The drive thru is packed. It would have been a decent way to hide—wait in line while the cops tore through, sitting with the windows down and the AC blasting—but I’m starting to soak through my seat.
They got a good look at me, that much I know. They never saw Stan though. He hasn’t called, which is smart. Stan’s always been smart. He’s probably safe and gone. I’m at Taco Bell bleeding out.
I was a hard no until Stan looked me in the eye and asked if I wanted to order off the dollar menu the rest of my life. His face was so serious. It was one of those moments that just strips the paint right off you, you know? Fuck yeah, Stan. Let’s rob the gas station.
I must have watched hundreds of robbery fails on YouTube, laughing at idiots. I never expected the guy behind the counter would have the balls to shoot. The cashiers in the videos just threw their hands up and jumped out of the way.
Staying in the car’s no good. I park and make my way inside. Change of plans, just sit in and have lunch like everyone else. Hide in plain sight. Be real cool and catch my breath. Come up with my next move and give my stomach something to do.
The air inside Taco Bell plugs me up for a second. It takes my mind off everything—a dive back into normal life. It’s not Mexico, no. That’s Stan’s future if he can figure it out. The front counter is mine. I grab a handful of napkins and press them into my side while sirens punch through Tears for Fears and the kitchen’s hissing. I’m next in line.
The kid behind the counter isn’t really a kid. She’s slight, small even, but she’s not a kid like I thought. My eyes crawl to the Snackaritos end of the menu. Crunchy tacos and mini quesadillas. The Dollar Menu King holds court.
Today’s a day for Crunchwrap Supremes and Beefy Fritos Burritos. Before the kid that’s not a kid asks if I want anything else, I pile on a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco Supreme with a large drink to chase it. And a bag of Cinnamon Twists. A part of me wants to ask if they can roll the taco in the Cinnamon Twist basket to give it the thick scent of fried spice I love so much but the time has passed. The order’s placed. I grab my cup with my free hand and avoid the concerned gaze of the cashier.
Some high school kids make eyes at me at the drink fountain. They don’t know how good they have it yet. They probably won’t until they’re my age. Until then they can skip class and eat Quesaritos and still have abs. Life’s possibilities hang in front of them like the soda tabs, ripe for the pressing. I run my cup under all of them; Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Barq’s, Minute Made, Mountain Dew, and my God, there’s even Cactus Cooler. I gulp my High Fructose Iced Tea so deeply it knots my Adam’s apple. I lower myself into a booth.
The cashier walks up. She slides my food in front of me and asks if I’m okay. I tell her it’s fine but she stares at red streaks smudged across the tile floor trailing straight to my booth. I tell her it’s hot sauce someone forgot to wipe up. They must have missed it. She asks if I need to go anywhere and I say no.
She walks away and watches me from behind the counter. A mom with a van full of kids enters and keeps her busy. My back sticks to my seat. I should have gotten more napkins.
I pick up the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco Supreme and think of Stan. He’s on his way to Mexico. On his way to party with girls and plan his next move. Hide out for a while. The aroma rising from my meal tray covers my thoughts like an old blanket. My plan starts and ends with my order.
The mom and kids walk away from the counter. The cashier picks up a phone and takes a quick look at me. She covers the receiver like I won’t be able to know what she’s doing.
I pluck some Cinnamon Twists from their bag and line them along the taco’s crack. The cashier dialed the wrong number. She just doesn’t know it yet. I raise the taco to my lips, the Cinnamon Twists crowning its top from edge to edge.
My last meal.
Simon Nagel is an American writer currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His short fiction has appeared in The Glasgow Review of Books, Ellipsis Zine, and The Gold Man Review. He is working on his first novel.