He slapped it in my hand. My fingers wrapped around the textured grip. The weight of it pressed down on me, held me there. The allure. The promise of things to come. The cold, hard weight of it.
The steel barrel shimmered in the fluorescence of a lingering streetlight. My mind flashed back to my wedding day. Like an old-time picture show the images came to me. First in black and white and then in color—
The metal-framed carousel house where we held the ceremony.
The gentle waves lapping the shoreline.
The smiling guests and relatives.
My wife Jenn, her white lace gown flowing to the floor. Her veil cascading behind her, framing her face.
I saw her for the first time that day—I mean really saw her.
But somehow it all went wrong. My thirst. My addictions. The burden of my abandoned dreams, dragging me down until I could barely catch my breath.
The screen in my head shifted to Jack Junior—
His first cries of life at St. Joe’s Hospital.
The doctor handing him over to us.
He was my responsibility. But what the hell could I teach him? I couldn’t even take care of myself.
Marcus punched me in the arm, a sudden pain awakening me from my stupor.
“Jack. Jack! What the fuck?”
“Huh?” I mumbled.
“Jack, snap the fuck out of it.”
“Sorry, Marcus. I was just thinkin’.”
“Yeah, I bet. Leave the thinkin’ to me,” Marcus said.
“We got this, right?” I said.
“What? You havin’ second thoughts?”
“No. I’m good,” I stuttered.
“You in as deep as me.”
“More,” I said. “I need this. I want my fuckin’ life back. And Jenn and the kids.”
“Focus on the fuckin’ job for a change,” Marcus barked. He slid his hand along the top of the car’s worn dashboard. It was crazed from years of punishing sunlight. “Where’d you get this piece of shit?”
“It was a steal—literally,” I smirked, trying to improve his mood.
“Last time I put you in charge of the getaway car, asshole.”
He was right. Another bad decision piled on top of a pile of bad decisions. They engulfed me. My gift. When you have nothing, Fast and Easy become your bedfellows. They take you by the hand and lead you astray. You go willingly, fueled by desperation.
Marcus pulled a black ski mask over his head and turned to me, his eyes filled with pain and purpose. “Well, let’s move then. And Jack—cover me.”
I pulled my mask on and we exited the vehicle. The morning light peered over the horizon, the heat of the new day rising off the wet pavement. The smell of weed and urine filled the air. The weed smelled good. We moved through the littered alley and found the rear entrance to the dispensary. This early they’d be flooded with cash from last night’s sales, with weed to spare. The back door hung ajar, just like the previous mornings. We opened it and entered.
Armed with a .357 Magnum, Marcus took the lead. He moved with caution. I held back a bit, perspiration building up under my mask and in my clothes. My hands shook. We rounded the corner of the storage area.
A sudden boom from shots fired reverberated off the sheetrock walls. I stepped back, securing my footing. Gunpowder hit my nostrils in a rush and Marcus dropped to the floor in front of me like a sack. The signature “Ch-chunk” of a shotgun racking quickened me to life. The hollow barrels of a twelve gauge stared me down.
I lifted my handgun. Now it seemed weightless, my fears and hopes raising it with ease. I pulled the trigger as fast and as often as I could.
Sometimes you don’t know how everyday decisions impact your future.
Sometimes an opportunity is just a trap.
Sometimes life grabs you by the balls and all you can do is grab back.
Cold. The hard weight of it.
It was the last thing I felt, but at least I felt something.
James Patrick Focarile resides in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and a M.F.A. from Brooklyn College. His works have been produced on stage, in film and have appeared or are forthcoming in Bright Flash Literary Review, Litro Magazine and Cardinal Sins Journal.