by CG Thompson
At the ATM, a rush of sensations overpowered her – the slam of the passenger door, frigid December air, flurry of hands and motion. It took her a few seconds to realize what had happened.
‘Give me your money!’ He grabbed her wallet.
Her foot slipped off the clutch, and her trusty VW lurched forward. Its engine cut off.
He punched her. ‘A girl with a straight-drive? Shit.’
From the sound of his voice, he was young. Nineteen, twenty. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, the hood pulled up. A few strands of blond hair stuck out.
‘Don’t look at me!’ He rifled through her wallet, unzipped one of its pockets. ‘Where’s your money?’
‘I don’t have it yet.’
‘Fuck.’ She smelled beer and fabric softener, imagined his mom at home, sorting and washing his laundry. He’s never been in any trouble.
‘Start the car. Back it up!’ He pushed her arm, knocked her knuckles into the steering wheel column.
‘Ouch!’ The sound was involuntary. She didn’t want him to know he’d hurt her. She tried to think, but her mind was a kaleidoscope of half thoughts.
It was three days before Christmas. Tuesday, 11 p.m. She shouldn’t have stopped, but had just gotten off work. She’d be doing a clopening, retail jargon for working a closing and opening shift back to back. Getting money the night before would let her sleep longer, she’d reasoned.
‘I said back it up!’
Why was her door unlocked? Her little brother? He liked to sneak the keys from her purse, work the lock.
A streetlight threw a diagonal of illumination onto the floorboards. The thief’s sneakers were streaked with paint. He wasn’t wearing socks. Details to tell the police – if she lived.
She’d watched too many crime shows.
‘Are you deaf?’ He grabbed her wrist. ‘Start the car, or I’ll break your hand.’
This was what law enforcement called escalation. She jammed the clutch in, turned the ignition, placed the gearshift into reverse. Her feet were shaking, mouth dry.
He flicked the radio off. ‘I hate that Christmas-music shit.’
“Silent Night” had been playing. All is calm.
Maybe he’d leave when he got the money.
Never let an attacker take you to Crime Scene Two, detectives advised. Make your stand at Crime Scene One.
Easier said than done. Stopping beside the ATM, she put the Beetle into first gear. She looked at the plastic sunflower in her bud vase. Tears filled her eyes.
‘Neutral! And keep the clutch in.’ He pulled up the emergency brake.
She rolled down her window, located her bank card in the cup holder. She inserted it into the machine, entered her PIN.
‘$400!’ He knew the limit, also knew to stay on his side of the car to avoid the security camera.
She considered honking her horn, but the area, dubbed ‘Wall Street’ during the day, was filled with empty banks.
She pressed $200.
‘I got $200 this morning,’ she lied.
He slammed her in the face with her wallet. The stitching felt like cold fire.
‘As old as this car is? You spent $200? This morning? Bullshit.’
The money entered the cash slot. WOULD YOU LIKE TO COMPLETE ANOTHER TRANSACTION? the screen read.
She pressed NO, heard a beep as her card slid out.
‘Give me your card. What’s your PIN? Don’t look at me!’
He took the money, stuffed it and the card into his sweatshirt. ‘No one tells the truth the first time.’
He grabbed her neck, pushed her against the half-open window. She didn’t know which hurt worse, his hands or the pressure of the glass. She closed her eyes, hoped he’d know she hadn’t seen his face.
‘6581,’ she gasped. ‘For real.’
He slammed her neck against the window again, dug his thumbs into her throat.
Then the overhead light came on. The passenger door clicked shut.
She sat up and coughed. Her neck and face hurt. Blood crept down her cheek. She was shaking uncontrollably. She tried to focus. In the distance was a red sign for a chain restaurant. She put her car in first, released the emergency brake. She needed to get away as quickly as possible.
Then, improbably, he walked in front of her car.
That was a mistake.
C.G. Thompson writes both fiction and poetry. Her stories have been published in Fictive Dream, Prime Number Magazine, and Yalobusha Review, among others. Most recently two of her stories appear in TL;DR Press’ Women’s Anthology: Carrying Fire.