“You Owe Me for This”

I awoke with a groan, soaking in sweat and unbelievably tense.  My hands balled and un-balled, and I wasn’t surprised by the effort it took to lift myself out of bed.  I thought my limbs might snap from a slight pang.

The gloomy bedroom glowed with dull morning light.  I lumbered into the bathroom and flicked the light switch.  Bending over the sink, a twang of pain went up my back.  I splashed cold water on my face and it ran down my neck.  Massaging my temples, I looked into the mirror and a fragmented reflection stared back from the broken glass.

While brushing my teeth I leaned forward, down, and around, glancing into each sliver of clarity in search of the best angle to see myself.  I settled for a long dagger that showed one-third of my unshaven face.  My hair was mussed but looked okay.

As I scrubbed the farthest back teeth, I recited in my mind: My name is Jared Jack.  I’m forty-four.  I’m a risk management analyst at Tyr-Con.  I like drawing, painting, and horror movies.  What’s your name?  Where do you work?  What do you—

I spat bloody toothpaste into the sink.

No, that’s too in-your-face.  I need to be cool, calm, and confident.  Talk, listen, talk, listen — all that noise.  Or was it listen, talk, listen, talk?  Shit, I don’t remember. 

After getting dressed and burning the eggs I scrambled for myself, I sauntered past a cluttered dinner table and ate breakfast on my couch.  On the wall above the TV hung a macabre painting — a creature made of shadows soaring over the nighttime cityscape.  I admired the craftsmanship: the strokes, the blended colors, the subtle distortions, and the surreal splatters.  The painting was labeled Knight of the Night — J.J.1998.

My hands were shaking.  I hadn’t drunk my morning medicine yet. 

Today I arrived at work early — which is to say, only an hour and a half late.  I stepped off the elevator and lurked through ranks of cubicles on the sixth floor of Tyrrell-Conan Corp.  A small army of developers and QA engineers hammered away at their keyboards hunched over glowing screens.  My workspace was tucked in a back corner far from the elevators.  The journey to my cubicle felt herculean today.

I looked over my shoulder as I passed a coworker’s cubicle and said, “Hey, man.  You seen Tyler around?” 

He returned a sleepy look and shook his head. 

I made a phone gesture with my thumb and pinky and said, “If you see him, give me a heads-up.  All right?”

I plopped into my chair with a huff.  A few guys said something to me as they passed by, but I didn’t hear what.  I nodded and murmured back, then hunched over my monitor to begin my daily duties.

For the next few hours, I scrolled sluggishly through pages of epic text files.  My faded black sleeves were rolled hastily to my elbows, and I wore sunglasses while I worked.  People and faces reflected in glimpses on the corner of my screen.  Somebody from my graduating class walked by and smiled, noticing my reflected eyes. 

My brow twitched.  I put one hand on my knee and laid the other flat on my desk, then stared down between my legs at the dark stain on the carpet.  My lungs filled deep and released slowly. 

Minutes passed, and I found the motivation to begin scrolling through my documents again.  Something a counsellor had said sprung to mind: I straightened my back, blocking the glint on my screen, and found myself immediately more productive.

Just after six in the evening, another face reflected in my monitor as somebody leaned into my workspace. 

I swiveled in my chair with a jolt and said, “You scared the bejeezus out of me, man.”

Resting against the cubicle wall, Drew plopped his chin on his crossed arms. 

“You’re still here?” he said.  “I’d get going if I were you.  Boss is looking for you.”

“Which boss?”

“Boss Junior.”  His face split with a grin.

“I can’t yet.  I’ve got a lot to do.”

He gave me an incredulous laugh.  “Seriously?  Are they paying you overtime now, too?”

“I-have-a-lot-to-do,” I emphasized.  “Lotsa risks to manage.  I mean, managements — to analyze.”

“So what do you do exactly?  Read stuff all day?”

I sighed and turned back to face my computer.  “Such is the life of a risk analyst manager.  Not as glamorous as software development, I guess, but at least it’s honest work.”

In the monitor’s reflection, Drew raised a brow.  “Huh?  Why are you acting so weird lately?”

I stood up and spun around to face my coworker, taking him aback.  “I’m not acting weird.  I’m completely in touch with what’s normal.”

“Sure, man.  Hey, is everything all right?”

