by Todd Mercer

The last time I ever saw Ronnie—I mean, it’s going to be a grave issue if it turns out not to be the last—he was pantomiming execution methods in open court. The next time people are slated to see him in a public place is life times three without the possibility, plus sixty years. But he knows other hard cases who can do his bidding while he is inside.

I flew the friendly skies disguised. Took up residence in East Lansing (keep this to yourself, please). It’s a college town that’s thick with readers.

When I told the Witness Relocation people that I’d like to run a bookstore, I assumed that business would be slow. Right? But no. This place is rockin’ in the afternoons. All flavors of smart folks come in here hungry to learn or at least happy to pick up another healthy distraction.

No one from the drug-trafficking or murder-for-hire industries drops in. I mean, as far as I can tell they don’t.

I didn’t plan to turn a profit, but it’s happening. I’d hate to say now how many years I slogged it out with those psychopaths. I could tell you quite a bit about how to dig trenches in the desert, but I won’t start. You can’t get the years back once you spend them, said every jaded oldster ever to the never-listening young folks who insist on learning life’s lessons the hard way instead.

Ronnie has a contract out on me, but the shooters wouldn’t look in here.

Todd Mercer was nominated for Fiction and Poetry Pushcarts last year. His collection Ingenue was published autumn of 2020 by Celery City Press. Recent work appears in Praxis, The Lake, and Star 82 Review.