Here are a few thoughts slowly bubbling up inside my lava lamp of a brain this early Monday morning:
Why am I up? It's 4 a.m. The only people up at 4 a.m are zombies who got off at the wrong bus stop on their way back to their graveyard. Or stalkers. Or stalker zombies. Or people who stalk zombies.
Zombies probably don't get a lot of stalkers. It'd too quickly get boring. "Oh, look," you'd say if you were stalking a zombie. "There he is. Still. Couldn't he pick up the pace a little?" But, alas, he couldn't. Zombies don't jog for the same reason they don't skip rope: It makes body parts fall off.
When I was 17, I worked the graveyard shift at the second most often robbed 7-11 in California. We strove to be #1---I'd leave six-packs by the door, stacks of cash on the counter beside the gallon jar of pickled pigs feet---but we just couldn't overtake some 7-11 in San Francisco that was by a bank. (I suppose people went, "Okay, we're gonna rob that bank. Wait! Look right next to it! A 7-11! Let's rob that place instead! Less armed guards! Plus beer!) My 7-11 was basically out in a raggedy field, right across some abandoned rail road tracks from this ancient plant where they made ice (!). The guys who worked at the ice plant used to come into the store during their break to buy tubes of model airplane glue.
"How nice," I thought. "During their lunch hour those guys build model airplanes. And they always ask for a little paper bag to carry the glue in. What a surprisingly meticulous group!" But then I couldn't help but notice they all had shaking hands, no teeth, and breath that vaporized my eyebrows off.
"Oh, yeah, they're glue sniffers," said my boss, Forrest Wang, who owned the store. "That reminds me. Only three tubes left! Order some more tonight, will ya?"
When he first hired me, Forrest took me behind the front counter of his store, and said, "You're gonna get robbed here." He dropped his voice and looked around conspiratorially. "Now down here," he said, bending to reach back into some shelves beneath the cash register, "I keep something I don't want you to ever use except in an emergency." I sucked in and held my breath. I'dI never used a gun before. I'd hardly ever seen a gun.
"Ah," he said. "Here it is." He looked at me intensely. "Remember, tell no one this is here." I considered bolting; I didn't want anything to do with brandishing firearms at robbers. But instead of a gun, he pulled from the cubby hole the top third of a baseball bat. Its bottom half was wrapped in electrical tape, presumably to prevent its user from getting splinters.
I spoke before I could stop myself. "What am I supposed to do with this? Bunt criminals out the store?"
As it turned out, though, I actually did use that mini-bat to fight crime. One night a guy ran into the store, shot past where I was standing behind the counter, flung open the cooler door, grabbed a six-pack of Budweiser, and began his kicking, flailing rush back out the door.
"All right," I thought, "that's it. I hate this guy. He never says 'hi,' or anything---he just runs in, grabs his stupid six-pack---and why Bud??---and runs out again. Well, you're goin' home sudless tonight, Spazboy." I reached under the counter and wrapped my hand around Hunk o' Bat. I let it fly just as Mr. Beer Run was reaching for the door. I didn't spin it through the air hard enough to kill him or anything, but it clonked him on the back of the head pretty good. The impact of it further propelled him out the door, but not in a good way. He left the cans of beer scattered on the pavement just outside the door as he stumble-rushed his way into the darkness beyond the parking lot lights, his hand clamped firmly to the back of his head.
At one in the morning I stood in the yellow light of the store looking down at the beer cans on the pavement, at my trusty bat top, at the cigarette butts, the stains, the crumbling tar of the parking lot. I looked out across the tracks at the dilapidated ice plant. I wondered how I had gotten there, and what in God's world would ever become of my life.
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