Rent money

Recently I did a “flash fiction” challenge, where I had to write a 1000-word (or less) story with these cues:

  • Type: a crime caper
  • Location: a chocolate shop
  • Object: a freezer

I live in Seattle and the neighborhood where I live has been completely overrun by amazon.com in the past five years. They’ve destroyed two of my favorite diners, not to mention my ability to walk around in my neighborhood without being stuck behind a dude with a backpack on his cell phone.

But I digress.

Here is a picture I took the other morning when I was walking to work. This is not a job I could do. Or maybe I just need to try new things.

These are “Bezos’ balls.” What used to be a Toyota dealership is now a tribute to the hubris of amazon.

Anyway, I guess I had amazon on the brain when I did my flash fiction challenge story. Here it is for your (potential) enjoyment.

***

Rent Money

Henry and I held hands in public. Sometimes we even kissed. I know this annoyed people on the streets — the depth of our passion and connection — but as I recall my mother telling me, you are only on this earth a single time.

Henry worked at See’s Candies, the neighborhood chocolate shop, and when I saw him there, behind the counter, I knew he had to be mine.

“Free sample?” he said, placing a milk chocolate butterchew seductively on the counter.

“You know it,” I said, winking at him.

And we have been inseparable ever since.

I work two stores down from See’s at the Sephora. Henry and I wear the same eyeliner. We are both broke and live with roommates we hate.

“I wish we could afford to live together,” Henry opined one day while we were on our break.

It was a beautiful day in Westlake Park. The sun was shining, people eating hotdogs, kids playing on the playground.

“We just need to save first and last month and deposit…” I said.

“It’s going to take forever,” he said.

“I know. Amazon.com has wrecked housing prices. And the homeless thing is out of control,” I said.

Then, “Sorry. I can’t stop parroting the news.”

“It’s going to be OK,” he said, giving me a hug.

“Thanks,” I said, “But I just don’t see how it’s going to be OK. I mean, I’m trying to save money, and Lord knows your primary nutrition is chocolate, but it just feels hopeless, and I want to be with you all the time.”

“Well I did have this idea…” Henry started.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. But I don’t know how I feel about it.”

“What is it?! Now you have to tell me.”

“Well, it’s not the most moral thing to do, and I don’t want you to think I’m a horrible person,” he said.

“Henry, that’s not possible,” I said.

“Well obviously this is not the best idea, I mean even describing it, I feel like a criminal.”

“Ooh, you’re sexy when you talk about crime,” I said, and I started kissing his neck but then made myself stop.

“What IS it?!” I demanded.

“Well on Tuesdays when we close, it’s just me and Darcy in the store.”

“And?”

“And maybe I could just, well, when she’s in the freezer, I can grab some money from the register, but there are cameras…”

“Maybe I can put something over the camera,” I said.

“This is never going to work,” he said.

“Yeah probably not,” I said.

We were deflated. I scanned the park. Homeless people, drug dealers, moms with kids, office workers at lunch — it was an eclectic mix.

“Tourists! We could rob some tourists!” I said.

“True, but that would be taking the easy way out,” Henry said, and we laughed.

I thought about it. How hard could it be to rob a tourist? They seemed to be walking around chatting with their families, taking pictures and leaving their backpacks half-open all the time. Surely they had cash hanging out that we could snag. Or cell phones or passports we could sell. How did you sell a cell phone or a passport anyway?

I looked at my phone. It was time to get back to work — break time was over. I looked at Henry, then looked over at the door to See’s. At that moment, a man wearing a ski mask walked aggressively into the store.

“Henry! Look!” I said.

The man walked up the ramp inside the store and to the counter. He pushed a few tourists aside and was waving at Darcy and Rick, who were standing there with their mouths open, frozen with fear.

“We have to do something!” I said.

It was like I was watching a movie. Everything slowed down and I was watching myself act.

I grabbed Henry’s hand. He didn’t say a word.

We crouched and ran over to the door. We slowly pushed it open. There were a few tourists who were now lying on the floor of the store. A woman made eye contact with me and I put my finger over my lips. “Shh, you dumb lady. Shh.”

Henry and I crawled quietly up the ramp. The man was shouting.

“Hurry up!” he yelled.

He had his hand in his pocket like maybe there was a gun in there, but I didn’t believe it. Sometimes you can get people to do things just by yelling at them.

I took a few deep breaths and then I did it. I stood up and ran at him from behind, knocking him up against the counter. Then I ducked down and chopped him behind the knees. He wasn’t expecting this bit and his knees buckled, but I had really pissed him off. He roared like a lion and started to turn around to what I can only assume was murder me, when Henry jumped on him.

The old lady who was lying on the floor jumped up too and piled on him. I pulled at the man’s feet while the others laid on top of his body. He was trapped.

Darcy ran into the back room and returned with garbage bags.

“What are we supposed to do with those?” I asked.

“Put them over his head?”

“Won’t he suffocate?”

“Who cares!” she said.

Stone cold, Darcy! I hadn’t expected it of you.

Darcy came over and we helped her attempt to put a garbage bag over his head. It was a futile effort and not the best idea. We needed to subdue him — he would not stop thrashing.

I looked around but there were only boxes of candy. Nothing to hit the guy with. We would just have to hold him down.

Everyone gathered together and we drug him into the freezer in back, shutting the door with him safely inside.

Before the door closed, I asked him, “What was your plan there, sir?”

And he replied, “I just needed money for rent.”

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