-Image art by: Nick Herasimenko – Unsplash. com-
©Short Journey of Steven Bardo
By BR Chitwood
Steven Bardo stumbles down a sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona, the front pockets to his soiled trousers turned inside-out, and he bounces into a brick wall of a mercantile building and falls to the sidewalk. Bardo rests his back against the old brick wall, takes a couple of deep breaths of smoggy air, tightly closes his eyes a few times. People walk by the man, showing no care or interest.
The back of Steven Bardo’s head rests uncomfortably against the aged wall as he gazes across the road to another commercial building, his stare locking on nothing of which his eyes are interested, just at a place in his mind where a vacuum of despair fills the historic messiness he has made of this life he owns.
Steve Bardo was not drunk. He had barely enough for two beers and one jigger chaser of liquor at the bar he just left. The bartender refused to give him credit for more drinks and muttered in menacing words for him to leave the bar. The unsteady figure now leaned back and against the building’s wall, staring straight ahead across the street to a locked-in stain spot on the white brick facing, him mind swirling with thoughts of his yesterdays, the work mistakes, the gambling, the ‘extra-women’, all the side-tracks that crushed his marriage.
Tears came with a sad wry smile, and he dropped his head, turned it slightly to his right, and saw stuck in the crevice of the sidewalk what looked like a folded ‘Circle K’ lotto ticket. It was a ticket someone must have thrown there, and he absent-mindedly picked it up and put it in his shirt pocket…
For a moment, his sad smile brought him up to date with this moment, sprawled on a sidewalk with a lotto ticket in his pocket…he slowly shook his head and murmured to himself: ‘Stranger things have happened. Dumb luck was all over the place. Why did I come up this street when I left the bar? That empty shack by the railroad track is my only refuge’.
‘I’m broke, stumbling around like a drunk sailor…my life is the ‘pits’ – hell, the movie people make these tear-jerkers all the time and make millions upon millions of dollars on the well-off crowds who flock to the theaters to feel sad for the poor bastards portrayed on the silver screen’…
Steve Bardo sat on the sidewalk for many moments until he felt somehow bare and vulnerable. He struggled to his feet and slowly began shuffling back down the street toward that abandoned shack by a railroad track that now served as his home.
He passed the ‘Circle K’ on the corner where he turned toward the RR shack, walked a few feet, stopped, and had a sudden urge. ‘Why not check the number on the lotto ticket? The ‘Circle K’ is only a few feet away’.
Inside the ‘Circle K’ he approached the employee behind the counter, an older woman, Marge by the pinned label attached to her blouse, already showing signs of doubt and worry about the man approaching. Still, she thought, ‘he looks harmless, sad and lonely, and he’s pulling a lotto ticket from his shirt pocket…maybe, he gets lucky’.
The counter lady smiled sweetly at the man, suddenly feeling sorry for him. “You have a winning ticket there?” She asked cheerily.
He tried to smile, gave his head a short nod and handed her the ticket. The pleasant lady brought a good feeling he wasn’t sure he could explain to anyone.
“Well, let’s keep our fingers crossed.” She smiled and went to a small alcove to run the numbers.
Steve Bardo leaned on a small counter at the alcove watching the nice woman’s face as she did her meticulous check of the numbers. Then, with glowing eyes, she repeated the second re-check of the lotto ticket…
The man watched her moves, and, with every cheerful mood she made, he became more excited…’My Good God! Maybe she’s finding me a new life’… He knew something good was happening.
Then, police officer Gig Weller walked into the ‘Circle K’. Officer Weller watched Two young casually dressed men filling their tote bags with many bottles of liquor, wine, and sundry treats. The taller of the two men saw the policeman, and, when their eyes met, all three knew, one way or the other, the party was over – and all the booze and ‘goodies’ stuffed in the ‘gear bags’ would not be used in frolic and fun…or, resale.
Officer Weller approached the two men. He judged them to be in their mid-twenties, and, at the moment, they were nervously dithering as to what their exit plans should be.
