Bookends

By Jon Richards

Henry Otis shuffled down the street, rounding the corner to the liquor store.

He kept playing in his mind, over and over like a movie, the time when he was 18 years old. He remembers how he won the gun in a card game. A pair of twos, my God! It wasn’t a real gun — he didn’t run with that kind of crowd — but it looked like a real gun he thought. The day after the win, Henry woke up, dressed, walked down to the liquor store, pulled out the gun and walked away with 19 dollars and 63 cents — a lot of money! No hassle, no one chased him. No sirens, no wanted poster. He just walked away.

That was 70 years ago. It always puzzled him that he had almost no memories of his life before that card game. Now as he was reaching the end of his life he feared that after today he may not have many more chances to make memories. Old age was not very kind.

He felt the contents of his coat pocket, there was the bulge. Yesterday during a long overdue clearing of a kitchen drawer, he found the gun tucked neatly in the back. Did he put it there? When did he last see it? The last time was 70 years ago, if memory served him.

“Hank, you really are turning into that old crazy man.” he said to himself as he stared at the gun lying on the bedside table. “Just lay back,” he told himself, “No need to worry about it. You know what you are going to do, so try to get a good night’s sleep.”

With the gun in his coat pocket he rounded the corner. He wasn’t as hurried  as he had been 70 years ago, but there was a spring in his shuffle that surprised him. Was this the same liquor store? More mind tricks? A silly thought passed through his mind, “Will they remember me?” He laughed at the thought.

A minute later he shuffled out of the store, rounded the corner, down a back alley. Nobody chased him, no sirens, same as the last time. Out of his pocket he pulled the wad of bills and coins, counting in no particular hurry. This time $153.75. He stuffed the money into the coat of a drunk crumpled in a corner and threw the gun in a dumpster. He and the gun were finished. Two robberies in a lifetime is enough.

If only he could remember what happened in the years between them.

About Ritta M. Basu, Editor

Ritta M. Basu is the editor of FewerThan500.com, a web journal dedicated to the literary genre of flash fiction. With a background in journalism and higher education communications, Ritta enjoys the craft of writing and the beauty of its brevity. She lives with her husband and their Akita near Chicago.
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