16Sunsets – Subtitle: For the want of a cheeseburger

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Kristoff took a huge bite of his cheeseburger. Krystal watched a ketchup-soaked onion slice fall and land on the paper wrapper spread out on a tray. She ordered a garden salad, but hadn’t eaten any of it. Kristof saw the errant onion slice and squeezed it between two French fries and ate the whole thing.

“Man, I’m starving.” He took a long pull on the straw of his extra large beverage. “I’m not sure when I ate last.”

“Hon…” Krystal said and waited for a response from her husband. He operated the straw once again and raised his eyebrows. “We really do need to talk.” She said.

Kristof emptied the contents of his cup with a loud annoying slurp. He scanned the room for the soda dispenser. “Sure thing, babe. Lemmie get a refill first.” Kristof stood, shoved a handful of fries in his mouth and made his way toward the soda dispenser.

“Why does this have to be so hard?” she whispered to herself as Kristof laughed at something another patron said in line to use the soda machine. It’s supposed to be hard. She thought to herself. You’re considering leaving your husband.

Kristof was a difficult man to live with. She knew of his mood swings and told herself excusing his juvenile behavior was something that married couples just did. She never fully understood his feelings towards his family. She knew he was an only child and his mother died when he was young. One day on the anniversary of his mother’s death, he was feeling especially vulnerable and confided that he believed his father murdered his mother and fled before the police could perform a proper investigation. Years later, the case was reopened and it was determined his mother had died of natural causes, but his father’s flight was still suspicious. By this time, Kristof had been in the system and had a few run-ins with law enforcement.

“This guy…” Kristof sat and placed his cup at the corner of his burger wrapper. He wasn’t satisfied with the position, and moved it so it covered the condensation ring completely. “This guy says the service is so slow, robbing the place would be pointless because by the time they emptied the registers, the cops would already be here.” Kristof ate another huge bite of his cheeseburger followed by another pull of his soda.

His cheek bulged. “People.” He said before shoveling more fries into his mouth.

“Kristof!” Krystal raised her voice. It was loud enough for those tables near them to look. She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “We need to talk.”

Kristof finished chewing, swallowed and took another drink of his soda. He was acutely aware some patrons were watching him and his wife.

“Okay. What do you need to talk about?”

“Well.” She paused and looked around to see if anyone was listening. “We’ve been going through a rough patch lately, and…”

Her words were drowned out by a commotion from the front of the restaurant.

“Empty the drawers and nobody gets hurt!” The man Kristof had previously laughed at pointed a gun at the cashier.

“Well I’ll be damned.” Said Kristof, “He’s gonna rob the place.”

Krystal placed her hand on Kristof’s still holding the soda cup. “Can you do anything about this?”

Kristof turned his attention to his wife. “Like what?”

“I saw what you did to that car.”

“Yeah, but why get involved?”

“You don’t think being able to do what you do is a gift?”

“I suppose so.”

“Well? Shouldn’t you use your gifts for the betterment of society?”

“Fine.” Kristof rolled his eyes. “I’ll see if I can talk to the guy.”

The robber looked at the money on the counter. “That’s not enough!” He shoved the gun into the chest of the cashier. “Open the safe!”

The girl started crying. “I don’t have the combination and it’s time-delay anyway.” The girl sobbed uncontrollably. “Please don’t hurt me.”

The robber scooped up the money and shoved it into his backpack. “I guess I’ll just have to get what’s mine from your customers.”

“Hey, man.” Kristof called out from behind the robber.

The robber spun around. “Laughing guy?” he asked. “I guess I’ll start with you. Gimmie your wallet.”

Kristoff laughed. “You’re not gonna believe this, but I actually got robbed last night.”

“You’re right, I don’t believe it.”

“Look man, every second you stay here is a second you could be further from the police.”

“Oh, so you’re a smart guy, huh?” He pressed the gun to Kristof’s chest. “You wanna see what happens to smart guys?”

Kristof sighed, grabbed the robber by the gun hand and squeezed. He could feel the bones in the robber’s fingers snap and pop and the metal of the gun malform as he squeezed tighter and tighter. The robber screamed in pain and fell to the floor, Kristof still squeezing the gun and hand. Kristof reached with his other hand and flicked a lever on the gun. The cartridge fell away and Kristof kicked it into the crowd.

“Please, man.” The robber cried out, Kristoff keeping him from sprawling on the floor holding his hand. “Let me go, man. You’re gonna tear my arm off.”

“Hard to be a stick-up man with only one arm, huh?”

Kristof twisted the gun out of the robber’s grip with his free hand and released the mangled digits. The robber fell to the floor crying and cradling his destroyed hand.

The crowd of frightened patrons began to clap. One or two at first, then the whole restaurant was clapping and cheering nosily. Kristof rolled back the slide on the gun and ejected the chambered bullet. As he walked back to his table, people thanked him and slapped him on the back. He smiled sheepishly and winked at his beaming wife. He dealt with the adulation the best he could, but he was still hungry. He kissed Krystal on the lips and turned his attention to where the robber still lay on the floor crying.

The cashier walked from behind the counter and kicked the robber in the gut while making her way to Kristof.

“Mister!” The young girl called out. “Thank you so much, mister.” Kristof waved his hand, placed the gun on his table and sat in front of the remainder of his meal.

“Your sandwich is cold!” The distraught cashier exclaimed. “I’ll get you a fresh one.”

The girl skipped off to the kitchen, issuing orders to the rest of the crew. Kristof and Krystal walked, arm in arm, to the counter.

“Uh, miss?” Krystal called out.

When the girl turned with a fresh cheeseburger in her hand, Krystal continued. “Can we get that to go?”

16Sunsets – The Jade Palace


[1117 words]All right, more 16Sunsets story. I felt the ending was maybe too long. I wasn’t sure how to end it. Maybe I should’ve ended it with the adulation. I don’t know. I’ll let my beta readers tell me on that one.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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