Fiction: Feeling Lucky

By Zachary Wilhide

Our boots crunch on the gravel as we walk through the parking lot toward Sisson’s Gas n’ Go. The bright lights glow in the 4 a.m. darkness. They filter through a tacky mess of signs promising cheap cigarettes and lotto jackpots. My mask is stiflingly hot; my black hoodie constrictive as a second skin. The hood rests on my forehead atop the shortened horns of my red devil mask. The gun feels like an anchor hanging off my right hand pulling me closer to the ground. Curtis doesn’t seem to have that problem. He approaches the shop lithe as a panther; clad in a matching black hoodie and navigating the night through the tiny slits of his yellow goblin mask. Brandi flashes in my head and my heart palpitates as we rip open the minimart’s doors.
Jackie Stewart sits at the register, eating licorice, as placid as a dairy cow.  
“Money!” Curtis says. “Give us the fucking money!” Curtis waives the gun at him, but Jackie stays seated, his eyes half-lidded, a licorice vine dangling. 
“There’s no money,” he says, as though his words are coated in molasses. “We’ve been slow tonight.”
“Bullshit! We know you have money in there. Ya’ll always have dough. All the truckers go through here.”
“Yep, yep,” Jackie says. “You’re right, we do, but it’s been a lucky day for a lotta folks. Had to cover a lot of lottery winnings. Won’t get replenished till later this morning.  Till then,” Jackie purses his lips and wrinkles his forehead, “I’d say we have about two hundred bucks, tops. Hell, ya’ll’d be better off if you just grabbed some scratchers at this point. You boys feeling lucky?”
Curtis grips the gun tighter. He isn’t saying words anymore; just short guttural bursts of noise. The lights beat down on us like a desert sun. It is getting hard to breathe and Curtis is hyperventilating. He is no longer a panther, but a rattlesnake, cornered, coiled and afraid.  The gun dances with each panicked breath. He looks at me. Desperation is screaming in his eyes. He’s about to strike. Brandi’s admonitions float through my head. “He’s dangerous… This isn’t you. We can get the money some other way.” I should have listened to her. I shouldn’t be here. I can fix this I tell her voice. I can fix this.
Through the slits in my mask, I see my hand raise the gun toward Curtis. See the sight fall in line with his chest, feel the weight of the trigger, and then… feel the scorching heat run through my body as Jackie unleashes the shotgun he’s been fingering under the counter since we stormed in. A second shot rings out. I hear a thump behind the counter, the chime of a register and a hasty rustling. I feel a footfall near my head, heavy and fast.  Twisting my head, I see Curtis running out of the store.  He is clutching a plastic bag overflowing with rolls of lottery tickets; they stick out like colorful tongues. I roll my head on the linoleum and look up at the lights. They aren’t as bright now, just narrowing slivers of light. Brandi is in my head again. She seems so far away, a lost traveler in my thoughts.
My legs are cold. The floor is sticky. I’m sure someone will come in soon; a trucker holding a winning ticket; a widow looking for luck.  
Someone will be here.  
I know it.  
I’m feeling lucky.

Zachary Wilhide is a writer and artist who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with his wife and cat. He has previously had stories published in Out of the Gutter OnlineSpelk FictionClose to the BoneYellow Mama Magazine, and Shotgun Honey.