A desperate addict with a guilty conscience.
James sat in his car patiently. Observing the gas station; waiting for the right opportunity. A Jericho 9mm pistol rested in his lap as he blew into his cold hands. Hours in the winter night had passed, building courage and conviction, stirring thoughts of reasoning and justification in his mind. The occasional sound of children and parents passing by his window only reinforced his motives.
Looking in his rear view mirror, the reflection of his youngest sleeping, sprawled out on
the back seat made him smile. Her entire childhood flashed through his mind, the good times, the bad and her beautiful development into an adolescent. She stirred and opened her dreary eyes, smiling and whispering,
“When are we going home daddy?”
“In a little while Lucy Bee, go back to sleep, Daddy will be done soon enough, just stay in the car.” James avoided his reflection, focusing his attention towards the store front. It was empty; the time had come.
The car door flung open and he stepped out onto the snowy ground, throwing a polythene bag down onto the driver seat, white powder strewn down his leather jacket from his powdered nose. With his hands and Jericho in his pocket, he slowly walked towards the revolving doors. A line of crows in the dark night sat perched on its rooftop, cawing in harmony to a tune he vaguely recognized. The sound of his crunching feet neared the entrance. The revolving doors quickened in pace as James made a quick stride to avoid a collision.
He made it, breathing a sigh of relief; picking up a shopping basket. Food and money, food and money, he recited in his mind before walking over to the first isle. Through the locks of his drooping hair, he scanned the store for security cameras; there were just two, one at the entrance and one at the counter, both non-functioning with their heads lowered. James knew he had to be quick to avoid involving witnesses. He began throwing into his basket numerous irrelevant products: cereals, shampoos, cans of fish, dental floss, until it was crammed and arduous to carry. He placed it onto the floor and began pushing it with his feet dropping smaller foodstuffs into pockets of space until he reached the counter. Still empty.
The sound of rushing feet began to fill the room making James sigh with frustration. One after another, old ladies began pouring through those terrifying revolving doors. Several buses were parked outside and a trail of happy ants made their way towards the intriguing gas station store. Shaking his head, James began banging on the counter ‘Service please! Service quick! Its getting busy out here!’ The old ant ladies began filtering their way throughout the store, they came in unlimited numbers, squashing together, standing side by side , squeezing the air out of James’s lungs. Everywhere he turned, grey haired mobs of wrinkly ants were in his face.
Staring, muttering, smelling of urine and passing food over their heads to the next, all the way down the line leading to the coaches. He noticed a shadow in the back room making its way towards the store front, finally he thought, holding onto his pistol in his pocket, waiting, the shuffling of old woman building up frustration. At last the shopkeeper came out, and James was stunned into submission, for his wife stood adorned in white overalls.
“Mary? When the hell did you start working here?”
“James, I’ve been working here for weeks, don’t you listen to anything I tell you anymore?” she replied, with her hands placed on her sides in a stern manner.
The chattering ants became unbearable; James closed his eyes, gripped his pistol with force and yelled out “SHUT UP!!” Silence abruptly filled the room. Opening his eyes, they had gone, disappeared, vanished and the breeze from the spinning doors sent chills throughout his body.
“What are you shouting at? What has gotten into you?” she said, as she held aloft various
obscure products from his basket. “Dog food James? We don’t even have a dog!”
A young girl appeared from around the isle,
“Can I have this daddy?” asked his youngest, standing holding out a packet of bubblegum.
“Lucy! I told you to wait in the car!” cried James with his hands on his head, breathing heavier, an intolerable pain building in his chest. I’m doing this for you, for both of you.
A wheeling sound came from behind another isle, and a tall woman pushing a legless gentleman in a wheelchair emerged.
“Mother! Father! What are you doing here? Why is everyone here? We are twenty miles from home!” James began to panic looking around with paranoia as loud jingly music filled the store. The security camera’s raised their heads and extended their necks towards James, lenses blinking. From the back room, a man wearing a blue suit and grey toupee appeared holding a microphone, pointing at James and shouting “We got you! Aha ha we got you! Woohoo!”
James’s family began clapping and smiling, as the suited man put his arms around James.
“You’re on candid camera son, and we got you! Whoohoo yeah! Your family here set you up, we caught you, whoohoo! You were going to rob this store weren’t you little James?” the suited man put the microphone up to James’s mouth.
“Well I err don’t know what your talking about, I I err, just came in to buy groceries” stuttered James as his voice echoed out of the store tannoy and for miles surrounding the area.
“Now your wife has a job, you didn’t need to did you? Aww, isn’t that cute viewers, doing what’s best by his family. Oh come on, we know you have Jericho in your pocket don’t you?”
“No I don’t know what you mean, who is Jericho?” Shrugged James.
“He’s the little fella in your pocket, come on lets us see, woohoo, let us see him don’t be shy, woohoo!”
The suited man and James began a tussle as he tried in vain to keep his hands in his pocket, staggering backwards, forcing him to cling onto the isles, sending produce crashing to the floor. Slipping away from his aggressor, James bolted for the revolving doors which were now spinning so fast it would be impossible to slip through unscathed. I’ll never make it, he thought, before plunging head-first. There was a ferocious smash as he tumbled down the steps covered in broken glass, his pistol scattered across the ground sending off a shot.
He tried to push himself upwards but his body wouldn't respond, his brain no longer took orders. He heard nothing but the sound of his favourite song, Samuel Osborne’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ being cawed out harmoniously by the circling crows above. He felt the smouldering and burning red fluid that trickled down his brow from a steaming hole in his forehead, and the sight of his youngest peering out of the back seat window of his car, I'm Sorry, I’m Sorry, so Sorry he whispered repeatedly…before darkness.
The shop assistant came running out of the automatic doors down the steps to a body laying crumpled in the red snow, the sound of a little girl banging on the window, screaming ‘Daddy Daddy!’ quickened his heart rate as he called for an ambulance, but it was too late, James was already dead.