“They weren’t open. They must have closed early.” Carol watched Stanley for a reaction but averted her eyes as he turned, not wanting to make eye contact. He might see that as a challenge, as defiance.
Stanley’s face turned red signaling that the rage that was always just below the surface was about to explode. “Did you pound on the door?”
“I tried. There was nobody there.” Carol kept her eyes down but watched his feet.
“You stupid bitch.” Stanley crossed the room. Carol cringed as he approached, bracing for a slap, but he passed her. He grabbed the prescription from the table. “I’ll get it myself, and when I get back I’m going to shove my foot up your ass.”
Carol relaxed slightly after the door slammed shut, but their son walked into the room. “Quick, get ready for bed. You don’t want to be up when your father gets back.” It tore her heart out to see the fear in her little boy’s eyes.
Stanley covered the two blocks to the drug store in minutes, rage pulsing through him like a fever, determined to make them feel the heat of his anger.
Stanley was torn by an inner fury that he couldn’t control. It was with him every day of his life and made him lash out without warning and without remorse. He hurt a lot of people. A few fought back and got the better of him, but he was big and strong so he hurt others far more than they hurt him.
The lights were on but the door was locked. He saw a shadow moving near the back and began pounding on the window, yelling at whoever was inside.
A young girl came to the door. “Please, we’re closed. Please go away.”
Stanley moved to the door and began kicking, denting the metal plate along the bottom. After a minute, she opened the door.
“It’s about fucking time.” Stanley pushed the door open, knocking the girl off her feet. He strode to the pharmacy counter and slammed his prescription down. “I want service now.”
Stanley looked around. A middle-aged woman in a lab coat was against the wall, looking scared. A twenty-something guy in hospital scrubs was kneeling on the floor holding his face. Blood was running down his hands.
“The man wants to be served.” A young kid in a hoodie and wraparound shades was leading the girl who opened the door, her arm in one hand and a chrome-plated automatic in the other. He was small, no more than five-five and one twenty. A surgical mask covered the bottom half of his face, acne covered the top half. By the pitch of his voice he was probably in high school.
Another kid stepped out from the back of the pharmacy. He was tall and gangly, walking with an uncoordinated gait. Same uniform: hoodie, shades and mask. Sparse wisps of hair peeking out from under the mask hinted at an early attempt at a goatee.
“Sounds like my old man.” The kid’s voice was full of sarcasm and amusement. In his right hand was a big black revolver, Dirty Harry style, pointed at Stanley.
“I need this prescription filled.” Stanley’s voice was steady. He wasn’t as confident, but the fury wouldn’t let him back down.
The tall one seemed to be in charge. “Get on the floor, tough guy. We were here first so you’ll have to wait.”
Stanley felt the fury surge. He wasn’t going to take it from some high school punk. “You think I’m going to put up with some little piece of sh…”
The kid’s hand struck like a snake. Suddenly the big black gun was in Stanley’s mouth. Stanley moved back, but the kid moved with him until Stanley’s back was to the wall and the kid pushed the revolver deeper. “What you calling me, boy?”
Stanley felt the fury let go as he focused on the barrel of the deep, dark gun in his mouth, his eyes crossing to focus on the hammer as the kid cocked it. When the kid pressed it deeper into his throat, he had to fight the gag response. Stanley tried to stay very still.
The kid stared into Stanley’s eyes. “Okay, tough guy, what are you going to do?”
The fury failed him. Stanley began to shake; it started with his hands and spread. He tried to hold his head still but couldn’t. The tremors made the big gun move in the kid’s hand. As the shaking got worse, Stanley’s bladder failed him. He tried to fight the urge but couldn’t. Stanley began to whimper as he slid down the wall, but the kid kept the gun pressed hard until Stanley was all the way down. As the gun came out, Stanley curled into a ball on the floor and began to cry.
Even with a mask, Stanley could tell that the tall one was smiling.
The short kid laughed. “Looks like the big man peed his pants. He needs a diaper like a little baby.”
“I know it’s a difficult decision.” The doctor spoke softly to Carol as she watched Stanley through the glass window, curled in a ball on the hospital bed, mewing like a kitten.
“We don’t have any money, so it will be what’s best for him.” Carol tried to sound sad, but she wasn’t sure what she felt. “Give me the papers.”
The social worker handed her a clipboard and she signed by the X.
“You can visit every day between ten and two. Having you at his therapy sessions will help him a lot.”
As Carol put the papers in her purse, she touched the keys to Stanley’s truck and the letter detailing her new job and directions for the cross-country drive. “Yes, I’ll be there for him just like he’s been there for me.” Carol didn’t let herself smile until she walked out of the hospital door.
Al Kanach wasted many years building things like power and pharmaceutical plants – and sometimes knocking them down. Now he’s gotten down to some serious writing and has had stories appear in Yellow Mama, Close to the Bone, Shotgun Honey and Mystery Tribune and has stories forthcoming in Sherlock Holmes and Guilty. He’s sending out his first (crime) novel and finishing a political thriller.