The man came in at 9:56, 4 minutes before close. He was a big man with a buzzed head and a handlebar moustache. He wore a worn black leather jacket that reminded me of the Hell’s Angels. His left hand hung by his side while his right hung awkwardly in his pocket.
Usually the only people who come in this late are the drunks trying to get their last installments of booze for the night or the young kids trying to steal candy. He was obviously not the latter.
He did not walk to the beer case though, and did not seem at all interested in the special on King sized Kit-Kat bars. He stood in the center of the mini mart for a minute, looked around and then looked at me. His gaze was steady and unwavering, it reminded me of the way a predator might look at its prey before gobbling it up.
As he walked over I detected the strong smell of cigarette smoke. Ah the third reason why someone might be in here so late, would he go fro the Marlboros or the Camels?
As he got closer I could see his right hand was still awkwardly in his pocket and it seemed unnaturally stiff as if he were holding something and didn’t want anyone to know it. My heart started to beat a little faster.
Now that he was right in front of me the stink of the cigarettes was quite strong. Did he have a lit one hidden somewhere? His face was worn and scared as if he had been in a fight or two, or three. Without breaking that hungry stare he asked “pack of Marb 27s” in a low gravely voice that led me to believe he was born with a cigarette in his mouth.
I didn’t want to turn my back on him but the cigarettes were behind me. My heart began beating even quicker now and I slowly turned my back to him and scanned the rack for the 27s. as my outstretched hand touched the pack that voice croaked out again, “I hope you got a lot of cash in the register, cuz I’m about to clean you out.”
My heart jumped into my throat and I felt a single bead of sweat form on my forehead as I slowly turned around. This small 180 degree motion took all of an eternity as my brain fabricated the news headline, “Robbery!”, and “Murder at the Mini-Mart!”
As I faced him I put the pack on the counter, my hand visibly trembling. “That will be $5.50” I said, my voice almost cracking, “No it won’t” he said with that toad voice, “you’re going to be paying me tonight.”
With that the hand slowly started to creep out of his pocket. My thoughts went blank with anticipation for the shiny metal barrel that would follow the hand, ready to blast me into oblivion. “I just won 300 dollars” he croaked with a smile of yellow stained teeth, and set the lottery ticket down on the counter.
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