Will swung the gun toward the crowd as he backed, leaving employees and patrons face down on the floor. It was the eighth bank he’d robbed, and a similar exit each time.
In and out in less than three minutes.
Sprint around the corner to your ride.
Drive the limit to the safe house.
This time, though, it was different. He had an inside woman with access to the
vault, and in his possession was more than two-hundred grand. He had to get gone. Not later. Now.
But what about Tommy?
His son needed life experience, and Will often wondered if he’d been too easy on the boy. The original plan was to leave him, fuck it, with his ex-wife, but turning onto the highway now, he couldn’t do it.
Will sighed. “Shit…”
He banged a U-y, conscious not to squeal the tires, and headed for Tommy’s school. When he pulled into the school’s pickup circle, Tommy was waiting. The kid hopped in, and they merged into traffic. As Will drove, Tommy stared silently out the side window like he always did.
“How was school?” Will asked.
“How’re your classes?”
“Exams coming up?”
“Yup, in January.”
“How are your marks?”
“Got plans for tonight? It’s Friiiiiiday,” Will sang, laughing.
Will wished Tommy had something to do. A date, a party, anything other than studying alone in his room. But with an average in the high nineties in courses that Will had never heard of, Will couldn’t give Tommy a hard time. He spent his high school years drinking beer and chatting up girls, ripping ass on dirt bikes in the summer, and sledding in the winter. He liked to joke that he graduated with an A in living.
What’s my plan here? Will thinks.
I can’t take him with me. But I can say goodbye.
“Listen,” Will said. “I’m going out of town for a while.”
Tommy turned. “Who’d you rob this time?”
The kid was smart, and Tommy chuckled. “I didn’t rob anyone.” Technically, that was true. “I just want to get away… for a while.”
Cold, dry air hammered the truck as Will did the limit on the narrow, single lane road, one of the overused routes now that the city had grown. Snow covered the fields that surrounded the highway, and the sun hid behind gray clouds and a darkening sky. Will saw their turn in the distance when a brown blur flashed in his periphery.
Glass flooded the cab and snow plastered their faces. Will fought to keep the vehicle from rolling and they hit the bank hard, coming to a complete stop. His head bounced up and down like a bobblehead, the engine hissed, and he drifted into unconsciousness.
In the dream, Will trampled through tall, summer grass, finding himself walking beyond the wooded area that marked the outline of his property. He looked down, realizing he held a child. Tommy.
Will sat under a tree and rocked Tommy back and forth. A soft breeze mussed his hair, and the sun cast a glow on his forehead.
“Dad! Wake up!”
Will opened his eyes. How long was I out?
Tommy hovered over him, talking.
“Dad, you all right?”
Blood leaked from Will’s forehead as he checked himself for broken bones. Seeing none, he fumbled for the seatbelt and clicked the button.
“We hit something,” Tommy said. “It’s—it’s over there.”
Will wrenched open the driver’s side door, and an ache gnawed behind his eyes. He followed his son to the shoulder of the highway. The deer couldn’t stand. It tried, but fell, moaning something awful. Will knew right away the animal would die, but Tommy didn’t know about that kind of thing.
Will put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder. “You okay?”
Tommy flinched. “Y—yeah, I think so. She’s dying.”
Blood trickled from the deer’s nostril.
“What should we do?” Tommy said.
“It’s suffering. Only one thing to do.” Will unsheathed a knife from his hip, flicked it open, and knelt.
“No,” Tommy said, tugging on Will’s arm. “I’ll do it.”
Will froze, shocked. Tommy had spent his life avoiding conflict.
I don’t think he’s got the stomach for this.
“You up for it?” Will said.
“You treat me like a baby!” Tommy said with force. “I’m not weak. Give me that—”
“Okay,” Will said, passing his son the knife. “Here you go.”
Tommy gripped the knife with his right hand, knelt, and Will knelt beside him.
“The jugular is here. Drag the knife across like this…” Will said, motioning with his empty hand. “There’ll be blood.”
“I know,” Tommy said.
Tommy’s lips moved slowly.
Was he praying?
And then he did what his father showed him. The blood poured forth, steaming in the frigid cold. It looked like reddish tar.
They both stood, inert, and Will shuffled, nervous. They stayed like that for thirty seconds, staring into each other’s eyes, waiting. It felt confrontational, and that’s when Will saw it, the darkness in Tommy’s eyes. He still held the knife.
“Take me with you,” Tommy said.
“I—” Will began. “I can’t take you.”
“You’ve never been much of a father,” Tommy said, letting the sentence fade.
Tommy was right. Will spent half of the boy’s life in prison, absent for most of the rest.
“Sometimes I do things I know are wrong. I can’t help myself.”
Tommy said, “I saw the bags in the back of the truck. I know one’s full of cash.” He paused. “Take me with you.”
Tommy flinched and Will readied for a blow. That’s when Tommy reached out and hugged him. A good, solid embrace. After Tommy let go, Will looked off into the distance.
“You sure?” he said.
“All right then.”
Neither spoke as they headed toward the truck. Tommy checked his phone and Will gawked at his son, seeing him for the first time, and wondering how he got so lucky.
About the author:
Joel Nedecky is a writer and teacher from Winnipeg. His first novel, The Broken Detective, was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award in 2023.
Free flash fiction on the first and third weeks of the month.