by KJ Marshall
“Yo, pass me that blunt,” Dan said, still chewing the burger his friends had brought to him. “This is the best burger I’ve ever had from a fuckin’ gas station. This really is a tasty-ass burger.” He was talking with his mouth full. “My, GOSH, you guys!”
“I made it myself,” Michelle chirped, as she choked out a cough. “Here. I’m good on that.”
“You do realize when you eat while you smoke, you’re totally ruining your high, right?” Julie had opened her backpack and taken out her adult coloring book and colored pencils, but she was half-ass listening to the conversation. “Someone needs to send this fool back to smoker’s etiquette class.”
“Sorry,” Dan frowned, “It’s been a while.”
“Don’t let her talk shit,” Michelle said. She was leaned back on her elbows, gazing into the reddening horizon. “She’s always just talkin’ shit.”
“Y’all known each other for a while?” Dan was the newest member of their tiny circle.
Julie put down her coloring book and grabbed the blunt from Dan.
“We’ve been best friends for like, ten years or some shit,” Julie said.
“Ten long years,” Michelle mumbled, shaking her head.
Dan pursed his lips into a smile and nodded. “That’s a long time.”
“Long-ass time.” Michelle rolled her eyes.
Julie let out a chuckle as she picked up her coloring book. “I’m finally almost done with this stupid picture.”
“Good,” Michelle laughed, “I’m tired of hearin’ you bitch about it.”
Julie’s eyes were intent on her picture as she scribbled her colored pencil across the paper.
“So,” Michelle looked toward Dan, who was staring at his burger as though he were making love to it. “What are you working on these days?”
Michelle and Dan had met through their local library in Rebuttal, Alabama. They were both writers with big dreams. Dan had a few things published on Amazon, but he was no Stephen King; at least not yet. His writing style was different than that of Stephen King’s, but Michelle revered his ability to toy with words.
“I’m editing a few of my projects right now,” Dan rubbed his chin, “but I’m wanting to write something outside my normal range.”
“Got anything specific in mind?”
“Not at all, but I’m open to suggestions.”
Michelle pushed herself upright and lifted an eyebrow. “I may have something for you, provided you can keep a super-huge secret.”
“Uhh…Okay.” Dan’s face was contorted with confusion.
Julie was all ears now, too. She glanced up at Michelle with her eyes fashioned into tiny slits.
“This a story about work. Julie and me have this super annoying customer. We call him ‘Cro-Magnon Man.’ Man, he gets on our fuckin’ nerves!”
Julie and Dan studied Michelle intently as she trailed off into her story.
Our gas station was the epitome of small-town country stores. It looked like a structure straight out of an old western movie. Shoppers received a monotonous “Hello” from whichever cashiers were lucky enough to be earning their minimum wage that day, and as people shopped, the likes of Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson’s music played softly in the background.
Through the store room in the back was a stairway that led up to an apartment, where Julie and I resided. We owned the store, and as if we had nothing better to do, we lived there, too.
The florescent lights shined on the linoleum. The shelves weren’t bare, but they weren’t fully stocked, either. Julie never wanted to spend the money to fill the shelves, not realizing that empty shelves don’t make money.
Our small store sold the kind of snacks only potheads buy after midnight; Honey Buns, Slim Jims, Combos, and Ding Dongs, just inches from the motor oil and windshield washing fluid. If you liked a fun game of Russian Roulette from time to time, there were dairy products in the glass case, next to various energy drinks and sodas. It was a generic gas station store, and this was a generic gas station shopping night. At least we thought it would be.
It was Julie and I working the night shift on this particular Saturday. Our night cashiers had both called in to work. We suspected they were out partying together, but there wasn’t much we could do at that moment.
It wasn’t any busier than a normal Saturday. People were coming in and making small talk as they damn near ran to the beer cooler. I could understand why they were running. Saturdays were the day that if you didn’t get there fast enough, you were likely not to be able to get your drink of choice.
I’d stepped outside for a cigarette when I saw Harold pull up in his big blue truck. “Hey, girl!” He was loud, as usual, as he bounced into the store. That’s how he walked; slightly hunched forward, and he bounced off his feet like Tigger. He was in his late forties, and always wore a backwards hat to hide his balding head, ripped jeans, a studded belt, and a tight t-shirt. We nicknamed him “Cro-Magnon Man” due to his deep set eyes and bulging forehead. Also, it was clear that the evolutionary process had skipped right over him.
