Cynthia Morningstar

by Margie Shaheed

Shoot-'em up bang bang

"Give me the money!" he shouted as he pointed the gun at her. Everything began to move in slow motion and she felt as if her feet had been bolted to the floor. This night was prime for a robbery because not only was it Friday, it was also the first of the month and money flowed like water.

Just earlier that day she had worked the morning shift at another bar around the corner. This was her second job of the day working at this new bar opened up by the Dominicans. In this neighborhood, race relations between Blacks and Dominicans were strained so this was an experiment. Out of curiosity, a hand full of regulars from the first bar followed her over to this new place to continue on with their partying.

During the course of the night the joint filled up to a swell. It seemed like everybody wanted a refill at the same time so she was busy as hell, serving drinks and selling 50/50 tickets for the raffle to be held at the end of the night. The money collected from the raffle would be split down the middle and divided between the bar and one lucky person. The jukebox was loud and constant as it played Luther Vandross' If Only For One Night. A group of men gathered at the pool table taking names and taking bets. A few people stood along the wall styling and profiling and a sex-starved couple sat at the very end of the bar kissing and groping each other. That's why no one saw the two gunmen enter with their weapons drawn.

It happened so fast. One robber ran straight to the back where the men stood shooting pool. He pointed his gun at them and shouted, "Hey mothafuckas this is a stick up!" He ordered all of them including the bar's burly manager to lie face down on the floor and empty their pockets. He collected their wallets and jewelry in a black duffle bag.

She had heard before that when faced with near death experiences, your life flashes before your eyes. This time was no different. A catalog of events rustled through her head. Her 13 year old son's graduation. Her mother's funeral. Her 30th birthday. Her wedding day.

"Bitch, is you deaf? Don't make me have to shoot chu. Ah said gimme the fuckin' money!" She opened the cash register drawer as fast as she could and pulled out all of the bills. As she handed the money over to him she fashioned in her mind a suit of armor made of steel so that if he did decide to shoot her the bullets would bounce off of her body like Superman's.

He wasn't satisfied with the money she'd given him and demanded to know where the safe was hidden. This was her first day—she didn't know anything about a safe. He waved the gun about as he talked to her. She avoided his face purposely because she didn't want him to think she was composing a sketch of it in her mind. She pleaded with him not to shoot her. He ordered her to shut up and lie face down on the floor as his accomplice had done the others. She just prayed because she knew he was going to kill her.

After a short while someone in the back stood up and announced that the robbers were gone. Everyone else stood up and felt relieved and lucky that no one had gotten hurt in the ordeal. People hugged. The manager pulled the jukebox away from the wall and unplugged it. The bar fell silent. She went over to the telephone to call the owner who in turn called the police. Some folks left before the police came because they didn't want to be involved with the law. The ones who stayed counted their blessings and compared notes as they waited for the police to come and take their statements.

Cynthia Morningstar by Margie Shaheed

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