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I love watching this. I love sitting here in the car, seeing Travis’s destruction.

Right now, he’s looking at greeting cards with little Jesuses on them. Now, he’s looking at a What Would Jesus Do? bracelet. Now, he’s looking at a “Baby’s First Communion” T-shirt. Now’s he’s looking at a seminary student at-home videotape series. Now, he’s pulling a sawed-off .12 gauge out from under his long gray coat and he’s pointing it at Clark the clerk’s face.

Clark’s the clerk here at the Daylight Christian Bookstore. Clark’s twenty-seven years old. He’s going to Mentelville Community College where he’s studying medical massage, whatever that is. Right now, Clark’s looking down the barrel of a gun, and he’s praying to God. He’s hoping God’s listening, and he’s hoping that God will protect him. He’s the meek. He’s not going to inherit anything.

“Please just leave me alone. Please don’t hurt me,” Clark’s sniveling.

I have Travis wearing an ear piece so I can feed him lines from the car. I’m telling him to say that he’ll blow Clark’s privates off if he doesn’t stay calm. I know this will be important to Clark. It’s important to be fruitful and multiply. It’s important that Clark be able to masturbate each night in the comfort of his parents’ bathroom, and then cry himself to sleep, all the while apologizing to God for being such a bad little boy. You’d almost expect this kind of guy to be working in a comic book store. He’s short, fat, prematurely bald, and has “never been laid” tattooed on his forehead. He’s the kind of guy you see at the mall food court, and makes you want to eat at Sbarro because he’s at Chick-Fil-A, and you just don’t want to be near him.

Travis is saying my words. He’s telling Clark to give him every King James Bible in the store. He also wants the catechisms from behind the counter. And to throw in a WWJD bracelet. Travis added the bracelet part. It’s a small personal victory.

After everything’s in nice little bags, I tell Travis to shoot Clark in the foot, the leg, the shoulder. To put the fear of God and his loyal minions into him.

Travis is holding the gun at eye level. He’s twitching and shaking. The look on Clark’s face is the same one that Bambi had on its face after its mother was shot by that hunter. It’s some sort of acceptance, or at least some lack of denial. I’m telling Travis to just shoot him, from the safety of my car. He’s staring at Clark. Clark’s staring at Travis. I’m ordering my soldier to shoot, to the slaughter the lamb.

Travis is looking blankly at the wall behind Clark’s head. I’m telling him to shoot. We need to get going. I’m telling him to get the hell out of there. I’m telling him to stop looking at Clark like he’s the last piece of turkey on Thanksgiving. Travis is still looking blankly at the wall behind Clark’s head, and then he blows a hole the size of my fist through Clark’s face.

God damn it.

He did it again.

He’s not supposed to permanently injure anybody. He doesn’t want to shoot, but he gets nervous and freaks out.

This isn’t the first time his stupid ass has done this.

The first time we robbed a Christian bookstore, he blew off the clerk’s left ear when he was handing Travis the Bag o’ Holy Bibles.

The second time, Travis put a hole in the clerk’s esophagus. The third time, Travis poked out the guy’s right eye when he brandished the gun a little too close to the clerk’s melon-shaped head.

No matter what I do, I can’t get Travis to rob a store properly.

He strolls out of the Daylight Christian Bookstore, Holy Bibles in hand, a What Would Jesus Do? bracelet on his thin wrist, and a stream of tears on his cheek. He’s blubbering on and on about redemption and being saved when he gets in the car. He’s saying that he’s going to Hell.

So? What am I supposed to do about it?

He’s still blubbering on and on about redemption and being saved when I get him back to his apartment.

He falls through the front doorway, and crashes on his seventies gold shag carpet. It’s the kind my grandma had when I was a kid. There’s dried vomit next to his head. We’re just not sure whose it is. He’s saying he’s going to Hell. I tell him to think of all the kids in the inner-cities that he’s helping by being a religious Robin Hood. I keep telling him that all the bibles we keep stealing are going to be given to needy children in the hood. What I don’t tell him is that I’ve been selling the bibles to internet dealers at sixty percent of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, and have been keeping all of the profits.

He’s my soldier in the frontlines, doing the things I’m not strong enough to do. I’m kind of like the president. I send young, naïve people into hostile situations to accomplish objectives that I want accomplished, but won’t go in myself to do.

Here’s the rundown on Travis.

He’s nineteen years old, a product of Christian Scientists, and a Virgo.

He’s emotionally unstable, he was molested by his neighbor when he was eight, and he’s got victim written all over him. He’s easily manipulated.

