An Unexpected Event
by Travis Garner
Harry had just bought a gun. He couldn’t believe he’d actually done it.
It was heavier than he expected, with real weight that that gave it a certain tangibility he’d never imagined. It was cold and hard and lifeless. Three traits he would need to embody if really intended on mugging someone.
The idea had come to him late last week while showering at the university gym. A solution to the financial troubles that had sprung up so suddenly. He hadn’t stopped thinking about it since.
One night, he told himself. That’s all it’ll take. One night of robbing the right people.
He thought about it while riding his bike with the broken gear that jumped every third link on the chain. He’d practiced in front of the cracked bathroom mirror of the two-bedroom apartment he shared with his mama, forming his hand into an imaginary pistol and pointing it at the image of himself.
So finally, one Friday evening, as the first snow of the season set in, Harry finally did it. He'd purchased a gun after a brief background check, found a brick-walled back alley that housed a pair of dumpsters, and waited.
The first person to stray into the alley was a man dressed in his Sunday best. Probably a banker on his way home from the office. Harry squeezed the gun in his pocket, finger on the trigger, and, with thoughts of his mama, approached the man.
He made it four steps before his confidence faltered and, instead of pulling out the gun and demanding money, he simply walked past without any altercation.
Another person entered the alley – a women in a turtleneck sweater and bubble skirt. Again, Harry lost confidence almost immediately. He pretended not to notice her and she didn’t spare him a second glance.
Three failed attempts later and Harry found himself sitting on an overturned beer crate, head in his hands. How could he hope to take care of mama if he was so damn weak that he couldn’t even mug someone in a back alley.
As he watched the fresh snow dusting the ground, a small girl, no older than ten, rounded the corner into the alley. She wore a red rain slicker, patched jeans, and carried a purple teddy bear in a red and black Buccaneers jersey.
The girl didn’t even seem to notice him. She was so small. So in her own world…So alone.
A thought crossed Harry’s mind and he tightened his grip on the gun.
But he pushed the thought away as quickly as it came. She was just a kid, he’d scar her for life. Besides, what of value could she possibly have?
She has the bear, another voice in his subconscious whispered. She has the bear and you have to start somewhere.
And suddenly her small size didn’t seem a deterrent, but rather a motive. A strong motive. This girl was a confidence builder. No one starts in the big leagues; they start at the bottom and work their way up.
Before the feeling could fade Harry found his feet and pointed the gun at her back. “St-stop! Freeze!”
The girl paused, then turned to face him. Her eyes widened.
“Give me everything you have!” his voice was shaking.
Hers shook worse. “B-B-But I don’t have anything.”
“The bear! Give me the bear!”
Tears began to run down the girl’s cheeks. Harry’s motivation faltered.
“Don’t take Mr. Huggins,” the girl sniffed.
Harry felt like scum. “Hey. Hey now. Please don’t cry. Just…just give me the bear.”
“Why do you want him?”
What could Harry say? I want your bear because I’m too much of a coward to rob men?
He opened his mouth, not sure what would come out, and ended up spilling the entire truth. “I need cash. Badly. I just lost my job, and I was only working part time but it still hurts cause the University just hiked tuition. And then mama got those cysts in her abdomen so now she’s not working neither. And we’re not insured so the medical bill’s gonna be a fortune and…and…and I just really need some money.”
His honesty seemed to calm the girl. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and said, “Mr. Huggins doesn’t got any money, but he is good at comforting you when you feel sad. You can cuddle him if you want but I’d like him back when you’re done.”
Harry nodded and felt a tear in his own eye. He lowered his gun and took a step towards the girl causing her to flinch. “Maybe…leave the gun over there.”
Harry nodded again. Of course the gun was scaring her. It was scaring him too. He put it on the ground and walked over to the girl who handed him the bear. It was heavy and lumpy, its purple fur course, dirty, and smeared with grime and guck. But it was warm from the girl’s touch and so he squeezed it into his chest all the same.
What was he doing robbing a ten-year-old? Or anyone for that matter? That wasn’t who he was, was it? Mama had always taught him that no matter how bad things got, they would always work out. He just needed-
Something clicked behind him.
Harry spun around and saw the little girl pointing his own gun back at him. She held it with two hands, feet apart, confident.
A new feeling set in. Fear.
“I cannot believe your nerve,” the girl said. Her voice sounded deeper now. And steady. “This is my territory. My area! And here you are trying to rob me on my own turf?”
“What-” Harry tried but was cut off.
“Everything from seventy-third to Broadmore belongs to me. Everybody knows that. And here you are, some hotshot wimp trying to step on my toes!”
Harry blinked. “I didn’t know.”
“Then do your research next time. Isn’t that what they teach you to do in your fancy-shmancy university.”
“Please.” Harry pleaded. “I didn’t know.”
“Stop your whining. And give me back Mr. Huggins. Just toss him over.”
Harry did as he was told and the bear landed in the fresh powder at the girl’s feet. She scooped it up and held it under the crook of her arm while motioning with the gun. “And your coat. I want that too.”
Harry swallowed, but did as instructed, tossing the coat to her feet. He wasn’t sure if his arm hair stood on end from the evening chill or from the cold muzzle that now stared him down.
The miniature mugger picked the coat up and slid it on, careful to always keep the gun pointed at Harry. She found his wallet inside the pocket and pulled out the last ten dollar bill stashed inside. Rolling up the bear's jersey revealed a slit in its back from which Harry could just make out the green crumpled corners of several slips of paper. The girl shoved the ten inside the bear and pulled the Buccaneers jersey back in place.
“Thank you very much for that.” She said, then motioned with the gun. “Now take the shirt off.”
“Seriously?” Harry asked. “It’s winter.”
“Cry me a river. You were going to rob a little girl. Now take your shirt off. And your pants. And your shoes too.”
Harry followed the orders, stripping down to his socks and heart covered boxers. He hugged himself against the chill of the air kissing his unprotected skin.
“Now you listen to me,” the girl said. “I don’t like being treated poorly. I don’t like being taken advantage of in my own territory. And I especially don’t like sharing Mr. Huggins with no-good, wimpy, delinquents. Unless you plan on giving me all your cash, I don’t plan on seeing you in my part of town again. Understand?”
Harry nodded. A shiver crept down his spine.
“Good! Consider this a lesson in proper mugging.” The girl dropped his clothes and his wallet in a pile at her feet. “I’m keeping your jacket and your gun. Have yourself a good evening.”
She turned and left, leaving Harry standing alone and exposed, shaken to his core.
© Travis Garner, 2018
Travis is a Canadian writer and world traveler. He loves exploring the world in search of inspiration for his next story. He has lived in Canada, Vietnam, China, and now Germany. When he's not writing he loves rock climbing and yoga. Check out more of his writing at www.travisgarner.ca or join him on a rock climbing and yoga retreat at www-climb-om.com
An Unexpected Event was read by Jere Williams on 5th December 2018 for Cops & Robbers