[Author’s note: This is a rough draft. Please excuse any failings in grammar or format. Some small details may change.]
Four Year Reunion
by Marcus Campbell
Sterling walked down the block toward Enso’s Donuts, the small donut shop he used to frequent as a kid, he could already smell the rising dough and frosting on the air. As Sterling walked down the street a plume of smoke rushed up his nose. A man in a 1980’s retro jogging suit passed Sterling as he jogged with a cigarette dangling from his lips. The man kept his brisk pace and steady puff down the block and out of sight. Two kids brushed past Sterling as they passed him from behind. The kids appeared to be identical twins dressed in some matching clothes set with inverse colors. They had the type of style you’d see at a store in the dead center of the mall.
Sterling could now see Enso’s in the distance. It was a small brick building with bright pink trim. The outer walls of the shop were wrapped in a mural depicting the end of days with a psychedelic aesthetic. On the outside of Enso’s was a staircase that lead to a local paint shop. As Sterling walked up the path to the front of Enso’s he noticed a homeless man sitting on the curb with a sign that read “Help me and earn good Karma.” Sterling sat down on the curb next to the homeless man and exchanged pleasantries.
“How long have you been out here Dan?” said Sterling to the homeless man.
“What, on the street? Or out in front of Enso’s” said Dan.
“Either, or” said Sterling.
Dan took his time before replying. He pulled at his beard nervously three times.
“I’ve been homeless since around Y2K. Been outside Enso’s since last spring. Mark lets me stay out here if I don’t bother people too much.”
“Well that’s good man,” said Sterling.
He looked over the homeless man and spotted a beanie hanging from his front coat pocket.
“You think I can trade you half a pack of smoke for that beanie?” said Sterling.
“Make it half a pack of smokes and $20 and you’ve got a deal.”
“I like you Dan. How about $10, half a pack of smoke and I’ll bring you out some donuts?”
“That’s a plan,” said Dan, extending his hand toward Sterling.
Sterling shook Dan’s hand and they exchanged goods as agreed upon. Sterling walked past Dan and sat outside Enzo’s coffee shop at a small tin table meant to seat two. He pulled out the beanie and set in down on the table. Light refracted off the handle of the pistol in the small of Sterling’s back as he pulled out a four-inch blade. The serrated edge of the blade ripped through the fabric as sterling stabbed the mask. Sterling admired the block as he pulled at the cuts in the cotton beanie and formed three distinct holes in the form of a triangle. Sterling tucked the beanie into his back left pocket.
An older man on an Electric scooter pulled up the path to enter Enso’s. He was grizzled and his skin had deep craters as if he had been picking at it for hours. He was only halfway up the path and Sterling could already smell him. He wore a cologne of dollar store cheddar cheese balls, citrus flavored soda, and grease. His clothes had smear marks around the collar and cuffs. The sole on his left shoe was several inches thicker than the right shoe. Sterling took the opportunity to get more information.
“Good morning, my name is Sterling.”
“Morning, the name’s Benny.”
“You come here a lot?”
“Yes, I’m here every morning.”
“That’s cool man. There a lot of regulars here?”
“No, until the church group comes in at about 11:15. It’s just me until then.”
“Oh, I bet they’re good business.”
“Not like you’d expect. They usually just grab a cup of coffee and sit for hours.”
“They must’ve dropped all their cash in the collection plate.”
“Ha! If only they would.”
“All right man, have a good one.”
“You too man,” said Sterling.
Benny drove up the cart path, hit the disabled button on the side of the wall and went into the shop. Sterling looked through the window and saw one person sitting in the shop. He observed through the window as Benny placed his order. It seemed like there was only one person working. Sterling assumed it was Mark but couldn’t make out his face through all the ads on the windows. Sterling sat at the table for a bit and admired the calmness of the city. Across the street from Enso’s was a shop called “Christian Science” with a bus stop in front of it. Sitting at the bus stop was a teenage boy with long black hair reading origin of species. Two doors down from the Christian Science building was a diner. In the parking lot two parents pulled up in separate cars, spoke briefly, and traded a child for a handshake.
Sterling glanced back inside Enso’s. Benny was sitting down in the back sipping at a cup of coffee and picking from a box of donuts. The kid working the register was sitting on his phone playing the newest version of Flappy Bird. Sterling reached into his back left pocket and pulled out the beanie that he turned into a mask. He looked around to double check there was nobody in the immediate area and pulled the mask over his face. Sterling pulled the 1911 from the small of his back and rushed into Enso’s slamming the door behind him.
The electronic bell on the door chimed indicating a new customer. Sterling locked the door behind him with his free hand. Benny and Mark both didn’t look up until Sterling drew the blinds closed. Mark dropped his phone and hopped back startled. Benny just stared at Sterling.
“All right guys, just do what I say and this all goes down baby smooth,” said Sterling.
Benny and Mark didn’t move or say a word.
“Nod or say yes if you understand me idiots,” said Sterling.
“Yes,” said Benny and Mark in tandem shaking their heads vigorously.
Benny reached down into the box of donuts and snapped of a section of an old-fashioned donut. Sterling snapped the gun over to Benny and moved toward him, careful to not totally ignore Mark.
“Keep your hands up Mark. Don’t get cute,” said Sterling.
“How? How’d you know my name,” chattered Mark.
“This idiot,” said Sterling, shaking his gun toward Benny.
“I’m cool man,” said Mark a bit calmer now.
