Sunday, January 06, 2013

01 Glory Days

 "Welcome to Bargain Oasis, have a great day." Stanley and Norman half-heartedly recited greetings with equally half-hearted smiles whenever the rare citizen wandered in. Most of Stan and Norm's time was spent reminiscing about their glory days. Stanley reminded Norman of the time they narrowly escaped capture when they drove through the Eastern Archibald Pass. Norman tried to best Stanley with his recollection of the time they fought off seven men in a bar after someone called them the "dickless duo."

Stanley and Norman's brawling days were long passed.

"You know Norman, it kills me to think that one of these days I'm just going to keel over in this chair right here on the edge of nowhere, and that will be the end of that," said Stanley. "There was a time when we were feared. Respected! Now we're just a couple of lumps waiting to die. A sad state of affairs if I do say so myself."

"Come on Stanley," said Norman. "I don't want to think of that. We got it pretty good. We have peace and quiet, and we ain't what we used to be. We don't have that spark anymore. I'm not over the moon at ending up out here on this old dusty rock, but consider the alternative."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Stanley sighed. He leaned back into his chair and began to reminisce. "You know this reminds me of the time we were—"

Stanley stopped mid sentence to take in the sight of a group of wildly dressed young men and women walking in the store entrance. They were out-of-towners with the confidence of youth and a healthy disregard for volume. They whooped and yelled, cackling with laughter as they approached the two seated greeters. Stanley and Norman mumbled something to each other about kids these days.

"What was that old man?" one of the young men blurted. "You have something to say to me?" He glared at Stanley. The group's laughter died down.

"Yeah, I said you—" Stanley was cut off by Norman.

"We were just saying Welcome to Bargain Oasis, have a great day," said Norm. He flashed his practiced half-grin.

"Heh, yeah, that's what I thought. Shit, man, what a trash bin." The young man chuckled to himself. The others followed suit. "Alright old-timer."

The young man began to walk away when Stanley whispered under his breath, "Ten years ago I would have broken your arm for that kind of nonsense."

The young man stopped and walked back to Stanley and Norman.

"What was that?" He towered over Stanley, baring his teeth in a terrifying grin. "You got something to say to me, spill it, fool."

Stanley opened his mouth to respond when Norman interrupted. "Listen kid, we don't want any trouble. You and your guys just move on alright? No harm done."

"I wasn't talking to you gramps. I was talking to this bedsore right here." The man stuck and accusing finger in Stanley's chest. "Now, I heard you say something tough. Give a show. Let's see it."

One of the other men pushed in. "Come on Davies. They're just crazy old guys. What are they gonna do, gum you to death? Let's stock up and get out outta here. This place sucks. The faster we can get to Noto-5 the better. It's a long drive."

Stanley got out of his chair with Davies' finger still pressed into his chest. They stared each other down like two gunfighters searching for weakness, ready to draw at the blink of an eye. Davies retracted his finger and looked to his friend. 

"Heh, yeah, what the hell. Just two old farts. Screw it." Davies let out a forced laugh to break the awkward tension.

The friend was relived. "Right. So let's—"

Stanley couldn't let it go. "Just remember Davies, as you are riding on that long drive out of here that an old man got the best of you in front of your ladies. Have a wonderful day." He sat back down in his chair, very satisfied with himself. He looked over to Norman for approval. Norman was uncomfortable with the confrontation, but couldn't deny the thrill of the moment. He gave Stanley a small nod.

"Hell no. You want to be a hero? You want some!" Davies was livid. He burst forward and pushed Stanley clean off his chair. Stanley lay on the ground grasping his chest. One of the girls let out a shrill cry. Other patrons scurried away to hide behind racks of clothes or rows of goods. The lone guard for the store rushed over.

"Hey, hey! None of that! None of that in my store!" The guard grabbed Davies in a submission hold and pinned him against the shopping cart corral railing. Davies pushed back hard and escaped the guard's grip. His friend was twisted with nervousness.

"Is everybody in this place insane? Cool it! Come on. No trouble, no trouble." He stepped in between the guard and Davies. The guard drew his stun module. It emitted a high pitched hum indicating it was ready to fire.

"Get out of here right now. Go back to where you came from. We don't have trouble out here understand? You have five seconds." The guard stared Davies down and slowly advanced toward him.

Stanley was still on the ground, but he began to laugh. "Are you kidding me? This is what passes for tough these days?" He got up and dusted himself off. "Let's take this outside shall we?"

