A Rooster's Tale

by Chris Cowdry

The liquor store looked easy enough, one female clerk. Rooster knew if his timing was right and there were no unexpected patrol cars, the cash would be in his hands pronto. Sitting on the steps of the apartment building across the street, Rooster watched the urbanites with interest. Timing was everything and hesitation killed; he knew this from experience. He had watched friends die from botched scores and poor planning.
Rooster had a hell of a lot riding on this job. He was a federal parolee and three-time loser; if he took a pinch on this one he could very well end up incarcerated for life. What the hell am I doing, he questioned his motives and reasoning, weighing the pros and cons. taking a risk on such a petty score had never been his style. He had committed some very intricate and lucrative robberies. But the questions were moot. Rebecca was lying in a room, writhing in agony. He could not stand to see her sick wide eyes pleading for relief. If he had to die to see her get well, he would gladly do so. Thinking about her illness turned his mood even blacker. The cops would never suspect him of hitting such a ridiculous place. The risk was too great, the reward too small.
This what Rooster counted on the most.
He checked himself, the small automatic rested snugly against his hip. Rising from the steps of the building, he walked quickly to the front door. Two customers stood ready to buy at the cash register. Avoiding eye contact, he headed to the back of the store and waited. The tinkle of the doorway bell told him the time had arrived. Grabbing a bottle of cheap wine, he sidled up to the counter and smiled his warmest smile at the young, attractive clerk. Doubt crept through his heart but he pushed it down. He pulled his gun from his pocket and pointed it in the girl's face. "this is a robbery. Do exactly as you're told and you won't be hurt. Move your ass to the door and put the closed sign in the window. The clerk hesitated and Rooster screamed, "Now!" Automatically raising her arms, the clerk moved to the door. "Put your fuckin' arms down and lock the door. Good girl, now move back to the till." "Look mister, there ain't but sixty or seventy dollars in there. Do you really think it's worth it?" "Lady, do yourself a favor and shut the hell up; if it comes that I need your opinion, I'll ask for it. Now open the register and put the cash in a brown paper bag." Rooster's eyes darted from the doorway to the clerk. In her face a subtle change occurred. By the time he noticed it, it was too late. Instead of a bag, her hand came up with a 357 magnum. No fear showed on her face and Rooster knew that she had been through this before. Fuck me, I'm getting too old for this shit. The barrel of the huge gun loomed heavy in his face. "Look lady, put down the gun or one of us is gonna end up dead." "Screw you, buddy. This is the third time I've been robbed by assholes like you, and this time it just ain't happening."
Rooster knew she was serious. "Okay, I'm going to back myself out the door. You keep the cash and be a hero for your boss." Slowly moving away from the counter, his gun still trained on the clerk, he reached behind to open the door. Locked! The split second it took to glance down was all the time she needed. Before he could react, his ears felt the explosion. The bullet missed him by inches, deafening him. The second shot tore into his right shoulder, lifting him off the ground and through the glass door. He slammed into the pavement. The pain in his shoulder was excruciating; he almost passed out. Experience and adrenaline brought him to his feet just as the clerk rounded the corner and took aim. Still gripping his gun, he bolted across the street. Passing the steps where minutes earlier he had planned what was supposed to be the easiest score of his career.
The young and attractive counter girl stood on the blood-spattered sidewalk and swore "lucky son-of-a-bitch, six inches to the left and I would've had him. Shit!" Rooster's arm dangled limply at his side, his awkward posture giving the illusion of his arm weighted down by some invisible force. In spite of his pain, Rooster's thoughts centered around Rebecca and her affliction. He thought about going to see Mario and trading his gun for a couple of packages of junk. Mario was always on the lookout for clean pieces. He was certain that Mario would give him two tenths of heroin for the unfired semi-automatic. A sense of hopelessness shrouded his mind and he was reminded of a poem he'd read in prison, "There is no hope, there is no glory. Only life and what truly is another tragic story." Bullshit prison poetry, so destitute in its message yet so profoundly true at times that it bugged the hell out of him. Looking back on his life, he reflected on all the dreams he'd had as a child. He no longer dreamed of success or even a middle class existence.
All he wanted now was to survive and love Rebecca. After today, he was sure that was no longer possible. There would be a warrant out for his arrest. His blood was all over the crime scene, and his sunglasses had flown off his face, covered with his prints. He was doomed to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Passers-by stared at the shredded fabric of his jacket. Blood ran down his arm on the inside of his sleeve and dripped small splashes with every step he took. Walking down the stairs to the subway, he stopped abruptly, coming to a decision. Paying the fare at the booth, he ambled to the platform and waited for the train. His mind was unexpectedly serene, even the pain in his shoulder waned to a dull echo. Life was full of hard choices. Rooster's new-found peace of mind, coming from his decision, was as hard as it got. The train screeched to a grinding halt and he boarded, taking a seat amidst the cautious glances of the other passengers. Looking at the route map, he saw that had only three stops to find out if he had the courage to forge ahead with his extreme, but necessary, resolution.
Exiting the subway station at Lansdowne and Bloor streets, he was now in the heart of the heroin capital of the city. On every corner, in front of every cafe and poolhall, stood five or six dealers selling the powdered drug. "You looking to score, my man? I got the finest junk in the land," a young Hispanic man asked. "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am. But I gotta use the can first." "That's no problem, I'll go with you. There's too many narcs cruising the streets anyway." Rooster and the young dealer slipped by the crowd of men and women in front of the cafe and sauntered by a stern looking man in the espresso bar. "Hold my calls, Manny," the dealer joked to the proprietor, "Hey man, you're bleeding pretty badly—you get shot or something?" "Yeah, something like that." The dealer stared with a look of disbelief, then shrugged as if it meant nothing to him.