All he ever got was a ninety-nine-cent refill on soda, and a pack of Aspirin.
Harold was nice sometimes, but mostly he was a real prick. I turned and looked in through the large window when I heard him getting loud with Julie. I puffed my cigarette as fast as I could to get back inside, because if I knew Julie at all, I knew this was going to get interesting. I could see him pointing to the Aspirin as Julie walked over to it, grabbed the price sticker off the counter, and all but shoved it in his face. When he glanced out the window I whipped around as if I hadn’t been spectating from the outside.
I heard the bell chime on the door as Harold came back outside. “You know they tryin’ to charge me a dolla ninety-nine for a two-pack of Apirin?! Thas a dolla a Aspirin!”
“That’s how much they are,” I answered as I stomped out my cigarette.
“Somebody the otha night charged me ninety-ninety cents! It done went up or what?” He was standing inside of my personal bubble, and his breath made me queasy.
“Whoever did that was mistaken.”
“They ninety-nine-cents everywhere else.”
“Go down to the Dollar store and get you a fifty pack for three dollars.”
“I will!” His wife shook her head as he got back in his truck. I caught a glimpse of her black eye before they pulled away.
When I got back inside, Julie was staring out the window with her mouth open, shaking her head. “Fucking jerk,” She said. “All mad because the Aspirin is a whole dollar-ninety-nine.”
“I know, dude. He came outside all mad about it.”
“Fucking Cro-Magnon Man.” Her face was riddled with angry tears.
Julie worked up a smile as she grabbed a cigarette and slammed her pack back on the counter. “He’s a menace to society. This world would so much better if he were gone. We oughta get rid of him.”
“What?” My eyes were wide now.
“What, what?” She had that smile on her face that meant she was cooking something up in her mind. “Look, Michelle. He’s loud, annoying, and all he does for fun is beat his wife. I’m just saying. What if we play vigilante for a night and get rid of the guy?”
“No. Nope.” I shook my head rapidly. “Uh-Uh. I ain’t gon’ do it.”
“Why the hell not?” Julie pouted.
“Look, I’m no social justice warrior. He’s an asshole, but that doesn’t warrant killing the man. Jesus Christ, Julie.”
Julie put her cigarette down and put her hand on her hip. “You’re a damn wuss, ‘Chelle.”
“Whatever. I’m a wuss, but I’m a wuss who ain’t in prison!”
I should take the time to mention that Julie is not a psychopathic murderer. She’s just what I like to call “passionate.” Cro-Magnon Man annoyed us all, but it seems as though Julie got the brunt of his ornery nature directed toward her.
After an hour or so, Julie was back to her usual demeanor. She hadn’t brought up ridding the world of anymore crude customers, either. She’d been making small talk and greeting customers in her fake cheery voice all night long.
As midnight approached the clock on the wall, we were getting ready to lock up the store. Five minutes before closing time, the door chimed as a last-minute customer lurched in. It was Cro-Magnon man.
“Oh, great,” I thought. “Julie’s gonna go on her rampage again.”
“Fuck,” Julie mumbled, as her eyes rolled back in her head.
“I got me some damn Aspirin!” Harold shouted in his loud, obnoxious voice.
“That’s great, Harold.” I tried to play nice. I didn’t like the guy, but he’d never offended me personally, aside from his stench.
I walked into the cooler to finish stocking it, leaving Julie to tend to her favorite customer. She’d stuck me the middle finger as a response to my kind gesture. As I was putting the last case of beer onto the shelf, a loud thump penetrated my eardrums. I ran to the front of the store and stopped in my tracks with my eyes wide and my jaw hanging open. Harold was laying on the floor, and Julie was standing over him holding a hammer.
“What the fuck did you do?!” I couldn’t process the scene before me.
“He was still goin’ on about the damn Aspirin.”
“So, you hit him with a hammer?!” I walked over to Cro-Magnon Man and gagged at the sight. I was forced to blink rapidly and rub my eyes when I thought I saw tiny x’s covering his eyes. “Is he dead?”
