Julian Grant

Cold Cuts

This is how it all ended. 

Blyth’s Mom had stashed her dead husband’s service revolver in the cupboard up high once she found him playing with it as a kid. She drank a lot back then to deal with the stress of raising Blyth by herself and the whole dead husband cop thing – so we pretty much did whatever we wanted over there. His Dad bought it on the job, and she got his pension, a flag and his weapon, ‘cause back then cops paid for their own guns. Blyth didn’t remember his dead dad at all (he was six when he bought it) and once Mom sobered up and found out Blyth was showing all of us pre-teen kids who basically camped out in her rec room his revolver, it disappeared into her closet and we eventually all forgot about it.

‘Til last week.

“You think it’s still there?” I asked, as Blyth rolled. He’d mastered the art of navigating his Mom’s LTD, driving with his knees, as he built a joint. It wasn’t the type of skill that looked good on a job application but neither of us were applying for work anytime soon.

“Where else would it be?” Blyth answered, shaking his head at what was apparently another dumb-ass question from me.

Once his Mom got Jesus, stopped drinking and kicked all of us kids out of the basement, there was little reason to hang out with Blyth. The cool gun was gone, his Mom started handed out God comics and there was no more liquor cabinet to experiment with and steal drinks from.

But Blyth and I were in the ‘dead Dad’ club – a rarity in our neck of the woods. Divorces and separations were common, sure but only him and me had actual bonified for-real dead Dads.

“I checked the other night when she was out a prayer meeting. It’s still there. Plus, a box of shells. They’re all old – but bullets don’t go bad, do they?”

I shrugged, snagging the joint from Blyth as I torched the end as we sat in the car at the B-Mall looking at the Deli two rows over.

Piles of kids from Bloordale, the Middle School were lined up outside for the $4 Buck Special – a smoked meat sandwich, donut and soft drink – alongside a lunchtime sign stating only two kids at a time in the store.

Thick fragrant smoke filled the baby shit brown ride. Back then, we smoked Dumbos – Columbian bush weed nowhere near as strong as the shit out there now – but it got the job done.

“Bullets don’t go bad. Not that we’re gonna need any. He gets one look at the gun, we get the cash. In and out in two minutes…How many kids are out there right now?”

Blyth squinted through the salt-crusted windshield. It was cold as hell out there and the kids standing in line shivered as snow eddied around them. The big car we sat in rocked as a hard-arctic blast hit.

“I got at least twenty, and lunch is an hour. Look, two in, two out every minute. It’s a cash machine.”

I passed the joint back to Blyth as I did the math. 

Fifty minutes of solid business with two kids per minute times four bucks on average equaled four hundred bucks. Just at lunch. The old Italian guy who ran the place was making money. Money that was all paper. No credit cards or ATMS back then. In 1985, four-hundred bucks was a good weekly salary for someone. 

And this Guido was making this every day at lunch from a bunch of cheese-eating middle school kids. Who’d think of ripping that off?

“It’s gonna be a cinch,” Blyth said as he toked deep. 

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

***

I can still hear the siren now. It’s was a way off and I didn’t think it would get here at the time – but that doesn’t matter now. I couldn’t feel my legs and my right arm was bent weird underneath me. I’m glad I was numb. I couldn’t feel anything. The thing that worried me the most was the sucking, wet sounds from my chest. Every breath felt like someone sticking a knife in me. 

But I was still better off than Blyth.

“I don’t want to stay in the car,” I argued that night as Blyth dropped me off home. Final count for the afternoon rush was 54 kids in total. Even more than we thought.

“It’s my gun. I want to do it. You drive. I’m going to call the car in stolen anyway and it won’t help if people see me driving, will it?”

Stoned as we were, it made sense at the time, he’d say that his car was jacked at our school, Silverthorne that was on the other side of town, and he only noticed after lunch when he came out on a free period. 

“We book right at lunch, nobody will notice ‘cause everyone wants to go to Apache or The Goof for burgers, we blend in with everyone and then haul ass to the B Mall and get it done just as lunch ends. I call the cops after we dump the car at Nielsen Park and we walk away clean.”

We’d spent all night doing the math, figuring how long we needed, the best time to hit – at the end, obviously and what masks to wear. Blyth thought that wool balaclavas were the best – but where do you even get those full-face ski masks anyway?

“We go to Consumers Distributing, it’s super close to the Deli, just down a few stores. Buy the masks there and go do crimes. What could be easier?”

Consumers, the catalogue store, now long gone had a mail-order-in-person collection of goods that you ordered up front and picked up your stuff from a conveyor belt out the back. It was all about shopping convenience meaning that you could stock a shit ton of stuff without any in-store displays. You just looked up the picture in the catalogue they had there, ordered your stuff and it came out of the back.

“But we gotta get ‘em before the day we do it, right?”

Blyth looked at me like I had two heads. 

“Of course, we go early. I don’t want a shitty color or not get the size I want.”

When I was lying on the cold cement bleeding out, my ski-mask long gone, I laughed as best I could as the blood pooled on my jacket. Consumers had them alright – just extra-large only and Blyth was definitely not a XL.  Let me tell you, dudes can be just as vain as women when it comes to what they want to wear.  Especially to a robbery.