“Good. Stay that way.”
Sterling turned his attention to Benny but shifted the pistol to Mark.
“Empty your pockets old timer. Sorry about this,” said Sterling.
“I’m on social security. I barely got enough for these donuts,” said Benny.
“I don’t trust you as far as you can walk,” said Sterling.
“Punk ass kid.”
Sterling took the opportunity to exercise his crowd control methods and slid the safety off on his 1911. He pointed the gun between Benny’s eyes. Benny shrunk down in his chair thinking it would make him a smaller target. Sterling shot two rounds right past Benny’s left ear and pointed the gun back at Mark. Mark’s back was now pushed all the way back against the coffee machines.
Benny fell back in his chair clutching at his chest. He frantically pulled at his jacket trying to get his hand inside the inner pocket. He fumbled around in his jacket, wheezing for air, until he pulled out a bottle of pills. Sterling walked around the edge of the table to see Benny struggling. Benny dropped his bottle in favor of clutching his left arm. The bottle of pills rolled away from him and toward Sterling. Benny reached out for it and Sterling kicked it away from him. Sterling rolled him over and pulled his wallet from his pocket.
“Saves me the trouble,” said Sterling.
Sterling flipped through his wallet and opened the cash slot. There was at least $300 in cash in the fold. The Identification card said Benjamin Rodriguez and was directly across from an American Express black card. Sterling pulled out the black card and tossed it toward Benny.
“Social Security my ass,” said Sterling turning away from a fading Benny, “You could’ve saved your own life.”
Sterling walked toward Mark at the register with the gun trained forward. Mark began to shrink into the corner and peek at his phone on the counter.
“Don’t go for the phone. I can shoot you faster than you can dial 911. Bullets are pretty damn fast,” said Sterling.
“Okay. Please don’t kill me,” said Mark, nearly weeping.
“Pull yourself together and empty the register into a donut box.”
“Okay. Okay,” said Mark while emptying out the register.
“Is there a safe,” said Sterling.
“Yes. It’s emptied on Fridays though.”
“Empty the safe and put it in the bag. It’s not worth your life.”
Mark paused briefly and squinted his eyes at Sterling. Mark’s hands went back to work but his eyes shifted side to side as if he were thinking. Mark emptied the register and moved on to emptying the safe.
“I swear I recognize his voice,” mumbled Mark under his breath.
“What was that?” said Sterling impatiently staring at the clock. It was 11:00.
“Are you? Are you Sterling,” said Mark.
Sterling was so caught off guard his dropped the point of his gun to the counter top. Mark eased up a little bit.
“How do you know me?” said Sterling. He didn’t see any point in the charade.
“We went to high school together. Don’t you remember?” said Mark.
“Yes, how long has it been? Four years?” In truth, Sterling didn’t remember Mark at all.
“Yes, how’s the old crew?” asked Mark nervously.
“Not good.” said Sterling, “Eden is sick.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Of course, you are everyone seems to be sorry but no one helps.”
“Well, I am sorry. Um, how are the others?”
“Dan and Ella split up.”
“Really? I didn’t see that coming.”
“I did. Dan started cheating and Ella had enough of it. In her time away from him she rediscovered herself, her art and her latent attraction to the fairer sex. In desperation Dan got a sex change hoping Ella would love him again. She didn’t care.”
“Good god man. What about James?”
Mark started to loosen up and inch back toward his phone. Sterling left the point of the gun sitting on the table and slipped back into storytelling.
“James is locked up, got a couple of years left on his sentence. Funny part is that Jared is his prison guard.”
“No shit? Didn’t he used to bully James every day.”
“Yes, man it’s wild. The universe is a beautiful thing,” said Sterling chuckling.
Mark took the opportunity to try and snatch the gun. He lunged toward Sterling grabbing his arm and twisting it. As Mark twisted Sterling’s arm Sterling’s grip on the pistol started to loosen. Just as the pistol was about to fall Sterling whipped his head over and head butted Mark right on the bridge of his nose. Fountains of scarlet fluid cascaded from Marks nose. Mark loosened his grip on Sterling’s arm and Sterling yanked it free. Once his arm was free Sterling cocked his arm back and pistol whipped Mark to the floor.
“You’re a dumb ass. I was considering letting you live for a moment there,” said Sterling.
“Screw you and your idiot friends. This is my dad’s shop and I’m not giving you shit.”
“Suit yourself. I’ve got to pay Eden’s hospital bills,” said Sterling.
Sterling fastened the front sights onto Mark’s forehand and brought the rear sights into alignment. He took a slow inhale and squeezed the trigger until it gave. A loud clap rose from the barrel of the 1911 and a .45 caliber round found its way into Mark’s mouth. It passed through his brain stem and out the back of his neck. The bullet ricocheted off the steel plating guarding the bottom of the walls and right back into Sterling’s eye. Sterling clutched his eye and fell to the floor. He laughed until as he bled out and died in the center of the room.
Dan heard the clap of gun shots and opened the door to Enso’s Donuts hesitantly. He admired the three dead bodies and pools of blood and smirked. He tip-toed over to the counter and took the box of donuts with the cash. Dan strolled over to Benny’s table and grabbed the box of donuts. Dan then walked over to Sterling’s body and looked in his wallet. There was only $11 in Sterling’s wallet. Dan took $10 and left Enso’s Donuts. At 11:17 the church groups arrived.