Tag Archives: gun

Streetlights

Here’s a short Halloween tale, something to stir the imagination. Click the arrow below and I’ll read it to you.

A howl in the night began low and guttural. It intensified like one of those hand-crank air-raid sirens out of an old war movie—wavering and climbing. Others joined in with yips and howls and you could hear a hierarchy there. It was infinitely creepier than the film I was watching—Creature from the Black Lagoon.

It sounded close, but not dangerously so. I stepped out my front door warily and stood on my Halloween doormat to study the yard and then the rest of the neighborhood. The coyotes had moved on and the neighborhood was quiet. My lamppost was the only one lit down the whole street, everyone else had had enough.

I stepped down into my yard and walked out to the street. A thin fog had settled like a shroud, clearly visible in the cone from the streetlight.

It was eerily quiet and so dark I got a sense of being the last man standing. I saw something far down the street walking into the circle cast by the streetlight; a person in silhouette. As quick as I noticed the movement, the person passed beyond the circle of light and melted into the murk of night.

There was purpose in that walk and I waited patiently for another look. I don’t know why I was so interested in the figure and I thought about going back in to catch the rest of the movie instead. Then the silhouette appeared in the cone of the next street light.

The figure was short, the legs seemed unnaturally thick, and there was a tall, wide brimmed hat. It was a boy, I thought; and he was carrying something.

I stepped back onto my lawn when he arrived at the streetlight in front of my house to give him unhindered use of the sidewalk. Instead of passing by though, he stopped in front of me. He was indeed a boy, maybe eight years old. The cowboy outfit he had on wasn’t exactly new and included boots, chaps, and two gun belts that were crossed and worn low on each hip like gunslingers in the movies. He had an old pillowcase gathered in one hand, weighted with candy. With the other he tipped his hat back.

He said, “Evenin’ friend.” His lower lip scraped his upper teeth with the exaggerated first letter of friend.

“Good evening. What can I do for you?” I asked.

He drew a six shooter from its holster and pointed it at me. A curlicue of spent cap paper stuck out from the hammer which he pulled back with his thumb. “Give me your loot,” He said. I noticed dried chocolate at the corners of his mouth when he smiled. It was a devilish smile full of menace.

I raised my hands a little and I don’t know why, but I stammered as though truly threatened and he said, “Don’t make me use this on you.” The hard iron of the six shooter loomed ominously in his hand, even with the spent cap paper jutting out. It could do some real damage, I thought.

I tipped my head back toward the house and said, “The last of my loot’s just inside the door.”

“Alright, but don’t try nuthin’” He motioned to get a move on with his gun and followed behind.

I stepped up to my door, opened it and reached in for the bowl of candy. When I turned he was holding his pillowcase out and open, the six-shooter was pointing off into the shadows—finger out of the trigger guard.

“This is all I got.” I scooped up the box of Dots and three Snickers bars and dropped them into the pillowcase. “Happy Halloween.”

He peered down into the sack and said, “Gee, thanks mister,” and reached in. Tearing open a Snickers and stuffing it into his mouth; he gathered up the sack once more, holstered his piece, and tugged his hat back down. With a mouth too full for words, he nodded once and chocolate glistened again at the corners of his mouth. Strange as it sounds, he seemed more vibrant as if fueled by the chocolate. Then he turned and walked back out to the street, continuing on his way. With distance and through the next streetlight he became a silhouette again.

Beyond that cone of light he blended in with the night. But not before I caught another look. His hat sat on a skull, bleached with time. And that skull was perched on a stack of vertebrae disappearing down the collar of his shirt. He glanced back once, and his jaw opened slightly as if in a rictus smile. A veil of fog and the impenetrable gloom of night swallowed him and I was alone once more.

It occurred to me then, when I had time to think about it, I had seen that boy before. It was last year and he was wearing the same outfit. Why I didn’t remember earlier, I couldn’t say. But there was a magic in the moment of his arrival. And giving him treats left me with a sense that I had averted some trickery as yet undefined.

