Latest Fiction

Heritage

It was my last night on the job.

Don’t worry, kid. This ain’t some cliché workplace violence story. I liked it there. Made a lot of friends, did some stuff I’m proud of. I still miss the place, but it was the right time to retire.

Snow was coming down hard when my shift ended. No surprise, that’s what happens in Superior on New Year’s Eve. I officially punched out five minutes early, 11:55 p.m. Why not, you know?

Maybe I’d get home in time to watch the ball drop with your nanna.

Three blocks from the factory, where Hill Avenue crosses North 28th, that’s where this story happens. I drove the F-150 that night, thank God. I was headed north on Hill. A little red Miata was speeding west on 28th.

I had the light, but that guy was drunker than Uncle Chris when the Red Sox won the Series in ’04. Plowed right into the passenger side. Well, kinda. Mostly went under. Luckily, I was wearing my seat belt – always wear your seat belt, kid.

I got out to check on the driver. Couldn’t see the front half of the Miata, not even a little bit. No way he survived that. I did see the trunk, popped open. A shiny silver briefcase inside.

Kid, moments like this determine your fate. You willing to take a chance? Or will you play it safe? Up to that moment, I had played it safe. Had a chance to change jobs 40-some years back when frozen dinners were taking off. A buddy of mine knew somebody who knew somebody. Could have made a mint, maybe. Wasn’t a sure thing, so I stayed here, worked my way up to line manager at Superior Amalgamated. Safe. Steady. Boring as all hell.

But this… this was a sign, right?

I grabbed the briefcase and tucked it behind the seats in the F-150. Climbed back in, buckled up, listened to the sirens get closer.

Sixty minutes later, the other driver was on his way to the morgue and the F-150 was on a tow truck headed for Harry’s Auto Body on Baxter. I got a ride home with the cop, Eddie Cook, a guy I went to high school with.

I didn’t sleep 30 minutes that night, thinking about what was in that beautiful silver briefcase. Money? Drugs? Corporate secrets? Had to be something great. Had to.

Crack of dawn, I drove the Camry, the red one your nanna liked so much, to Harry’s to ask him how long the repairs would take. And to get that briefcase. A few blocks after leaving Harry’s, I pulled into a parking lot – that Spur convenience store out on Broadway – and pried open the briefcase to learn my fate.

Cash. Stacks of glorious cash. Hundred dollar bills.

I stared at it for… shit, I don’t know how long.

A tap on the driver’s window snapped me out of it. It was Eddie Cook, dressed in civvies, gun pointed at my head, telling me to get out of the truck. Turns out Mr. Miata and Eddie were partners in a side business, heroin. When he couldn’t find the cash in the car, Eddie figured maybe I knew something about it. Came by my house, saw me leaving, followed me to Harry’s.

I got out of the truck. My adrenaline was pumping. Nothing boring about this, that was for damn sure. I punched him – best right hook of my life. Knocked him to one knee, but he smirked, called me stupid, and pulled the trigger.

I didn’t feel anything, just fell down. Then I watched the owner of the store walk out, aim his shotgun at Eddie, and blow his guts all to hell. Eddie was alive when the ambulance arrived, not much longer.

They loaded me into the other ambulance, still not feeling anything. The bullet lodged in my spinal cord. I was in the hospital three weeks, rehab another two months. Been in this wheelchair ever since.

Kid, if you never listen to anything else I say, listen to this: Boring is underrated.