1024 Words

A Moment's Decision

Glynn Sharpe

He studied his toenails while he thought about the job. His basement apartment reeked of burned grilled cheese sandwiches. He drew his foot onto his lap and craned his neck forward looking for a soft spot to peel. He caught the edged corner of his big toe and tore off a crescent moon shaped nail. He brought it to his nose then threw it to the floor. He picked up the sport bag, that lay there beside him, and placed it on the stool. He slipped his hand into the bag. He wrapped his index finger around the curl of the trigger and pulled the gun out. It perched on his finger like a house trained budgie. He twisted it around awkwardly before clutching it firmly, confidently in his hand. He closed his eyes and followed the movie in his head. His mouth moved while he rehearsed what he was going to say. It would only take a moment and he'd be gone. This was his plan; his idea. No one helped him. For the first time he didn't need anyone's help. He spun around wildly and laughing, filled the room with silent bullets. It was his time.

No one was home upstairs. He wouldn't have to answer to anyone. He tucked his scarf into his coat and made his way into the cold February morning. The bright sun held him. He shielded his eyes with his gloved fingers and waited for them to adjust. He peered through his binocular hands up and down the treed street, into the motionless cars and up at a passing plane. He took his hand from the warmth of his glove and pushed the plane along with his finger. The glove fell to the wet sidewalk and bled from beige to dark brown.

The bag bounced off his thigh with each step. He could see the store through his tearing eyes. His nose and eyes ran. He wiped them both with the sleeve of his coat. There was a picnic table on the grassed side of the store. He remembered watching the teenage employees sitting there sharing a Coke and quick cigarette. He sat on its wooden top and placed the bag at his feet. He pushed it back and forth between his heels. He rocked on his bottom and clapped his arms for warmth. He could hear the store door bell ring with each passing customer. It made him think of Christmas time.

A wave of hot air caught him directly in the face as he entered the store. The morning commuter crowd was making its last stops before work. The noise of the cash register and the commotion unnerved him. He needed to settle himself. He joined the calm of the cash machine line and waited for things to slow down. He fixed his eyes on the coat in front of him. His eyes went in and out of focus. His head swam. When it was his turn, he moved passed the machine with his head bowed like a guilty man slinking past a confessional. He fingered the chip bags as he made his way to the back of the store. He caught a glimpse of himself in the hanging security mirror and stopped. His curly blond hair jumped from his wool cap. He dropped the bag. His hands went to the distorted image in the mirror to fix the tangled mess. His fingers made little combs that moved with gentle precision. He adjusted his hat, stroked his face with his hand and snatched up the bag. He jumped when the store manager touched him on the shoulder and asked him if he needed any help. His bottom lip shot out and clung loosely to the base below his nose. He hugged the bag close to his chest and studied his wet runners. The manager, growing impatient, asked him again if he needed any assistance. He brought his eyes up from his feet to meet the managers and said, "No. I don't need your help. I don't need it." The manager blinked rapidly as he looked up and studied his face. He took a step back, dropped the bag to his side and walked towards the front door. He could see the store manager a few steps behind him in the doors reflection as he hurried out.

He knew he would fail. He had failed at everything he did in his life. He broke into a wild run and cursed himself. The gun bounced off the walls of the bag. He shook it violently as he ran down the busy street. He slowed his pace to a walk and sat down on a bus bench. He shut his eyes. His chest heaved and fell with his laboured breathing. His body shook from the cold. He twisted the metal clasp of the bag between his fingers and decided to go on.

He crossed the street to avoid passing the convenience store. The roar of the cars cutting through the slush was deafening. He turned his head and watched the store as he marched on. He could see the manager standing at his station behind the cash register. The manager, seeing him, walked to the front door and, with arms folded, followed him with his eyes. He twisted his head forward and lengthened his stride. He was frightened and angry and ashamed of himself.

He took the gun and tossed the bag into the garbage can at the donut shop door. It was empty of customers. He walked towards the man behind the counter and raised the gun to shoulder level. He held his breath tight as it shook in his hand. The shop-keep looked up from his paper and walked out from behind the black counter. The man stretched his hand out and took the yellow nozzle of the gun. It slipped easily from his hands. The blue plastic handle was wet from sweat. The man took his hand and led him towards his coat that hung by the door. The shop would only have to be closed for a few minutes. He lived so close.

Copyright ©1998 Glynn Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.

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Story Bytes


May, 1998
Issue #25

1024 Words