About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
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"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
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Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
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O R D E R   T O D A Y !
The Least I Could Do
by D. R. Prescott

         The clerk looked glum. He had to be seventy or eighty years old. Underneath the bill of his Quickie-Mart ball cap, his sad, hazel eyes showed no fear, only indifference in the face of a Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum pointing straight at his well-veined, mottled nose.

         “Give it to me! All of it!” I screamed as an involuntary shiver coursed my spine. Couldn’t chicken out. The guys were watching and waiting outside in the chopped Chevy. They’d kick my ass.

         “Shoot. Nobody will care. Least of all, me… Go on, stupid! Do it! Do me a favor!” The clerk’s tone went from sad to irritated in a few syllables.

         “Open it up! I’m not kidding. I’ll kill you!”

         “No, you won’t. You haven’t got it in you. Put the gun down. Forget it. Go home and sleep it off.”

         “I’m not drunk. I need the money now. Give it to me!” What the hell was wrong with this guy?

         “No.” The clerk turned his back. “This make it easier?”

         “Jesus! Shit! I’m not kidding!” I fidgeted; couldn’t stop it. I shifted my weight nervously from one foot to the other while my gun hand began to tremble. The gun was heavy and getting heavier every moment. I may be small but he should have been scared. It wasn’t right. With his back to me, I could see the old man watching my reflection in the window.

         “Why are you doing this? I know you. Know your mother too. You don’t want to do this.” The old clerk asked and turned slowly back to face me. The pistol’s barrel made little figure eights. It was so heavy. My wrist hurt. My arm was getting so tired.

         “Got to. They’ll kill me!” I glanced quickly toward the vehicle in the parking lot with its headlights suddenly beaming toward us. They had guns too and knew how to use them. They weren’t going to wait very long.

         “Boy, don’t let ‘em suck you in. How old are you? Twelve? Thirteen? First time?”

         “Mister, give me the money!” I lowered my voice and tried to hold the gun steady. My palms were sweating.

         “Give me the gun or shoot.”

         I felt tears welling up. I couldn’t stop them. Damn! I couldn’t let them see tears. “Down on the floor!” I shrieked.

          “Really? Why?”

         How could this old fart been so stupid. “Just give the money or… or I’ll…”

          “Sonny, you know what’s so funny? You just missed the cash. I just stuffed it into the floor safe right here. I can’t get at it. You don’t want to go to jail for the few lousy bucks left in the register as change, do you? Think, lad!” The old man took off his ball cap and ran his fingers through his thin, straggly gray hair. His eyes pierced right through me like he knew something that I didn’t.

         I looked outside in desperation. It wasn’t right. The headlight beams flashed from low to high and back. Signaling that I had to do something. Accidentally, I pulled the trigger. The report was deafening. My hand was kicked up nearly over my head. The pistol dropped to the floor. The old clerk moved amazingly fast around the counter. To his left the bullet had torn through the cash register, exited and was lost in the opposite counter shelves.

          “You little bas…” Before the clerk reached me, I lunged for the gun on the black and white tile floor. I grabbed it and it went off again. This time from my vantage on the floor I watched in horror as the old man’s dirty brown oxford seem to explode in a nightmare of blood and bone. The old man fell to the floor cussing and screaming. I dropped the gun again.

         There was a screech of tires in the parking lot and the headlights approached the door. The surreal glare of the lights made me freeze. Nick and Manuel jumped out of the Chevy with guns in their hands. I reached for the 357 but the old man’s veined, blood marked hand curled around the pistol’s butt. He had it.

         The mart’s front door opened and Nick was the first one through as a thunderous roar from behind me made me see stars. Nick lurched, pointed the gun toward me before it went off. I heard and felt the bullet pass my ear so close that I was sure I had been hit. The old clerk let out a screech. He was apparently hit again. Nick fell to the floor and his blood began to ooze from under his inert, heavy, six-foot frame.

         Manuel fired and I was surrounded by a cacophony of cusses, grunts and gunfire. My 357 exploded behind me again. Manuel’s head suddenly lurched as the round passed between his eye and jutting jaw bone. He sailed backward as if yanked violently by some invisible tether.

         I was frozen in time and stalled in space. My brain wouldn’t function. Nick and Manuel lay ten feet apart, Nick in the store bleeding profusely; Manuel draped haphazardly over a parking bumper with a good portion of his head strewn across the parking lot.

          “Kid!” The old man hollered.

         I couldn’t move or speak. It was all too horrible.

          “Kid, look at me!”

         His intensity jarred me. I turned to see him lying on the floor propped up with his right arm holding the gun, pointing right at me. His left arm was a mess, bleeding from a hole in the sleeve.

          “Help me. Get the phone and call the cops. I’m bleeding to death here.”

         I stared stupidly first at his bloody foot then at his seeping arm. I couldn’t believe it. I had shot him once. Nick or Manuel got him in the arm. Tears blurred my vision as I stood up precariously and stumbled behind the counter to the phone. I awkwardly dialed 911. A female voice answered. I don’t remember what I said but it must have been acceptable.

          “Good kid.” The clerk said, his voice suddenly faint. I grabbed some paper towels from behind the counter and placed a wad on his arm. “Thanks. Kid, when they get here, let me do the talking. You hear me, kid!” I shook my head. I managed only a grunt. What was he up to?

         Sirens pierced my dazed and numb mind. Two squad cars squealed to a stop in the parking lot. Two officers, one considerably larger than the other, used their vehicles to hide behind with their weapons poised. Cautiously, they made their way to the shattered glass door where Nick laid inside and Manuel outside. Apparently satisfied that Nick and Manuel weren’t threats, they locked their sights on me. “Freeze kid!” The bigger of the two shouted. I couldn’t move if I had wanted.

          “Officers, wait! He’s okay. He helped me.” The old clerk croaked. The officers apparently knew him too. They lowered their pistols.

          “You hurt bad, Jake?” The big cop asked.

          “No, Pedro. Just hit in the wing and the foot. Hurts like hell though.”

          “Kid, stay right there until we sort this out.”

         I stayed. I was too bewildered to do much else. I watched the officers as they carefully took the pistol out of the clerk’s hand and used the rest of the paper towels to slow the old man’s bleeding. What was going on? I had shot him and he was telling them that I helped him. Crazy. The clerk looked at me. His eyes were softer now.

          “Thanks, kid. You’re a good kid. Officers, he ought to get a medal.” One of the officers was on his handheld radio calling for help and an ambulance. The other tended the old man. With his good arm, the clerk brought his index finger up to his lips in a gesture for me to be quiet. His hand fell to his chest and clutched his red, Quickie-Mart smock. His face became contorted. He gasped and fell to the side before the officer could react, his head made a sickening thud on the hard floor.

         The officer tending him rolled him on his back, put some sort of plastic thing over the old man’s mouth and started pumping his chest while alternately trying to get him to breathe. After a few minutes the officer stopped.

          “He’s gone. Too bad. He was a good guy.”

         As the blare of the ambulance sirens neared, just too late for the old clerk, the older officer turned toward me. “Young man, looks like you're quite a hero. Old Jake, here, must have liked you. Come on; let’s go outside where we can talk.”

         Dazed, I let him steer me through the door. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The old man covered for me. Why? I had no idea. But, from now on, things were definitely going to be different. That was the least I could do.

© Copyright 2006 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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' Copyright 2008 D. R. Prescott (UN: donprescott at Writing.Com). All rights reserved. D. R. Prescott has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work. Questions or Comments? E-mail to prescottdc@sbcglobal.net
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