by Joe Surkiewicz
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.
―show that you
―take a moment to
demonstrate you care.
―don’t be a schmuck.
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.
Payday—peanuts and nougat. He hadn’t seen them in years. Roland picked up two
bars and approached the clerk.
eighty-five,” said the kid behind the counter, after ringing him up. “Need a
Roland turned as
the double doors opened. A man walked in, bearing an uncanny resemblance to
He had a gun in
“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.”
“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.”
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?”
“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
Sloat said, “How
many blackballs does it take?”
The money bag
slipped down toward his waist. Sloat struggled not to drop it or the chips, the
gun waving in the air.
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.
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
“You do know who Richard Nixon was, right?”
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.
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.