by Drew Buxton
Riot broke his right hand when Carla got mad at him for tearing a cabinet door off its hinges and started calling him “Riot” like everyone else. He punched a hole in the drywall and fractured his thumb all the way down to the wrist. He had a hard cast put on, and when this college student-looking guy at the bar in a tank top and flip-flops asked him if it was from jerking off too much, he bludgeoned him with it. Carla pulled him off the kid and got him out to the car. He wasn’t allowed to drink anymore after that.
Riot broke his left hand punching the steel refrigerator at Luby’s where they kept the fish patties. The franchise owner saw the dent and Riot’s new cast and figured it out. He fired him over voicemail late at night while Riot was sleeping. In the morning Riot left 10 voicemails on his phone, calling him stuff like punk snitch ass, but he couldn’t really work with two broken hands anyway.
That week he mostly stayed in the apartment during the day and paced their small living room while judge shows played on the TV. Carla said he was like a hyena. It was summer in San Antonio, but he wasn’t allowed to turn on the A/C because she didn’t want him getting too comfortable with being unemployed. She called him “Stumpy” and said the casts weirded her out. She had him wear these leather gloves over them and said that all he needed was a carrot nose and he’d be Frosty the Snowman because he already had the little beady black eyes.
After she got off work on Friday, she drove him to HEB in the Pontiac Bonneville her mom sold to her cheap, fighting through rush hour traffic. Riot wanted to stay in the car, but she said she’d forget something he wanted and he’d get mad. She put on his gloves for him and had him grab a cart. He pushed it with his forearms, but it was really hard to steer. She waited for him at the entrance with her hands on her hips. He gave up and kicked it over onto its side. She walked over and turned it rightside-up, and scratched his back and told him she had it.
The store was packed and Riot tried to put his hands in his pockets but they wouldn’t fit. The gloves hung limp from the casts like tags. Carla told him to grab a gallon of milk, and he stuck the edge of his stump in the handle and dragged it off the shelf. It fell and the cap popped off when it hit the ground. Milk spilled out and Riot kicked it like a soccer ball. He cleared the milk shelves and stomped each gallon. An elderly woman shrieked and stumbled back into the yogurt and cream cheese stacks. Riot slipped on one of the milk gallons and fell into the white puddle but popped back up more pissed off. The security guard stood there not doing anything, but Riot went after him anyway. He swung and missed and the glove flew off his hand into the cereal aisle. The security guard ran away and that really freaked people out. The older lady began to cry and went to her knees in the milk.
Riot didn’t see Carla anywhere, and he giggled and felt it was somehow the time. He’d always wanted to have free rein in HEB, since his mom took him on Saturday mornings and he rode in the cart. What if all these people weren’t here and I wouldn’t get in trouble for tearing open a bag of Oreos? He ran down the cereal aisle and bear-hugged all the Cap’n Crunch boxes and threw them down. He sat on the floor and pinned a box between his thighs. He swiped at the top and got it open and with the tips of his fingers he pinched the plastic bag but they kept slipping off when he pulled. He couldn’t get the goddamn thing open. He got up and stomped all the boxes and liked the crunching sound it made. He told himself that he was the real Captain Crunch and giggled. “I’m the real Captain Crunch!” he yelled and flexed his biceps.
He couldn’t open the twist-off beer bottles so he smashed them. He liked how the strawberry jelly looked when he threw jars of it against the wallpaper of the cashiers and customers laughing together, like he’d shot them. He got the top off a gallon of Blue Blue cookies-&-cream ice cream and stuck his face in it. The cold felt great on his sweaty face. He bit into it and the cold stung his teeth. He heard police sirens and limped towards the automatic double doors, cradling the Blue Bell. He’d hurt his ankle at some point. He tried running but fell down by the candy machines. The sirens were loud.
But the car that pulled up to the curb wasn’t a police Crown Victoria or Dodge Charger. It was the Bonneville. Carla reached back and opened the back passenger side door. “Stay low,” she said, and he crawled on his elbows. He handed her the Blue Bell and hopped in, and she gently pulled the door shut. She knew how not to panic. She slowly pulled away as the first cop car came up from behind. Riot laid still. The blue and red flashing lights reflected on the rearview mirror.
Carla laughed and Riot peaked through the back window. They had gone inside. He sat up and his foot felt like it was on fire. Carla told him to take his shoes and socks off and stick it in the ice cream. He said he thought some part of it was broken. She got on I-35 north, towards Austin, towards a hospital where they wouldn’t be waiting for him.
Drew Buxton‘s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Vice, Hobart, Fanzine, Revolver, and Hypertext among other publications. He’s from Texas and currently lives in Peru. Find his stuff at DrewBuxton.com.