by Vic Lord
from Weird Mask Issue 2
I pulled into the back, behind the police station. My nerves hit the high point when I saw the SWAT team van resting in its parking space. I parked a sufficient distance away from the front of the building so no one would come snooping around my car. I always hated that this place shares a parking lot with the police station. You have to walk right by it in order to get inside.
I got out of my car and stared hard across the parking lot to the building that I was headed. I took a deep breath, a hit off my cigarette, and was about to throw it on the ground when I realized that there wasn’t another butt on the ground anywhere! If I were to throw this smoke down on the ground right now, cops would swarm me like crabs on a whore. They are probably watching me right now. I look around at the roof tops and also at the lampposts for surveillance cameras. Those bastards are good. I can’t find one anywhere.
Against my better judgment, I take one last drag and drop the cigarette on the ground and step on it. I make sure it’s out, so that I can’t be accused of arson. I wait around for a moment to make sure that no one was watching so that I could say something like, “I was just about to pick it up and put it in my pocket. I never litter, I actually collect butts and use them in modern art pieces that I sell to the wealthy and then donate that money to children’s hospitals.” That was a good one I thought. I almost wanted to get caught for that one small moment, just so that cop could feel like shit for trying to bust me.
The Cop would end up saying something like, “Wow. That’s terrific. I’m sorry sir; it’s just that it’s so hard to keep this place clean.”
“I know,” I would say.
Then he would also ask, “I would love to donate to the children’s hospital. I don’t know much about modern art though.”
“Of course you don’t,” I would say.
Then he would say, “I really wish I could help you, but us cops don’t get paid that much, you know?”
“Yes, times are tough,” I would say.
So I walk across the pretty vacant parking lot. The Ralph’s grocery store plastic bag that I am carrying is about to rip and spill its contents all over the hot asphalt – I walk faster. I notice that they put in new restrooms outside the building here. They look like they might very well be on the cleaner side of public restrooms. If I am ever in the area when I really have to take a shit, this would be a very good place to stop.
There are only a few people around; an old man pacing back and forth, a short Mexican sitting under a tree, and one fellow of some sort of Asian descent walking ahead of me. His pace is much slower than mine, this could get ugly.
All of the sudden, it dawns on me, how quiet it is here. The silence of this place begins to register in my head at a deafening level. I am right on the Asian man’s heels now. As we approach the building, I see a fork in the road. There is a stairway up to the front door to the right and a handicap ramp to the left. The Asian man is slow but my god, I don’t believe him to be handicapped. I will go left when he goes right and I will blow right by him up the ramp! 3-2-1…FUCK! The Asian man takes the ramp. I was so close behind him that I didn’t have time to change my course. I’m already committed to the ramp.
Now, I am moving at a very slow speed up a long ramp. I see old, black blotches on the ground. It is bubble gum from years ago. I haven’t been here since I was a child. I wonder if any of those black blotches are from me.
We hit the top and I stop daydreaming. The Asian goes for the door. “What a sucker.” I thought. I run over to the night drop box, reach out, and pull. Nothing. It’s locked! I will have to go inside.
I walk slowly up to the door. I have to act cool or else they will be suspicious of me. I try to talk myself down. It isn’t working. I open the door and walk in. The girl behind the counter is locked on her computer. That’s good. To the right of her is a big sign that says, “BOOK DROP”. Score! The Asian is still on his way to the counter. He places his books on the counter, but then, the librarian says that he could just give them to her and she’ll check them in right now.
Then she looks at me and says, “You could just put those over here and I will check them in now for you.”
I’m caught. No getting out of this one now. Well, maybe if I can get all of these books out of the bag before she checks in the Asian’s books, I’ll be fine.
I walk up to the counter. The Asian hands her TWO books. “Two books?” I said to myself. Fuck I have to hurry. The bag wasn’t helping. It wanted me to get caught. It was trying to hold the books inside of it so that I would get caught. That mother fucking piece of shit bag! I only had two of the fifteen books out of my bag before she finished with the Asian. She looks at me and I rip the bag apart like a strong man ripping a phone book. I slap all the books down on the counter. I take a step back.
She picks up one of my books and says, “Wow. How did you get all of those books in there?”
I started backpedaling to the door. I am very nervous. Very shaky. I meant to talk but I yelled my response. “It wasn’t easy!” I turned and ran out the door just as I heard her little magic pen with the red laser tell her as it glided across my book that I now owed them money.
I ran for a moment then knew that they would be watching for that. So my run turned into a very nervous power walk. I tried to keep the looking over my shoulder to a minimum but I knew that there would be people out here in a second once they saw that those books were a week late. At twenty five cents per day that each book is late, that’s a killing.
There are fewer cars in the parking lot now than when I got here. I can hear my heartbeat. I can feel it in my eardrums, pulsing through my head. It feels like my car is getting farther and farther away from me; almost like I’m on a treadmill not going anywhere. I can’t take it anymore. I run as fast as my fat legs will take me. I get to my car and begin fumbling around in my pockets for my keys. And then I see it. I look down on the ground. I panic. I sweat. My blood pressure is so high that my pulse has drowned out all other noise. I scream a little but I can’t hear it over the sound of my amplified heartbeat. On the ground next to my car, are two cigarette butts.
Someone has been here. I breathe quick and shallow… I am dizzy.