Today’s short story comes from guest author Phil Temple.
Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA and works as a
computer systems administrator at a university. He has published over
eighty works of short fiction in print and online journals. Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil’s murder-mystery novel, “The Winship Affair.” And his new paranormal-horror novel, “Helltown Chronicles,” has just been accepted by Eternal Press.
“Consumerism has a religious day called Black Friday.” –Jarod Kintz
I suppose you could ultimately blame Gabby Chatster. Or the Shopper’s World Club associates who failed to stock enough Gabbys.
It all started that fateful Black Friday morning in the Shopper’s World Club store in West Buckeye, Texas when little Suzie, and her mother and father in tow, rushed over to retrieve the last remaining box containing a Gabby Chatster doll. Gabby Chatster was the hottest new girl’s toy. “It chats, dances, and plays with all her accessories” according to the label on the box. Why, you could even tap the yellow hearts on her glasses and Gabby would talk to you and let you know what you were thinking! Now what little girl wouldn’t lust after something as awesomely cool as a Gabby Chatster? It wasn’t surprising then: of the dozens of boxes of Gabbys stocked on the shelves the night before, only one remained.
Suzie knocked over a little boy holding a Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack in her rush to acquire the remaining Chatster, but another little girl named Betty Jo arrived from the opposite direction of the isle and also put her hands on the box. It was a dead heat. The two struggled to solidify their purchases on the box. A fierce tug of war ensued.
“LET GO!” cried Suzie. “YOU let go!” Betty Jo retorted.
“I saw it first!”
“No you didn’t. It’s mine!”
“Hey, hey! Stop this!” commanded Suzie’s father, Raymond, to the two girls. A moment later, Betty Jo’s father arrived, along with his wife and their two sons.
“Hey Bud, your little girl took this doll from my Betty Jo.”
“Clearly, you’re mistaken. My little Suzie got to it first. I was watching them.”
“Oh, yeah? You gonna lie like that in front of my little girl?”
“Mister, I don’t believe I like your tone.”
“Carl, I think we should …”
“Back off, Deloris! This man is gonna apologize to our little girl here.”
Carl unzipped his jacket down to his waist, revealing a concealed pistol in a holster.
[Shopper’s World Club store policy on firearms: “If a Shopper’s World Club customer has been awarded a concealed handgun license by the state government, Shopper’s World Club will follow the direction of the state. However, if at anytime while on Shopper’s World Club property, that customer’s concealed weapon becomes visible to Shopper’s World Club associates or customers, Shopper’s World Club reserves the right to ask the customer to either reposition the weapon so that it will not be visible, to remove the weapon completely or to leave Shopper’s World Club property…]
At the sight of the gun, Raymond’s wife, Patty, panicked.
“GUN!” she shouted.
The crowd in the vicinity started pushing and shoving. They immediately dispersed. They headed for Electronics. They headed for Sporting Goods. They headed for Frozen Foods. Any department but Toys. One woman in retreat could be heard commenting about “a terrorist.”
A moment later, while the two families were still verbally sparring, three men rushed up from Auto Accessories. All were brandishing firearms.
“Muslims? Where?” one asked, excitedly.
Carl started to explain, but before he could finish, an obese African American woman came running out from behind a tall pile of K’NEX Super Nova Blast Roller Coaster Building Set boxes and charged at one of the new arrivals. She dealt the man a fierce blow to the back, causing him to tumble into the display case. His finger had been on the trigger. As he went down, he inadvertently squeezed off a round. Fortunately, the bullet missed hitting anyone in the crowded store. However, it did strike two ten-pound fire extinguishers positioned high up on a storage rack at the end of the store.
More shots rang out. Someone pulled the fire alarm, adding to the pandemonium.
The sound was deafening. The ensuing clouds of propellant spread quickly. Mass panic ensued. As a result, hundreds of shoppers stampeded the front door. Before days end, three people would be trampled to death, and over two-dozen shoppers would be seriously injured. Shoppers would abscond with tens of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise.
“Security. Execute Plan Jehovah. I repeat, Plan Jehovah!” the store manager shouted into his walkie-talkie. The contingency plan called for store associates with firearms training to report to Sporting Goods where they would be issued a weapon. Others were asked to shelter in place. Authorities were alerted to a mass shooting incident with possible hostages and fatalities.
“I’ll be damned if those ISIS sons of bitches are gonna come into MY store and terrorize MY customers,” the manager muttered. The man calmly walked through the haze to his office to retrieve his Remington Model 870 pumping shotgun.
In Women’s Fashions, two young white men pummeled a frail-looking bearded Sikh man wearing a large turban. They were soon joined by an African American youth. “Fuckin’ a!” shouted one of the attackers. They smiled and rapped fists with the young black man, as he joined the two in assaulting the old man. “Ragheads go home!”
In the confusion and chaos, little Suzie was separated from her mother and father, but she managed to escape unharmed with the Gabby Chatster box. A determined Suzie crawled on all fours towards the back of the store. “I’ll save you, Gabby,” she said tenderly to the doll. Suzie was nearly stepped on numerous times by shoppers-turned-looters, darting to and fro, their hands filled with merchandise. On this exceptionally turbulent Black Friday, there were indeed “rock bottom” prices to be had.
Suzie arrived at one of the emergency exits, where folks were constantly stopping to pick up boxes that they had dropped in their attempted getaway because they didn’t fit easily through the door. The logjam caused a surly crowd to begin to form. Suzie dropped to all fours and was readying herself to crawl underneath a fat woman with a microwave oven, when an arm reached out and grabbed her by the ankle. She turned and faced arm’s owner. It belonged to little Betty Jo.
“Hey, let go of me…”
The little fist hit her squarely in the face. Then the lights went out.
To the victor go the spoils.