THE KICK IT GIVES - JIM WILSKY
Originally published in March ’07 at Dave Zeltzerman’s Hardluck Stories
The car is traveling over 95 mph, rocketing down the desolate stretch of Rural Route 3 that connects the bedroom community of Greencastle, a tiny little town of about 120 people, with Mt. Julip, the county seat. With lights off, the black car is heard but not seen, except when the half moon momentarily fights its way through the skidding clouds. The driver is illuminated only by green dash lights, has the grin of invincibility, a grin belonging only to the young.
As Tammy Deever is having a smoke outside the Filler Up convenience store and she leans on the Coke machine, waiting to watch the Mustang go by. She can hear it coming hard and then it shoots past the illuminated lot and two gas pumps in a blink. She loves speed, power and danger. It looks like a sleek black bullet as it hurtles down the arrow-straight two-lane county road. It excites her, makes her feel wired, although she knows that a new Ford Mustang isn’t going to take her where she really wants to go.
“Fuck yeah,” she mutters appreciatively, grounding out her cigarette with one unlaced, high top tennis shoe. She swipes at her jet black hair with blue streaks highlighted in her bangs, which hang straight down over her eyes. An eyebrow has three small rings and her tongue is pierced twice. Underneath all that dark gothic look, though, is a face and body that many boys and men find slutty and, of course, irresistible.
“Fuckin’ get it, Harly,” Tammy says again over her shoulder as she walks back in the store and the door jingles the bell above. She will miss Harly, her on-again, off-again boyfriend of the past 2 months.
There are a couple of beer parties over in Mt. J tonight that she will miss because she has to be here. She needs the cash. She needs to get out of this shit town and that takes money. God knows her trailer whore mom will never give her any. She has to start somewhere.
A customer, the only one in the store, is waiting at the counter to pay and stares impatiently at Tammy as she strolls back inside, inspecting her chipped black polished nails.
“Take your time, hon’, I got all fuckin’ night,” Burl Hightower grunts.
She doesn’t even look at him as she slides behind the counter and crosses her thin pale arms. Instead, she rolls her eyes and looks out the window with a bored, slack expression.
“Can’t do it.” The hint of a smile now appears and she looks away again.
He says nothing and continues to stare at her with his jaw muscles clenching. Worn out fluorescent lights buzz softly above them. The only other sound in the store is the old freezer case clanking away in the back of the store.
He is still in his work clothes from his shift at the Golden Meadows Dairy plant. Burl is keeping to his normal schedule tonight; he’s on his way home from The Boilermaker, a whitewashed cinder block tavern with a low ceiling and dim lights where he’s been since clocking out. He goes there every Friday afternoon, drinks half his paycheck and unsuccessfully flirts with the waitress, Maryanne Cooper. He always stops here on the way home for a six pack of beer, but he’s never seen this little gothic slut before.
“I can’t ring that up, I’m not eighteen,” she lies, still bored and looking out the window.
“Well, get somebody else who fuckin’ can,” Hightower snarls, digging his wallet out.
“There ain’t somebody else. He called in sick.” Tammy sighs, rolling her eyes again dramatically. Dismissing him, she begins to stock cigarettes in the overhead rack above the counter. As she does, her black cutoff t-shirt with a skull and lightning bolt on the front rides up, revealing the bottom of a black lace bra.
Burl, jaw still working hard, stares at the bra cups and her flat smooth belly. He also notices that underneath that hacked-up hair, she is pretty damn hot. Her ignoring him is really eating at him now. It’s worse than ignoring, really, she just dismissed him. It reminds him of his repeated failed attempts with Maryanne Cooper. The anger really begins to boil in him.
“Ring the fucking beer up, you little bitch,” he growls at her and leans over the counter.
It was going to be close, the Filler Up was almost the halfway point, but right after that was The Dip. The Dip was just that, a deep depression in this otherwise straight and flat county road. He hasn’t slowed down since Trev yelled ‘go’ to him back in Greencastle while his other buddy, Jake, listening on his cell phone, started the timer on the other end.
