I groaned in pleasure as I stretched out my limbs and felt blood stream back into my lower back. With a yawn, I entered a quaint, yet shaggy, diner next to the road. I hadn’t eaten since last night, too afraid to stop at any other diner on the dusty roads of Arizona.
It should be fine, however, I must eat eventually.
The diner was surprisingly crowded for such a desolate area. Perhaps there’s a town nearby?
The holster chafed against my side as I sat in one of the stalls by the window. I corrected it and glanced at the handle of the gun that hid underneath my jacket. I was glad that I hadn’t used it yet. Though, I expected to… soon.
I hid the weapon back under my jacket as a waitress approached me. She walked nonchalantly up to me and asked. “What will it be hon?”
I smiled as I pictured the scenery being identical to the many American movies that I’d seen; I half expected gunmen to show up anytime and shoot up the place.
The waitress cleared her throat and I realised that I’d stayed silent longer than intended. “I’ll have fried eggs and a coffee, please. Decaf, if you have,” I said, picking the first thing on the menu.
She nodded, took the menu off my hands and walked away. I slumped on the cushions of the stall and sighed heavily. Out here, nobody would recognise me. Nobody would point fingers, nor accuse me of things that weren’t true.
My mind drifting, I recalled the tabloids, the attention, and the death threats it brought. I left it all to come to this country, leaving behind the close-minded society of my home country. I did not miss it, oddly enough. Perhaps it was a sign, a nudge by the gods that it was time for a change.
I had never shot anyone before. But, in the heat of the moment, it is not always easy to make the right decision. Your safety, or theirs? I suppose it comes with the job, to prioritise theirs. Yet, I had chosen the former.
Touching the gun on the outside of my jacket, I said aloud. “I will need this. It’s a dangerous country and they will appreciate me here.”
Almost an hour went by and the food hadn’t come. I rose from his seat and walked up to the counter. “Excuse me,” I said, patiently.
When nobody responded I raised my voice. “Excuse me!”
An old man glanced at me and purposely took his time to walk to my end of the counter. The old man opened his mouth but was interrupted as a gunshot echoed behind him.
By reflex, I dodged behind the counter, and what followed was the very thing I had mocked just an hour ago.
“Everybody on the ground!” a voice shouted.
Suddenly, a bullet went through the counter, penetrating the floor by my feet.
“Not you. Get up from there!” the voice demanded.
The old man rose from behind the counter and stood stiffly with his hands above his shoulders.
“Empty the cash register!” the voice said, spitting out the words. “And the rest of you, empty your pockets, NOW!” The gun went off again, this time, the bullet hit the ceiling.
Still lurking behind the counter, I slid the gun from my holster. Somehow, it felt heavier than I remembered. Glaring through the wooden counter, I pictured the robber on the other side while the old man emptied the cash register.
This is it! The reason I had brought a gun in the first place, to protect and serve. To people that deserved it, to people that appreciated it.
I knocked the gun against the wood, silently. The old man glanced down at me and I displayed the gun to him, nodding in the robbers direction.
A big smile grew on my face then, far too excited than was appropriate. But my smile disappeared as the old man shook his head and glowered at me in disgust.
Stunned, the gun almost fell from my hand, dangling from my finger.
Suddenly the robber exclaimed. “Are you stalling old man?! You think you are some kind of hot shot? Man, fuck you!” he said, and moments later, blood splattered all over the counter.
Some of the blood landed on my face and I flinched as some went in my eye. I clutched the handle tightly as the robber bent over the counter to grab the cash on the other side. I pointed the gun at the man’s head but I hesitated. The robber slowly turned his head towards me, and at first, the robber just stared blankly at the end of the barrel of my gun.
Both frozen in indecision, the robber made the first move and jerked around to grab his own gun. But the robber was too slow and he fell lifeless over the counter as smoke poured out of the barrel of my gun.
More blood landed on my face and I sat frozen, staring vacantly at the two bodies in front of me. I was responsible for both.
I don’t know for how long I sat there. But the sirens outside broke me from my daze and when I looked up, two cops pointed their guns at me.
I kept staring with a vacant expression at the two cops until I closed my eyes, wishing that I was back home.
© Christopher Stamfors