
It also means he’s gonna
have backup.
I don’t have long to make
good on my escape.
Ok, I’ve got a
I saw this in a video game

I test my right arm. Nothing.
Damn it. Didn’t quite get my
wiring job done.
There’s also the matter
of the open wound I created to get at it, but all that will have to wait.
Ok, here goes nothing. I groan.
Loud enough that he can hear me.
I hear, “Hang on a minute,” followed by footsteps. I listen to boots crunch on gravel and broken
He’s coming closer. “Hey.
You ok?” he asks. He leans in
nice and close, with his gun under my chin.

This one is fun for me, especially since lately I do feel like a chump whenever a girl is involved. It’s come up a couple of times now: at what point does a failure to act change from respect of boundaries to fear? I have told myself a number of times that I was trying to be the good guy or that I was doing the right thing, but it kind of feels like I’m rationalizing a fear of rejection (or a fear of success; who knows?) so that I don’t have to feel bad about it. I forget who said it, but “Conscience does make cowards of us all.” Oh well. One more flaw for me to work on.


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