He’s the kind of guy that typically winds up hosting a children’s television show. I wonder if Mr. Rogers was abused as a child.

People who have been abused as children are always more entertaining to watch. Shit, the people on TV who abuse kids are too. Just look at Pee Wee and that weird scientist guy from Howard the Duck. Sometimes, I wish I had been abused when I was a little kid. That way, some of the mild eccentricities I have would have some sort of explanation.

Travis is convinced he’s going to Hell. I’d tell him that there is no God, but then that might blow my cover. I may be behind the deaths of these people, but it’s under the guise of helping the needy. We’re only killing yuppies.

This only works if he believes I really care about spreading the Lord’s word. He thinks I’m a Methodist.

He asks me if it’s all going to be worth it in the long run.

I tell him that it’s okay to steal a loaf a bread to feed your family. I say that it’s even more admirable to steal if you’re providing for other people that you don’t even know. I keep telling him that he’s doing the Lord’s work. That he’s a good person. That God will look kindly upon him after all this is over.

He stops his sobbing and smiles up at me. I’m standing by his kitchen, and he’s lying on the floor, his knees to his chest. It’s so sad to look at him. Like a crushed rabbit on the side of the road.

Dude, your oven’s been on the whole time, I say.

He says, “Oh. That can’t be good.”

That’s the kind of guy Travis really is. Important things, like turning your oven off before you leave the house, they take a backseat to praying for your eternal soul. Travis seriously needs to reevaluate his priorities. Sometimes, I admire his faith. Other times, not so much. It’s not like I’ll ever believe in anything, but it would be nice to have a spiritual crutch to lean on.

I leave him there, lying on the floor. I tell him that I’ll call him later. I’ll have his next job for him. Before I go home, I tell him not to worry about the afterlife; there’s nothing that he can do to alter his fate. I almost tell him that there’s no such thing as fate. All I really say is that I’m going home to escape the uncomfortable silence of his apartment.

At home, there’s a message on my machine. It’s a girl named Kellie. She’s almost fuckable. I know her from work. I almost like her. At my part-time job, at the Mentelville Renaissance Festival, Kellie’s a surly wench. She sells funnel cakes between the wooden sword shop and the guy who sells medieval toys. They make her wear this outfit that makes her breasts look like a porn star’s. Me and the boys at the wax dipping place have no complaints. The only person who complains is the lady who sells rabbit pelts.

The answering machine is saying it wants to meet me tomorrow night. For coffee. I hate coffee. Why couldn’t it be a regular dinner? I blame this on Starbucks. They made it cool and trendy to drink coffee. For the longest time, the only people drinking coffee were my grandparents. The machine says to call tonight. It doesn’t matter how late.

I call Kellie back at 2:07 A.M. I say that I’m sorry for calling so late. I said that her message said it didn’t matter how late. She said that it was okay because she’s on speed and that she can’t sleep anyway.

I ask her how the speed’s working out for her.

“Pretty good,” she says.

Because it’s the most comfortable thing to start talking about, I start to talk about work. I start making dirty jokes about the guys who work at the glass-blowing place. Something about them blowing things other than glass behind the archery set-up. Kellie laughs at my little jokes and tells me a little one she made up about the women at the occult necklace shop. It wasn’t very funny. She basically just called them Wiccans and lesbians.

I tell her I’d like to go out to dinner with her.

She says that she wants coffee.

I don’t like coffee.

She asks, “Who doesn’t like coffee?”

I don’t know. Me, I guess.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for dinner with you. That might be too serious.”

I don’t usually kidnap, murder, and rape my ladies on the first date, I say. I say that I don’t usually do it in that order either.

She laughs like a fifteen year-old girl.

I tell her we’ll go out tonight. Well, it is already morning.

That works for her.

When I wake up in the morning, I’ve got a headache because…I don’t know why. It’s just one of those random kind of headaches, I guess. There’s no loud noise to drive me nuts. There’s no phone ringing. There’s no one pounding on my front door. I pour a glass of orange juice and plop down to watch a tape of old Popeye episodes. Popeye is sitting on a dock, and he’s eating spinach. I’m sitting on my couch, wishing I was eating spinach. I have a serious lack of green vegetables in my diet.

I pick up the phone and give Travis a buzz. You can hear Eternal World Television Network in the background. He says he’s been watching the EWTN Religious Catalogue. I ask him how the host, Mother Angelica is. He says that they’re running repeats because she’s almost dead. Business is so bad that they have to repeat the same sales pitch over and over. It’s the same way people keep selling God to their children, generation after generation.

