SWITCH

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Moment of Change

Matt scrambled across the aisle, slid under the table, and stuck himself to the wall with a muffled thud. The phone in the truck gave him a goal but surely somebody with a cell phone called the police. Dave looked shocked. He put my iced tea on the floor, my bread plate under the bowl of butter pats, and slid Matt’s gear down on the seat. It now looked like a table for two. We stared at each other waiting for the taller thug to reach us.

The tall man barked instructions to the room. “Put it all in the bag. I want your phones, your rings, your wallets, your watches! All your shit goes in this bag right fucking now!” There were whimpers and gasps as frightened patrons complied with the orders.

Both thugs were waving guns carelessly in the air as they grabbed valuables.

A well-dressed man a few booths away slowly pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket, took off his watch and wedding ring. He carefully arranged the items at the edge of his table. Once he was done, he sat back in his chair and placed his hand’s palms down on the table. People seated around him noted his calm, deliberate actions. They gathered their valuables and arranged them on the edges of their tables as if copying his exaggerated movements in ritualistic fashion would keep them safe from harm.

I caught a glimpse of my son’s terrified looking face as he hid under the table across from me. I wanted to say something or wink, anything to console him, but I didn’t. I made myself turn away from his pleading expression and stare straight at David.

“Come on honey, get your wallet out and get ready,” Dave urged quietly.

Oh God, my ring. The jackass waving the gun was grabbing wedding rings. My ring didn’t come off. I meant to have it resized, but there was never any time in my busy life for such trivialities. I dumped my purse out on the table quietly, but still panicked the people seated around us.

“Calynn what the hell are you doing?” Dave rarely called me by my given name. The sound of it coming from his mouth startled me and my eyes welled up with tears so quickly I couldn’t see.

“I don’t think my ring will come off. I need lotion or something,” I sobbed.

“Here use butter.” Dave squeezed a gold-foiled pat of butter between his fingers and pushed his arm out across the table. I grabbed for the smashed glob just as the tall, twitchy thug reached our table.

“What the fuck are you idiots doing? You hiding my shit?” The tall thug grabbed my wrist and twisted it around to get a better look at the diamond in my ring. “You’re going to give that rock to me bitch. That thing is going to fetch some serious dough-ray-me.”

“Yes, I’m working on it, Sir.” I managed to get a bit of the butter worked under the ring, it was moving, but the ring wasn’t past my knuckle yet.

“Sir, aw that’s a well-trained bitch you got old man. I don’t have all day. Take it off or I’ll cut it off your fucking finger.” The greasy thug reached in his front pants pocket, brought out a short knife, and flicked it open with a crisp click.

The tall man stood close, glaring over my shoulder. He was so twitchy the knife seemed to vibrate in his hand. He stabbed Dave’s wallet with the tip of the shiny blade and slid it into his bag of loot before tossing Dave’s cell phone on the ground and stomping on it.

The tall thug held the bag and his gun in the same hand. Something about this looked wrong. He wasn’t planning to use the pistol he was waving it around like a prop. I struggled to force the wedding ring off my finger, but it wasn’t moving. The twitchy man was running out of patience. He moved his knife closer to my neck before finally resting it on my cheekbone.

Dave lost his mind. “Get that knife out of her face you piece of shit!”

“You’re stupider than you look, old man?” The thug threw himself at David.

The heavy wooden table was hopping up and down as Dave and the tall thug wrestled for control of the knife. I slid back to the center of the booth and pushed the table over. The water glasses, the bread plates, the silverware, all of it flew out in every direction. Dave was showered in iced tea as the table overturned making an unexpected barrier between Matt and the aisle.

“Now Matt, go now!” The shiny blade of the cheese knife was almost in reach. I snatched it off the plate just as the emergency-exit alarm started screeching. The patrons were yelling, the red lights on the exit door were spinning. I stood frozen in the frantic noise.

Please help me, please, please. I don’t know if I was begging God or the Devil, but I got an answer. A surge of adrenaline flooded my veins. A molten liquid electric shock raced inside my chest igniting my skin and dampening all the noise around me.

Dave lay back in the booth his work boot planted squarely against the thug’s stomach. Dave pushed the tall man back towards the aisle—blood puddled on his shoulder. Furious I grabbed for the cheese knife with both hands and plunged it into the greasy thugs back. The blade slipped over something solid and then pushed easily into empty space. The tall man cried out in pain throwing his arms around trying to grab the knife sticking out of his back.