I gestured with my hands like I was explaining something complicated and frustrating.  I moved my mouth and uttered some syllables, then gave up with a sigh and sat back down.  The next time I glanced at the reflection in my monitor, nobody stood over my cubicle wall.

After the office cleared for the day, I shambled through the parking garage with a limp.  The evening sky was a bright swirl of orange and pink that splashed the concrete in a cool glow.  I fumbled around for my car keys and thought I’d lost them.  They were in my other pocket. 

The key in my trembling hand tapped the car door before I fit it in the lock.  Shivering from the cold, I let out a breath and fell into my seat and turned on the ignition.  My mind drifted into a lulling abyss, and my limbs guided my crappy little sedan back to my crappy little apartment.

Minutes before midnight I wandered through my halls, enamored with thoughts and images that congealed into something resembling a cohesive narrative.  Moving absently from one room to the next, my eye caught a folded piece of paper taped to the wall above my bed.  I unfolded it.

It was a terribly drawn sketch of a man bashing someone’s head with a baseball bat.  I shivered and saw Tyler Tower’s face in my mind.  This was a reminder of the debt I owed him.

Two a.m. — I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering.  An empty bottle of Scotch rolled off and thudded on the carpet, and I popped the lid off a fresh one. 

“Yeah,” I mumbled in a half-sleep daze, “everybody… does it… nowadays…”

I lifted the bottle and took another gulp.

It was Thursday morning and I slept no more than an hour each night.  With a zombie-like stumble, I got out of my car and lumbered through the entrance of Tyr-Con.  A thin briefcase drifted by my side, dripping clear liquid.  Under my coat, I wore a half-tucked button-down shirt with unwashed black slacks.  One sleeve was rolled to my elbow and the other hung unbuttoned at my wrist.

When I stepped through the glass doors, a haze of muggy heated air washed me over.  I ripped off my winter coat in a grumbling sweat and lurched toward the elevator.  My downturned eyes counted the tiles that passed my shoes, and I tried to ignore the pair of clicking heels that hurried to intercept me.

“I wonder what he wants from me now,” I thought aloud.  “He always wants something different.”

“I’m sorry?” the woman said.  I shifted my glance from the floor to her face, meeting a puzzled expression.

“Nothing.  Can I help you?”

She paused before putting on a smile.  “Hello, Jared.  My name’s Nicole, and I’m the new HR assistant.  Gresley wants to speak with you in his office before you get started today.”

I didn’t want to deal with any corporate bullshit, but I smiled at her and nodded anyways.  “All righty, then.  Thank you.”

She looked me over and said, “Are you all right?  Your hand looks like it hurts.”

I looked down at myself.  My right knuckles were purple and cut-up.

“Oh, yeah,” I said.  “I’m fine.  I got attacked by myself the other night.  Fucker got the drop on me.”

Her face had a visible blend of confusion and alarm.  She repeated her understanding of what I’d said with a pointer finger dancing along each syllable.  “You were by yourself when you got attacked by—?”

“Sorry, I really gotta run.  I’m about to be late for something.”

An elevator door pinged open, and I jogged toward it with my eyes fixed away from the woman.  Inside I stabbed buttons at random, then mashed on Door Close.

The elevator lurched and started moving.  I leaned against the wall, staring at the floor.  A drop of sweat splat on the metal, and I licked my lips.  It reminded me of thick, clear alcohol. 

“Why do they keep it so goddamn hot in here?”

I left for the day at 2:47 p.m. 

Broad, clear sunlight poured into the parking garage and reflected off rows of cars.  I hurried past a trio of my coworkers with my head hunkered down.  One of them acknowledged me by name.  I yelped, nodded at them, and hurried away.

Muffled laughter echoed across the concrete.  I jammed my key against my car’s door, trying to fit it into the hole when his voice came from behind me:

“Hey, man.”

I spun around, panting wordlessly.  My heart pounded.

Tyler Tower stood in the empty parking space next to my sedan.  He was unusually tall and thin with a face sharp like a fox.  Thin crescent lines curved around the edges of his mouth, more pronounced when he smiled.  His hair was short and slick but subtly mussed.  A black pea coat draped his body, and his dark eyes lacked anything resembling emotion.

“Still sore from the other night?” he asked with a big grin.

I held my busted-up hand to my chest, feeling my heartbeat, and said nothing.

