Roland ripped the wrapper off the Payday
Monday morning, the drug store parking lot
on the edge of town nearly
empty at just after nine.
Ten minutes late. Roland was cold. It
was January, 1969.
The putt-putt of a 50cc moped. Tiny pulled
up, grinning like an
idiot behind the helmet’s visor. “Let’s do this thing!” he said, or something
close to that, muffled by the helmet.
The candy bar was like sawdust. Roland
spat it out and turned to Tiny, standing next to his scooter, helmet under his
Be calm. Keep it under control. Be a
“The first rule is that we all pull
together in unison,” Roland said, trying to make eye contact.
Tiny nodded. Eager to please.
“That includes showing up at the
“Traffic on Route One was a bitch,”
Tiny said. “All these tractor trailers lined up to turn left on Cherry Lane.
“Meanwhile, the world turns,” Roland said,
arms raised, expansive. “But we’re not a part of it. Just me standing at the ass-end
of this parking lot scratching my balls.”
“I brought the piece.”
Tiny lifted his shirt to reveal the .32-caliber
revolver stuck in
his waistband. “Dad’ll never miss it.”
Roland brushed away the tendril of
brown hair that dangled from his Mohawk, hitched his jeans over the
considerable bulk of his stomach, and stuck his hand out.
He hefted the gun in his hand and spun
Tiny shrugged. “I forgot to check. But
we’re not really going to use it, right?”
course, you moron, the plan isn’t to use it,” Roland said. “It’s the
threat. In its capacity as the threat, the weapon needs to be fully armed,
locked and loaded.”
“Nobody else knows it’s only got two
know,” Roland said.
A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind
horse, Roland decided, and moved on to the matter at hand. He pushed back the
sleeve of his oversized leather motorcycle jacket and checked his watch.
“She should be emerging any minute,”
he said, more to himself than Tiny, now playing miniature hockey with his foot
and a pebble.
Darla Jean Maples, part-time
bookkeeper at the Sassafras, Maryland Drug Fair, dependably flounced out the
front door every weekday morning at 9:30, the previous night’s receipts in a zipped
and locked cloth pouch clutched under her arm.
“Let’s go over it again.”
“When she’s half-way across the lot to
her car, I pull up next to her,” Tiny recited from memory.
“Yeah, got it,” Tiny said, reaching
inside his jacket. “Led Zeppelin, hot off the press.”
During Tiny’s brief tenure as the
assistant dishwasher and busboy at Drug Fair’s lunch counter, he and Darla Jean
had hit it off over a shared passion for hard rock.
It was with Darla Jean in mind that Roland
had made the trip to
D.C. and stood in line for four hours to snag a copy of what would become
1969’s biggest hit album.
“What do you do with it?” Roland said. Like to
“I show her the album, but don’t let
her touch it,” Tiny said. “Play a little cat-and-mouse. The goal being to
“…while I come up on my bike and
relieve her of the deposit money,” Roland said.
He shot a glance over his shoulder to make
sure that his machine, a
650cc Triumph, was secure on its stand at the back of the lot.
“Tell me again,” Tiny said, squinting
with the pain of thinking, “why you don’t just ride up and take the money?”
“She knows you. She’s a
sucker for Led Zeppelin. You’re the distraction.”
Darla Jean emerged through the big
automatic doors at the front of the store.
Tiny jumped on his machine and fumbled
with his helmet. Darla Jean started toward her car in the employee parking area
at the back of the lot.
Roland yanked the helmet out of Tiny’s
Tiny jumped on the kick starter. It
“Shit, it won’t start!”
Roland pulled out the piece and shot
Tiny between the eyes. He pitched over, the album falling to the pavement next
Darla Jean had her keys out, only a
few steps from her car. Roland jumped on the moped, gave it a kick, vroom vroom,
and made a beeline.
As Darla Jean was about to insert the
key, Roland pulled up on the sputtering moped.
“Tiny from the lunch counter says hi,”
he said and fired the last
round into her third eye. He grabbed the deposit bag as Darla Jean crumbled to
Roland circled back to his parked bike,
dismounted the moped and pushed it off into the tall weeds beyond the edge of
the parking lot.
The Triumph caught on the first kick.
He circled back to Tiny and scooped up the album on his way out.
Four fucking hours. Roland had to hear
Joe Surkiewicz is a reporter and writer living in Northern Vermont. His
fiction has appeared in Horror Sleaze Trash and in Shotgun Honey
(in September 2020). He is the author of several Unofficial Guide travel books
and has written for the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Outside
Online, and many university alumni magazines.
C. Walker was
born in Leeds in 1939. He studied Ceramics at Leeds College of Art and the Royal College
of Art. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, he was Personal Assistant to Eduardo
Paolozzi. Keith taught at Hull College of Art and Leicester Polytechnic, which is now De
Montfort University. In 994 he retired from Academia.
Keith says, “Digital technology
has made and continues to make big changes to all of our lives: the way we communicate,
the way we are monitored, the way we entertain ourselves, and much, much more.
We now leave a digital footprint
wherever we go, and with whatever we do.
Do we already have
one foot in an Orwellian world?
My collages are an investigation, with a small
“I,” on the impact of digital technology and its possibilities.”