This was the third short story I ever wrote. To my utter delight, this was published in the e-zine Flash Fiction Offensive in June, 2011. To my even greater delight, it was awarded a 2nd Place Bullet Award for the best Crime Fiction to appear on the web for that month. Got some great feedback from the readers, too: “…Funny as hell..” “…Made me snort my morning soda…” “…reminded me of World’s Dumbest Criminals…’ All good stuff but it made me worry about what to do next.
Note: Some delicate issues have been handled in an indelicate manner – you have been warned!
Patel felt something was wrong when the two men walked into the convenience store. One wore a crocheted stocking cap that was inappropriate for the summer night and the other had black “do” rag that made him look mean. Both looked nervous.
They fooled around the magazine rack before picking up a box of donuts, then took a long time to come up to the counter
“Anything else?” Patel asked.
“Carton of Marlboros,” the first man said.
The second one pulled out a gun, giggling as if embarrassed to have the weapon in his hand but added, “And all of the money you got in the cash register.” He didn’t point the gun at Patel, just held it down along side his leg. keeping it out of sight.
“You know there isn’t much money in there,” Patel said, his voice a little high but trying to stay calm. “Fifty dollars, not more. It’s been a slow night.”
“You’re lying. Bro. We seen people coming in and out all night.”
Patel shrugged, “Ain’t my money and I sure as hell don’t want to get shot over it but it’s been nickel and dime all night. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. It ain’t worth an armed robbery charge.”
The man in the crocheted cap made a face and reached under his t-shirt to pull out a gun, too, and said, “Why don’t you let us worry about that?”
Patel said, “You got it,” and hit the release button on the cash register. But the entry bell to the front door jingled again. All three men turned to stare at two other men walking into the store.
“Dammit, I told you to lock the door after we came in,” Crocheted Cap whispered to Do Rag.
“You didn’t tell me shit,” Do rag whispered back.
Patel raised his hands off the cash register and asked, “What do you want me to do?”
“We gonna step back over there, behind that aisle, and wait. You take their money and get them the fuck out of here. And remember, we got guns.”
“Like I’d forget.”
“Don’t be smart, boy!”
Patel shrugged and closed the cash register. Crocheted Cap and Do Rag stepped around the aisle just as the other two men walked up.
Patel managed to control his voice, “May I help you?”
“A carton of Marlboros.”
“And all of the money you got in the cash register.”
“I, uh, I think you might want to talk to those two guys.”
“Talk to who?”
“To us, motherfucker.”
“Who the hell…” but the man stopped when he saw the two guns coming around the aisle.
The man behind him pulled a gun from under his t-shirt and said, “I’m gonna cap your ass, motherfuckers.”
Patel ducked under the counter as at least two guns went off. The sound was stunning and the choking acrid smell of cordite instantly filled the small store, but apparently no one was hurt as no one yelled, or screamed, or fell down, and there were sounds of feet scrambling away in opposite directions to hide behind different aisles.
“We were here first, you stupid mofos.”
“Big fucking deal.”
Someone fired again and there was a crash of glass in the frozen food section, which prompted someone to shoot back, causing a crash of glass at the front door.
“The man behind the counter says there ain’t but fifty dollars in the till.”
“Well, it’s our fifty dollars, asshole.”
“Then step right up and get it, dumb shit. It will be the last fifty dollars you will ever see.”
“We got all night and probably a lot more ammunition that you got!”
There was a long silence as both sides glanced at their watches and counted their bullets.
“Fifty dollars? We could split it four ways. Twenty-five dollars each.”
“What are you? One of them dumb shits that got left behind?”
That merited another shot, which splattered a five pound sack of Gold Medal flour.
“You’d better not be trying to outflank us, ‘cause we’re watching for it.”
“Keep watching, asshole.”
Suddenly there were sirens off in the distance but it was difficult to tell if they were coming towards the store or not.
“You’d better not have called the cops, boy, or all four of us will cap your white ass.”
“You hear me, boy?”
“Asshole probably fainted.”
The sirens were coming closer.
“Somebody’s going to have make a move here!”
Silence, then, “OK, Don’t shoot at us. We’re gonna back outta the front door. You can have the money and the fucking cops, too!”
“I’ll shoot at you if I want to shoot at you,” Crocheted Cap yelled but he couldn’t see the other men go out the front door as they crouched low and used the aisles to cover themselves until the entry bell jingled to tell everyone they were out the door and gone.
Do Rag started after them but Crocheted Cap grabbed his arm to hold him back, saying, “They may be waiting out there for us, Bro. We’ll grab the money and go out the back door.”
They crept around the counter, expecting to see the Patel huddled in fear on the floor but he was not there. And the cash register was open and empty. And the back door was open. Crocheted Cap and Do Rag stared at one to the other, just starting to understand what happened and to get pissed about it when the cops came through both the front and the back doors yelling at them DROP YOUR GUNS AND GET DOWN, GET DOWN.
The newspaper reported the next day that two men had been arrested and another two were still being sought. It also reported that nearly two hundred dollars was taken from the cash register. Patel Diol, who was working in the store when the robbery took place, was quoted as saying he had no idea which pair took it.