I tell Travis that we’re doing an early job tonight. It’ll still be dark though. I tell him that I’ll be by later.

On TV, they’re talking about Clark the clerk’s death. They’re talking about how Travis and I have been robbing Christian bookstores. We don’t get caught because these places never install security cameras. The newswoman is saying that whoever is doing this is evil. I feel special now.

Tonight’s job is at Old Brighton Christian Bookstore. Tonight’s victim is actually a girl. We’re breaking new ground tonight. Her name is Jeanette. She’s 5’8”, has red hair, and very pale skin. She’s setting up a new display while Travis is walking around inside the store. No cameras. She’s putting up a cardboard book holder. Travis is looking at little bloody cross charm necklaces. Jeanette’s asking Travis if he needs any help with anything.

Travis says, “Not yet.”

I’m telling him to not look at her. We don’t want her to identify us. Him.

She keeps building the display. He keeps playing with little bibles that you hang from your eyeglasses.

And I’m counting, three, two, one.

Travis is going into his routine now. He’s telling the chick to give him the Bag O’ Bibles, and some of the tiny bloody crosses. She’s crying and telling him that he doesn’t have to do this. Travis starts talking about price gouging and ripping off poor families and the costs of scripture. Jeanette’s telling Travis that God loves him, and that he shouldn’t be afraid of Him.

I’m telling Travis not to pay attention to anything she says.

I’m telling him to stick to his script. Don’t stray from it. Don’t think for yourself. Do as I say. Do what you’re told. If you can’t be a good little soldier, you’ll be punished, demoted, and replaced.

I’m telling him that he’s disposable and that he is one of the Lord’s minions. There’s no greater joy than serving the Lord. Be thankful that you have been given this great honor.

Jeanette’s crying and telling Travis to save himself.

I’m telling Travis to save her for me. I’m telling him that she’s pretty hot.

Travis almost looks like he’s about to break. He looks like he’s about to cry too. He’s actually backing up from her. He’s going through some sort of emotional crisis.

I can see him putting the gun to his side.

That son of a bitch. I’m the mastermind. I’m not supposed to do the grunt work.

I jump out of the car, and run into the store.

Jeanette’s reaching for the .357 at the same time I am, but I get it before she can. I grab the pistol from Travis’s limp hand, and I shove that gun in her face. I’m grabbing her by her hair, and I’m dragging her behind the counter.

Give us the fucking bibles!

“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.”

I’m going to fucking kill you if you don’t do what I fucking say!

“Just take them yourself.”

No. I want you to do it! I want you to hand over everything to me! I want you to do it!

I let her get up and kick her away, and keep yelling at her. Travis is standing in the corner, trying not to pay attention to what I’m doing to Jeanette. He’s going to get an earful later. Right now, I could bite through a bullet.

She’s crying so hard that she’s having trouble putting the bibles in the bag. I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing when I press the gun against the back of her head and squeeze the trigger. The sound is like a cedar chest lid slamming closed. Only fifty times louder. Travis stops looking away, and stares at her face. Her eyes still open. Her brain exposed to the stale air inside the store. There are little pieces of skull fragment strewn across the navy blue carpet.

I fucked up, and I know it. I grab our shit and Travis, and bolt for home.

Back at Travis’s apartment, I tell Travis that this is something we have to stop. When I was just watching, it was different. Now I’ve been the man who pulled the trigger. I’m not just the guy in the car now.

Travis, this is going to have to stop.

“I know.”

He’s nodding like I’m telling him that his puppy just died.

I can’t do anything else right now. So I call Kellie.

I call Kellie to tell her that I can’t see her tonight. Before I even get out a single word past, “Hello,” she’s telling me that she can’t see me tonight either.

“You know, I really do like you. It’s just that I forgot I have to do something tonight.”

It’s okay.

“I’m sorry.”

I ask her why.

“My mom called me this afternoon. She reminded me that I have to go to my sister’s wedding tonight. Not like she thinks I’m good enough to actually be in it.”

Travis is in my other ear telling me that he can’t live with this stuff on his mind anymore. Kellie’s telling me that she has to go. She can’t wait to see me some other time soon.

Travis is telling me that he’d rather go to Hell now than have to wait for it. Kellie’s telling me that she’ll see me at work tomorrow.

At the same time I hear the click of the line disconnecting, I can hear that hole being blown through the back of Jeanette’s head again.


Written by Brandon

March 25, 2007 at 6:19 pm

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