Monday, June 19, 2006

The Wal-Mart Crotch Rocket Getaway
Part II
by Peter Olsen

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."

Frank chanted the Serenity Prayer a third time as a second ficus plant exploded above his head into a shower of roots, leaves, stems, topsoil, and those little round styrofoam things that they put in potted plants in Lawn and Garden stores, salt-and-peppering his red Ronald McDonald wig with perfectly pH-balanced Wal-Mart brand potting soil. Frank, crouching midway down the small tool, fake plant, and insectiside aisle, could see the slumped figure of Ralph in his Grimace costume bleeding out onto the floor. Bruce cradled him gently as a man in a Mayor McCheese outfit with a large exit wound hemmoraging both synthetic fluffy stuffing and money can do anything gently, in a kind of McDonalds cum pieta pose.

The robbery was not going exactly to plan.

The first two to three minutes of the operation had been clockwork--hell, a minute into it, Frank had half a mind to call up Hollywood CA right then and there and spout off the whole idea so that they could go ahead and film Heat 2 and be done with it. The sudden emergence of four Glock-toting registered trademarks of the McDonalds corporation into an otherwise peaceful Wal-Mart Super Center had sent most of the few customers there running out the front door with the assumption that either a robbery, an al-Quayda attack, or some kind of dadaist pinko leftie battle of the mega-brands type protest was occurring, and that in any event they wanted none of it. Grimace and McCheese took opposing positions across the front doors while Ronald and the Hamburgler hit the two nearest registers. The plan was that Max, as the Hamburgler, would yank the drawer from each register, dump its contents into a canvas sack, hand the sack to Ronald/Frank, who ferried it to a zippered slot in the back of Bruce's Mayor McCheese head. Frank figured that, due to the Crazy Days parade and the general piss-poor response time of the Topeka PD, they would have a good fifteen minutes to make it to their motorcycles and drive off to effect an almost leisurely escape onto the highways of Kansas, so he wasn't too worried when the Hamburgler got greedy and hit the register three. Two extra minutes wasn't going to kill them. He did began to feel some small pangs of concern when Max walked to the next register after that, and so Frank shouted to him, "Hamburgler. We have what we need, now let's go."

Max retorted, "C'mon, Frank, we can't think small now!" pushing his empty pistol into the face of the cashier.

Frank quickly jumped to a near panic. "Codenames only! Codenames Only!" but the Hamburgler shrugged his shoulders, dumped the register into a bag, and walked over to the last register.

Now there was no way that Max could have known that Old Lady MacGruder had done her monthy cat shopping earlier that morning and had paid for the entire $50 purchase of fancy feast, kitty litter, a scratch pad, cat nip and a single copy of "OK Magazine" entirely in nickels, and even if he did it's not likely that he would have had the gumption to break free of the drive of adrenaline.

He handed off the canvas sack to Frank who, without much in the way of grace, staggered to Mayor McCheese and stuffed the sack into the zipper.

Bruce wobbled and the Mayor McCheese head tilted. "I'm not going to be able to bike with this. We're going to have to even out the weight. Pour the bag out into the head!"

"No, no no no no." Frank yelled back, "You take one turn on the bike, you're going to have a bunch of nickels in your face!"

"No, I'll just just shake the head. they'll sort themselves out. Ralph, turn my head." Max retorted.

"Codenames! Fuckheads, use codenames! Why don't i just wash this goddamn clown mask off my face and turn myself in right now!

"Geez. ok. Grimace, dump the G. D. nickels, turn the mask and trim this, ok."

Ralph reached into the head and opened the bag, emptied it, then rotated and jiggled the foam rubber mayor McCheese mask trying to get the nickels to even out, and in the process turned both the foam rubber eyes and the actual eye slit that Bruce needed to see with 90 degrees to the left of where they were supposed to be.

Frank was on the verge of calling out something along the lines of "You alcoholic Sanka swilling fuckheads. Do you want to go to jail? Do you want to go to jail for robbing a Wal-Mart? Do you want to go to jail for robbing a Wal-Mart dressed like this?" when he saw a line of police cars crossing the frontage road parallel to the store on their way to the parade. Crazy Days was supposed to have started half an hour before so the police here now meant that the police were running at least two hours late. Frank had figured they'd only be an hour behind at most and was shocked to see his already diminished expectations failed so miserably.

