“Okay, ya’ll. You know the routine.” I wave my snub at the three people in the corner store in Shrewsbury. I never liked to wear stockin’s like the robbers you see on TV shows, and I don’t like those thick wool ski masks ‘cause they itch. Rubber masks ain’t no good ‘cause sometimes the eyeholes move and you don’t have no periph’ral vision. So usually I just paint my face with mud, smear it on nice and thick, and wear some Ray-Bans. Dee-Dee Martella herself wouldn’t know her own boy when I’m in my get-up.
Nine-thirty in the morning, with a little rain in the air. The sidewalk is still dewy and there ain’t hardly no cars on the pavement. I’m wearing a green flack jacket and dusty old Levis, with my face painted up like a Green Beret whore. I don’t usually bother with gloves ‘cause they can get caught up in the trigger if you’re not careful, and I don’t plan on touchin’ anything but the money.
The old girl behind the cash, she must be in her seventies, wearing maroon lipstick and painted-on eyebrows. Her hair is the color of old ketchup and there’s a busy map of lines on her face. All she needs is a cigarette butt hanging from her lips and she’d be a member of the bingo crowd. She mews like a kitty when I point the snub at her.
On this side of the cash register is a retired old gent buyin’ a newspaper and some pipe tobacco. He looks like he fought in all the big wars, maybe even generalled in Korea. He’s thick in the middle, wearin’ no-shape polyester pants the shade of a putting green, and a freshly pressed gray shirt. His bushy eyebrows raise when I point at him. “Back off, General,” I tell him. This is the kind of old man who raises my blood and gets my stomach churnin’. Member of the Rotary, probably ran for mayor or town council and lost, so ends up on school boards and writin’ letters to the local paper. These guys always dream about bein’ heroes and shootin’ Communists and deserters. They fantasize gettin’ killed in action, but they never do. My guts were rumblin’.
The third person is a teenager, little younger than me, thumbin’ through the magazine racks. He’s got a Mad Magazine in his hands, but his eyes keep wanderin’ to the top shelf, where there’s Hustlers and Playboys.
“Put ‘em up, soldier,” I say to him, and nod. He’s got greasy blond hair and light patches of hair pretendin’ to be sideburns. His eyes look like a weasel’s, red and tired.
I coral them behind the counter where I can keep an eye on them, then lock the door. There’s a sign that says “We’re Open” and “Sorry, We’re Closed”, so I flip it over. This place is closed for the next ten minutes.
Excerpt from Cronic – Now available at: