Tom Halford

At some point he decided to take all of his disappointment and turn it into self-loathing. Three-hundred and twelve dollars, that’s how much he made from his first robbery. He used a toy gun to threaten the clerk. It had been a birthday gift to his son.

Tim pointed the thing at the girl behind the counter, his hand shaking, and he shouted, “I’m in debt!”

The girl stared at him, her hands resting on the till. “I don’t understand what you want!” she shouted back.

“Your money,” she said, the coffee shop now so quiet that he whispered, “Sorry. This isn’t the real me. I’m a good guy most of the time.”

She tucked a hand behind her brown apron and reached for her wallet.

“No,” he said. “Not your money. The money from the till.”

“Oh,” she said and popped the cash register open, grabbing the money out in handfuls and stuffing it in a paper bag.

She handed it over to him with a smile, as though she were passing him a cinnamon roll.

“Thank you,” he said, and turning to everyone else in the line, he added, “Sorry for butting. I would never do that under normal circumstances.”

“Aren’t you going to get something?” asked the girl.

He turned back to her. “Sorry?”

“Will it just be the money today, sir?” she asked.

“Oh, I’ll have a donut, a Bismarck, please.”

She took out one of the Bismarcks, stuffed it in a paper bag, and handed it over to him.

“Thank you,” he said and gave her a toonie that he’d just stolen from the till.

“Thank you,” she said. “Have a great day.”

He dumped the rest of the money into plastic shopping bag and ran out of the coffee shop. Poking his head back in, he shouted, “You have a great day as well!”

As Tim ran out, he pulled off his mask and glanced at it quickly: the gray mustache, the bushy eyebrows. He wondered if anyone in the coffee shop would have known that it was in the likeness of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. He hoped so.

He tossed the mask to the passenger side of the van and drove away, chewing on his Bismarck. As he was driving away, he was listening to two people talking on the radio about how far society had progressed in standing up for the rights of women. One of the presenters said that every morning she woke up laughing.

This made him feel good to know that positive change could happen. Maybe it was combined with the high of getting away with the robbery, but he found himself smiling. The other presenter asked her about people who didn’t understand feminism or didn’t see its value, and she said, “I don’t have any time for emotionally crippled men who are more comfortable with violence than with expressing themselves.”

He flicked off the radio and tucked his mask under his chair. What she had just said--that didn’t feel right. It bothered Tim, but he wasn’t sure why. He told himself not to get upset, but it was too late.

He made a fist and punched himself in the thigh. The van shot forward, and he almost ran himself off the road.

A Cabrera's poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers' Tales 2021 Anthology, Mer, Deronda, and other journals. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company. She writes, teaches, dances and ride bikes in San Francisco, but not always in that order.

Tom Halford teaches at Grenfell Campus, MUN, and lives with his family amidst the outrageous, unbelievable, tourist-welcoming beauty of Corner Brook, NL, Canada.