The Diner

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Sitting outside of the diner, looking through the windows, watching her, all over him. He’s clowning around, smoking a blunt, passing it around, clapping the “homies” up, trying to be a real thug. He wouldn’t know a real thug if one walked up and slapped him in the face. The bandanna in his back pocket, bright blue, grounds for him to be killed if the wrong person sees it.

I’m the wrong person.

Kill the engine, gun in the seat next to me, grab it, tuck it into my waistband and hop out of the car, sweating bullets. I walk toward the diner and the hood rats hanging out by the door take one look and split because they’ve seen enough to know what’s about to happen, seen enough people run up on to know.

I open the door, push my way to the bar, order a drink, take a sip, all the while watching them. She sees me, doesn’t realize who I am, goes back to fawning over Slim Thug, who’s regaling the diner with a story of his latest exploit, not a word of it true. I know it, she knows it, everyone knows it, but no one says anything because he’s got a temper, and he’s not above slapping an onlooker who questions him.

“You want a refill hun?” The waitress, pretty once but not anymore, asks.

“Nah. I’m good,” I answer, pulling a fistful of bills out of my pocket. I leave them on the counter, stand up, go to the bathroom, push the door open, lock it behind me.

I light a smoke; stick it between my lips, trying to keep calm. It’s the same thing every time, no matter how many times I do it; I can’t get comfortable with it. That’s the life of a kid like me.

No dad, mom works three jobs, just to pay for a crummy apartment, started dealing when I was young, got hooked up with the wrong kind of people when I was still a pre-teen. Blood in, blood out, that’s how my life’s been ever since. I wear red, Slim Thug out there wears blue, and that’s all the provocation I need.

Sometimes, I wish my life were different, house in the suburbs, a dog maybe. I always wanted a dog.

Doesn’t matter now, because I’m not going to make it out of this, don’t want to, decided that before I came inside. I can’t go back to the projects, can’t keep sellin’ drugs, robbin’ people who are just as broke as I am, can’t keep killing.

I flick the butt of the cigarette into the trashcan, take a deep breath, open the door, pull the gun out of my waistband, slide a round into the chamber, walk down the short hallway, back into the diner proper.

The first person that sees me is the old waitress, and she screams, but it doesn’t last because I blow her away, perfect hole in her apron. Slim Thug shows what kind of man he really is, pushes the girl he’s been with my way, and ducks down behind the counter. The girl looks at me, tries to speak, can’t get a word out, gets stretched out.

I take a step forward and Slim Thug pops out, .38 in each hand. He starts shooting, hits me a couple of times, but I’m too far gone to notice. I raise the gun, and he blubbers something, a prayer, an apology, but it doesn’t save him.

One of the cooks called the cops when the shooting started, and now they’re outside, shouting for me to come out with my hands up, drop the weapon, we won’t hesitate to use force if you remain uncooperative.

Dying turns out to be surprisingly easy. All I have to do is turn, hold the gun up a little, and the SWAT team tears me apart.

I always wanted a dog.





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