Harlan didn’t intend to back off at the dip, either. He was going to go balls to the wall until he passed Jake and his stopwatch at the Crowell Road intersection, just outside of Julip.
“Fuck yeah,” Harlan Beltrain whispers, still grinning as he sees nothing but dark blurred shapes all around him and the vague outline of the blacktop road he is flying down. He will set a new record tonight, he’s sure of it. He can’t see the dip, but he can sense it coming now, loosening his tight grip on the wheel. You can’t fight the dip, you just have to go with it, and he does.
Deputy Sheriff Jess Glover pauses at the stop sign, and then pulls out onto Route 3. He is heading over to Greencastle for a quick swing through, just to make sure the bored country kids aren’t burning down the damn town down.
About three miles later, a phantom car blows by. It buffets his cruiser like the outer edge of a twister and he barely glimpses the dark shape in his headlights as it blasts past him.
“Shee-it,” Jess mutters as he takes hold of the wheel with both hands. His eyes are big as they snap to the rear view mirror.
Braking hard, he whips the car across the dark road and sends it down into the far ditch a little before heading back in the direction he had just come from. Calling in the pursuit and location quickly, he lights up the speeding car ahead, and then punches the cruiser for all its worth.
Harlan makes a snap decision when he sees the flashing lights behind him. He will not go into Julip. They’ll nail him for sure there. Braking hard, he swings the wheel to the left and makes a screeching, fishtailing turn. He is now headed straight back towards the headlights of the police cruiser.
Patrolman Glover sees the brake lights blink once, then go solid red and knows what the guy is going to do, slowing his cruiser down to make another reversal in direction and continue the chase.
“Shit,” he mutters again, a dark feeling washes over him. This just isn’t going to turn out good.
“Look, mister, you better just leave. Just go. Right the fuck now. We got two security cameras and they’re looking at your stupid ass right now,” Tammy says matter-of-factly and then pops her gum at him, as a sort of final fuck you, a ‘this conversation is over’ statement.
Burl Hightower is ready to reach over the counter, cameras or not, but behind him he hears the bell jingle above the door. She reaches up again and again her shirt goes as well. Despite himself, he can’t help but stare at a partially visible butterfly tattoo way down below her pierced belly button. It takes him a second before it registers that she isn’t reaching up for the cigarettes. He sees her eyes grow big and she’s now staring at something over his shoulder.
A high strung male voice behind him says, “Hey, asshole, turn around and get your fucking hands up, ya’ dickweed.”
Burl spins around, seeking the source of this new offender. He sees a fidgety, lanky figure just inside the door. He’s only a few feet away, swaying from side to side and shaking a large revolver at him. Smith & Wesson maybe. At any rate, way too much gun for this scarecrow. The guy has a stocking cap mask on.
“Do it now, man! NOW!” the bobbing and twitching man screeches at him.
“What the fuck?” Burl grimaces, and then with a snort of chuckling wonder in his voice, he repeats, “What the livin’ fuck?”
He puts his hands up in a half-ass way and stares at the masked figure that can’t stand still.
“Hands all the way UP, motherfucker!” the man shrieks.
Burl cocks his head slightly, looking hard into the wide eyes and open mouth that are showing under the ski mask. Putting his hands up farther, but still halfheartedly, Hightower grins slightly.
“You’re just a coked up fuckin’ kid, aren’t you? Just a little meth punk. Put the gun down before you hurt somebody, you little puke.”
Burl starts lowering his hands down and he hears the little gothic witch behind him start to say something like ‘no, don’t’ but the very last thing he ever hears is the boom of the .45. The noise is deafening, even louder in the confined little convenience store.
With her ears ringing, Tammy stares open mouthed at the fallen Burl Hightower. She screams, a short and shrill little chirp, her thin pale arms still frozen up in the air. She watches as a rapidly growing pool of blood around the man’s head begins to spread out. The bullet could not have hit Hightower anymore square in the forehead and his eyes are looking at the ceiling in a quizzical way, as if he’s searching for some unknown answer. The low bubbling of blood coming up out of the wound reminds her of the low pressure drinking fountain in the backroom.
