by Adam Lock

Craig looks on the back seat for a possible weapon; the thought of violence tastes metallic, like pennies beneath his tongue. He’s never hit anyone before.

Dawn said the man who took her money was tall, skinny, had long wet-looking hair. Now he sees long-haired men everywhere and imagines each one telling Dawn to hand over the money. Fifty pounds.

He gets out of the car and walks to the cash machine; every night he withdraws twenty pounds. Before he reaches it, a young man with long hair comes out of the shop and stands in front of the cash machine. The man is skinny but not tall. He enters his PIN. The streetlight above is orange. The man glances to the right. Craig clenches his fists. The man takes the notes, slots them into his wallet, turns, and fumbles the wallet, dropping it at Craig’s feet. Neither of them move. The man looks at Craig, then the wallet, and back to Craig. The orange streetlight flickers and Craig wants to explain how so many things are different now. Like sex: more frequent, more urgent, more about life and death.

‘Excuse me,’ the man says, pointing at the wallet.

Craig picks it up.

The man shifts his weight from one leg to the other.

‘My wallet,’ the man says.

It’s automatic: Craig opens the wallet and counts out fifty pounds.

‘Hey,’ the man says, reaching for his wallet.

Craig grabs the man’s throat and pushes him up against the cash machine.

‘Take the rest of your money and fuck off!’

Craig’s head is shaking, his legs stiff, his hand tightening more and more around the man’s throat, whose eyes are wide, eyebrows turned inwards, feet slipping on the ground.

The power and control over another is easy; he had no idea.

They stare at one another, until finally the man nods.

Craig releases his grip, hands him the wallet, and moves to let him leave. The man moves slowly at first, all the time watching Craig, before turning and striding away.

In the shop, Craig walks down each aisle, looking for something to buy. He takes two steaks from the fridge. Beneath the plastic covering, blood pools at one end of the polystyrene tray. When he imagines handing Dawn the rest of the money, telling her what he’s done, telling her he wants his steak rare for a change—bloody, shimmering, blue-lustred—he tastes pennies beneath his tongue.

Adam Lock writes in the Black Country in the UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018, and the STORGY Flash Fiction Competition 2018. He has been nominated twice for The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2019. His stories have been published in many online and print publications, links to which can be found on adamlock.netYou can also connect with him on Twitter @dazedcharacter.