Monday, 14 February 2011

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT by Paul Newman

Take it or Leave it

“C’mon, now. You know it’s worth more than that! That’s real gold!” The little man’s voice cracked as he said it.

Mick didn’t give a shit.

“Look at that counter. You see that? Watches! Two dozen fucking watches! I need another watch like I need another heart attack. You want money? Go steal a laptop or something! Twenty bucks; take it or leave it.” Mick pretended to clean the glass showcase but he watched the old man and waited.

While he waited the bell over the door rang. A kid walked in. Late teens. Long hair and shredded jeans and a worn out leather jacket. He was long and stringy, not much meat on him. He carried a hard black plastic guitar case. It still had a price tag dangling from it on a piece of string.

Mick walked over to talk to the kid while the old man made up his mind. He heard the old guy talking to himself as he walked away. “I’m sorry Annie. You know I’d never do it if I didn’t have to...” Mick laughed to himself as he walked away. Who the fuck was Annie? Crazy old bastard.

When Mick got close enough he noticed the kid’s eyes. His pupils were drawn in tight like dots and they didn’t want to focus on anything. He got a bad feeling but it was too late.

The punk reached in his jacket and pulled out a revolver. Its barrel was short and stubby and scarred in places where the paint had worn away. Its handle was wrapped in worn duct tape. His hands shook as he pointed the thing at Mick.

“Gimme the money, Asshole!” He shouted. The words got jumbled on their way out but Mick got the point.

He held his hands way up high and talked nice and slow. “Heh, heh. Calm down now, buddy. Nice and easy. Nobodies gotta get hurt here.” Mick moved sideways toward the counter and the cash register. Nothing sudden. Nice and slow. He pushed a button on the dusty register and a bell rang and the cash drawer kicked open.

The kid seemed to relax, his hand shook a little less and he let the barrel of the gun drop toward the floor.

The old man must have recognized the kid. He shuffled over closer, waving his cane at the punk like a billy club. “Peter? Is that you? Peter Matthews from down the street? What are you doing with that gun? Does your mother know what you’re doing?”

Mick could see from the look on the punk’s face that he knew the old man. It was enough to panic the kid; he dropped the guitar case and started shooting.

Mick ducked down low behind the display case. Glass exploded all around him. He pushed the alarm button and grabbed the sawed-off then looked around the counter. The old man was on the floor. He wasn’t moving. There was a big dark stain spreading on the linoleum underneath him.

The kid looked around like he wasn’t sure where he was or how he got there. He said something to himself, just a couple mumbled words; then shoved the barrel of the pistol in his mouth. He pulled the trigger and slumped to the floor.

Mick heard the sirens already. He moved over to the old man on the floor. He smelled like chicken noodle soup and cheap laundry soap. His face was stuck with his mouth half open like he had one last thing he wanted to say.

Mick reached in the old man’s pocket and took out the watch. He replaced it with two ten dollar bills. After a half second, he reached back in the pocket and took one of the bills back. He went back behind the counter to wait for the cops to show up.

Paul Newman's most recent published stories appeared in: Ethereal Tales May/10, Midnight In Hell March/10, and Beat To A Pulp Feb./10. If you're interested, you can find a few more stories on his website


  1. Heartless bastard!

    Welcome back, Paul. :-)

  2. Man that was cold, and oh so good. Loved every action packed word of it!

  3. Cracking wee story, and so nicely told. Loved it!

  4. That was great! A gritty little tale that was well written. I'd have took the other ten. The old dude wouldn't be needing it!

  5. Awesome! Well written and engaging. Good work, Paul.

  6. Like ice cream--sweet and frozen. A tightly wound sketch of one heartless, unchanging character.