A loaded gun yields no handshakes.

“So, like, I should just leave now, right?”

The cashier wrinkled his brow in confusion, blinking a few times, but didn’t react otherwise. Kyle glanced down at his own feet, toed the dirt in the tile, and brought his gun hand over to scratch his nose before looking back up and repeating his inquiry.

“Like, I’m good, right? I should go. You probably want me to go.” Kyle cocked his head and waited for the answer, nodding towards the cashier.

The cashier fidgeted, his hands still pointed towards the ceiling. “p-please, just don’t kill me. I have a wife and ki–”

Kyle stepped forward, his head bobbing back and forth. “No no no, You’ve got it wrong. I’m not going to kill you.” Kyle smiled wide at this. “You helped me out! I couldn’t do that to you now. What’s your name anyways?”

“Uhm…” The cashier snuck a peek at his nametag, then back at Kyle. Kyle and his smile didn’t flinch, just kept staring ahead at the cashier. There was a pause that felt like hours to the poor cashier, before he finally realized Kyle wasn’t about to pick up on the fact that the nametag was staring him in the face. He stammered out his reply. “It–it’s James,” James the cashier said, pointing at his nametag with his right hand, but keeping his arms reached upwards.

Kyle nodded eagerly at this, stepping around the counter alongside James. “Well Jim, I’m glad you’ve been so helpful. Here, put your arms down. There you go,” Kyle threw his left arm around the cashier, patting him on the shoulder with the gun he kept pressed in palm. “Now, I guess I’m just going to go. You have any suggestions?”

James couldn’t help but keep an eye on the gun, his eyes bouncing along with the barrel as Kyle patted his shoulder. “I–what? Suggestions?”

Kyle swung around to his right, tracing the countertop with the gun as he stepped back over towards the other side of the counter. “Well, yeah! Sure. I mean, you kindly provided me with some vacation funds, so it’s like, where do you think I should go?”

James shifted side to side, clearly uncomfortable. He wasn’t one who really knew much about robberies. In fact, he couldn’t even remember a time when he had heard of any taking place in the plain little podunk town they currently found themselves in. So this was all new to him. Even so, he felt like the people—no…criminals, who perform robberies don’t usually stick around after the crime for some small talk.

James took a long second to take in this armed robber before him. Kyle the robber stood about six feet, if James were to guess. He had a frame that conveyed awkwardness. His shoulders were much wider than his waist, and his limbs were gangly and looping about as he carelessly waved his gun about the air. His eyes, while intense, had a certain sort of aloofness behind them. Kind, even? James couldn’t help but feel like this man that stood before him reminded him of the acne covered, awkward teenage who flipped burgers across the street. Harmless.

Yet here he was, waving a gun about and asking the strangest questions, given the situation.

“Uhm, well, uh, sir, I -”

Kyle tsked at this, interrupting James. Placed the gun on the counter between them, and said, “Now, listen here. It’s Kyle. Not sir. Sir was some guy with a top hat in the 1800s.” He leaned back, obviously pleased with this comment.

“Okaaaay, uhm, Kyle. Well I suppose if I’m being honest, I would prefer you to go anywhere but here. You know, having robbed me and all.” James couldn’t bring himself to look Kyle in the eye, and instead stared at the counter.

Kyle leaned back at this, crossing his arms and tucking the pistol underneath his armpit. He pulled at his bottom lip with his teeth, and hummed in agreement. “Alright, now, Jim. You’ve made yourself a point.” Leaning forward, he started to extend his gun hand, and point it towards James. James flinched backwards at this, reeling against the wall and throwing his hands up towards his face.

“Oh, oops!” Kyle laughed, grabbing the gun with his left hand and re-extending his right, this time in anticipation of a handshake. James stayed frozen, peering out of crossed arms at Kyle, fear plastered across his face.

Kyle paused, hand still out but the smile falling off his face. He pulled back, and rested into an awkward stance. Frowning, he said, “Yeah, okay. Probably shouldn’t have expected that. Well,” he glanced around, bunching up his shoulders, “guess it’s time to head out.”

With a furtive nod towards James, Kyle turned on heel and went to the door. He popped his head out of the door, peering in all directions. Satisfied with his surroundings, he gave a look back to James. A quick, “Later Jim!” and he was gone.

James eased himself into a chair, whispering christ almighty out loud to no one. He allowed himself a minute to calm his nerves. Legs bouncing, the adrenaline was pumping through him, and it took more than a minute to settle down. He threw his head back for a heavy sigh, and tried to think what was the most unnerving – the robbery, or the cavalier way the robber, Kyle, went about it.

Once his chin stopped trembling, James scooted the chair towards the counter, and made to grab the phone that sat nearby. He had just wrapped his fingers around the receiver when an all too familiar, and unwelcome, voice popped up from behind him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Please don’t do that.”

James jumped from his chair with a yelp and backed against the counter. Behind where he sat was the face of Kyle the robber, peering in through the window and frowning. Kyle slowly shook his head, eyes on the man before him, and brought the gun back into view. He tapped the gun twice with his left hand, brought the gun up to his temple and tapped it twice more, then threw his hands out, imitating an explosion.

No words needed, and James understood. Clammy hands gripped the counter so tight, his fingers turned white, and he choked down a swallow before slowly nodding towards Kyle.

At this, the goofy smile exploded back across Kyle’s face. “Neat! Okay well I’m trusting you to not do anything stupid!” Kyle said, winking at James. “Oh hey, Jim, check this.” He straightened himself in the window, filling the frame with his wide shoulders, and gestured as if he was hitting a button in an elevator. Then he slowly sank out of James’ view with a wave.

James gawked after Kyle, unsure of how to handle any of this. Kyle popped back into view, startling James once again. “Elevator, right!?” Kyle exclaimed. “Okay, bye!”

Kyle turned and disappeared from view. James didn’t move for fifteen minutes, convinced the next thing he did would bring Kyle the robber back into his life. Something he didn’t think he could handle again.



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