“That’s good to hear, man.”  With a chuckle, he paced around me and approached the bronze hood of my car, placing his hand on the roof.  His finger slid down to the hood.  “I know you’re a busy guy, working until two o’clock and all.  Must be rough.”  He turned and looked me in the eyes as if for emphasis.  “So I wanted to remind you that I’m waiting for your next payment.”  He tapped his fingernail on the hood twice.  “In case it slipped your mind.”

I glanced at his hand, then returned a hard stare at his dark gaze.  I spoke with stern confidence.

“I need my car.”

He took a step back and showed his palms in a gesture of exaggerated innocence.  “I didn’t say anything about your car, man.” 

He was still grinning.  His expression hadn’t appeared serious this entire time.

“What do you want, then?” I said.

“Somebody’s on edge today, aren’t we?”

“Just tell me, Tyler.”

He shrugged.  “If you keep giving me little crumbs, it’s gonna be a while before we’re,” he paused and his eyes glazed, deliberating the precise word: “even.”

“So you want a car, then?  Any car.  Knock off the cryptic bullshit.”

“Anything you can get me.  If a car’s easiest, get me a car.  That would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Get a big payment out of the way.  Doesn’t that sound nice?”

My face twisted with a scowl.  “I’d appreciate if you were straightforward with me.  Don’t beat around the goddamn bush.”

“You know, I wasted an hour looking for you yesterday, but turns out you’re more clever than I thought.  You hid in the one place you knew I’d never look: At your desk.”

I got into my car and slammed the door.  Tyler Tower stood in the next empty space, hands in his coat pockets, and watched me with a grin as I roared out of the parking garage.

On my commute home, I couldn’t stop asking myself: How does one go about stealing a car? 

Stopped at a red light, my eyes scanned the vehicles in the streets: cars and trucks about the intersection waiting for the light to change, and a few parked in the shoulders and nearby lots. 

Is it better to smash the window, or learn how to pick a lock?  I could swipe someone’s keys, hop in their car, and take off before they knew what happened.  But where could I pull off such a blatant —

Hours felt like minutes.  I slumped under a showerhead at the gym and stared at the mildewed tiles.  Frigid water ran down my shivering skin.  I didn’t remember working out.  All I needed to do was find some lone person in a parking garage late at night, stick a weapon in their face, and demand their keys — they probably wouldn’t even resist.  Simple as that.  It’d be clean, and I’d never have to do it again.  Hell, maybe they’d even get payout from their insurance.

I dressed lazily in the men’s locker room.  Several empty bottles sat next to a half-full one in my rented locker space.  I took one last swig from my gym stash and swung the locker shut. 

The doors clicked and opened.  I shivered when the cold breeze hit my half-dressed body.

Two uniformed officers blocked the only exit.  For an uncomfortable moment, they looked at me and I stared back.  My chest raced and the moments elongated.

“Right there,” the shorter cop said to his buddy. 

My chest seized with anxiety.  I pulled my T-shirt over my shoulders and prepared my best PR grin as the cops approached me.

“Hello, gentlemen.”  I extended my hand for a shake.  My head pounded and I hoped I wasn’t sweating.  “How are you doing tonight?”

The cops froze.  They exchanged quizzical glances before replying to me. 

“I’m, uh.  I’m good,” the short cop said and shook my hand.  The fat one nodded and grunted.  They slinked past me and approached a locker four spaces down.  There was a pair of pliers in the fat cop’s hands.

My cackle only faded when I drove out of the gym’s parking lot and reeled into traffic.  My face streamed with sweat and my grin was tight and robotic.  The sky was bright with the evening sun, and I wanted nothing more than to be in bed.

Back home, I sauntered from the front door into the kitchen.  The last hints of light were fading through the window in a grim dusk of gray and purple.  I paced around the table that was strewn with dirty plates, empty bottles, and old newspapers.  Sifting through the mess, I found a letter from work.

The envelope had been drunkenly torn in half.  With a flick of my offhand, I unfolded the note addressed to me by Michael Gresley, VP of Tyr-Con.  Tomorrow morning was my mandated visit with our HR counsellor.  The letter promised confidentiality and had been blessed by our lord and savior:  Tyrrell Tower, CEO, hand-signed beneath Gresley’s name.

I stared at the letter, and I wondered.  The glass bottle in my other hand was warm.

