A shadow of the dead tree strokes the wallpaper as if it were the devils own hand. The cradle is empty, just a couple of rags where little James slept this morning. I rock the empty cradle with my foot; I contemplate it, running my finger along the edge of the knife, every serration causes ambivalence. I have to take the knife, the gun is a fucking air pistol, it looks real, but I need more than that, if anything fucks up… If he’s a hard-boiled son of a bitch… he needs some reassurance I’m NOT fuckin’ around. Nobody’s that brave with six-inches of jagged steel pressed clean to their jugular.
The cradle rocks back and forth, and the shadow on the wall strokes a little higher as the wind blows outside. It has to be tonight, I’ve got no other options. Lucy’s at her mothers with James, she can’t keep goin’ round there every time we’re a little low. That old bitch knows something’s up, she keeps tellin’ her I was a mistake, no fucking father, not even a man. Maybe she’s right? I don’t have any options, this… this is all I have left, all I can do. James can’t live on blended leftovers it’s sickening… I’m a failure. I glance at the cradle once more, spin the mobile and watch the little birds dance to their tune. I shove the knife in the side of my boot.
Old lady Brown says hello as I close the door and make my way down the stairway, I ignore her, clutching the empty bag. The lights are flickering at the end of the hall, illuminating the plaster and cigarette stains, this place isn’t fit to piss in. The kids sit on the wall out front, they’re usually belligerent at this hour, but tonight they sway like the wind. Probably high. I make my way up the road.
Outside, I pull the homemade balaclava from my coat pocket, and the pistol from my hip, check it’s loaded. A couple of girls walk past giggling, I pretend to be on the phone, cover myself from the light…
“Yeah… just leavin’ baby.” They ignore me; unassuming.
My gut wrenches, what the hell was I thinking!? This thing’s loaded with fucking pellets… It might kill a fish. Fuck! Don’t pussy out now… You can’t… James, Lucy, you love them. The balaclava fits better than the gloves. I round the corner and put my shoulder first through the door.
“STAY CALM AND I’LL BE OUT IN UNDER A MINUTE!” I cock the pistol and point it at the cashiers face. He’s Indian, shit! He better understand. I lay the empty bag on the counter and scream at him.
“MONEY MOTHERFUCKER!” He obliges, hesitantly. Nobody’s a hero, even just a pellet gun pointed four feet from their face. There’s two people in the store, another Asian guy holding a broom, and a woman who’s trembling by the fridge. The cashier pushes the bag towards me, I check the contents. There’s no more than six hundred in there.
“WHAT’S THIS YOU CUNT!? EMPTY THE TILL!” He grimaces as I edge closer, and I smell fear, urine, he’s pissed himself.
“You!” I scream pointing the pistol at the lady.
“Throw me over some fuckin’… MILK!” She fumbles by the fridge and slides four pints along the floor. It barely reaches. I step down, throw it in the bag, I grab a couple spirit bottles; throw them in too, some biscuits and crisps, anything at arm’s reach. I point the gun at the cashier again, he collapses to the floor, I hear a whimper and then I’m out the door and sprinting down the alley.
I throw up on the pavement just outside the flats. I feel like I’ve been fucked and drowned, I stumble up the stairs, removing the balaclava before scrambling at the lock with the key. It’s over.
The sun shines on the edge of the cradle, James is asleep. I’m still dressed in last night’s outfit.
“Honey, where’d the food come from?” Lucy asks
“I did some work for Mr. Patterson, baby.”
“I didn’t think he paid you very much?”
“He didn’t baby, he really didn’t.”