22 Mar Beer Run
When a person falls towards what seems like their death, their life might flash before their eyes. But depending on how long the drop is, they probably won’t have enough time to watch the whole movie of their life.
Little Robbie had learned this the hard way the second he leapt off the roof of a mansion at a college pool party. He had aimed for the water below, but he had miscalculated. Physics wasn’t his major. He had jumped to impress Katy Hammond. And as he soared towards the concrete patio, catching a glimpse of her watching him, he felt the warm flush of embarrassment shoot through him.
Katy gawked at him from where she stood amongst the party crowd. The surprised look people get when they watch someone about to die sank into her face.
Flying past the third-story window, Robbie saw a quick glimpse into it. A snapshot of people french kissing.
A memory pulled him back through time to the first time he heard what a French kiss was.
When he was thirteen years old, he was talking to a ninth-grade girl in the parking lot of a strip mall. She said, “I’ll show you what French kissing is if you do something for me.”
He said, “Just tell me?”
“It’s kissing with tongues.”
He had always seen this tall, ninth-grade girl wandering the halls at school. She would walk around with a group of boys hot at her heels.
They called her Joe for short.
Joe hunched over Little Robbie, bending over with her hands on her knees, meeting him face-to-face. She pointed at one of the strip mall shops as she whispered, “See that liquor store over there?”
It was a little place that looked like a one-stop-shop and it had the word BEER glowing in blue neon lighting in its window.
Joe leaned over him with the front of her shirt hanging open, showing off her cleavage to Robbie. She spoke down to him, “If you help me lift a six-pack from their freezer, I’ll make out with you.” She winked, “I might even let you get to second base.”
Joe grinned at little Robbie as he stared at her exposed cleavage. He looked up, and from then on, he kept his eyes on hers. She smiled, then said, “So, are you going to grab me that beer?”
He smirked at her like a boy looking out a classroom window who catches a glimpse of the school’s ladies soccer team jogging by.
Joe strutted towards the liquor store, saying, “Pretend you need to go to the bathroom. I’ll distract the guy at the counter.”
She sauntered towards the door. Grabbing its handle, she held it shut. “Walk towards the back,” she said to Robbie, “Grab the beer from the middle row of the freezer. Not the bottom-row crap. Then, her voice lilted, “Just casually walk out with it tucked under your shirt.” Her glare turned hard, “Don’t wait for me.”
She opened the door and a burst of cold air from the AC hit them. It blew away the radiating heat coming off their bodies from standing around in the parking lot, baking in the sun.
The store clerk leaned on the counter at the front of the shop, hunching over a horror movie magazine. He looked up as the teens entered the liquor store.
Before the clerk could speak, Joe said, “I know, I know, we’re not supposed to be in here,” she raised her hands in surrender, “But I found this little kid wandering around, lost, he needs a washroom.”
Robbie’s body froze as stiff as taffy under the store clerk’s glare. Joe nudged Robbie towards the washroom, it was next to the beer freezers. She said, “He can’t find his mother.” Robbie pushed back against her pressing him in the direction of the beer, his shoes squeaked as they rubbed against the linoleum. So she shoved him and he stumbled towards the freezer. She scoffed as she said, “He was almost peeing himself crying for his mom.”
Blood rushed into Robbie’s cheeks. He felt like he was living inside that nightmare where you show up to school naked and everyone laughs.
The store clerk looked at Joe through his bloodshot eyes. He slowly said, “You can’t be in here.”
“Please,” she said, “He’ll be real quick.” She went over to the counter and leaned on it as she looked up at him, fluttering her eyelashes.
He rolled his eyes, “Be quick,” he said. He tossed Robbie the bathroom key then he returned to his magazine.
She gave Robbie a wide-eyed nod. Then she blocked the view the clerk had of him with her body. She silently read the magazine with him then whispered, “Have you ever been held at gunpoint?”
He chuckled, not taking his eyes off his reading material, and he asked, “How old are you?”
She said, “Eighteen.”
Robbie walked amongst the shelves filled with bottles that glittered like stained glass windows in a cathedral. He was too short to be seen walking toward the beer freezer.
The store clerk looked up from his magazine. “Eighteen,” he said. He squinted at her, then smiled. He said, “I’ve had a gun in my face a couple times. It can be dangerous hanging around some of these characters who come out at night to buy their booze.”
“Wow,” Joe said.
Robbie stepped in front of the fridge in the back, slowly opening one of its doors. It made a loud sucking sound like a person taking in the air before they dive underwater.
The store clerk yelled, “Hey, you.”
He pushed himself up on the counter, peeking over the shelves at Robbie standing by the freezer. Robbie saw he had been caught, he started hyperventilating.
The store clerk shouted, “What the hell?” He slid over the counter and charged towards the only exit in the store.
Robbie snatched a six-pack from the bottom shelf, shoved it under his shirt and he ran through the aisles in the direction of the door. The clerk grabbed him with a strong grip, squeezing his little arm. Robbie squirmed and jerked around inside the hold the clerk had on him. The clerk grinned as he had stopped a shoplifter. Robbie leaned away with all his weight and slipped free. The clerk caught the end of his sleeve. Robbie swung the door open, he pulled with one strong tug and the sleeve tore right off, his arm sliding through it. The clerk fell backwards into a rack of comic books right on his butt. And Robbie broke into a sprint through the pounding heat across the asphalt of the parking lot.
He could hear someone jog up from behind him. Twisting around in fear he had been caught again, he saw the ninth grader, Joe running with him, a carton of cigarettes was tucked under her arm like you would carry a football. She shouted over her shoulder, “Have a nice day.”
The clerk yelled after them, “Wait, you, stupid kids.”
Robbie and Joe ducked behind a row of parked cars. They breathed fast but quietly as they hunkered out of sight, huddled together. They watched the clerk run out of the store after them, wheezing and coughing like a broken vacuum. The teens stifled their giggling into their palms. The clerk hacked into his sleeve. Robbie showed Joe a peek at the shiny cans tucked under his shirt. They grinned at each other like old friends would. Then they went back to staring at the clerk who was now sparking a joint.
An old woman walked past the clerk, she hobbled a wide berth around his billowing smoke cloud, hugging her purse tight. The store clerk rolled his eyes, sighed, then opened the shop’s door for her. He looked around for the teens one last time. Shaking his head, he followed the old woman into the liquor store.
Robbie clutched the cold beer to his chest swelling red after his short sprint. It cooled him down. He cleared his throat as he asked Joe, “Can we kiss with our tongues now?”
She took the six-pack of beer from him, putting down her stolen cigarette carton. Tearing a beer off one of the plastic rings, she said, “Fat chance, I’m kissing an eighth grader.” She looked at the label on the beer cans. “You got this from the bottom shelf.” She tossed Robbie a beer then walked away with the rest of the six-pack along with her cigarette carton, not giving him a second glance.
He sat next to the parked car, gripping his cold beer, and noticed in his other hand, he was still clutching the bathroom key. He watched Joe, the ninth grader, cross the street and he sighed.
He let out all the air in his lungs as he fell towards the pool, and out of his childhood memory, falling, sweating, the air tickling his skin and making him cold but he was falling so fast he didn’t feel himself shivering because of all the adrenaline flowing through him.
He saw Katy Hammond standing in the crowd below, and she was gasping, as if she was witnessing a loved one plummet to their death.
Josh Ackermann escapes his desk job by writing in his free time. One of his short stories, One Helluva Headache, was published in the English Bay Review. He’s currently revising two of his first novels. And he’s is the creator of the Falling For Stories podcast; among many other titles.