Gun Number One
Two in the morning. Who comes home at two in the morning? Well, me after working an eight-hour janitor job and driving all over Contra Costa county. Our condos where technically a gated community, but the gate was low and bordered a public park on the north end. The freeway sat on the hindquarters to the east, so a tangle of ivy, sparse evergreens, and weeds grew in the back to reduce the noise. This set up created plenty of late-night shadows around the buildings and cars, plenty of hidden entrance and exit points, and just enough middle-class income to entice the thieves.
I parked my car in the parking lot too tired to think or notice much. One tiny line of street lights cast a little pale light into the parking lot and the sidewalk that led to the block of condos where I lived. There were four square units stacked on top of each other. Ours was in the back on the right. Coming across the parking lot to the entrance of the block of condos I was staring at the ground as I walked along and didn’t even notice the three teens moving between the cars towards me. By the time I realized what was happening one of them had his hand out in front of me asking if I wanted to buy some crack. A tiny yellow crystal sat in the palm of his hand. I was too tired to even respond verbally. I shook my head and started to walk away.
Then I heard one of them say to my back, “You gonna buy dis shit or I’m gonna cap you ass!”
I stopped and turned around. The guy that had tried to sell me the crack was now raising his blue shirt above his belt line flashing me the pistol resting there. “I have five dollars I mumbled.”
“Give it,” he said as his friends looked on laughing. I reached into my back pocket and took out my wallet. Then I took out the five dollar bill and handed it to him. He snatched it out of my hand and turned to leave with his friends. I stood on the sidewalk watching them walk away into the night. I felt numb.
Gun Number Two
My next encounter with an armed gunman took place on the freeway. And I believe I may have run into the dumbest gangster that ever lived. We were on highway 4 traveling east towards Antioch, CA when a car swerved in front us and cut us off. My friend was driving, and she slammed on the brakes while simultaneously swearing and banging on the horn. This got her a face full of brake lights and a wild swerve back into the slow lane so that the driver was now parallel to us. I watched as he rolled down his window and pulled out a small pistol. We were trapped behind a big truck and this psycho in the other lane. He waved the gun in the air several times and motioned for me to roll down the window so he could shoot my friend. “Well gee, let me get right on that for you so you can murder my friend and probably me as well when her car crashes,” I thought.
“This dummy wants me to roll the window down so he can shoot you,” I said to my friend.
“Don’t fucking do it,” she said in a panicky voice.
“Of course not, but we gotta get away from this guy now,” I answered.
“Okay, okay, what the fuck do we do?” she asked not really talking to me.
I looked over my shoulder. There were no cars behind us. A big truck was in front of us blocking our escape that way and the dumb gangster to our right was boxing us in. The back door was the only way out. If we had been in my Trans Am and I was driving I thought we could probably pull this off, but my friend was driving her ’83 Toyota Corolla and had only had her license for about five months. She probably shouldn’t have even been on the highway yet, but that was where we were and this was our situation.
“Hit your brakes hard and he’ll fly right on past. If he slows down, we can take the next exit. I’ll tell you when.”
“Okay, shit, okay,” she said.
I saw the large green exit sign in the distance. It was ¼ mile to the off ramp. The highway temporarily became three lanes so cars could exit in the left lane. Our dumb gangster was now waving his pistol even more erratically and losing control of his car in the process. He swerved into our lane and then wildly corrected back into his lane again. I could hear him shouting at us over the road noise. I was about to tell my friend to slam on the brakes when I saw the gangster flip me off and change lanes to take the exit. I laughed out loud as I watched him go.
“What?” my friend asked.
“He used his turn signal,” I said.
Though it wasn’t all that funny we both laughed until we cried.
A .38, Shotgun, and a Side of Tacos
The third gun was the strangest. I was in the drive-thru at the local Taco Bell. It was a Friday night and the line was long, at least nine cars deep. Two guys were walking through the parking lot, one tall, one short, both bristling with drunken hostility. The taller one yelled out, “I’m hungry! I’m hungry mother fuckers!”
Then he started walking down the line of cars screaming out for money saying he had a .38 Special on him and that he was going to use it if he didn’t get some cash quick. He had his right hand in the waistband of his pants clutching something I assumed was the gun. I was the fifth car in line. He was on the third car now.
So far everyone had stonily ignored him, but he was getting more intense and crazy as he went along. His friend was standing off to the side laughing with suspicious looking bulge under his jacket.
The car in front of me was a raised ’72 Blazer. I knew that car and I knew the violent speed freak rocker that owned it. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the short black barrel of his sawed off shotgun reflected in his rear view mirror.
“Oh fuck, oh fuck,” I thought. “He’s going to blow that guy away.”
I checked behind me to see if there was enough room to pull out of the line before this shit went down. I did not want to be witness to a gun fight or even worse get caught in the crossfire of these two idiots. I had my car in reverse now and my palms were sweaty as I tried to gently back up hoping the Blazer behind me would get the hint and give me some space. The gunslinger had moved on to the fourth car and was getting the same indifferent treatment from them that he got from the third car.
Dino the speed freak had his head out the window of his Blazer now. I could see his long black wild tangle of Sammy Hagar-like hair and cold aviator glasses in my side mirror now. “What’s the fucking us hold up?” he yelled.
All attention on the fourth car, a Mazda, dropped away and the gunslinger focused his blazing eyes on Dino. He stepped past my car and right up to Dino’s window and said, “You gonna pay me bitch.”
“Pull your shit then,” Dino said back just as menacingly.
“Oh fuck, oh fuck,” I thought again trying to maneuver my car out unsuccessfully.
Neither of them pulled their gun, said anything, or even moved for a minute. Later I realized the irony of a Mexican standoff at a Taco Bell, but at the moment I was trying not to shit my pants.
Then the parking lot light up with flashing blue and red lights. Two cops with guns drawn came up fast. Dino’s hands disappeared stashing the shotgun, I guessed, and then reappeared outside the window where the cops could see them. The gunslinger in his haste to comply busted his little chain belt as his hand came out of his pants. He stood in the parking lot with a small .38 revolver in the waist band of his underwear and his pants around his ankles. His friend, I assume to save time, had already raised his hands above his head and faced the wall.
With arrival of the cops there was finally some space for me to move, but not before everyone in line gave a statement. It took another hour and I never did get my fucking tacos.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.