Some days, it doesn’t pay to even open your eyes, you know? I was sitting, minding my own in Josie’s, having two over, a slice of wheat, coffee, and a slice of Josie’s famous key lime, and working out the kinks of what was supposed to be my last score in Jewelsburg. I planned to hit the End of the Line Service Station; the one by the highway on-ramp. Not a big haul, but just enough to blow this dead-end burg. By the time the attendant, Donnie, untied himself and got to the phone, I’d be three counties over. I needed to make sure I got there right at open, before it got busy. I hoped their truck had come last night. I sure wanted to grab myself a few packs of those sugary…
“Marty! My man!”
The shout startled the hell out of me and I knocked the rest of my pie on the floor. A short, balding man in a three-piece slid into my booth across from me.
“How have you been? It’s me. Eddie. You remember. Ma’am? Coffee and a sweet roll to go, please. So, Marty, did you decide on that late model Ford you had your eye on last week at Cool Calvin’s Car Court? There were so many great deals, I just couldn’t make up my mind. Oh, thank you, ma’am. Well, Marty, I’ll be seeing you.”
With that, the man got up to leave. I knew I had to straighten out this clown in a big hurry.
“Wait. Eddie? You are mistaken. My name‘s not Marty and I‘ve never…”
As I got up to follow him out to his car, I slipped on the pie I dropped and hit the right side of my head on the corner of the table. I scrambled to my feet and ran outside, but he was gone. Just as well. Probably on his way to some corporate mind-fuck. I went back inside to pay and beg a couple of aspirin from Josie.
Donnie was struggling with the door key when I pulled up. I saw the day’s start-up in the bank envelope tucked in his side pocket.
“Hey, Donnie,” I grabbed his keys. “let me help you.”
I opened the door and pushed him inside.
“Freakin locks,” he mumbled, and flipped on all the lights.
He took the money from the envelope and opened the register. I reached into my pocket for my .38 when I heard the bell over the door jingle. Who the fuck would come in here at this hour?
“So sorry about before, Bob. I had you confused with somebody else. You still do your wash at Rudy’s Tumble and Go over on Bander? I’ll never forget the night you and I just got our washers going and that drier exploded. What a mess. Yeah, young fella, a pack of smokes, whatever’s cheapest. Thanks. Well, Bob, good to see you. Gotta run.”
“Wait. Eddie. You are mistaken. My name‘s not Bob and I‘ve never…”
As I turned and ran to catch up with him, I tripped over the display of bottles of window washer and gashed my cheek on the corner of the newspaper rack. By the time I got outside, he was gone. While Donnie was cleaning up the mess I had made, I noticed there were already two customers inside buying coffee and somebody was honking to be let into the garage for an oil change. I went back inside and bought a bottle of aspirin and went home to take a nap.
Lunch time. My bag was still packed and in the trunk, and I decided to go with Plan B, which was Dottie’s Dough, the small check cashing place over on Kramer. I already knew their schedule. The front clerk, Annie, went home for lunch from one to two, and Dottie was alone with all that green. Everybody in this lousy town took lunch from one to two, so me and my trusty .38 would pop in to say Hi, Gimme, and then So Long, Sister.
I waited until Annie turned the corner at Kramer and Collier before I crossed the street and strolled inside.
“Be right with you, hon. I’m in the back room nuking my meatball sub.”
It doesn’t get better than that. Dottie was all the way in the back and the cash drawers were wide open. Like taking candy from a baby. All I had to do was lean over the counter, reach in and…
When I jerked my hand back across the counter, I snagged my wrist on a loose nail on the edge. I hoped I wasn’t a bleeder.
Dottie ran up front.
“Hi. Sorry to keep you gentlemen waiting. How can I help you?”
I just shook my head, shoved my hand in my pocket, and wondered how much blood I’d have to lose before I passed out. Eddie handed her a check and his license.
“All I need today, little lady, is just a quick $25, if you please. So sorry about before, Phil. I had you confused with somebody else. Listen, I forgot to ask you before. How’s that pull-out sofa from Frankie Foster’s Furniture working for you? When we were there during that midnight madness sale of his, you seemed so interested in the red one. Are those comfortable? Thank you, Miss Dottie. Take care, Phil. Gotta run.”
No. Not again.
“Eddie? You are mistaken,” I screamed. “My name’s not Phil and I’ve never…”
On my way out, I missed the last step and landed in Dottie’s parking lot on my face. Good thing she had that gravel paved over last spring. I got up on my knees, but he was already gone.
After making a quick stop for some antiseptic and Band-Aids, I headed down the highway and never looked back. Once I passed the county line, I started to breathe a little bit easier. I still had enough cash left to get a nice room for the night and maybe a small bottle of something warm. I believed that life would look better in the morning. Something was sure to turn up.
On my way out of a town called Gales Crossing, I passed a burger joint called Think Inside The Bun. I made a u-ee and pulled in the lot. My gut told me Lady Luck was finally smiling on me and calling my name loud and clear. The place was jumping with a bunch of high schoolers. I decided I’d grab a bite, then on my way out to pay, I would empty the register. One look at my 38 caliber buddy and every one of those punks would be running home crying for mama.
I had to admit, the burger and fries were great, and the coffee was hot and comforting. The kid at the checkout had his nose buried in some gamer magazine. The time was right. I started to slide out of the booth when…
Eddie patted me on the back and slid in across from me.
“So sorry about before, Stevie. I had you confused with somebody else. I just picked up a paper at Sammy’s Stop and Save and got one of their Smoothies. Remember when you got that raspberry one there? That’s what I got today and it was great, but then I got hungry. What’s good here, huh, Stevie?”
I debated with myself whether to attempt yet again to explain that he was mistaken and that I wasn’t who he thought I was and that we’d never met before, but instead I took Mr. .38 out of my pocket and shot the fucker square in the face.
BIO: J.F. has had a crime fiction novel and a six-part children’s fantasy series published. Her crime fiction/noir stories have appeared on Crooked, A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash. She is currently finishing the final draft of her second crime fiction novel, and she blogs at jfjuzwik.blogspot.com