A Good Man is Hard to Be

Red Sammy glanced out the window when the monkey screeched. A cloud of dust from the road leading up to The Tower signaled a car coming in. As the monkey watched the growing speck come closer—hoping whoever it was wouldn't bother him, no doubt—Red Sammy told his wife to fill some cups with ice water. If these strangers were customers, they'd be the first this place had seen in a while.

The car parked, and for a long while, no one got out. Red Sammy waited inside for these people to show their faces. When the front door finally rang open, three large men filed inside. It was hard to see their faces at first. Didn't they know it was disrespectful to leave their hats on indoors?

"Afternoon, gentlemen," Red Sammy greeted. "Thirsty? Or did you stop by for some grub too?"

The man in the middle, one in a black hat and silver glasses, shook his head. "Actually, I was hopin' you folks could give me directions. I seemed to have taken a wrong turn somewhere down the road."

All three of them stepped deeper into the establishment, the one who spoke leading the other two. They didn't stop at a table or the bar.

"Well, if you tell me where you need to be, I might know how to get you there." Red Sammy's eyes and feet shifted around uncomfortably.

The man tipped the black rim of his hat up, showing more of his face. It was a face Red Sammy could swear he'd seen before, and when he wife came from the kitchen with a tray of three ice waters, he waved his hand for her to stop and go back.

"That's the thing," the man said. His mouth turned up, but that smile looked more like snake lips. "I don't need to be 'nywhere specific. Just 'nywhere that ain't here."

Behind Red Sammy, the two cohorts of this main guy wandered around, their slow footsteps making the floor creak and groan. Red Sammy started to sweat. They were getting awfully close to the register.

He tried to step back, only to feel his hip bump against the bar counter. As the stranger reached behind himself, Red Sammy swallowed.

"Look, I don't know what you want from me, but I think it's best for all of us if you just left."

"I will. Don't you worry. I just need somethin' first." The stranger pulled a gun, pointing it right to Red Sammy's temple. His eyes flew around frantically, and he caught a glimpse of the other men taking their own guns in hand. Lord, please keep his wife safe and out of sight.

Her surprised gasp told Red Sammy that his prayer went unanswered. Both men pointed their pistols at her, and the fatter one spoke in a mean voice.

"Open up that register," he barked at her.

"Honey, do as he says," Red Sammy urged.

With shaking knees and bottom lip, she stepped behind the register and hit some buttons. They didn't have much cash to begin with, but hopefully the robbers would leave in peace. She placed the few tens, fives, and singles on the counter and slid it over to the man closest to her. By God, they didn't lower their guns.

"That's all we got. That's all you wanted, right?" Red Sammy's mouth felt dry as he tried to speak.

"Come on, son." The stranger in front of him chuckled. "You read the paper, don't you? Ain't no good crook leaves any witnesses."

Red Sammy's wife openly sobbed, a hand over her mouth. One of the others touched the barrel to her head because of the sudden movement, and Red Sammy's eyes grew wide in desperation.

"Please… You don't have to. We won't tell a soul."

The man laughed. "'Course you won't. I know just how to guarantee that." He cocked the pistol, staring Red Sammy in the face.

"Please, God, no…" Red Sammy's voice cracked.

"God ain't got no business here."

"Please, God. I don't want to die…"

"Well, what the hell you prayin' for? Won't do you no good when I'm the one with the gun in my hand."

Red Sammy brought his hands together in front of him, fingers locking together. "Please, I'll do anything. Just don't hurt me and my wife."

"Now, I just told you." The stranger lowered the gun, but only to point it at Red Sammy's chest. He frowned, no longer amused by their pathetic crying faces. "Ain't nothing you can do to change—"

"I'll cover for you!" Red Sammy shouted, overwhelmed by the idea he just had that might possibly save his life.

The stranger tilted his head to the side in confusion. "What you mean by that?"

Red Sammy swallowed and licked his lips. "I-I'll cover for you. The next people who come to this place, they gotta have some cash on them, right? I'll get them in here, sit them down, feed them. Then you can get their money, too."

The stranger dropped his hand and turned around, pacing as he muttered to himself. He looked to his companions, who nodded a few times in agreement. Not too shabby a plan.

"Fine." The stranger stuffed the gun back into his belt and glared at Red Sammy. "But I'm warnin' you. If you make one suspicious move, I'll blow the head off every sucker in this God damned building."

Red Sammy nodded his head multiple times and used his shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat off his brow. He showed the three men a place to stay hidden in the back of the restaurant where they were to wait until new customers came along. Now the only thing to pray for was a customer who actually did wander in before the robbers got too impatient.

—'Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle.' to 'The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy.'—

As the family piled into their dusty car, The Misfit and his crew emerged from the back room. He had a satisfied smirk on his face as he passed Red Sammy and his wife, stopping at the door to give them a respectful nod.

"You're a good man, Red Sam."

The door slammed shut behind them, and in the foreign silence of the restaurant, Red Sammy reckoned he'd have a lot of praying to do after this.

—Notes: This is a section of a story I've rewritten in the perspective of a different character. To understand my story completely, please read "A Good Man is Hard to Find."