This is Bad – Rebecca Havens

flash fiction

This is Bad

I’m not quite sure how to tell this story—so I will start at the beginning, the way they teach little kids to tell their stories.

I was ringing up this guy, for his two forties and pack of cigs, at the gas station, and he’s looking at me all funny. I’m waiting for him to do something Bad and he’s sitting there all calm, and I’m just ringing him up. There’s that little room right behind me and I’m trying to sot of angle myself toward it—a room with bullet proof glass and a telephone. He’s super calm, but I figure that doesn’t mean he won’t do something Bad.

So I scan his stuff, and I tell him the total, and he reaches into his pocket, and I’m really sweating now, but he pulls out a twenty and it’s fine. So I’m breathing again (I didn’t realize my breath had hitched in my throat), and I’m thinking wow it feels Good to breathe, and he’s getting his change, and we’re saying our niceties and he’s gone.

The wind blows the door shut, and it’s Fine. I see headlights, and I figure it’ll be a calm night after that. There’s usually one suspect per night, and then it calms down into drunken teenagers who may squabble, but mean no harm, and people who ran out of eggs (and sometimes drunken teenagers who ran their parents out of eggs).

But then, see, he comes back in, and he says the cigs are no-good cigs. And I don’t understand. He says they’re no good, past expiration. I’m asking if cigarettes have expiration dates, and he’s looking at me funny, kind of wobbling, and then he’s on the floor and I’m on the phone and I wish I could remember how it happened before that.

Because I know there was stuff before that, and I can’t remember it. But I was on the phone pretty quickly, telling the police to come real quick, there’s a man down, and his cigs are bad, and how he wobbled.

When they get there, they’re not quite sure what to do, and I’m not quite sure what to do, so I sit in the little room. But it’s Bad, from what I hear. A heart attack, and they don’t know if he’s dead, which I don’t understand. The paramedics arrive right after that and they’re talking about is there brain death, and I’m just thinking wow. No-good.

And then they carried him away, and the three police who stayed sort of came into my little room, but there really weren’t places for all of us, so we went out into the store, and people kept trying to buy things and getting really impatient, but I told them there was brain death maybe.

And my manager, who was supposed to have the night off and was super grumpy, well, she took over.

The police asked lots of questions, and I told them I really didn’t know, he wobbled and then I was on the phone. And his cigs might have been bad, but I didn’t think he had smoked them yet.

And then a policeman made a joke, I don’t remember what kind, and I said this is Not a Time for Jokes. And then it got quiet and somber again.

And I never found out if there was brain death, but the man never came back. Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising because I’d never seen him before.

Rebecca Havens is a happy person. She currently works for a nonprofit, and graduated in 2014 from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in Writing. She mostly writes fiction and poetry, but adores everything.

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