This short story originally ran on SERENDIPITY.
The Inconvenience Store, by Rich Paschall
It was a peaceful summer evening. The sun had just set. The air was warm and the light breeze was refreshing. Jorge had walked three blocks from his small apartment to the local convenience store for a Big Drink and Big Sandwich combination. He had little food at home and did not feel like making anything anyway. It felt good to take a walk on such a pleasant evening. There was nothing quite like summer in the city.
There were a few others in the small store but Jorge paid no attention to them. He went directly to the soft drink machine and then on to the Sandwich Stop. After he made his selection, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion at the front of the store.
Three young men rushed in. They looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties. Two were tall and wearing white t-shirts and baggy shorts. The third was a large guy wearing a black sleeveless shirt with some design Jorge could not make out and black baggy jeans. The big guy was also carrying a machine gun or automatic rifle. Jorge was unfamiliar with weapons and was not too sure.
“Don’t anyone move,” the big guy commanded. “Don’t anyone make a sound neither, not a sound.”
One of the others told the cashier to give him all the money if he wanted to live, and the third thief looked down all the aisles to see if anyone was hiding or there might be trouble there. The few people in the store had not moved. The aisle checker then stopped at the cooler and reached in for a twelve-pack of beer, but paused like he did not know if he should steal it.
“Just take it,” the big guy shouted, “and let’s go.” He grabbed the beer and the thief at the counter only collected a small amount of money which he put in a backpack.
As they prepared to leave, there was a small whimper from the next aisle from where Jorge was standing. In response, the big guy sprayed the aisles with bullets. Jorge hit the floor. There was a sharp burning sensation in his abdomen. His head was groggy and he could not make himself move at all. He slowly drifted away from the conscious world.
The cashier gasped and as the big guy got to the door he turned and sent a few shots in the direction of the cash register. The convenience store worker had already hit the floor and shots went over the top of him and heavily damaged the display behind the counter.
As the thieves got to their car, the police were pulling up to the lot. The cashier had set off a silent alarm when the trouble started and the response had finally arrived. There was an exchange of gunfire as the young men were able to get in the car and out of the lot, with a squad car in pursuit.
Two officers wearing bulletproof vests had their guns out and cautiously entered the store. The cashier saw them in a monitor high on a wall and shouted, “Help them, help them.”
One officer carefully went around the counter to find the cashier lying on the floor. He approached slowly with his gun pointed at the young man. He had to be sure it was not a trick. Finally, he helped the trembling cashier to his feet.
The other officer looked down the aisles and immediately called for medical attention for multiple victims. He searched the aisles before going over to one of the victims. By the time he checked to see if the first one was alive, more police were in the store and in the parking lot. One ambulance came onto the lot closely followed by another. A police officer outside was now obviously taking charge of the scene and ordering onlookers away. Paramedics rushed into the store and observed pools of blood in two different aisles. There was a lot of damage caused by the bullets of just one man.
The next thing Jorge was aware of feeling was the burning of his stomach. It was the sharpest pain of his life. His head was heavy and he could not open his eyes. It seemed, however, that he was now lying on his back, rather than face down on the tile floor of the convenience store. In his stupor, he could not tell where he was or even if he was alive. He drifted off again.
Three adults were taken to The Resurrection Hospital. It was the closest trauma center. The Catholic hospital had become familiar with treating gunshot wounds. It seems they saw someone every week who had been gunned down. The victims may have suffered from a gang dispute, domestic violence, armed robbery, or were just innocent bystanders. The increase of guns had brought an increase of gunshot victims to the Emergency Room.
Sometimes the medical staff could do little more than calling the chaplain to say a prayer.
Back at the convenience store was one more victim. A ten-year-old boy was going to be taken directly to the morgue. He would not whimper again.