Rick and I sat in the living room, breath falling from our mouths. The television was on but no cable to watch. We needed money. We needed cigarettes, food, heat and all the other things, but mostly money. There was a Uni-Mart up the street. Rick toyed with a hand rolled cigarette until the thing fell apart in his hands.
“I’ve been giving this some thought,” he said. “We could really blow that place over.”
“The convenience store.”
I lit a cigarette. A thick cloud billowed under the single bulb dangling from the ceiling. I wasn’t listening.
“At this hour it’d be easy,” Rick said. “In and out.”
He’d seen too many cowboy movies but it was too cold to tell him to lock it up. He went on about going up the street real quick and getting some money.
“You mean robbing the place?”
He looked excited for the first time in a long while. We could do this, he said. We needed to do this, he said. This was the end of the line, he said, and we needed to make a move. Everyone is making moves. Everyone is out there making moves and we’re stuck in here. “Make moves with what,” I asked.
He bounced out of the orange tweed armchair and down the hallway. Two steps later he was back out straight-armed, pointing a black automatic pistol at my face. “Yeah?” he asked. “What now?”
I jerked my eye from the barrel.
“Relax,” he said. He aimed at the wall and pulled the trigger. The trigger clacked a sound of pressurized gas firing and a small round cracked in the drywall.
“A pellet gun?” I motioned. “A clerk will know the difference.”
It was true. It was a solid looking piece and could have fooled anyone. Rick paced the living room, thumbing a cigarette in one hand and twirling the gun in the other.
“They don’t even make these anymore. Look too real,” he said. “We could probably pull like four hundred bucks from that place. Think of that. You want to be warm? You want to live here next month?” He paused, waiting for me to say something. “Well, there you have it,” he said. “The whole thing in ten seconds. All you do is watch the door.”
I’d been in the place enough times, night after night. The only person in the place would be the night shift clerk, a small and precise Chinese man.
“We just walk to the register, flash this thing and run. We’ll be back before the cops even leave the station.”
The ceiling bulb flickered, dancing light off the walls. No heat, no cable, no food. Just that single hanging ceiling light. Maybe this was the ticket.
“What are we supposed to wear? He’ll recognize us.”
Rick had another idea. He ran back and ran back out with a red bandana. He told me to tie it over my face. It was the only bandana so his disguise was going to be the hood of his sweat shirt. He’d draw the strings tight over his face so nothing could be seen. He demonstrated, a hole closing in over him.
I tied the bandana on over my nose, and Rick pulled the drawstrings tight. We stood in the window. “He’s going to laugh at us,” I said.
“Yeah, he’ll be laughing ‘til I shoot his face in.”
“You sure about this?” I asked.
“Ten seconds,” he said. “In and out.”
The air was dark and the street was empty. We walked until we reached the Uni-Mart and stood on the side of the building smoking my last two cigarettes. I put the bandana on and Rick drew his hood strings.
“Our voices,” I said. “He’s going to know our voices.”
“He doesn’t know us.”
“Well if there was some kind of police line up. He’ll identify us by our voices.”
There was a phone booth a few yards away. I walked in and tore some pages from the phone book. I told Rick to stuff them in his mouth and I did the same. Rick checked the gun. He stuffed the barrel in his pants with the handle hanging out and tucked his coat over it.
I glanced inside. The store was empty. I thought about paying bills. Personally delivering the rent to that landlord with the hanging gut and skinny arms, telling him the ceiling light was on the fritz again and the carpet was just about shot.
“This is it,” I mumbled through the phone listings.
“You just watch the door.” He mumbled back. “And don’t this fuck up.”
We pushed the door in. Rick paced towards the counter with a long, deliberate stride. Just short of the register he bailed back into the sodas and sports drinks, all the way down the aisle. The clerk stared confusedly, trying to eye the both of us. I walked past him nodding. “Cold night,” I mumbled, pointing to the bandana. I found Rick back there.
“What the fuck?” I whispered. “I thought this was in and out.”
Rick grabbed a cola and brought it to the counter, hood still drawn. “Cold night,” he mumbled.
The clerk nodded with wide eyes. Rick paid for his drink in assorted change. We walked back outside. I spit out the listings.
“What was that? Don’t fuck it up?”
“I didn’t see you making any moves.”
“You had the goddamned gun.”
“Well you take the goddamned gun.”
And I did. It was weightier than I expected. I stuffed the thing in my pants. Rick eyed me up. “Are you sure this is worth it?” he asked. “I mean what if something goes wrong? What if he has a gun?”
“He doesn’t have a gun. He doesn’t have a pot to piss in. This was your idea so quit your crying and we’ll be home in a minute.” I stuffed my mouth with the pages and I walked back up the sidewalk entrance.
I pushed the door and it swung open, knocking into the stand of discount candy. Rick followed, throwing open the other door. I marched up to the clerk. “Forget something?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I mumbled through the print pages, feeling the gun’s handgrip hot in my palm. “Yeah, I forgot something.” Rick watched the door. The store was empty. The Chinaman would see what I’d forgotten. Just pull it from my waist and press it in his face.
He seemed aware of what was going to happen but there was no fear in his eyes. Instead, something fierce. Something stupid. This place, his temple. He’d die for it if he had to; reach a hand out for my throat and the other for a baseball bat to bash my face in with. I took a step back. “Any buy-one-get-one’s on sale?” I mumbled though the wad.
“Camel lights,” he said. I sighed and pulled the bandana off. He pulled them down and I paid for them with what was the last of my cash. Two packs for the price of one. Rick walked out.
Outside, I took out a cigarette and passed it to Rick. I stuffed the pack I paid for in my pocket and took one from the pack I got for free. I lit one up and Rick’s as well. I took a long drag and exhaled into the wind.
“You’re a bitch,” he said.
We made it back to the house. Rick took the couch and I plopped into the orange tweed armchair. The cushion was just about in shreds. I looked at myself in the window. I took a deep breath. I jumped out of the chair and whipped out the gun all in one smooth motion. I held it waist high, point blank at the tattered armchair.
“Shut The Fuck Up Motherfucker Before I Blow Your Brains All Over This Fucking Place!” I screamed.
“Please,” the armchair whimpered back. “I have a wife and kids. Just take it, take it all.”
“I thought I told you to keep your mouth shut,” I said and squeezed off fifteen rounds into the thing. Clack, clack, clack they went, burying themselves deeply and fatally. Rick sat on the couch, watching the door as I stood under the light. He got up to look at the carnage. And there we were. The world’s two richest men and it’d be nothing but the best. Nothing but the best that money could buy and all the free cigarettes to go with it. Nothing but the heat and the light of the world.