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“Glad that’s over. I don’t know about you, but when I get home I’m going straight to bed.” said Clarence, walking out of the factory and stretching.

“Lucky you.” replied John, his coworker.

“Wadda ya mean?”

“I’ve got about a half hour to get to my third shift job.”

“That sucks. Glad I’m not you.” said Clarence, stopping to light a cigarette. “Well, goodnight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. See ya.” said John, getting into his rusty light blue pickup.

Settling onto the threadbare seat, John turned the ignition praying the engine would start. It coughed and wheezed before reluctantly sputtering to life. Sighing in relief, he put the vehicle in gear and began driving.

For the past five years John worked two factory jobs, unable to find anything else. One was on second shift and the other was on third. They both had low pay, terrible working conditions, and long hours.

He had a Master’s degree in English, a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design, and a massive student debt. He longed to be a writer and illustrator, but his dream was dead. As hard as he worked, John had barely made a dent in what he owed.

John lived alone in a studio apartment. Always exhausted by the end of the work week, he spent the majority of his days off sleeping. He had no time, energy, or money, for a social life.

Nodding off as he drove, John woke just in time to swerve back onto the road. “Damn I’m tired.” he thought, “That was too close.” His bloodshot eyes felt hot with fatigue.

A little further down the road he spotted a brightly lit gas station and convenience store. Pulling in and parking, John noticed there were no other vehicles in the lot. He entered the small building and grabbed several energy drinks. After paying for them at the counter, the cashier put them in a plastic bag, saying, “Have a good night, sir.”

Exiting the store, he started back to the truck while digging for his keys. John was almost to the door when a filthy man in shabby clothes stepped from the shadows. “Excuse me? Can you spare some change?” asked the beggar in a phlegm clogged voice.

Not really wanting to give him anything, John sighed, saying, “Wait a moment. I have some money in the ashtray.”

He got into his truck, putting the bag on the floor. John grabbed a handful of change and turned to give it to the man. He was surprised to find the beggar was gone. Shrugging, he put the change back into the ashtray and started the engine.

In a flash the beggar appeared at the passenger door, opened it, and got inside. He held a crusty knife to John’s throat. “Drive.” he croaked.

“Where?” replied John, sounding unconcerned.

“I like that.” said the man.

“What?”

“You’re not begging and crying to be let go.”

Putting the truck in gear, John pulled onto the road. He was not scared of the man. Instead, he was worried about losing his job if he arrived late.

“You don’t seem scared like the others.” said the man.

“I’m not.” said John, placidly.

“Why the hell not? I might kill you before the night’s over.” the man said, sounding agitated.

“No, you won’t.”

“You’re just asking for it now.” the man said, raising his voice.

“Am I? Am I really? Tell me, how many people have you killed?” John asked.

“Lots.”

“I doubt it. I don’t think you’ve ever committed murder. Anyone that’s killed before can tell you’ve never done it.

“Now I, on the other hand, have killed fourteen people. I don’t get some sick pleasure from it. For me, it’s stress release. It’s like opening a pressure valve and letting out some steam.” said John, pulling over.

Looking around, the beggar noticed they were in a secluded area. Thick forest lined both sides of the road, not a car or house in sight. A chill ran up the filthy man’s spine.

Putting the truck in park, John turned off the engine and pocketed the keys. Then he turned toward his passenger looking slightly agitated. “We gotta do this quick so I’m not late for work. It’s kinda funny. I was having trouble finding another victim before you came along, practically falling into my lap.” said John.

The beggar was trembling now, barely holding onto the knife. Turning, he fumbled with the latch trying to open the passenger door. The beggar could not think straight. He was panicking.

“Outside you have a chance. You should probably get out and run.” John said, pulling out a knife from under the seat. “This won’t be any fun for me if you don’t. I’m counting to three.”

The man fumbled at the latch.

“One.” said John.

More fumbling.

“Two.”

Frantic fumbling.

“Three.”

The beggar opened the door and fell out onto the ground. Standing, the beggar took off into the woods in a blind panic. John’s mouth grew into a wicked grin and he ran in after him.

#

The hunt had lasted too long. John stood before his supervisor trying to explain why he was twenty minutes late. “Well,” said his boss, Marvin, “I’m not going to take any action against you. You’re a great employee and I wish I had more like you. I understand bad things happen. Just get that truck of yours fixed so you’re not late again.”

“Thank you, sir.” said John.

“Enough chit-chat. Get to work.” said Marvin.

END

 

My name is Walter Pienton and I am a freelance writer. I have two short stories published in the flash fiction press, and a novel available on amazon. Also, I recently finished a ghostwriting contract for Rosenthal Publishing.

Along with writing I like to draw, occasionally play guitar, and (of course) read. Also I enjoy a good whiskey or scotch. Now and then I sit on the porch, smoke my pipe (tobacco only), and watch the world go by (I have gotten a lot of good story ideas that way).

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