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The Stanton Harbor Grocery Massacre-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

86_ym_grocerystoremassacre_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2021

THE STANTON HARBOR GROCERY MASSACRE

by Roy Dorman

 

“I’m cheap, but I ain’t free.”

“Don’t mind him,” said Eloise Stanton, the owner of the Stanton Harbor Grocery.  “He don’t mean nothin’ by what he says. He ain’t quite right.”

Charlie Johnson stared at the old man, waiting to hear what he would say next.

Eloise interpreted Charlie’s look and said, “He might not say anything more for the rest of the day, if that’s what yer waitin’ on.”

She had bagged Charlie’s purchase and had her hand out waiting for payment.

“That’ll be $18.89,” she said. “As the sign says, we take cash only.”

Charlie put a twenty in her hand. “Keep the change.”

“Well, thanks, big spender,” said Eloise.

Charlie had turned to leave, but now he stopped and looked back at Eloise. Pale blue eyes stared as if daring her to say another word.

“Hey, I was just kiddin’ with ya,” she said. “I appreciate the tip, I really do.”

“He’s cheap and . . . , and he ain’t free,” the old man broke in again in his sing-song voice. The words he was saying were put together and spoken like a refrain from an old blues song.

“What did you just say?” asked Charlie, turning toward him.

The old man looked down at his scuffed work shoes and fell silent again.

Eloise opened the drawer below the cash register and took out an old .38 special. 

She’d only had three robberies, all attempted robberies as they turned out, in her forty-two years behind the counter. All three ended with the would-be robber dead on the floor. And if they hadn’t had a gun when they’d come into the grocery, they all had guns in their dead hands by the time the local sheriff arrived.  Eloise had seen to that little detail herself.

Charlie Johnson had also done his share of killing. It was his chosen profession.  He’d killed men and women who deserved killing, and men and women who had just gotten in the way of other men or women who had no use for them.

“I asked you a question,” said Charlie. “You callin’ me cheap?”

“Arnie don’t even know you,” said Eloise, now holding the pistol at her side. “I already told you he wasn’t quite right.” She tried to give this ornery customer a reason to back down and continue to his car.

“I’m not always true, but I’m never false,” said Arnie, still looking at his shoes.

Eloise sighed.

Charlie set his bag of groceries on the floor and pulled a Glock 17 from his shoulder holster.

“You have no clue who yer messin’ with, you crazy fuck,” he said, pointing the Glock at Arnie’s head.

“If you do anything but drop that pistol onto the floor, I will shoot you,” said Eloise in what she hoped was a convincing tone.

Charlie whirled to point his Glock at Eloise. But as he reached the end of his spin, Eloise shot him in the chest twice.

Though her aim was true, Charlie got off a wild shot that found its way into and out the back of Eloise’s skull by way of her right eye.

The echo from the three shots hung in the air with the smell of gunpowder. The coppery smell of blood quickly joined that gunpowder smell in the tight confines of the little grocery.

Arnie had clapped his hands over his ears at the sound of the shots. He now lowered his hands to his hips and looked at the two bodies on the floor of the store he had visited daily for most of his life.

Walking trance-like toward the cash register, he stopped about equidistant between Eloise and Charlie.

Arnie understood that his wife and the man who killed her were dead.

He raised his eyes to the ceiling and wailed, “You’re dead and I’m alive. I’m alive, but I’m dead.”

And then, looking down at his shoes, said, “I’m not a killer . . . , but I’ve killed.”

Arnie may not have been “quite right,” but he knew who’d really killed those two people.  

 

 

Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 65 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Bewildering Stories, One Sentence Poems, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Literally Stories, Dark Dossier, The Rye Whiskey Review, Near To The Knuckle, Theme of Absence, Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals. Unweaving a Tangled Web, recently published by Hekate Publishing, is his first novel. 


Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021