Rusty and Eddie were sitting at a back table nursing a couple of beers. They were passing through a small town and were now at a family-run supper club situated on a mirror-finished lake. They had burglarized a few summer cabins to live on and now it was time to head out before they attracted any unwanted attention.
These two had known each other since they were kids. Their families lived hand-to-mouth in the same ramshackle apartment building and Rusty had spent a lot of time at Eddie’s place. It became a permanent arrangement when Rusty came home from school one day at age sixteen to find that his parents and younger sister had moved out. One doesn’t have to go into a lot of detail to describe the kind of parents who would do that to a kid. Eddie became Rusty’s mentor in a life of petty crime. Never having had much, Rusty’s expectations were on the low side. Eddie took advantage of this every chance he could.
“I tell ya when we were in here last week I saw him go through his closing routine,” said Eddie, “I saw what he does with the cash. A little before bar time, he takes all the bigger bills and puts them in a little cracker box safe behind the bar. The other bills and change he just leaves in the register when he locks up for the night. I figure we can take this place before we leave town and use it for our travelin’ money.”
“I don’t know, Eddie, that slide bolt and chain lock both look pretty tough. Back door has the same set-up. Those doors are oak. How’re we going to get in here?”
“I already thought of that. First off, places like this have somebody come in in the morning to clean up. So nobody will be in here after one-fifteen, one-thirty. Except you. See that pool table over there? It’s low to the floor, but you’re skinny and can fit under it easy. You just wait until a little before bar time. When the crowd starts to thin a bit, you just kinda slip under there when nobody’s lookin’. Ain’t nobody been playin’ pool for an hour now. We can do this. Once everybody’s gone, you come and unlock the back door. I can do that safe easy. Half an hour and we’re outta here.”
Rusty wondered why it seemed his part in the plan always seemed to have more risk than Eddie’s part. Maybe it was because Eddie did the planning and thereby wrote the safest roles for himself.
It got to be about twelve-thirty and Eddie saw that nobody was near the pool table.
“Now,” he said in a stage whisper, “walk over there casual like and when nobody’s lookin’, drop under the table.”
Rusty did as he was told and was soon under the table. The half hour to forty-five minutes went by slowly, but finally it sounded like it was just the owner left in the bar. The “byes” and “see ya tomorrows” had all been given out and the owner made a couple of trips outside and back before securing the front door. On the last trip in from out back, he brought something back with him that caused Rusty to whimper. He could only see the owner’s legs from the shins down. Following him were four slender legs, the feet of which made a tap dancing sound as they “tick, tick, ticked” passed the pool table. He heard the owner pouring something into a container and then saw a hand put a dog food bowl on the floor. The Doberman put his head down to start to eat but stopped as his eyes came level with Rusty’s. It emitted a low growl and hunched its body a little lower as if to lunge in at Rusty.
Rusty felt his bladder go. “Don’t leave, please don’t leave yet!” he screamed. “I’m under the table. I’ll come out, but don’t let your dog get me.”
Eddie had parked their car on the shoulder of the road about a quarter of a mile from the supper club. He had a direct line of sight to the parking lot. The owner’s car was the only one left. All of a sudden, a squad car flew past him with its lights flashing and siren blaring. Eddie watched as it threw gravel every which way sliding to a stop in the parking lot. Eddie hadn’t written this part of the plan. Ad-libbing, he put the car in drive and accelerated in the opposite direction and out of town.
“Hate to leave ya hangin’, Rusty, but I’m afraid you’re on your own,” he said with determination as he looked in the rearview mirror. “It’s time for some fresh surroundings.”
Eddie watched the action in the mirror just a second too long. A farmer on a tractor had turned onto the highway from his field road and was squarely in Eddie’s lane when Eddie hit him going 60 miles an hour. The farmer was thrown from the tractor into the ditch by the impact and Eddie, never a big one for seatbelts, flew through the windshield and was impaled on the back of the tractor. Both men died at the scene.
For the first time in his life, Rusty met somebody who wanted to do something for him with no strings attached. It seems the owner of the supper club, Marvin Jenkins, had had some troubled times as a young adult himself. He had made and paid for his mistakes and was willing to give Rusty a chance at washing dishes. He didn’t press charges because Rusty really hadn’t broken in and he hadn’t gotten far enough along to steal anything. Of course, it would be a long time before Marvin let Rusty close up. Though he was getting on in years, Marvin’s memory was still crystal clear on some things.
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for almost 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published recently in Burningword Literary Journal, Drunk Monkeys, The Screech Owl, Crack The Spine, and Lake City Lights, an online literary site that he has just agreed to be the submissions editor of at the request of its publisher.