“Shit!...Shit! The money. Get the money! Now!” the gunman yells, throwing a pillow case at Tammy and aiming the .45 at her now.
Gotta be Harlan, he’s the only one dumb enough to try this shit. Not a bad kid really, but dumber’n a box a rocks, Deputy Glover thinks to himself, glancing quickly at the speedometer, which has just topped 100 mph on his dash. Then, with widening eyes, he remembers the dip, but it’s a split second too late.
The cruiser jerks violently down and then bounces up, the front wheels losing contact with the road. Out of sheer reflex, Jess Glover fights it all the way. Before he loses complete control, he thinks he sees Harlan’s brake lights again at the convenience store up ahead. It’s all a blur of corn stalks, dirt and swirling lights after that.
Harlan brakes and downshifts hard down into second gear, barreling into the parking lot almost sideways. He fishtails the other way, loses it and then gets it back. Shifting again, he roars around to the back of Filler Up. After seeing the cop spin out and drop back, he’s decided to try hiding the car behind the store. He is ready to take off on foot and into the deep woods behind the store if he has to.
Sitting in the dark with the hot engine off but still ticking, he glances over and sees Tammy’s car parked against the store wall. Getting out quickly, he thinks to just ask her for a ride home. She won’t care. He’ll leave the car here until tomorrow morning. Hell, I’ll just say it was stolen or taken for a joyride and dumped here by someone. He smiles to himself, liking the story.
He knows she’ll let him in the back door if he bangs loud enough. Just for the hell of it, he checks the handle to see if it’s unlocked.
Damn, I’m rollin’ sevens tonight he thinks, as the knob turns smoothly and the door eases open.
At the same time, Jess Glover staggers out of the cornfield; badly cut, bruised and bleeding from a gash above his eyebrow. His cruiser has flipped in the ditch and then rolled twice into the cornfield. It has come to rest upside down with the flashing lights still turning, but he doesn’t hear the siren. He toggles his radio on his left shoulder and can’t get it to work, either.
Lumbering up to the roadside, he realizes that he can’t hear anything at all. His vision is not much better, partly due to the blood, but he can’t seem to clear his head. Weaving on the edge of Rural Route 3, he looks both ways and takes off across it in a rambling, weaving lope. ‘Damn you anyway, Harly,’ he hisses through the pain and grits his teeth.
Car lights sweep the front windows of the store. An engine downshifts hard and tires screech. “Out the back. Move! Where’s your car?!” the gunman ducks and yells.
“Here’s the keys. The rusty Toyota, out back. Don’t take me. I can’t go. I can’t!” Tammy begins to cry loudly. She had not figured on a murder.
“You’re comin’, bitch,” he yells, catching the key ring she tossed.
Tammy, walking in front of the gunman with the automatic pointed at the back of her head, purposely looks back at the security camera. But past the video dramatics, there is a real, growing fear in her eyes. This isn’t how it was supposed to go. They continue their walk towards the back room doors in a kind of stilted march.
At that very moment, Harlan walks through those same swinging doors. He freezes, eyes wide and only a few feet away from his girlfriend and a masked guy holding a very big handgun.
Whether out of surprise or reflex or meth, the gunman pushes Tammy to her knees and shoots Harlan once in the chest. Again, the small store shakes and echoes with the boom. The force of the shot drives him back into a rack of chips and salsa. He ends up on the floor, leaning against the wall. A look of surprise and confusion is painted on his young face. His head droops down weakly and he gazes at his ruined chest, then his look struggles up again as he fixes his eyes on Tammy’s.
“Harlan!” Her high voice chokes out... “HARLY!” Tammy gets out a shrill hysterical scream the second time. A real scream. She manages only one more quick look back at him as she is shoved quickly through the back room doors.
