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.

The old lady looks scared and distracted. I don’t think she’s took a breath since I walked inside. The General looks excited, like he’s thinking maybe today’s his day, his Purple Heart Day when he gets to finally take down a Commie and have his face all over the six o’clock news. The kid looks bored. He’s chewing gum slowly, like it’s his last steak meal and he’s savorin’ the meat between his jaws.

We can make it fast and easy, or we can make this as messy as you please. Ma’am, I’ll need you to empty your cash drawer into a paper bag for me. Underneath the drawer, too, where the big money is.” She jerks, like I attached a car battery to her feet. She moves slow, her eyes flutterin’, tryin’ to convince herself it’s all a dream.

Think I’ll need your wallet, bubba,” I say to the general. I point the snub at his chest and cock it. Can’t give him a second to have any hero thoughts. A cocked gun can discourage the best of ‘em. “Do it real slow. My finger’s got a itch, and I might turn y’all into spaghetti.” He finally understands that this is the deal, this is the way things go, and the only heroes are in the movies. He reaches for his wallet and starts thumbin’ through it. “I don’t want you to write me a check, bubba, I want the wallet.”

But you don’t need it,” he says in a high, wavery voice. “I’ve got my credit cards and driver’s license and pictures of my grandkids in here. You don’t need them, do you?”

You ain’t gonna need them after I shoot you,” I tell him.



Excerpt from Cronic – available at:


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