by Benjamin Jacob Blattberg

The thing that still sticks out of my mind most is how incomprehensible the whole thing was. The events were so inconsistent with the reality I knew, that it didn’t quite feel real. It felt like a dream, or actually, it seems like a story I would write.

I had lived in Syosset all my life, and my mom’s car had been broken into twice, and there was some other crimes I know of but can’t quite remember. But if I had ever wanted to see an actual robbery or such being committed, I always figured I’d have to turn on “Cops.” I was wrong.

Coming back from our Tuesday allergy shots, my dad and me, and my upper left arm was just beginning to itch and swell and ache. My father was driving our white limited edition Eagle Premier, graying black hair, where he had hair, and that was only in a horseshoe pattern encircling his head, tied back into a two inch ponytail, beard and moustache the same silvered black, more silver now than black, which covered the front of his face and joined up with the rest of the hair on his head through means of two sideburns. He was wearing his glasses, the ones which become darker when the world becomes brighter, and his deep voice came out of nowhere. Completely interrupted the song I was listening to.

“Do you want some chicken fingers?”

You know, I did. Some nice breaded white meat from Poultry Plus, with their sweet, but not too sweet, and spicy, but not too spicy, barbecue sauce. That sounded good.

“Yeah,” my voice was deep, started changing like five years ago, and I think by the time I was seventeen, which was then, it had stopped. I was sitting comfortably in the passenger side, seat belt on loose, leaning forward and playing with the ten preprogrammed radio stations. FM naturally.

“Let’s go now.”

Red light turned green at the corner of Jericho and South Oyster Bay, and we made a left. WE passed the Health Connection, the health food store where I worked over the summer. I was a stock boy - pure energy - moving, placing, counting, moving, cashiering, moving - heavy boxes, plastic crates of vegetables, vitamins, supplements, health chips like styrofoam, expensive water. They fired me, well actually, they let me go, after like four weeks. But that’s in the past, no hard feelings. I just don’t go in there anymore.

Anyway, we pulled up to the poultry store. I wasn’t too interested in going in, so my dad went in alone, and I stayed outside in the car listening to the radio. X107.1 - alternative rock, metal. Good station, I just found it this summer and now it’s one of my favorites.

Look up, father on line, two in front of him. Bad song comes on, change, 92.7, o.k. song, but look around some more. 92.3, Z100. Good song. But it’s the end and now it’s over. When I was younger I couldn’t find Z100 because I kept putting the tuner to 100 FM, but Z100’s frequency is 100.3. Anyway, song over, need new song. 104.3 - hard metal - o.k. song. Look around some more. 107 again. Hate this song! Switch!

Boom! What? Boom! Like a bass drum, but heavier, deeper, louder, closer. I looked up, catching a glance of my blank, impassive face in the mirror of the sunshade, folded down to keep early Spring sun from burning my beautiful blue-green-gray eyes. The sound was coming from the store and I naturally looked there first. I could see one of the men who had been on line before my father, his arms up, back to the far wall. The cashier was busy taking the money out of the cash register and putting it into a plastic bag. And the other man who was on line was now holding a gun. He wore a ski mask, something which he had just put on, and I couldn’t remember what he looked like. It took me a little while to take all of this information in, and then I realized that i couldn’t see my father.

That was bad. Before I was just curious and watching, but now I was frozen. And i didn’t care for the song that was on the radio.

The robber was out of the store, into a car and speeding out the road in the same time it took me to take off my seat belt. I didn’t notice the plates or the type of car. I was focused on the plate glass window of the store, empty, wondering where my father was, wondering about those gun shots, walking towards the door of the store, still in the middle of falling closed.

I rushed in, like ripping off a Band-Aid I thought it would hurt less if i did it quickly. i didn’t want to tease myself with first my father’s feet, then his legs, etc.

But even trying specifically not to do that, that’s what I did. Like slow motion. First there were his feet. Then his legs, and his left arm wrapt around them, his right hand shielding his head, curled into a little fetal ball, like I once was, breathing, no, crying. And then there were police sirens, and people noticing the holes in the roof, two .35 caliber bullet holes in the plaster/styrofoam ceiling. My father being helped to stand up by some concerned spectator, his face, his pants wet. Old creased face crying like a child, the saltwater tears matting his beard to his head. And all the fear I might have felt, or thought I did, wasn’t fear anymore. Father-protector. The feeling was more like shame, or pity, or loathing.

I don’t talk much to Bruce anymore, and especially not about that day. People tell us, and especially me, how lucky we all are, and especially how lucky I am, that neither of us were hurt, especially that my father was fine, and how we have the whole family together still. I don’t know what he thinks, but I can’t help believing that it would’ve been better had one of us died.