Harlan is leaning forward now and reaching in her direction but he can’t hold his arm up for more than a second and it flops to the floor. He only sees the dark outlines of things for a second, like a photo negative, then it all goes and he feels nothing.
Deputy Glover could not hear the gunshot inside, or the back door of the convenience store opening. When the gunman and Tammy come out the door, they see the uniformed officer with his back towards them and he’s looking through the driver side window of Harlan’s Mustang.
Panicking and strung out beyond control now, the man levels the .45 again and fires. The third lucky shot of the night for a strung out meth freak, enters the officer’s upper back. It tears through the heart of Jess Glover, killing him almost instantly.
Later that night, after they crossed the state line, they realized the money take is surprisingly good. So good that Tammy decides quickly there will be no split. When she added in the fact that the stupid fucker had killed her Harly, well, Tammy has no qualms with wasting the junkie drifter she had recruited earlier.
What was supposed to have been a simple robbery and a staged kidnapping had been a disaster from the start. There were suppose to have been no customers but the bastard just couldn’t wait outside until then.
“You can’t trust a methhead, Tam,” her mother had always warned her. “Just can’t.” She had been speaking from personal experience and firsthand knowledge, of course. Christine Deever, her slut mother, had been right for one of the few times of her miserable life.
Authorities would never discover the fate of Tammy Deever, the kidnapped convenience store clerk. It was feared and fully expected by authorities that she has met a violent end. The gunman who shot and killed three men that night was never located or apprehended. His weighted down body, missing head and hands, was thrown off the Leech Lake bridge in Southern Georgia.
She keeps the .45. It’s big and heavy for her, but she likes the damn thing, likes the feel when she shoots it. The noise and the power of it gives her a rush. She will never part with it. It probably has something to do with the kick it gives.
The only real trouble she has with that night at the Filler Up is that sometimes, with the lights off, late at night, she still sees Harly’s face. Still sees him looking at her with that confused stupid ass young face and he’s reaching for her. He’s always, always reaching for her.
She’s out west these days, New fuckin’ Mexico of all places and working in yet another shitty little store, on another dark road. Jenny Miller has a new boyfriend of the month, of course, and her hair is now blonde and straight, almost down to her waist.
Taking a smoke break, she stands with arms crossed over a low cut sheer blouse, looking out into the late night. All she knows is that she has to get out of this shit town. That takes money and she has to start somewhere. She’s still looking good in a kind of small town, slutty hot way and she has to keep moving up while she still can.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a figure with a hooded sweatshirt emerge from the tree line and he starts across the parking lot. It isn’t her real boyfriend, who doesn’t know yet that he’ll never see her again. No, it’s yet another puppy she has found that will follow her everywhere and anywhere, wanting nothing more than a treat thrown his way every once in awhile. In return, he’ll do anything. This one is clean, too, no more druggies. Midwest hitchhiker boys are the most reliable.
Walking inside quickly and going behind the counter to look busy, she knows that he will have to go, too, of course, just like the rest. She had never split a take yet and didn’t intend to. The money should be good tonight, the place was busy as shit all day, everyday until around midnight.
She had even gotten the safe combo at this place by rubbing up the manager one early Saturday morning while he was trying to open up. Jenny had leaned up against him hard from behind, letting her long hair fall in his face and whispered if he wanted some coffee. He was so excited, she could have reached in and taken the money right then.
She watches the boy coming to the door now, tightening up the hood and she absently pops her gum, loudly and with some anger. By now, a trademark ‘fuck you’ to anyone and everything.
A small bell jingles over the door and she almost holds her hands up before being asked to.
BIO: Jim J. Wilsky is a central Illinois native with a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling. He has written over 200 published and unpublished short stories in the genres of mainstream, suspense, crime, westerns, and historical fiction. His work has appeared or has been recently accepted by Yellow Mama, Darkest Before The Dawn, Mystercial-E, Hardluck Stories and Mouth Full of Bullets and others, as well as several print publications. He is supported and strengthened by a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters.
K.J. Howe stops by later
2 hours ago