Coffee. That’s all I needed and I expected it to be a quick in and out trip to the store and then back to my porch to enjoy the quiet morning. Instead I’m standing in line behind the Coupon Queen who seems to have forgotten the concept behind an Express Lane. She was a plump middle-aged woman with gaudy rings and black dyed hair that had streaks of purple running through it. I watched with annoyance as she dug through her oversize tote bag, laughing about the amount of junk she liked to carry with her. She clutched a stack of crumpled coupons in one hand and was pulling more from within the depths of her bag.
I shifted my weight back and forth between my legs and silently counted to myself, refusing to let my own impatience destroy my day. I heard a heavy sigh behind me and some unintelligible muttering. I looked over my shoulder expecting to exchange understanding looks with the customer sharing my fate. Instead I was confronted with eyes dark with anger coming from a man in a ratted jean jacket. He glowered at me and I looked away, a feeling of dread creeping up my neck. I was not a confrontational person and this man obviously was a confrontation waiting to happen. Instead I stepped to the side, glancing at ½ gallon of buttermilk in his hand. “Do you want to go in front of me? I’m not in a hurry.” I was, but I didn’t like him behind me, it was making me nervous.
The man stepped forward and his buttermilk holding hand shot up and pushed me back into the shelf of impulse purchase items. Tubes of chap stick clattered to the floor.
“Hey!” I protested, scrambling to regain my balance and composure, my face flaming with indignation, “Asshole!”
He didn’t bother with a response, in his free hand there was a gun. I froze, my fury turning into instant shock as he raised the weapon and pointed it at the cashier. The Coupon Queen let out a squeal and I just stood there like a statue, staring in shock and anticipation. I’ve never been the hero. I’ve imagined scenes just like this one and being the one to come to the rescue, but in reality, I get stopped by my own disbelief that the scene is unfolding right in front of me.
The cashier, a local high school girl, was visibly shaking as she tried to punch the code on the computer to open up the register. I wondered if following the rules and giving the thief what he wanted was the best course to take. Lately the news had been drenched with stories of mass shootings and random attacks and the gun control issues were being argued vehemently in political circles. This most certainly wouldn’t become a mass shooting, there were only three of us standing there with the thief, but three was still too many by my count. I wasn’t quite ready to die.
I surreptitiously reached into my bag, which I had opened to get to my wallet as I approached the counter just a few moments earlier. My fingers brushed the smooth barrel of the Ruger 9mm my fiancé had insisted on buying for me. I wasn’t keen on handguns having being raised in a home that was all about rifles and shotguns. He bought one that was my favorite color pink and named it Princess. For months we spent every Saturday afternoon at the shooting range, firing Princess and perfecting my aim. I went along with it never expecting to ever actually have to use it, but rather to make my fiancé feel that he was protecting me by giving me this.
I tried to pull Princess from my bag but it caught on the handle and dropped with a clatter to the floor. “Shit!” I cried out and quickly bent down to pick it up. I saw the thief’s boots, scuffed and dirty turned to face me before I felt the anger flowing off of him. I looked up as my hand wrapped around Princess, my heart hammering in my chest. He was pointing his gun right at my face and his face was hardened into a deep scowl, “That was stupid, Lady.”
“No, you’re the stupid one!” The Coupon Queen’s voice shrilled and there was a loud pop as she pulled the trigger on the Glock she was holding in her hand, having pulled it from the depths of her purse. Cold buttermilk splashed over me and I squeezed my eyes shut as I pulled my own pistol back towards me and fell back out of the way. The thief stumbled and dropped his weapon just inches from my own. He bent to pick it up and I scrambled to push it away, sliding on the buttermilk and letting out an awkward cry, “Arrggh!! I know it didn’t look graceful or smooth like it does in the movies, but in the heat of the moment, appearances were not a priority. I pushed myself back up to my knees just as the cashier launched herself ungracefully off the counter and latch on to the thief’s back causing him to fall face first into the tiles and spilled buttermilk, knocking down the gum and candy display in the process. She let out a curse and grabbed him by the hair and started pounding his head into the floor, grunting and crying. Coupon Queen picked up the gun the thief had dropped and ejected the clip, giving it a cursory look. “Two rounds? Can’t afford the ammunition?” She opened her bag and pushed the weapon inside, giving the bag a satisfactory pat. “Should have gotten a coupon.”