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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Joe Surkiewicz: Two Down

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Art by Steve Cartwright 2022

Two Down

 

by Joe Surkiewicz

 

 

Roland Risotto downshifted, swerved into the mini-mart’s empty lot, and parked his bike in front of the double doors.

       Two in the morning. Valentine’s Day.

       Inside, he was greeted by a cardboard display presenting a cornucopia of greeting cards, candy, and other holiday items, all sporting a heart motif. 

       It beckoned:

       ―show that you remember.

       ―take a moment to demonstrate you care. 

        ―don’t be a schmuck.

       Most important, Roland thought, as he perused the display, do not pull a repeat of last year.

       Two minutes later, a cat-themed card and an assortment box of chocolates in hand, Roland moved to the candy aisle.

       Bingo. Payday—peanuts and nougat. He hadn’t seen them in years. Roland picked up two bars and approached the clerk.

      “Eighteen eighty-five,” said the kid behind the counter, after ringing him up. “Need a bag?”

      “Mucho gracias.”

      Roland turned as the double doors opened. A man walked in, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Richard Nixon.

       He had a gun in his hand.

       Roland groaned.

       “Hands over your heads! This is a stickup!”

       Roland raised his arms. His bag, weighed down by the box, the Paydays, and an impulse buy of bottled water, swung against his head.

       “Can I put my bag down? It’s kinda heavy―”

       “A comedian. A comedian with a Harley.”

       Nixon walked to the counter and shoved a cloth shopping bag at the clerk. “Fill ‘er up.”

       Turning, he said, “You Roland Risotto? Ride with the Pagans?”

       “I don’t know you and can I put my bag down?”

       “Set it on the counter and raise your fuckin’ hands and no sudden moves. And you, register guy, do your thing.”

       Roland said to the clerk, “I don’t know this guy.”

       The clerk said, “I think he’s wearing a mask.”

       “You know who Richard Nixon was, right?”

       Nixon said, “Shut the fuck up and empty the register.”

       To Roland: “You’re a Pagan, right? The mother club outa Hyattsville? I’m sure I’ve seen you.”

       “Pagan? I’m Catholic.”

       “Naw, man, a one-percenter. You got outlaw biker written all over you.”

       Nixon leaned in and said, sotto voce, “Damn, Roland, it’s Chuck Sloat. I applied three times and got the blackball. You the motherfucker who had a hard-on for me?”

       “I quit the club. Sloat? Sure, I remember. Wasn’t me.”

       “C’mon, Roland, level. If it wasn’t you, who’d I piss off?”

       “This is not a confidence I usually share—club bylaws and all that—but under the circumstances, it was Rooster Ekimov.”

       Sloat took the money bag from the clerk and motioned Roland toward the door with the gun. “Why’d that cocksucker block me?”

       Roland shrugged. “Rooster did things the way Rooster did things.”

       At the door, Sloat picked up a giant bag of tortilla chips with his free hand. The money bag was clamped to his side by his left arm. The gun in his right hand was pointed at Roland.

       Sloat said, “How many blackballs does it take?”

       “One.”

       The money bag slipped down toward his waist. Sloat struggled not to drop it or the chips, the gun waving in the air.

       Roland said, “Allow me.”

       “Thanks,” said Sloat, and handed him the gun.

       Roland pointed it at Sloat’s throat and fired.

       He walked back to the register. The clerk, rising from behind the counter, said, “He didn’t strike me as outlaw biker material.”

       Roland snorted and picked up his bag.

       “Valentine’s Day. For my girlfriend.”

       “You better go. Cops are on the way.”

       Roland got to the entrance, stepped over Sloat, and pushed against the door. He turned to the clerk.

       “You do know who Richard Nixon was, right?”

       “Wasn’t he president before the black guy?”

       Roland raised the gun and shot him.

       Some people don’t deserve to live, Roland thought, as he climbed on his bike.

       Two down.

 

 

Joe Surkiewicz lives in northern Vermont. His fiction has appeared in Yellow Mama; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; and Shotgun Honey.



It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022