"What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?" -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


     He stood a little over twenty three hard driven miles from Pony Luck, Utah. A solitary figure among the baked alkaline soil that grudgingly gives birth only to the twisted sage greasewood and Devil's puncture weed.

    Out here where nature runs its wild and rampant course as the sun looks on indifferently with one blind eye, in a daze he mumbled a string of vile and hateful curses at the steam-hissing auto that sat aside the dirt road, its battered hood wide open like a toothless, rusty, old dog lolling its tongue in the dry summer heat.

    For half an hour now he had stared stupidly at the muddy-grease caked guts of the defunct vehicle and with his mechanical handicap could see only the oil cap and the battery. Everything else could have been engineered by NASA for all he knew about it.

    As the coolant-laced steam swirled around him and fogged his sunglasses, he reflected that under different circumstances he would find this situation intriguing, like an open book for adventure, Spartan and romantic. For instance a circumstance that did not include him. He did not find it very romantic at all with himself now being the only surviving character- or being in the script at all for that matter.

    Blinking lazily he spurred himself into movement and blindly scuffled his feet around the wheezing muzzle of the still-dying car and hesitantly approached the passenger's side door, calloused fingertips dragging across the dusty, rust-pocked shell of the ancient hood. This side door's window was spider-webbed with intricate milky-white cracks, originating from three jagged holes roughly the size of a baby marble, the kind he and his brother used to roll down the sidewalk when they were little kids. Beneath the fracture-spun surface of the window was a sickeningly beautiful splatter-colage of hustler rouge and cherry-tomato red. A smear from three tortured fingers ran through it like the remnants of a child's experiment with wet paint. And deeper within this nauseating master-piece another character in the not-so romantic story sat slouched over in the front seat, like a late-night drunk, forehead against the dash.

    He had to give it to the skinny rent-a-cop, the guy had had a set of stones.

    James burst out through the back door of Pony Luck Jewelers first, black ski mask covering his face in true terrorist bank robber fashion. Hungarian AK-47 up and at the ready, James scanned the narrow alley-way and flung the brown leather briefcase into the trusty old station wagon through the open driver's side window as Slaid back peddled through the exit, his own weapon leveled off at the chunky kneeling security guard. Slaid scanned the alley way over the fixed metal sights of his rifle as well and then coolly and smoothly opened the car door and slid in behind the wheel, laying the weapon across his lap as James slammed his own door shut. The engine was already running.

The two brothers shed their masks and tossed them into the back seat and their adrenaline surging hearts skipped a beat as they both took half a second to look down at the briefcase on the seat between them. Slaid looked up at James and grinned, but the grin wasn't returned. Instead James' teeth were set on edge and he was leaning back to raise his rifle towards the scrawny, shotgun-armed guard coming out through the Jeweler's rear entrance directly behind Slaid, out of his line of sight.

    The guard pumped a shell into the chamber and raised up the 12 gauge as Slaid snapped his head left and realized the threat of the inevitable scatter-gun blast. He threw the car into reverse and kicked the accelerator, rear tires screeched, James was flung forward, and the shotgun blasted the deafening sound of war in Slaid's ears.

Click-click. Again. A little further away.

Click-click. Again. Almost distant.


"The lack of money is the root of all evil."-Mark Twain