Stories No. 72 – John Murphy

Desert Diner Robbery
By John Murphy

I walked into the diner, banged the metal side-table with my shotgun butt, and yelled, “All right, this is a robbery!” just the way they do it in the movies. Everybody’s head whipped around. The effect was thrilling. The fear sprung up in their eyes. One elderly couple in the back shot their hands into the air before Raymond could even bark out the next order—extremely cool. Just like the movies.

Behind the counter the diner’s owner got fidgety, so I marched over and waved the gun in his face. “Give me the money, motherfucker!” I screamed. My pulse raced; I must have been as nervous and jumpy as the diner patrons because the shotgun bounced up and down in my hand, and I think that made the owner more scared than anything; he snapped out those bills from the cash register faster than I’ve ever seen anyone move.

Raymond was a cool flash though—he strolled calmly down the length of the diner and back. “Okay, obedient people, if you all, please remain calm and in your seats, this will all be over in five minutes, and then you can all go back to your meals,” he remarked as if he was talking to his mother. Nice as peaches.

When we were in the car out in the parking lot loading the shells and putting on the masks, I expected our reactions to be switched—I thought Raymond would be the one shaking and me the one with icy veins. Raymond was always afraid of everything, especially when he was younger. He didn’t learn how to ride a bike until he was eleven. Extremely quiet. He was always reading books in his room. I picked up one of his books once and couldn’t make out the ass from the head. Seeing him rest the shotgun in the crook of his elbow, smooth-like, and stop in front of each booth, eyeing each customer, was surreal. I wish I could’ve seen his face. We were both wearing Halloween masks we got from the Party City in Duncan—and we looked sick. I had picked out this wicked clown mask with rotting flesh, and a toothy grin spread literally ear to ear. Scary as shit. Raymond was boring—he picked out this plain white, expressionless mask that wasn’t even in the Halloween aisle at all. Like he was going to a masquerade or whatever you call those parties.

The owner laid out the bills on the counter, and I grabbed them and stuffed them in my pocket. We went around to each booth to get the customers’ cash, too. We went to the elderly couple first; they had their money neatly laid out on the table in stacks according to their value—two twenties, a ten, two fives and four ones. “Very nice of you,” Raymond said. “Thank you.”

The next couple, almost as young as us, was more stubborn, but Raymond pointed the shotgun at the girl, and the guy got out his wallet without another thought. At the next booth was this fifty-something-year-old man, hard-bit, looked like he had his nose broken at one point. When Raymond politely asked him for his money the guy looked up at Ray’s white mask and said, “Fuck you, sonny.”

Ray didn’t say anything, but slid into the booth across from the guy and stared at him with his head cocked like a dog.

“Hey, come on, motherfucker, hand over the cash!” I yelled at him, waving the muzzle in his face. But he paid no attention to me; he was staring back at Raymond. Those two looked like they were having a staring contest. It was fucking weird.

“The money, motherfucker, get it out!” I yelled again.

“Shut up, Number Two,” Raymond said. “Watch the other people. Make sure none of them get funny.”

Number Two? Who was he calling Number Two? I made a nasal sound as if to protest the name, but Raymond turned and looked at me. He wasn’t screwing around. So I backed off and waved the shotgun at the owner again, who was edging for the landline anyway. I corralled everybody over into the opposite corner. For about a minute everything in the diner was silent. I had my back turned when Raymond spoke again.

“Okay,” he said, “So you aren’t going to give me the money.”

“That’s right,” said the guy.

“Okay. That’s fine. I’ll cut you a deal. It’s a good deal. You can even walk away with your money. Do you want to hear the deal?”

The guy didn’t respond.

Raymond continued. “The deal is this: you can keep your money—if you perform fellatio on my shotgun.”

“What?”

“Yes, fellatio. Do you know what fellatio is? No, maybe you don’t. It’s a big word. Here: I want you to give the muzzle of my gun a blowjob. You understand that word, right? Blowjob?”

“Fuck you.”

