Wouldn’t you know it. Out of milk. Again. How many times had Tom asked his wife to tell him when they needed something? Now, he would either have to go to corner store to buy some, or drink his coffee black. The thought of black coffee made him shudder. Okay then, to the store it was. Grabbing his jacket off the chair he always hung it on, he grabbed his phone. He called up the stairs, “Jean, I am going to the store across the street to get some milk. I’ll be back in a few.” Jean said, “Oh, I am so sorry. I used the last night and forgot to tell you!” He rolled his eyes and groaned. “Well, next time, just write it down so I will know. Or text me so I can grab some on my way home from work!” Still grumbling to himself, he left the house and headed across the street.
Entering the store, the bell above him chimed, and the air conditioning hit him. It was always hot here in Texas, but that was in the afternoons. It was 8 a.m., and the store was too cold at this time of day. The store attendant, John, knew him, as he was in here so often. “Good morning, Tom. What do you need today?” Laughing, Tom told him about Jean again leaving him milk-less, and he headed over to the refrigerated cases.
Hearing the bell as the door opened again, Tom opened the door and looked for the smallest container of milk the store had for sale. Picking up the small carton, he heard John’s voice saying, “Okay, but please, just put the gun down.” Alarmed, Tom ducked down, not wanting to alert the robber of his presence. Had he already been seen?
He slowly crawled on his hands and knees to look around the corner to see what was going on. John had one hand in the air, and was using his other hand to push keys on the cash register. There was a kid in front of him, moving nervously from foot to foot. He held what appeared to be a small hand gun, and had it pointed at John. His face was covered with a red handkerchief from the nose down, and seemed agitated. The robber was telling John to hurry.
Taking care not to hit the shelf beside him, he slowly took his phone out of his pocket. Using the side button, he switched his button on the side of his iPhone to silent mode. Then he turned his phone’s volume to the lowest setting and dialed 911.
“Hello, what’s your emergency?” came a tinny voice. Whispering, Tom said, “There is a robbery going on right now, address is 4101 Anylane. Please hurry. The robber seems young, and he’s wearing black jeans, a white shirt and I can’t see his face because he has a red bandanna on his face. He hung up to avoid talking more and being heard by the robber.
John was explaining to the robber that the 25.00 was all he had in the register and that he had no more to give him, because there was a timer on the safe. He could not open it until 10 a.m., and that the company controlled it, not him. The robber was getting more upset, and seemed on the verge of tears. “Come on, open it. I have to get 500.00 by this afternoon, or my dad will be killed. Please, open it!”
Tom was stunned. He knew this kid! Robert, a well-known gambler in town, took loans from the wrong kind of people all the time, and those men wanted their money back, with no mercy for those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give it back to them. Making a last-minute decision, he stood up to his full height, and using a commanding voice called out.
“Steve. Put the gun down. I can help you. The police are on their way, but I can help you avoid going to jail for this, if you will listen and trust me.” Steve spun around, confused, but lowered his gun. “Tom?” He said. “Yes, it’s me. Hey, take that off your face and get out of here. Come to my house in a few hours. GO!” He ordered. Steve pulled the cloth off his face, apologized to John, and ran out of the store.
Asking John to get out the surveillance tape and to trust him, he explained that Steve was a good kid and just trying to help his screwed-up dad. John agreed, and ran to the back to take out the tape. He would just tell law enforcement that the machine was broken and a repairman had already been scheduled. That taken care of, he paid for his milk and waited for the police to show up.
Speaking with officers, Tom and John told them the gunman must have gotten scared and left without taking anything, so after the report was made, they had Tom and John sign it and they left. Tom headed home.
Three hours later, Steve showed up at the door. He looked so downtrodden and embarrassed. Tom lead him to his office, and closing the door, Tom sat behind his desk and told Steve to have a seat in the chair in front of him. “Look, Steve I know you r a good kid, and you want to help your dad. Robbing people isn’t the way to do it, though. How would it help anyone for you to get caught and put in jail for armed robbery?” Steve was looking down at his feet, crying silently. “I din’t know what else to do, Tom. These men came to our house last night and roughed my dad up. They told him if he didn’t give them at least 500.00 dollars today by 5, they would do more than beat him up.”
Tom nodded that he understood, and opening his desk drawer, counted out 500.00 from his household fund. “This isn’t a loan, Steve. I am giving this to you. Tell your old man that he ever gambles again and drags you into his problems, he will have to deal with me. Please, make a life for yourself, and don’t fall into crime. You have a bright future, and your father should be ashamed of himself for not being a better role model to you.”
Steve hesitated for a minute before taking the money. “Tom, I don’t know why you are helping me, but I appreciate it. I don’t know anyone I could ask for this kind of money, and I didn’t even know dad had started gambling again. I am so ashamed of him. He should know better, and seeing it affect everyone around him should make him come to his senses, but it doesn’t impact him. It’s like he doesn’t care. I am moving out this week, I already got a job and an apartment. I didn’t want to see him killed, but he owes this guy almost 55,000 and they want it. I am not going to get mixed up his problem,s trust me. But at least this will buy him some time to get the money.”
Tom could only shake his head, and wished Steve luck as he left his house. Feeling for the kid, as least he knew he had stopped him from going down a really dark path this morning. Feeling hungry, he headed to the kitchen to make a sandwich. Wouldn’t you know it. No bread. It was no sandwich or go to the corner store. Easy decision. No sandwich.