Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 0


Ross Natze's chubby little heart thumped like tympani. Bum-BUM-bum-BUM! Stars popped in his eyes, his guts squirmier than the time he saw down his babysitter’s blouse. A blue bullet of a van idled on the curb behind him. A fox sat behind the wheel. Inside the little jewelry store, an elephant in a leather coat and an orangutan in bright Super Mario overalls moved like robots, reminding Ross of his grandmother's cuckoo clock and its lederhosen kinders marching to greet every hour. The elephant smashed a silver gun to a jewelry case. Glass rained over the red carpet. The orangutan swooped in, scooping gems and gold into his bag. The case bare, the two moved to the next. Smash and repeat. Smash and repeat.

What more could a 9-year-old boy want? (Aside from said babysitter and her lacy red bra, of course.) He was watching a real-life video game! His fingers instinctively tapped at an invisible controller, trying to nudge the robbers through this first level of their game. Mission Objective: Get all the jewels before the cops arrive!

But the clerk! The clerk! The elephant and the orangutan didn't see the clerk. The clerk slumped by the cash register, his glossy blond hair streaked with blood. Ross pushed hard on his d-pad, clicked his index fingers over nonexistent shoulder buttons. The clerk's eyes fluttered. Ross' mouth went dry as the clerk pushed wobbly arms up from the counter. Barely conscious, the clerk swooped a hand beneath the counter. Ross' eyes grew wide. His heart stopped.

"The alarm!" Ross pounded the glass storefront. "The alarm! He's going to hit the alarm!"

We should pause here. There are a thousand questions any reasonable human should ask. First: what the hell? Also: huh? Importantly, though, why would Ross, the self-proclaimed "admiral of the couch potato fleet" skip the school bus and walk home? Why would he stop at this corner? Why would he watch a crime in progress and do nothing? Worse, why warn the criminals? The answer, at the end of all this, is that Ross is a kid, and kids are dumb.

The alarm shrieked. Ross clapped his hands over his ears, ducked his double chin into rounded shoulders. Inside, the elephant swiveled, duster fluttering like a superhero's cape, and cuffed the clerk with the butt of his pistol. The poor man slumped backwards into his workbench. His elbow knocked a jeweler's burner from his desk. Flames danced up from the carpet.

The elephant and orangutan turned to flee but stopped cold. Ice blue eyes glimmered behind the Elephant mask. Ross uncurled his hands from his imaginary controller, intending to beckon the thieves from the store, but he never finished the motion.

White light filled the world. Shards of broken glass, and diamonds like rainbows hovered in midair. Beauty beyond Ross' comprehension swelled his little body. An angelic chorus of breaking glass tolled. A heavy punch shuddered Ross' shoulder and threw him back. His head slammed the sidewalk, shooting copper onto his tongue.

Ross only realized as the blackness descended that he'd been shot. Fucking coooool. He wouldn't have to go to school for a week, at least.


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