I wondered about that curlicue of cap paper, evidence he had indeed used the gun. To what end? Or whose?

A chill ran down my spine and I turned off the post light.

~***~

So that’s the story, and I’m sticking to it. Give me a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera. And let me know whether you liked it or not, because comments are like chocolate to the spirit in this tale—they fuel me.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

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wacked

Wicked laughter erupted from the darkened end of the bar and his attention snapped to. It frightened him. Three of them, together, and he could only imagine what sparked that bit of spirited laughter. They all wore their hair shoulder length with lots of bangly earrings and necklaces and rings, and they wore bright notice-me colors and they talked with exaggerated hand movements and he wondered how they would go about communicating if he chopped their arms right off. But that laugh; oh that laugh.

It reminded him of Mrs. Steinburg—how she’d laugh or make any noise at all, and louder than the rest of the women mother would have over a couple of times every month. Mother would tell him to stay in his room and not come out ‘or else’ and he was frightened to death to find out what the ‘or else’ could be. There were times when he would rock in bed, trying his hardest not to pee and afraid if he failed, things would go badly. He had his comic books to read and read again; he had read them so often even the advertisements were committed to memory. And every so often Mrs. Steinburg would cackle wildly like a crow kept from its carrion and snap him out of his little bubble. He’d look at his bedroom door expectantly, riddled with anxiety, and his mouth agape.

He closed his mouth when he noticed the loudest girl noticing him and he let his eyes wander away from seeing her so that it looked natural. He learned that trick when he was bored at the salon his mother dragged him off to; where he saw women getting all sorts of things done to their hair like having some pulled through rubber hats and painted colors that didn’t seem worth the trouble. The people in charge there always gave him looks filled with warning when they thought nobody was watching. As if he’d provide any trouble. Everyone had an idea about how he should act. Be seen and not heard was a general consensus.

It occurred to him that he was old enough to tell them how he was going to act. His therapist said it was normal to lash out once in a while. Everyone did it. He was surprised to hear that. He had thought about that very thing for years but kept it inside, churning in his gut. It festered within him like an unwashed idea that could never be allowed to see the light of day. Even Dr. Bowen, his therapist, was kept unaware of the dark, ulcerous ideas he harbored.

Most of his ideas were about women.

He turned his head toward the voice behind the bar and his field of view cleared—came into focus. She wanted to know what she could get him. It took him a couple of beats to realize she was the bartender and it was her job to wait on him.

“Could I have a ginger ale? W-with one of those little straws?”

“Sure, comin’ right up.” She smiled, did a slight little head tilt of curiosity, pushed away from the bar with both hands, and turned for a glass. He saw that she had violent pink streaks in her hair and he decided she was one of them. It put him on high alert.

She knew. He had to act now, before she could tell him what to do. That’s what they always did. They always told him what to do, how to act, what to say, and that was going to change today.

He stood; reached for the gun in his waistband. When the bartender turned with his ginger ale and put it on the bar, he stepped back and away from her.

“Quiet,” he said to her. Then to everyone else he hollered, “Everyone. I want everyone to get up and m-move to the far wall.”

They all saw the gun he waved and began to comply. There were only…eight. Eight plus the bartender. It was a start. There would be more. It was only late afternoon, and Friday nights this place is hopping. That’s the way it’s been anyway.

He’d be waiting; moving them to the back wall in groups. Showing them how he was going to act. He absently felt one of his bulging pockets, thinking he had plenty of ammo to keep showing them all night. Maybe then they would understand. He had never shown them before—shown them what he wanted. It was their turn to be quiet. He was going to show them all tonight.

He started with the cackling girls first.

Black Friday

Noddla Nocdar

Black Friday

A set of headlights hopped across the parking lot as a black Escalade hit the entrance from the street. Janice nudged Linda who was sitting in the passenger’s seat of her Navigator.