A moan escaped from Harold’s body, and he pushed himself up off the floor, stumbling to his feet.
“That wasn’t very lady like,” he mumbled, as he walked toward Julie. “Come here.” He threw his arm out to grab Julie, but she jumped back out of his reach, still holding the hammer. I stood behind Harold, still in shock, until he turned toward me and shoved me to the ground.
“Mother fucker!” I stood to my feet and kicked him in his baby maker.
Once he was keeled over in pain, Julie swung the hammer down and smacked it against Harold’s back. It didn’t phase him. He grabbed Julie around her ankles and yanked her feet out from under her. The hammer flew across the store and smashed through the glass door of the cooler. I was running around frantically, trying to figure out what to do.
I jumped on Harold’s back and started punching him in the head. I’d seen that in a movie once. For a second, I felt like a child riding a mechanical bull.
Julie stood up and started hitting him in the gut, until he put his palm to her forehead and extended his arm so she couldn’t reach him.
When she stopped fighting, he started spinning in circles trying to knock me off him. One arm was hugging his neck, the other arm was punching him in the head to no avail, and my legs were flailing around like a ragdoll.
Julie ran to the kitchen and came back, wielding our biggest butcher knife. “Drop the lady!” Her hands were trembling, but she had a maniacal look on her face.
“I’m trying!” Harold had grabbed hold of my arm around his neck trying to break my grip, but I was still punching him in the head with the other hand.
She clutched the knife with both hands and thrust it into his big gut. He fell over with me still holding on to him. I tried to get up, but I realized that he’d landed on top of me. “Get him off me! Ew! This is so gross!”
Julie groaned as she tried to pull the oversized human off me. As I was squirming beneath him, Harold’s eyes popped open, and I let out a shrill scream. He rolled over and I crawled away as fast as I could. Julie grabbed the knife again and thrust it into his chest.
“Now he’s dead. R.I.P, bitch!” She looked around shaking her head. “Dammit. I just mopped, too.”
“Are you being serious right now?! You just murdered someone!” I was still trying to catch my breath.
“Scream it louder so they can hear you in Guam.”
“You know what? I’m calling the cops.” I turned to walk toward the phone, but Julie jumped in front of me. Murder is not something that had ever been on my bucket list.
“No! No. You are not calling the cops. Just help me get rid of him.”
“I’m not helping you do shit! You’re crazy! What are you gonna do with him, Julie?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead.” Julie looked from the lifeless body back to me.
I let a dramatic gasp leave my throat as I brought my hand to my chest. “Ya don’t say!”
“Let’s drag him to the freezer in the meat market.” Julie looked serious, but I was still hopeful that I was being pranked. “And Michelle, don’t forget, you’re just as much in this as I am.”
“What’s gonna happen when our employees come in to work on Monday?”
“It’ll be business as usual.” Julie walked back over to Cro-Magnon Man and lifted him up under his arms. “Grab his feet,” she huffed.
I stood still and stared at her for a few moments. She was five-foot-two and about ten pounds soaking wet, and she’d just taken out a two-hundred-fifty-pound man. I crossed my arms and tapped my foot against the linoleum. “Move him yourself.”
“Michelle. I just saved your life, and this is not gonna look good tomorrow when our girls come in to work. You’re really good at hiring sissies. You want ‘em to walk in and see a dead guy laying on the ground?”
She was right. I imagined Beth and Stephanie coming to work and losing their minds at the sight. He’d probably start smelling by then, too. He was already starting to smell. Hell, he always smelled.
“Okay. I’ll help you, but I’m doing this so Steph and Beth aren’t scarred for life come tomorrow.”
I walked over to Harold’s body and grabbed hold of his feet. Together, Julie and I carried the body through the back of the store and into our adjacent meat market. We only dropped him four times, which is less than I was expecting. Julie looked calm, but I could feel myself holding back vomit.
Julie stopped when we reached the meat cutter’s station. My body filled with horror and my eyebrows crinkled when I saw her eyes drift toward the saw.
I dropped Cro-Mag’s feet and took a step back waving my hands in the air. “No. Absolutely not!”
“It’ll make it a hell of a lot easier to get rid of the body.” She set him on the ground and started assembling the saw.