On Friday morning, I drank a little extra before I went into the office for my appointment with Tyr-Con’s counsellor.  I sank into the nice leather couch.  He looked at me from behind his clipboard and spoke in a tone that hinted genuine concern. 

“You say you’ve been having problems.  Do you want to talk about them?”

I shrugged and remarked, “Your words, not mine.”

The man lowered the clipboard and gave me a stern but careful look. 

“Actually, you said that to our last HR assistant shortly before she left.”

I chuckled.  “Is this, like, an interrogation or something?”

“Of course not.  I’m here to listen if you want to talk.  It’s my job to support you.”

I drifted further into the heavenly leather cushions and crossed my feet on the wooden table that separated us.

“I feel fine,” I said with a slight shrug.

“Are you sure?  You’ve seemed pretty down lately.”

I chuckled.  “Well, I’m pretty buzzed right now, so I’m good.”

The counsellor looked alarmed.  “Buzzed?”

“That’s right.  A-OK.”

“Jared, I —”

“You know,” I interrupted him, “I’m a man with a lot of problems.  I’m an alcoholic, if you hadn’t noticed.  My wife left me and took our daughter with her.  I have a useless degree, I’m utterly incompetent, and I should be living on the street.  But you wanna know why I feel fine?”  Pulling my feet down from the table, I leaned forward and laughed loudly and humorlessly, pointing at my chest.  “Do youwant to knowwhy Ifeel fine?


Exploding with laughter, I chimed in between breaths: “Because I don’t give a fuck.  I really, really, really don’t.”  I took a deep breath.  Tears of laughter streamed down my face.  “Was there anything else, or are we done here?”

The counsellor seemed to struggle with the English language.  The expression on his face made me giggle harder.

He pulled himself together and spoke.  “It sounds like you’re carrying a lot of weight with you, Jared.  I know it’s difficult to lose people and struggle with addiction.  I can recommend you a therapist who specializes in treating depression and —”

“Nonononono.”  My syllables were like machine gun fire.  “No way am I gonna let myself get judged by some shrink.”

“They don’t judge you, Jared.  They’re there to help.”

I was unable to hold back the squall of laughter that erupted from me.  With a livid face, I kept laughing as I strolled out the counsellor’s door.  When I reached the elevator, chuckling still, I stabbed the button and wiped tears from my cheeks.

Back at my desk, I dropped into my swivel chair and spun in idle circles.  The sixth floor of Tyr-Con whirled by me, and my coworkers paid me no mind.

The clock glowed 1:03 a.m.  My bedroom blinds were fortified shut.  I’d watched the minutes pass one by one.  The transformation repeated itself again and again and again and again and again and again and… 

I sighed and pushed myself upright, fighting against my own aching body.  With a groan, I slid off my bed and shambled sleepily into the bathroom.  On the counter next to the sink was a stapled stack of papers from a do-it-yourself manual I’d printed off the Internet explaining how to hotwire a car.

I yawned and washed my face.  The water swirled down the drain between shards of broken glass that had fallen from the mirror.

“Guess I’ll get it over with.  Keep that fucker happy for a while.”

I snatched the three-quarters-full vodka that lived next to the toilet and curled it into my chest like a teddy bear, and I marched back into the bedroom.

A few minutes later, I’d dressed myself in a navy-blue hooded sweatshirt, unwashed black slacks, and a ski mask pulled up to my brow.  I got in my car and started my journey into the night, searching for an unlighted road and a dark house with a decent car out front.

I’d nearly missed the perfect prey, skidding to a halt when I spotted it.  On a dark road with no streetlamps, there was a classic green Mustang outside a gloomy, unkempt duplex.  With a swing of my steering wheel, my car veered down the shadowy road.

I parked down the street from my prize, swung open my trunk, and grabbed the black duffel bag.  My car reverberated with the force of the trunk slamming shut.

Veiled in black cloth, I crept through the shadowy street and stumbled only slightly.  If I was quick, I could get out of there without any trouble.  My head twisted in each direction as my feet tapped the concrete.  When I reached the driver’s door of the Mustang, I dropped my bag on the ground.

I zipped it open and pulled out a crowbar, then placed it against the driver window.  With a hop, I dropped all my weight downward.  The window shattered and the silent night split with the howl of an alarm.  The Mustang’s lights started flashing, and broken glass splashed around my shoes.