I held the blade too tightly and cut through the fleshy part of my palm. I screamed and clutched my hand to my heart. The tall thug swung his arms around hitting me hard across the forehead. The next thing I knew I was face down on the carpet in a pile of broken china. My right eye felt as if it was going to pop out of my head. Table debris crushed under the weight of my body and I felt the hot sting of sliced skin on my ribs. My eye would barely open, but I managed to find the edge of a booth and pull myself to my feet.

The dark shape of the husky thug walked in front of the window blocking the light. The large man swiped at me, grabbed me by the shirt, and tossed me backward into a wood-paneled wall across from David. I caught myself on the thick window molding narrowly avoiding going through the huge pane of glass on the back wall.

"Let me help you, let go, let me help you." The voice in my ear was calm and demanding. I lost my mind or possibly my self-preservation was trying to keep my psyche intact, but I answered back out loud.

“Please. Help me kill them!”

The husky thug went to help his tall partner. His loose shirt fluttered in the wake of his quick movements and I saw his weapon. The black butt of a large pistol and a hint of the shiny barrel were visible above the waistband of his jeans.

"That is where you keep a loaded gun." The calm voice whispered.

I followed behind the large man and reached out for the gun, slid my good hand down past the waistband of his jeans, and squeezed the trigger. I held on to the weapon too long and felt the muscles in my hand tear as the large man writhed and screamed in pain. The hot, heavy gun dropped from my hand. I stumbled away catching my balance on the booth beside me. Dave and the husky thug struggled between the overturned tables as the other patrons took the opportunity to escape.

"Let go damn it. Let me help you." The order was clear and loud, it sounded like it came from right behind me this time.

The alarm was wailing, the thugs were yelling, the patrons were screaming. A sharp pain rolled across the back of my head as my legs buckled underneath me. I was down on the floor again. The tall greasy thug was lying next to me. His face was turning shades of blue and teal, but the cheese knife was gone. I felt defeated. There was no hope, and I clearly remember giving up.

The blow to my head blurred my vision. Strangely the pain went away. At that moment nothing mattered more to me than seeing the large thug lying dead on the ground at my feet. It was like watching a movie on a life-sized screen with the sound muted. Time stood perfectly still. A tingling rush covered the skin on the top of my arms and legs. It was exquisite, like when you see a gruesome wound and your skin crawls in protest only this was raw power.

The husky thug landed a solid punch on David’s face knocking him into a nearby table. The weapon was on the ground only a few steps away. The husky thug spotted it too and even limping he retrieved it before me. A thick violent rush of adrenaline rolled inside my chest as he stood above me with the shiny barrel of his weapon pointed at my neck, but he hesitated.

"He who hesitates is lost." The voice rang through my mind like a bell of clarity. My eyes, my brain, something was heightened. There was a glowing yellow smear showing me where I should inflict the most pain. I kicked in his left knee with all the force I could gather. The thug went down to his knees on the carpet cursing and yelling.

I grabbed onto a tabletop and pulled myself off the floor.

"Grab the weapon." The timely command whispered in the core of my brain causing my injured fingers to react. I grabbed the gun in the thug’s outstretched hand, pivoted sharply on the blood-soaked carpet, and kicked back onto his exposed throat Crack.

The gun went off shooting a bullet into the high ceiling. I felt the recoil of the weapon and a sting on my hand, but I only heard the sound of the husky thug’s slowing heartbeat. It was the sound of death, honest and real.

The husky thug fell flat a few feet from his tall cohort. He grabbed at his throat and gasped for air. I pulled the weapon to chest height exhaled and squeezed the trigger.

"One shot stops the beat, clean and neat." The deep voice sounded pleased.

This was the first time I looked back to find David. He was holding his arm, his face and hand dripped blood down to his pants leg. He looked exhausted and wore a horrified expression on his face.

“Put the gun down sweetheart. Come sit over here with me.” David’s pleading tone held my attention, but his words sounded like gibberish falling out of his face one incoherent syllable after another.

"Forward, sweep, move, move," The voice commanded, and I obeyed.

“Hold your position there, I’ll be right back.” I felt the vibration in my throat as I spoke to David but didn’t recognize the words as my own. I looked back at the tall greasy-haired thug lying on the floor. He looked dead, but I needed to make sure.

"A job worth doing is worth doing well." floated into my mind. I pointed the weapon at the tall thug’s head and squeezed the trigger. The sound of the bullet was surprisingly wet and full as it went through the man’s forehead and halted in the concrete slab beneath him. The delightful sound sent jolts of electricity up the back of my legs to the base of my neck igniting all the skin in its path.

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