So, Blythe got his XL red ski-mask and I got the black balaclava and we pulled them on when we rolled into the B Mall when we finally picked a day. The day was Wednesday.

I pulled right up front to the Deli as the Guido inside was taking down the lunch special sign. He got one look at Blyth, bopping out of the car with his old man’s service pistol in his hand and he hauled ass back behind the counter. We were busted before we even started. I stayed, hunched down behind the wheel, praying even though God’s not for me.

“No bullets, no problem,” Blythe had said as he winked at me when we left his place. “See?” But somewhere between his place and me pulling up in front of the Deli, he’d pulled a switcharoo and loaded up anyway in the backseat. 

Now I could only see everything from where I was sitting and Blyth had his back to me once he raced inside – but I sure as shit heard the gun go off.

One. Two. Three. WTF?

I glanced about the Mall from inside the car checking to see if anyone else noticed the sharp staccato cracks. Winter tends to keep people moving fast when they’re outside and the wind and snow was kicking up still, so I hoped that no one had heard.

We were in luck. Outside, nobody had twigged to what was going down. Just people down by the supermarket and coming out of the convenience store. No witnesses.

I whipped back to the Deli, my foot revving the LTD in place, juiced by the noises as my mind raced. I didn’t figure that Blyth lied to me about the bullets but I guess he changed his mind. I had to pee bad.

The condensation on the Deli window created this porthole, you know, with tinsel and Xmas shit everywhere making it hard to see, like I said.

“C’mon, Blyth. C’mon.”

I was too scared what with the shooting and stuff to be pissed about him lying to me about loading the gun. My heart was smashing away, my mouth tasted like pennies and I still had to piss.

That’s when the alarm went off outside as Blyth raced out holding one of the cold cut sandwich bags the middle schoolers used stuffed with cash, 

When the front window exploded, Blyth took the hit in the back as I ducked down in the car. I felt him slam into his Mom’s ride as he howled in pain. 

And then nothing.

I jack-rabbited up, looking at the Deli guy behind the shot-to-shit window with a big-ass shotgun in his hands. He was bleeding with two holes in him already as he wobbled on the spot, trying to keep his scatter-gun on us.

I remember screaming for Blyth, looking down at my buddy who was slumped down on the ground, the whole back of his head just gone. 

“Blyth! Blyth!” I hollered, already knowing that it was pointless. 

It was when I opened the door and slid down next to my buddy that the window in the car blew out as the Deli guy shot at us again. I remember feeling something hit me, a hard slap in my coat as everything went grey for a second. 

People started screaming, closer now as I watched the Deli guy, still standing, crack open the gun and start reloading these big-ass shells.

I grabbed the wet bag out of Blyth’s hand and started to run.

In retrospect, I should have probably just jumped back in the car, hauled ass and dumped it like we planned. But I wasn’t thinking straight, Blyth was gone and I was scared shitless. I wasn’t so out of it that I didn’t grab the money though. I was scared – not stupid.

The B-Mall is one of those low-rise suburban motor courts with dry cleaners, a convenience store, a bank and a chain supermarket. We’d looked at all of them trying to figure out the best place to hit figuring the Deli was the easiest. We nixed the Family Restaurant and the Value-Mart as too many people and we had no idea how much shit Consumers actually sold – so the Deli with its big lunch cash run just made sense to us.

I looked back over my shoulder, tearing off my balaclava as I ran. This was another mistake as I saw the Deli door open and the bleeding guy with the gun stagger out. I’d left Blyth’s gun on the ground too and had spun backwards to track the guy, still hauling forwards.

I ran right off the stairs that lead to the lower basement area where a locksmith had his little shop. Two stories down. Forty-four concrete steps. My feet didn’t touch one of them.

I felt the arm break as the bag burst as I fell into the cement pit. I’d never paid much attention to this place before and I got no one to blame but myself for how this ended up. My head hit the wet cement and everything went white for a moment as I saw the money Blyth had grabbed floating in the air, a cascade of bills and coins.

I suppose it was the people too busy grabbing the money that kept the Deli guy from shooting me right there on the spot. I could hear him screaming in Italian and heard the cops screeching up as people slip-and-slided everywhere scooping up the lunch money from the ground and in the air as it floated down. 

After that, everything gets fuzzy.

So, I lived. Took a lot of work and hospital time but I live in Canada so it didn’t cost me anything to get patched up. Blyth was dead and my lawyer argued me down to a year in Juvie as I didn’t actually rob the guy and we claimed that I had no idea Blyth was going to rob the place. I’d lost my balaclava and they had no real proof against me as no one saw shit. My lawyer even put forward the idea of counter-suing the family once the Guido died of his wounds – but it didn’t feel right. The Crown knew I was guilty as shit but all they had me for was grabbing the stolen money on the ground which ended up getting thieved by everyone passing by at the mall. I lost a lung, got a busted arm and had to repeat Grade 11 because I was off sick so long what with the injuries and all.

Still, it could have been worse. I could have ended up dead like Blyth. 

They don’t offer the lunch special at the Deli any more. 

I don’t blame them.

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