“You’ve gone rabid. You’re psychotic.”
“You’re over dramatic.”
“Over dramatic?! My best friend just fucking murdered a guy and now she wants to cut him up into small pieces using our highly expensive equipment, might I add. Also, there’s a dead guy like four feet away from me, and he damn near just squished me to death. I am having a seriously bad day.”
“You want some cheese with that whine?”
I walked over to Julie until I was as close to her face as I could get, and I scowled through her soul. She was working my nerves. “Fuck you, Julie.”
“Here,” she smacked a pair of gloves against my chest. “Help me finish putting this saw together.”
When Julie finished cutting up our best customer, she placed his limbs neatly into gallon-size Ziploc bags. I’d been sitting in the corner the entire time, sticking my face into the trashcan whenever the urge erupted. After all the body parts were neatly stored, she shoved them into a crate and rolled them into the corner of the meat freezer.
Once the body was tucked safely in the freezer, Julie and I went back into the store to clean the mess.
“This is fucking disgusting,” I said, sloshing the mop onto the floor.
“Did you think this wouldn’t be messy?” Julie was wiping down the counters.
“I didn’t think you’d fucking murder someone.”
“WE murdered someone, and it wasn’t murder. It was a favor to society. Self-defense, even. He was just knocked out ‘til he tried to wake up and kill us.”
“I didn’t hit with him a hammer or stab the guy to death. You did that.”
“Okay, that’s true enough. But you did jump on him like a little monkey.”
“He was gonna kill you!”
“Whatever. Looked like you were having fun on that ride.”
“You’ve got screws loose.” I was still scrubbing the blood from the floor, and as I turned to ring the mop, I slipped and landed directly in the pool of blood. “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
“Stop playing around and get that crap mopped up. The girls will be here in a few hours,” Julie said, shaking her head.
Two days later, Julie was acting like her usual self, and I was pretending to be my normal self as well. Harold had been reported missing by his wife the day after Julie turned into a psychotic killer, and the police had come into the store asking if we’d seen him that night. Julie had been quick to say he’d only been in for his usual items, while I stood silently in the background wiping the sweat from my forehead.
There had been a search party organized by the police, and over two-hundred good Samaritans showed up to look for Cro-Magnon Man. Julie had been in the kitchen all day, cooking burgers, soup, meatloaf, and anything else she could think of, to feed the search party before they’d call it quits for the night.
“Is it almost done? We gotta have all this food over to the headquarters in an hour.” I looked from my watch, to Julie, who was smiling and whistling as she cooked the meals.
“What’s up with you?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s almost done. Will you grab me some okra out of the freezer?”
I walked into the freezer and reached to the top shelf for the okra. Something wasn’t right. I scanned the cooler with my eyes and noticed that the crate holding the body was no longer in the corner. I ran out of the cooler and over to Julie. “It’s gone! Julie.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “The body’s gone.”
“I know,” Julie said, stirring her pot.
“So where is it?”
Julie looked up at me and winked. “Want some soup?”
The realization hit me so hard I almost fell backward. “Julie… You didn’t.”
“What? I had to get rid of it somehow. Now, let’s go feed some hungry searchers.”
“You are so full of shit!” Julie yelled as Michelle puffed on her cigarette.
Dan eye-balled the second burger he’d started after finishing the first, before dropping it to the ground. “That was, uh, one hell of a story,” he said.
“It’s not a true one,” Julie reiterated. “Sometimes her imagination soars away with her brain.”
“Whatever you say,” Michelle laughed. “You not hungry anymore, Dan?”
“No. I don’t think so.” Dan stood and wiped the dirt from his pants. “I’ve gotta go. Thanks for the story. I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. See you later.” Michelle and Julie waved as Dan walked away.
Once Dan was out of earshot, Julie glared toward Michelle.
“Why in the hell would you tell him that?!” She had rage written all over her face.
“What? He needed some writing material. I was just helping a friend, much like I helped you.”
“We’re gonna go to jail now, dumbass.”
“Nah, he doesn’t know it was a true story.”
“Yea. Until he hears about a guy who went missing.” Julie stood up and started packing up her coloring materials. “I can’t believe you did that.”
“That’s cool. I still can’t believe you murdered a guy.”
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