They entered the filthy washroom with the dealer in the lead. Rooster pushed in the button on the handle to make sure the door had locked. "You can never be too sure," he smiled to the nervous young man. Pulling out his handgun, Rooster ordered the drug peddler to sit cross-legged on the floor. "Hey man, why you wanna do me like this? I ever done shit to you? I don't even know you." "Shut your mouth you little weasel. Give me all your junk and I won't put a bullet in your brain." "Sure man, no problem." The dealer retrieved all his packages from his pocket, now hoping it was a simple robbery. Rooster took them and pocketed the heroin with his left hand, struggling to hold the gun in a threatening position with his right. "Take off your shirt and tear it into strips." This done, Rooster ordered the man to lie on his stomach. sitting on his back, he tied the ankles tightly, then pulled his arms behind his back and bound those, finally taking the last strip of cloth and gagging the immobile dealer. Rooster took off his jacket and let it drop to the floor. He fished out a package of junk and poured the white powder directly into his open wound. It took mere seconds for the pain to deaden and the effects of the narcotic to explode into his brain. He put his jacket back on and calmly walked out of the bathroom. He looked back at the dealer. "You junk peddlers are like a fuckin' disease. I'd kill you but that would be letting you off too easy."
Climbing the stairs, a tremendous surge of euphoric power pulsed through Rooster's brain. The confidence he felt was due to the fact that he was mastering his destiny. In the surest and ultimate manner, he was controlling the outcome of his life. At the top of the stairs he was met by the steady glare of Manny, the afe's proprietor. "Where's Johnny?" Rooster moved his finger to the trigger and aimed the gun in his pocket. "He's taking a dump." "Like fuck he is," Manny swore and lunged forward in an attempt to grab Rooster's throat. A gunshot rocked the silence of the small cafe. Manny's leg shot out from under him, the force dropping him on his face. The violence reverberated as the other patrons stood with mouths hung low, in stunned silence.
Manny curled into a foetal position, "My knee! You shot my fucking knee, you piece of shit."
"Next time try minding your own business," Rooster said as he nonchalantly stepped over the fallen manager. He walked out into the sunlight without a hint of resistance from the other dealers congregated in front of the shop.
The consistent shriek of the police cars did nothing to interrupt Rooster's quiet mental state. By the time the squad cars screeched to a halt in front of the restaurant, rooster was coming to a slow stop in front of the house that he and Rebecca shared. Staring at the upstairs window, his steady gaze held a melancholy quality. 325 Elm street, the place where dreams come to die. He began the longest walk of his life. Shoulders straightened, he climbed the steps with a restrained dignity. Reaching the door, he stopped. Alert and aware, his thoughts had never been so focused.
Rebecca lay on the bed, covered in cigarette-burned blankets. Beads of sweat glistened on her forehead. Droplets ran down her thin neck. "Did you get it?" she pleaded in a hoarse voice.
"Have I ever let you down before, beautiful?" "No, you're my sweet, shining knight," she smiled  through chattering teeth. Her skin was sallow and pale, dark circles under her eyes. Rooster could not believe how beautiful she was. To his eyes, her skin was like the finest china.
Translucent and frail, she resembled a fragile doll. He could not fathom the love he held for her in his hardened heart. Once in prison, he tried to write down his feelings for her, but found he could not express them deeply enough in words. A vice-like grip encased his chest when he thought of her.
"Can you fix me up? I'm really hurting." Rooster began emptying the packages methodically on the small table that graced their sparsely furnished room. One after another, he spilled ten packages of heroin, the equivalent of one gram of junk, on a magazine cover. Putting the heroin into a tablespoon, he added 70 units of water and slowly prepared the contents. Rooster did not believe in too many things, but what he did he was dogmatic about. He knew without question that when you died you left the world in whatever mental and emotional state you were in at the time of death. He also knew that you stayed that way for eternity. Rebecca was going to leave this life the way she deserved, in an absolute feeling of peace and contentment. She deserved so much more out of this life, it was the very least he could do. He rose from the table and approached her in a trance-like state. Reaching for her ankle, he began the process he had done many times in the past. Rebecca craned her neck from the top of the bed and smiled, "Thank you, my prince." Gripping her ankle tightly, Rooster poked the tip of the needle into the protruding vein. Sucking the dark red blood into the clear tube, he injected the lethal mixture into her bloodstream. She reached for him as he stood up, a single tear running down her face.
"You're bleeding, baby. What happened?" she asked, pulling him gently towards her." "It's nothing, sweetheart. Do you know how much I love you?" "Yes, my prince, I do."
The effects of the heroin washed over her body and Rebecca closed her eyes. Rooster eased himself from her lifeless grip. He gazed down at her in awe, then vomited. Dropping to his knees, his body heaved violently. His sobs slowly subsided and he rose on shaky legs. Removing the gun from his jacket pocket, he slid in bed beside Rebecca. Placing his left arm around her delicate shoulders and squeezing her softly, he gazed around their room for the last time. Rooster breathed deeply and exhaled. In one swift motion he brought the handgun to the base of his chin and pulled the trigger.
Three months later, facing criminal charges of robbery and murder, rooster lay in a hospital bed. His unseeing eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. The 32 caliber bullet had travelled through his brain, deflected off his skull and lodged in his spinal column. The result was an irreversible coma. A nurse went about her duties, used to the withering man in the bed. Tubes and wires entered his body, connected to the humming and blipping life-support machines. The nurse looked down to his grey eyes and thought she spied a glimmer of life. Sometimes the eyes play tricks on you, especially when dealing with these silent, eerie bodies hooked to machines.
Brandon Matthews, also known as Rooster, lay halfway between a life he tried so desperately to avoid, and a death he wanted so badly to attain.

[Quelle: http://www.indy.net/ eviltwin/rooster.html]