"Away from the doors! Route B!" Frank yelled, and they all ran through sporting goods towards the service entrance at the back of the Lawn and Garden center, Ralph leading Bruce by the hand and still managing to knock over about five-thousand dollars worth of sports equipment onto the floor.

It wasn't, however, until Carl Boggs actually started shooting that Frank began to see the cracks in his plan. The main problem, he realized, was that they were robbing a Wal-Mart. Not only was it unrealistic to hang the collective hopes of lust and escape, comfort, a better life, and luxury of four greatfully recovering alcoholics on the shoulders of a four-way split of the take from a single Wal-Mart Super Center--a kind of criminal soft bigotry of low expectations--there just had to be a softer target somewhere in the greater Topeka area. Which lead him to crack number two: he had not expected resistance. Because while the security guards remained both unarmed and asleep, the customers vacated the building, and the cashiers were pliant and cooperative, if surly, during the course of the robbery, the greeters decided that they were not about to let crazies from outside the Wal-Mart family disturb the shopping experience of their customers and that, dammit, they were going to take a stand then and there. Or one of them was at least, and that greeter's name was Carl Boggs.

Finally crack number three: Frank realized that four unloaded Glock pistols were not anywhere near intimidating enough to subdue a crazed greeter bent on ensuring the customer satisfaction rating of his store. And while the Wal-mart corporation will not stock Maxim or FHM Magazine, the original albums Nevermind by Nirvana, A Boy Named Goo by the Goo-goo dolls, Look what the Cat Dragged In by Poison, Mr. Happy Go Lucky by John Cougar Mellencamp, and the self-titled debut by Sheryl Crow, as well as the books America: the book and When Will Jesus bring the pork chops, no self-respecting store bearing the Walton family name in the center of a vast Red state would be caught dead without a well stocked gun selection behind the back counter of it's sporting goods section. So while the four costumes were wrestling with the McCheese head, Carl headed back to the gun counter unlocked it, grabbed a Beretta AL391 Urika 20 gage semi-automatic sport shotgun, loaded it and fired at the four characters as they ran through Lawn and Garden.

Carl had been aiming at the brightest of the four of the people he could see, Ronald McDonald, but luckily for Frank, Carl had been rendered legally blind by thirteen years of drinking Sterno to take the edge off life. Unluckily for Ralph, most of the buckshot hit him instead. A brief snowfall of purple fuzz and down stuffing floated around him as he stumbled into a row of bone meal bags in Aisle 19. The three other men ducked into the aisle as a volley of buckshot exploded the first ficus plant. Frank leaned back against a 15 pound bag of fertilizer and began reciting the Serenity Prayer.

"Carl! Carl!" Max yelled, and poked his head into the gap between a potted azalea and an aloe vera plant, eliciting only another volley which, while aimed directly at him, harmlessly destroyed a weed-whacker a few feet down the aisle.

"Carl. You've gone and shot Ralph. You know his sister."

"Hamburgler, don't do this! Don't give us up," Frank yelled. "We can still get out of here!"

"Why should I trust you, " Carl yelled. "You're the Hamburgler!"

"Look let's all calm down and talk this out," said Max, removing the hat and thief mask.

Frank popped bolt upright. In his head, the serenity prayer and the words "this isn't the plan, this isn't the plan" began a loop playing over and over. He felt himself stand up and then run -- as best he could in red size 14 clown shoes -- towards the Mayor McCheese head. Dancing through the sea of nickels, he grabbed a sack of money and, without stopping, turned a 90 degree angle towards the back entrance, leaving a shoe and his clown nose behind him on the floor. With shotgun blasts destroying reasonably-priced power tools, lawn furnature, hoses, and a box of cutout CD's in his wake, he stormed out the back emergency entrance, towards the motorcycles, towards the parade, and towards the Crazy Days Queen, Shelly Jasper, waving serenely at the people of Topeka.