Everyone stopped. They couldn't believe what they heard. Norman looked dumbfounded.

"Uh, Stan, what is this?" said Norman.

"This is some punk-ass kid about to learn the meaning of respect. Come on Norm. The parking lot, right Davies?" said Stanley.

"Whatever, it's your funeral." Davies backed out through the entrance with the same heinous grin from before, teeth shining in the fluorescent light.

* * * 

Everyone gathered in the parking lot. The guard walked over to Stanley and Norman.

"Guys, this is no good. I'm gonna have to call the cops. No fighting on store premises, you know that Stan. And come on, you're in no shape to brawl with this guy. You'll break a hip," said the guard.

"Step aside Dean. This little sonuvabitch needs a good ass-kicking." Stanley took off his jacket.

"Jeez Stan, I guess this is happening huh?" Norman covered his face with both hands as if in a prayer, then let out a big sigh. "Well, we've been in worse I guess."

"Could you two just can it with the stories for once!" Dean the guard pleaded. "Everyone knows you guys are full of it. There's no way you did half what you claim, and this guy is ready to really and truly beat your ass. I'll be left here to arrest all of you."

"Look Dean, there's six of us and there's one of you. Why don't you wait to see who loses and arrest them," said Stanley.

"Sounds good to me," said Davies. "Now come on you crusty bastard. Let's go!"

Davies walked up to Stanley and pushed him hard. Stanley tried to deflect the blow, but Davies came at him again. He pushed Stanley to the ground and Stanley stayed down. Davies threw his hands up in the air in victory. Stanley hung his head low and mumbled something incoherent.

"Classic," said Norman. "Sad, really."

"What are you talking about?" said one of Davies' girls. "The old man is on the ground muttering. It's over. You guys should have stayed in your chairs. Now we're out here beating up old men. It is just sad, you're right."

"Watch," said Norman.

Stanley muttered something again and Davies laughed. "Old man, you are too much. I'll give you this: you have guts. Now I don't want to really do this anymore, so let's wrap it up huh? You learned your lesson, now head back to the store and we can all get  out of here."

Stanley put up his hand in surrender.

"Say it's over," said Davies. Stanley continued to mutter. "Damn it, I can't understand you at all. Speak up." Davies leaned in to hear what Stanley was saying. Stanley grabbed him by the neck and applied an excruciating grip. Davies tried to break away, but the pain was so powerful he could only let out a small cry. Stanley held him and took out a pocket knife. He effortlessly flicked it open and placed the blade between Davies' legs.

"Alright. Now listen up everyone," Stanley shouted. He held the whimpering Davies for all to see. "I didn't plan on this, but today is the best day I've had in years. My blood is pumping like a jackhammer and I love it. I forgot how good it feels. This little jerk is my ticket out of here." He walked Davies up to an aggressive looking charge-car. "This yours?" Davies nodded affirmatively.

"Norman, come get the keys," said Stanley. Norman walked over to Davies and pulled his key remote out of his pocket. Norman chirped the remote and the car sparked to life with a crackling electric hum.

"Just like old times I guess," said Norman. "We're not gonna last long out there. You're really sure?"

Stanley nodded.

Dean trained his stun module on Norman. "Hey now! We never discussed this! You stepped in it now boys. You know everyone likes you here, so we can just all walk away if we stop right now. You know if you take that vehicle I'm going to have to report you to the police. They're on their way. This whole thing is out of control."

"You're right Dean. This whole thing got out of control fast." Stanley smiled. "I thought I was stuck here forever until Davies here showed up. I thought, now there is a hot head. And his buddy starts talking about their trip to Noto-5 and I realized they had the juice to make it across the plains. I can't take it anymore. I'm not going to wither up and die alone in a chair at Bargain Oasis. I need to be out there, out where the action is! You felt it in there too, Norman, I know you did. The thrill of it! That's living."

Stanley held Davies as a shield between Dean and himself as he made for the car.

"Come on man, don't do this," pleaded Davies. "Don't leave me out here. Don't leave all of us out here!"

Stanley released his grip and Davies fell to the pavement. Stanley slid into the driver's seat and closed the door. He cracked the tinted window as he fired the throttle. He could hear the sound of sirens.

Stanley popped the brake and shot out of the parking lot and onto to the only road out of town. He flew past the nomads and shanty encampments towards the massive rock formations beyond the plains.  He maxed out the throttle and looked at Norman. In the rearview mirror he saw flashes of light as police bore down on him.

"Just like old times," said Stanley.

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