“Bruh, heart up,” said the twenty-something driver to the teen fidgeting in the passenger seat of the stolen car.  The driver had just slowly turned the car right onto a dark, city street.  He killed the lights, but kept the car running in park.  His voice deep and quiet with dangerous urgency said, “Esé, you gotta live up to your name.  You wanna jump in don’ ya?”

The teen, looking older than his youth, resolved his face into a mask of seriousness. He forced himself to sit like a statue, cold and hard, as he looked out the car window at the dark street.  Inside, his emotions churned with his attempts to overpower fear with determination.  The streetlights had long ago either been broken or the copper wire stripped out by junkies; the city too poor to replace it, left it dead.

“Bonito.  Esé.  What you think?”  The teen abruptly pulled out a .22 caliber gun from his jacket and flashed it at the driver.  “Got my two-two.  Gonna use it.  Yeah.”  With a twist of his wrist, he placed it back into his interior jacket pocket.  He felt it hard against his body.  Instead of assuring him, it felt uncomfortable jamming its hard edges into his ribs.  The distraction eased his nervousness about what he was expected to do.

“Esé, that’s more like it,” Bonito Loco said.  Bonito, his gang nickname, grinned at his young charge and lifted his chin to point at an all-night convenience store that shone bright like a star in the night.  “This the one.”

After turning on the headlights, Bonito slowly drove the non-descript black car into the empty parking lot to park directly in front of the glass-fronted convenience store.  He turned off the engine, but kept the headlights on.  The glare from the car lights bounced off the store front to amplify the light illuminating the two young mens’ faces.  The two sat watching for movement inside the store.

“Li’l Loco.  You know what you need to do,” Bonito said looking full into his passenger’s face.  He flashed a sign low with one of his hands to charge-up the teen to take action.

Loco jumped out of the car and strode the few steps forward to enter the store.  While he walked to the back of the store where the refrigerated beers and wines were located, Bonito heard something moving from the dark fringes of the alley next to the store.  He turned to peer out his open, car window.  A grotesque shape emerged from the dark alternately stumbling and dragging its feet along the ground.  An incessant mumbling became louder, as it moved closer from the dark night toward the light of the store.

Bonito drew his gun, ready for a fight.  His rivals could be playing a trick to get close and jump them.  He relaxed, as the homeless man tripped into the light.  The man stood wavering while he looked through the storefront glass.  His forehead stayed pressed against it for a second or two. He turned to press his back against the glass.  His dirty, cardboard and carpet remnant-covered body, slowly collapsed down onto the concrete storefront pad. He sat staring into Bonito’s bright headlights.  His body odor permeated the still night air. The homeless man put the palms of his hands over his ears and waggled his head back and forth, as though a loud sound was piercing his ears.

Page one excerpt from Road Noise Short Stories To Thrill and Chill  2016 © Belinda A. Allen

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