My jaw hung and my heart drained.  I grabbed the duffel bag and backpedaled in a confused stagger, and my head started spinning.

“You asshole!” somebody cried out.  I turned to face a balding man in a sweater, gold chain, and sweatpants who had marched out of his home brandishing a large knife.  “If you wanted my car, you should’ve knocked on my door and told me.”

He rushed off his lawn and broke into a mad dash, lifting the knife over his head.  With movements like drunken lightning, I rifled through the unzipped duffel bag and whipped my hand out.

An aluminum baseball bat cut the air in a long arc.  The man saw it and leapt backward out of its path.  The bat whacked his weapon hand and the knife clattered against the road.  He scurried over and grabbed it with his offhand.

A long moment passed where we watched one another in the shadows of the unlit street.  The Mustang’s alarm blared in a loud monotone.  Lights of houses flicked alive, and some people opened their blinds to peek outside.

I spoke first.  “I don’t wanna hurt you, man.  I just need the money.”

“Hurt me?” the guy snarled.  “You broke my window, you junkie prick.  I’m the one who should be hurting you.”

“Look.  If you let me go, you’ll never see me again.”

“Fuck that.  I’m calling the cops.”  He pointed at my car down the street.  “I saw your plates.”

He stretched and balled his hurt hand while holding the knife toward me with an awkward left.  With slow, shaky movements, he started backpedaling toward his front lawn.

I shrieked, lunged, and swung the bat downward like an executioner’s axe.  The man cried out and jumped back, waving his knife in a vain attempt to look threatening.  My bat clattered against the concrete, and I lifted and swung again. 

The blunt aluminum connected with his elbow.  He shouted and the knife flew from his hand and slid under the Mustang.  Now he was on the ground, and I towered over him.

Something caught my eye.  I saw a grin in the shadows.  My brows peaked and I lowered my arms, letting the bat dangle and twang against the asphalt.  For a flash of a moment, I saw Tyler Tower.  The sick bastard was watching me from the dark and laughing.

I blacked out and thought an eternity had passed me on.  A throbbing pain shot up my body from my crotch.  The man’s face hovered over me while he pinned me to the asphalt.  He sat on my chest and punched me repeatedly.  I took two blows to the collar, one across the teeth, and a solid fist between the eyes. 

After the last hit, the guy stopped to catch his breath.  His knuckles were bent from the force of smashing my skull against the street.

I opened my eyes and they were filled with blood.  With both hands I gripped the man’s face and jammed my thumbs into his eyes.  He screamed and his strength waned.  I shoved him and he tumbled over next to me, allowing me to regain my footing. 

No legible thoughts or words ran through my cracked head.  Hyperventilating, snarling, foaming red at the mouth, I grabbed the bat, weighed it in my hands, and swung it into the helpless man again and again and again and again and —

Hunched over, I bellowed like an animal under torture, my face livid under the ski mask.  The bleeding man pleaded from the cold street, and I hit him again.

I called Tyler first thing that night when I got home.  He got ecstatic when he saw the Mustang.  Apparently the make and model I found were his favorite, but I’m not sure I believed him.  One way or another, he insisted our debt had been cleared.

The sun rose behind a cloudy skyline, and the warmth of dawn crept into the cold living room.  The bottle by my side was empty.  I clicked the TV remote in my living room and switched through the channels.  They were all white noise.  I tilted back the empty bottle to extract any last droplet of alcohol that remained, but I’d exhausted this glass an hour ago.

I sparked my lighter, and the dancing flame warmed my face.  The lit cigarette slacked in the corner of my lips, and I blew a cloud of smoke.  The tobacco was stale from months of disuse, but it burned just fine.

Gray light flickered from the television screen.  The living room filled with stagnating smoke, and I turned the TV off.  I closed my eyes and they were sore like I hadn’t blinked in hours.  It was time to get some real sleep.

Saturday went by in a blur — I was practically comatose.  On Sunday, I got up around noon.  It was a warm day with a happy sun and inviting air outside. 

I opened a window and aired my apartment before going on a run.  I kept running until lunch, and even then I couldn’t stop myself.  My calves constricted like an ailing heart, and every step I took was a beat that kept my body moving.  Marching down the sidewalk, I tossed a half-eaten hotdog into a garbage can.  My stomach didn’t feel right, and the crappy street vendor meat wasn’t helping.

