Saturday nights was when the weirdos came into the convenience store. The last Saturday that I worked, it was pitch black and raining brutally hard. But did that keep the weirdos out? Not a chance.
I lost my job after 15 years working for the same firm, and like many people in this economy found myself accepting any work that I could find to provide for my wife and kids. That is how I found myself standing behind the counter wearing a bright red polyester shirt with the name “Maria Sanchez” written on it. The manager told me I would not get my own name on a shirt until I finished my 60-day probation period. I asked at least for a man’s name and he just laughed.
It was a quarter past 10 PM when the weirdo came into the store. He was tall, thin with an odd bone structure. He looked foreign born, but what country I could not fathom. He wore a long sleeve tan shirt with black shiny slacks and a blue scarf around his neck. Yeah, a blue scarf, to match his hair color. I thought at first he was wearing Google glasses, but they were smaller with a tiny protruding camera that scanned left and right while a blue neon light glowed in the rims. Much cooler.
With an accent I have never heard before he spoke.
Great I thought, no one else was in the store and this weirdo was asking for an energy sphere! Was that the company’s new espresso drink or a new candy bar?
He put a piece of white paper on the glass counter along with two dollar coins. Who actually uses those? The paper had five numbers, a space and then a sixth. This being Saturday I knew immediately he meant Powerball, which had rolled over several times and had a jackpot worth $640 million. I didn’t know nor care why he called it “energy sphere”. Weirder things happen at night in a convenience store, trust me.
“Energy Sphere!” he said once more, louder. He added a smile that lasted exactly three seconds, and then vanished. I was thinking this could not get any weirder
I was wrong.
Before I could turn to the lottery machine, a teenager bolted into the store dripping rain pointing a large silver revolver at my face.
“Give me ALL the money NOW!” he screamed. I froze. My first robbery.
“Energy Sphere!” said the weirdo.
“Now! Now! Give me all the money!” shouted the robber, soaked with rain.
It was then that I noticed that the Powerball dude was dry as toast. Not a drop of water. However, that was not my primary concern at the moment.
“Sorry, gun trumps Energy Sphere.” I said and opened the cash register.
The weird guy turned and walked right up to the robber and loudly said, “Energy Sphere!”
The wet teen jumped back and pointed the gun at the weirdo, which made me feel a little less petrified. I hit the silent alarm. Cops are protective of their clean bathrooms, coffee and donuts. They would be here in two minutes tops.
“Get on the floor you freak or I’ll shoot you in the gut!” the robber yelled.
The robber put both hands on the revolver and aimed at the guy’s chest. Before he could shoot, the blue neon light in the weirdo’s non-Google glasses turned red and a slim beam darted out and struck the robber smack dab in the center of his forehead. Yeah, all space alien like.
Immediately the robber’s tongue stretched out and started swinging left and right like windshield wipers on a Buick. His eyes rolled back in his head, the gun fell to the floor, his knees buckled under him as he just sort of melted to the floor slow motion like. Out cold.
“What the hell?” I said.
“Energy Sphere!” the weirdo told me, very focused on his task obviously.
“What did you do to him? How did you…”
“Energy Sphere!” he screamed this time, his voice reaching a high pitch and the glasses turning red again.
I quickly punched in the numbers he had given me. The ticket spit out and I handed it to him. The glasses turned blue again. I exhaled.
He gave me that instant-on-instant-off smile, stepped over the wet gunman on the floor and walked straight out into the parking lot, engulfed by the darkness and rain.
Ten seconds later three cop cars skidded up, their flashing red and blue lights reflected on the wet pavement. Before I could forget the numbers, I punched in a second Powerball ticket for myself. Hell, I even put two dollars in the cash box, all legal and fair. I slid the ticket into my left rear pocket.
I declined to tell the cops about the “Energy Sphere” dude with the red beam shooting from his non-Google eyeglasses. I said the robber had slipped on the wet floor and banged his head. The in store camera had been broken for weeks, the manager too cheap to repair it and there were no other witnesses. The robber had no memory of anything happening in his life since last Thursday.
It was two hours before the cops, detectives and crime lab folks wrapped things up and set us free. The manager had shown up and kept complaining about lost business, so he instantly reopened the store. I pulled off my red poly shirt with “Maria Sanchez” written on it and tossed it at him.
“Hey, your shift is not over yet,” he said.
“Yeah. My shift is over. In fact, all my shifts are over, douchebag.”
I patted my left rear pants pocket and walked out into the rain, happy as a clam.
Dart Humeston is a university administrator and part-time instructor at Barry University. A former bank manager, he holds a graduate degree in Higher Education Administration and is married with one daughter, four cats and two birds.