Romance month continues with a great piece from Mary Langer Thompson. Enjoy.
The Stick Up
By Mary Langer Thompson
This new Paleo or Caveman Diet gets old fast. That Friday night at the Applebee’s near our Sunset City home, we ate cheeseburgers topped with extra bacon without the bun. We were full, yet that nagging desire for something sweet to top off our meal lingered.
“I’d love a red velvet whoopee pie,” I said to my husband, Ed.
“You’d blow our whole diet,” he said, “You’ve lost five pounds.We just need a little something. Like Bazooka or Double Bubble Bubble Gum.”
“Let’s go to the 7-Eleven and get some,” I suggested.
“I don’t have any cash. I can’t charge that little bit of an amount.”
“I’m tired. Forget it.”
“No. We’ll stop at our ATM. I need money for tomorrow anyway.”
As we left the restaurant, Ed nearly tripped over the newspaper stand. “Ed, you need to be more observant,” I said. “You could have killed yourself.”
Ed left me sitting in the idling car while he walked up the ramp to make his transaction. It was dark already. We’d turned our clocks back the previous weekend.
I always bring a book, and thought of turning on the reading light, but I was tired, and full. I wished I had a piece of that bubble gum. But I’d have to be careful. I didn’t want to pull out any fillings. The gum would wind up being expensive if I incurred a dental bill.
I sat and mulled over the current state of dental insurance and then glanced out the window. Ed was still at the machine, but someone tall was standing behind him. I could see their backs. I saw Ed nod his head.
Oh brother, I thought. Ed is such a gabber. What’s taking so long? Is the ATM on the fritz? How can he talk so much to a stranger? One of these days he’s going to befriend someone who doesn’t feel like talking.
A few minutes passed. This is ridiculous. Maybe I should open my window and tell him to get a move on. I want to get home, get in my pajamas, watch House, and chew my gum and maybe even blow some bubbles.
Finally, Ed headed toward the car. That other guy was still close behind him. He walked in front of our car, and then took off running.
Feeling irritated, which usually happens on an empty, not full stomach, I lit into Ed as soon as he opened the door.
“Do you have to be so damn talkative? Good grief. I want to get home. He could’ve been a robber.”
“He was a robber,” Ed said between clenched teeth, slamming the door as he got in the car.
“I’m not kidding.” Ed sped off in the same direction as the robber.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to get him.”
“He could have a gun!”
“He does have a gun, and it was stuck right in my back,” said Ed, growing more impatient. He was driving too fast.
“There he is!” said Ed.
I shrank down in my seat. “If he’s got a gun, then he could shoot us!” I tend to state the obvious when scared.
But Ed was on a mission. It was too dark to tell whether the guy still had a gun in his hand, but he was running fast.
The man turned right and ran under an arch leading to a motel parking lot. Ed followed, still determined to be a vigilante.
“You’re going to trap him. Then he will shoot us. Turn around.” I was pleading.
He parked and opened his door. The robber was nowhere in sight.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to call the cops from the office,” he said.
“Well, I’m not staying in the car this time,” I said and hopped out and ran, bent over with my hands over my head.
“I just got robbed at gunpoint up the street,” Ed informed the manager. The guy ran into your courtyard. Can I use your phone? My cell’s at home.”
I never carry mine when I’m with Ed. It dawned on me if the guy had shot us, we’d have had to drag ourselves somewhere for help. We could right now be shot and bleeding.
“Yeah, we’ve been robbed about three times,” said the manager, handing Ed the phone.
Oh, great. Maybe robbed by the same guy who’s going to come in here a fourth time and finish us all off.
We sat down and I asked Ed to tell me exactly what happened.
“I took out my ATM card,” Ed said, and suddenly I felt something sticking in my back. The guy said, ‘Take out $400.00.’ I said, ‘The limit’s $300.00.’ He said, ‘No, they raised it.’ And sure enough, the machine gave me $400.00. Then he said, ‘Walk back to your car. Don’t do anything funny.’”
I gasped. “Oh, my God, he could have gotten in the car and taken us somewhere and shot us and buried us in a ditch.”
Ed stared at me. The manager sorted papers.
When the police came, they invited Ed to drive around with them. Ed disappeared fast. I was left in the motel office. The manager made me a pot of coffee.
I really wanted something sweet. Like bubble gum.
Soon Ed and the cops returned. Ed looked defeated. One policeman gave us forms to fill out. “You’re victims. If you need counseling, you’re entitled.” He looked at me. “The cameras aren’t working at that ATM.”
At the convenience store, we charged our bubble gum, but also Abba Zabas, gummy bears, Hershey’s kisses, for the resveratrol, Butterfingers, Milky Ways, and a red velvet whoopee pie. Forget that Paleo diet. We’re civilized, not primitive beings.
We rented a movie, Crazy, Stupid Love, because, yes, I still love Ed. Even if he isn’t always observant and almost got us killed.
And because we’ll always share a love of sweets.
Mary Langer Thompson's articles, short stories, and poems have been in numerous anthologies and journals. She has an essay in the newly released, Women on Poetry (McFarland). She lives in Apple Valley, California, with her husband, Dave, and is a proud member of the High Desert branch of the California Writer's Club. To learn more about Mary, visit her website.