“Hmm; yeah; ‘fuck me.’ Look it’s not a bad deal. I’m not going to blow your head off or anything. I’ll keep my finger off the trigger. Shit, I’ll flip on the safety. Here, look,”—a shotgun’s safety clicked—“safety on.”

I hadn’t looked up to that point because I was too nervous to turn my back on the other diners; the guy of the young couple had glared at me non-stop. But when the safety clicked, I looked back. It was then that I had a peek. Only the dome of the guy’s head shot over the booth seat, but Raymond was visible enough. He was leaning back, his shotgun resting on the edge of the table, pointed up to where the man’s head was. What the hell was he doing? I backed up slowly to get a better look.

The man hadn’t responded yet.

“You know what happens if you don’t give me the money or give Erlik a nice licking?” Raymond said. “I blew off body pieces. Hands first, then feet. Then I take your money anyway. No hands, no feet. Crippled and unable to play charades—I can’t imagine a worse fate. Is that what you want?”

“Fine. Fine. You win,” the man said, and I heard the sound of money slamming down on the table. I rushed over, grabbed the cash and stuffed it into my pocket with the rest of the bills.

“Come on, let’s go,” I said.

“Wait; wait. Cool your jets, Number Two.”

“Number One, we got the cash, let’s fucking split.”

“Hmm, no. This man here still hasn’t given my dear shotgun a nice blowjob. Have you?”

The man protested. “I thought you said—”

“I know what I said. I don’t care. I’ve got an erect gun who needs to be sucked off. We can’t leave until you do it.”

Raymond pushed the gun muzzle closer to the man’s lips. Close enough that the man had to stare at it cross-eyed.

“Come on,” Raymond said, cheerfully, “Safety’s on. What are you worried about? Do you want to lose your hands, your feet? Go on.”

The man looked at the muzzle like he was ready to do it. I tried grabbing Raymond by the collar, but he shoved me away.

“Fuck off, Number Two. Go jerk off over there with everybody else.”

I didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to do. So I walked back over to the other people and feebly resumed guarding them. Raymond’s voice was still loud and clear across the room:

“There we go. There we go. That’s right…Open…Open…Slowly at first…Slowly…Lick the tip like a good girl…Okay, now let it enter…There we go…My good obedient pet…Deep throat it…Deep throat it…Gag…Good boy…”

I couldn’t fucking take it anymore and, without thinking, I rushed over across the diner to Raymond and the guy’s booth—the guy had his lips around the shotgun barrel all right—and I took the butt of my gun and rammed it into the guy’s face. Blood spurted out of his nose, and his head crashed into the window, and he collapsed into his seat, unconscious. Raymond, stunned, glared at me.

“What the fuck!” he yelled.

I didn’t care. I grabbed him, and this time, he let me drag him out of the booth and the diner, to the parking lot, into the car. We drove off.

The night desert unfolded and rolled out before us a few yards ahead at a time, as far as the headlights could pierce. The road stretched unnaturally. Raymond didn’t say anything; neither did I. Around two we crossed the state line into Arizona and an hour later we were back in our hometown. I parked on the curb in front of Raymond’s house, a run-down, glorified-trailer of a one-story, and then I dug into my pockets and retrieved the bills, and we counted them silently. A hundred and forty-six dollars—most of it from that elderly couple. I handed Raymond his half, and he said, “Thanks,” and made to get out the car.

“Ray,” I said.

“What.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

He sighed, but he said nothing.

“Whatever,” I said. “It’s whatever. Let’s not do this again.”

“Fine.”

“All right; goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

I watched him walk up to his driveway and into the house. I sat there in the car for another minute, thinking to myself, before driving off.

When I arrived at my house, I put the money under my mattress and laid down. I stared at the ceiling for a long while. I couldn’t concentrate on anything; my mind spun like a pinwheel, round and round. It wasn’t until the morning sunlight sneaked through my window slats that I finally fell asleep.

 

 

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John Murphy has published writing in The Vignette Review, Ad Hoc Fiction, Ruminate Magazine, Dragon Poet Review, Montana Mouthful and Chicago Literati. In his free time, he is usually reading books, watching movies or listening to music.

 

Art by C. O’Connor.