Rap 5

Veronica never showed and I was out of money. I went home and got high. I pulled a couple of balled-up dollar bills from my coin jar and walked down the street for a sixpack of beer.

The walk was never longer. Every dog barked at me and nipped at my heels. All my neighbors jeered me. A sewer pipe under the street was leaking. A luxury car drove through a large puddle and splashed me good. My fly was stuck open, a big chunk of fabric caught in its teeth. My embarrassment was as exquisite as it was common. I walked on.

The grocery was small, and I saw Manny behind the register. Manny was the owner and always greeted me.

“Hello, Manny,” I said.

Manny ignored me. I looked at him. He was stiff and sweating behind the counter.

I turned to go down an aisle for beer. There were two men in ski masks standing in front of me with shotguns. I turned to Manny.

“I’d like a pack of menthols, please,” I said.

“Get down on the floor!” one of the men with the guns said.

“No,” I said, “please, not the cigarettes. Take me instead.”

“Whatever you say, man.” I got down on the floor. What would Harvey Keitel do, I thought. I could take them, both of them if I had the opportunity. I was a well oiled machine.

“Do you mind if I have a cigarette?” I asked.

The other man told me to shut up as he looted the register. I recognized his voice. He was this fellow used to live a couple streets away in the same apartments as me two years before. His name was Ted. We had gotten drunk together many times. He was a surfer with no front teeth. I felt nostalgic there on the floor. We had dropped acid once and spent the day at the beach, and now he was going to rob me.

It was then I noticed there were two other people on the ground down the aisle. One of them was Veronica. She was blocking the beer case.

“What are you doing here?” I asked Veronica.

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said.

“Here I am,” I said.

Ted told me to shut up again and empty my pockets. I pulled out my cigarettes first. He grabbed them from my hand.

“No,” I said, “please, not the cigarettes. Take me instead.”

The other man was at the front door now. He told Ted to hurry up. Manny had also recognized Ted’s voice. As Ted was leaving with my cigarettes and Manny’s money, Manny pulled a large handgun from under the counter. He fired but missed. The plate glass shattered.

“I know who you are you sonofabitch!” Manny yelled. He ran out into the street and fired again. He ran after them, yelling.

I stood up and went to the beer case. Luckily none of them were hurt in the melee. I laid my crumpled bills on the register and received no change. The sixpack, Veronica, and I walked back to my place.

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