Within ten feet of the young men, the officer saw the signs that spoke of illegal activities.
“You fellows want to show me what’s in your ‘sports bags’?” The officer rested his right hand on his holstered weapon.
“Just some party stuff, officer.”
“Lots of booze coming off the shelves and into that travel bag…you planning to pay for that ‘party stuff’?”
The two men were not so evident of their criminal intent as some he had encountered, but he could observe that nuance he had come to trust over the years…these fellows were committing a robbery – he knew it but would practice decent discourse until they made their move.
The two medium-built men looked quickly at each other, and the shorter one answered: “Oh, sure, Officer, just making it easier on ourselves with the bags, and we didn’t notice any collection carts when we came in.”
The Officer gave a slight smile and pointed toward the entry/exit doors: “You mean those stacked at the entrance? You two bring your bags to the counter, and we will get an accounting.” The Officer’s right hand never left his weapon.
Reluctantly, the two men shuffled toward the counter, closely watching the Officer’s moves. Another male employee had returned to the counter and watched the approach of the two men and the Police Officer some three feet to the side. The counter clerk knew instinctively that trouble was walking toward him, his slow labored swallow giving him away.
“Okay,” the Officer said, “pay the clerk, and we’ll see if we’re done with all this.”
The two men looked at each other, the taller man spoke: “Go ahead Ellis, pay the man…”
The man called Ellis looked quickly at his partner with widened eyes: “Whoa, Jack, I thought you were paying with your credit card…”
“No, it was the other way around, Ellis. I don’t have my credit card or any money. You were to pay.”
“Bull-croppy! You were to pay! Look in the bag…maybe you put your credit card in there.”
Jack grabbed the bag, unzipped the middle opening…
His voice no longer carrying any cordial tone, the Officer Weller spoke in a loud demanding voice as he pulled his gun from its holster: “Drop the bag and raise your arms, you are both under arrest…”
The man called Jack pulled a revolver from the bag and jumped sideways toward a counter end, and pulled the trigger several times.
A woman’s scream was heard from the back at the alcove.
The Officer managed to get off several shots, one shot immediately mortally wounding the man called Jack, and, unfortunately, one bullet from the now dead man crazed the shoulder of Officer Gig Weller, fortunately, not disabling him. The man called Ellis stood shaking, arms raised high and stiff.
Officer Gig Weller cuffed the man called Ellis, made his call to the precinct, described the altercation and aftermath…
The ambulance arrived, put some ointment on Officer Weller’s shoulder and a patch. Ellis was taken to lock-up.
The police ambulance not only carried Jack to the morgue but Steven Bardo, the man who had lost his way in life…until the final moment of his living. He was killed by a stray bullet from the gun fired by Jack.
Officer Gig Weller talked to a tearful Marge as she emerged from the ‘Circle K’ alcove to report the death of Steven Bardo. When Weller saw her tears, he asked, “Was Mr. Bardo a personal friend of yours?”
“No, but in my heart, I know he was a good man who had some very bad luck in life, sad from all the weight he was carrying, the mistakes, loss of family, the ‘boogey-man’ always there inside of him…” Fresh tears began to trickle.
“Why was he in your ‘Circle K’? Sounds like you had an emotional encounter with him.”
“Steven Bardo found a ‘lotto ticket’ on a sidewalk, and, on his way to his humble shack he called home, he passed our store, came in to see if the numbers might have been winning number – a real ‘long shot’ of course…
“Old tear-jerker me, I feel immediately sad for the man and wanted so much for that lotto ticket to give him a new lease on life, and my verification came at the very moment of his death from that stray bullet…
“I got to see him light up with a smile when I told him he was a winner? NOT, the jackpot amount, but enough to turn his life around…his last number was ‘13’, but he knew, KNEW, that he was a winner – finally, a winner. Thank God he was able to go with that knowledge…”
A trio of tears dropped to the ‘Circle K’ floor.
©Short Journey of Steven Bardo
By BR Chitwood – July 22, 2020
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