“This is it.”

“What if they don’t get out right away?”

“Nuh-uh; no you don’t. Get out. We were here first; but we have to—”

“It’s cold though; and wet.”

Janice grabbed her extra-large-regular. She was upset they didn’t have what she wanted as a free sample of Dunkie’s that early in the morning. It was advertised.

“Get out Lin, or they’ll be first.”

The girls got out. Janice fobbed the car as they double-timed it to the doors of what used to be a K-Mart. Those letters had been replaced with DOMINIC’S DISCOUNT ELECTRONICS. She could still see the cleaner parts of the building where the K-Mart name had been.

They beat out the couple from the Escalade by a few steps and then exchanged awkward greetings. One of the new arrivals looked to be the daughter of the other. They had the same shoulder length black hair.

Janice glanced at her watch; it was three-thirty. “According to the flyer I got in the mail, the doors open at four AM on Black Friday.” She sipped from her coffee and said, “I wouldn’t mind if they opened a little early.” She cupped a hand to her temple, trying to see inside. The glass door had been blacked-out so she could see nothing.

Linda said, “I never get up this early. This is kind of crazy.”

Janice looked at her while sipping more coffee. “No it’s not. Think of it: forty percent off GPS navigation, thirty-five percent off 52” LCD televisions, and they carry a line of Coach at fifty percent off.”

The older woman next to Linda said, “They have Coach? Wow.” To her daughter she said, “Did you hear that sweetie?”

“Yes mom.” She was looking at Janice as if Janice had just punched her mom. A black cloud formed over her.

“Sorry,” Janice said. “I spilled the beans, didn’t I?”

Other cars were showing up in ones and twos. The people coming to the door were mostly women. At first they formed a line, but as more showed up at the door from different parts of the parking lot, the line turned into a mob.

Someone next to Janice stepped on the lace of her sneaker and it was untied. She said, “I have to tie my sneaker. I’m going to sit. Hold my coffee Linda?”

She sat with her back against the building, trying to tie her sneaker with her oversized purse still on her shoulder when it happened.

The doors unlocked and swung in.

The herd began to move. Janice pressed her feet against the concrete, pushing her back into the building so she wouldn’t get knocked over and trampled. Several shoppers tripped over her feet but stayed up. As the doors swung shut she caught a glimpse inside.

It was dark; very few lights were on. The man who opened and closed the door had a ponytail and a week’s growth on his face. He wore a black leather vest. As he closed the door, something swung from his shoulder. It looked like a gun. It looked like a fake gun because it was all black; a movie prop perhaps.

Janice was the only one outside. With her sneaker tied, she rolled to her side and got up. After straightening her jacket, she tried the door. It was locked and her heart sank. She was alone. Several ramp trucks pulled into the parking lot and positioned to carry away cars that had only just arrived.

Janice began to worry. Linda was inside and the doors were locked. Her Navigator was in the lot and cars were being hauled away. Everything was wrong.

Suddenly, what could only be the sound of gunfire erupted on the other side of the doors. There had to be several guns from the sound of it. Janice lurched back, whimpered, and then got down to a crouch.

The gunfire dwindled down to single shots here and there and Janice fled from the front of the building. Fobbing her car door after a frantic search in her purse, she got in. Her eyes welled up and a tear turned black with mascara before it raced to her jaw line. She didn’t understand what was going on. The one thing she understood was that a lot of people were on the inside when the guns were being fired. Linda was inside. She was supposed to be in there as well, but she stopped to tie her shoelace.

She noticed two men in black reaching from the roof of the building. They were removing the black letters that spelled out DOMINIC’S DISCOUNT ELECTRONICS. The last car to be hauled away was the black Escalade the mother and daughter had arrived in.

Janice was found alone in the parking lot later that day. She couldn’t say what happened. She couldn’t say anything at all for quite some time.

Did you notice the Dunkie’s link in the story?