I almost didn’t go to work on Monday — but with heroic effort, I got out of bed, dressed myself, and dragged my battered form into the office.  Everybody in the lobby stared at me as I lurched toward the elevator.  I hadn’t looked in the mirror this morning, but I read on their expressions that my face told the story of the other night’s adventure.

I stepped onto the sixth floor with a heavy yawn.  As I turned the corner and my cubicle came into view, I stopped breathless.  Two cops hovered around my cubicle, and Drew stood near them crossing his arms with a confused expression.

I ducked behind the wall of the nearest cubicle.  On hands and knees I scurried back around the corner towards the elevator, then pushed myself to my feet and broke into a sprint.  I skidded to a stop at the metal doors and stabbed the button repeatedly. 

Droplets of sweat slicked my hair and I swung my head around.  Nobody chased me yet, but it was only a matter of time.  The elevator dragged its way up the shaft.

A woman stood from her desk and said, “Is everything all right?”

I glanced over my shoulder with a pale and battered face.  The elevator pinged and opened its doors, and I lunged aboard and punched the door-close button until I was on my way back to the lobby.

I produced the phone from my pocket with shivering hands.  Licking my lips, I dialed Tyler and the line rang and rang and rang.

No answer.  Despair swept me and the elevator quietly glided to the ground while I kept calling him.  I wiped my face, and my palm looked like it’d been dunked in a pool of sweat.

When the elevator doors opened, I hurried past the small crowd who meandered in the lobby, threw myself out the front doors of Tyr-Con, and sprinted through the entrance of the parking garage.  I entered the huge concrete structure and stopped and dropped my phone on the floor, blinking rapidly.

I blurted out: “What the hell are you —,” and my voice trailed off.

Tyler laughed.  “Hey, man.  Long, crazy day at work, huh?”

He clicked a button on his car’s remote.  The purple Beamer beeped as it locked, parked in a nonexistent space that blocked the vending machines.

I shook my head.  “Where’s the Mustang I gave you?”

As always, he had that everlasting grin on his face.  It was a sick façade that showed nothing and hid everything.  He licked his bared teeth as he took a step closer to me.

“I left it running in a parking lot,” he said.  “It was gone when I came back.  I dunno what happened.”

“Are you fucking joking?”

Tyler shrugged.  “Back to the Beamer for me.  Hey, is something wrong, man?”

I trembled as I spoke.  “I killed someone for that car.”

His expression didn’t change.  “Are you joking?  I never asked you to hurt anyone, you stupid asshole.  You could’ve given me yours.”

“I — I need my car.”

“More than that guy needed his skull, I guess?”

My jaw hanging agape, I changed the subject: “There’s cops at my cubicle, man.”

“So if I’m understanding right, you’re a fuckin’ idiot who’s going to prison?”

I shook my head.  “You don’t even care, do you?”

“Sure, I care.  I’m just not surprised.  I’ll help you out, but don’t get it twisted.  Your ‘confession’ means fuck-all.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I’m not real!  His cackle resounded in the parking garage.  “I’m just a figment of your imagination, dude!  I’m the handsome, successful man you wish ya were.  Hey, this is kinda like that movie with Brad Pitt.  What was that called again?”

“Fuck you, Tyler.  I’m never doing anything for you again.”

That smile was immortal.  He would pass it on to his son just as his father had given to him.  Only elements time cannot wear were made before that smile.

He shrugged.  “This was your idea, man.  You could always try flipping burgers.”

I opened my mouth and found myself speechless.

“That’s what I thought.  All right, I’m assuming you didn’t just imagine those cops.  I suggest you get gone, and stay gone for a few weeks.  I’ll make sure you keep your job, just like I always do.  Okay?”

I said nothing.

Tyler laughed.  “Sure thing, man.  Don’t mention it.”

He brushed past me toward the glass doors of the lobby, and as he moved, he glanced over his shoulder back at me.  For a rare moment, his grin was absent and he said:

“You owe me for this, bud.”

He disappeared into the marble-floored lobby of Tyr-Con.

I stood alone in the parking garage with Tyler Tower’s purple Beamer parked illegally in front of the soda machines.  A strong urge washed over me, and with a smile I pictured the spoiled brat’s precious ride smashed into a thousand pieces.

But my salaried job was nice, and a vacation sounded great.

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