Destiny Cafe is short fiction about a con and cops, a short story published by Polar Expressions and took the Honorable Mention category.
Seventeen-year old Howard ‘Howie’ Masterton sat in the red vinyl booth of the Destiny Cafe looking at his reflection, following the long crack in the window. Rain from a thundershower relentlessly pounded the awnings, compounding the dreariness of his life and the regretful situation he was mired in. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. [singlepic id=10 w=320 h=240 float=] Howie had made his own introductions to the faces in this new country and neighborhood; gravitating to street corners, poolrooms, seedy bars, and cafes. Soon, he blended in with the street scene, became part of the landscape. In a city of tough guys, there were pretenders and contenders. Howie wanted to be the latter. At times it was akin to predators on the Serengeti passing each other, sizing up the herd; rankings on the food chain. Hard looks and clenched fists were the order of the day. A brave new world.
Cutter, short order cook and waiter, set down a plate of poutine, his tattooed forearms a riot of black ink.
“What’s with the cherry on top, mon?” asked Howie.
“Fanciest meal you gonna get for a long time, island boy.”
“Do you think so?” Howie frowned and flicked the cherry off. It bounced against the sugar container and rolled off the table.
Cutter raised his brow in a knowing gesture and swept the ten spot from the table. “Thanks for the tip, island boy.”
“Canada Day tax, for the privilege of living here and the pogey all you people are sucking on.” Cutter limped away, his bum leg a memento of six years in the Kingston pen for manslaughter. He disappeared through the saloon doors into the kitchen, his voice audible between grinding noises from a garburator.
Howie picked at the poutine, his mind on the Crandall brothers, harbingers of his misfortune. Hooking up with those crazy white boys had been a horror show. Bold manipulators and physically intimidating, Jimmy and Timmy Crandall were dark clouds that rained all over him. Not a brain between them; constantly talking about how much iron they could pump. Their clothes reeked of marijuana, and their breath of 5 Star from the twenty-sixer they brown-bagged everywhere.
Three nights ago, they forced Howie to be a wheelman for a botched break-and-enter at a farm outside of town. Sweat and whiskey smells filled the vehicle as Howie drove a car they admitted was stolen. He parked along the shoulder of a country road, and the brothers left the vehicle. He tried to relax and fired up a spliff. Ten minutes later, two rounds exploded in the dark. Howie freaked, stomped on the gas so hard his foot hurt, the vehicle fish-tailing wildly. He glimpsed Timmy in the ditch, waving, his shirt splattered with blood. Another round exploded and riddled the car like hail, cracking a side window.
Jimmy never came back. No more brother act. Now Timmy was hunting for Howie.
On a far wall hung kamiks and a travois, in defiance of the scorching past days and a staggering humidex levels; as hot as the islands he fondly remembered as a boy. Now his life was defined to a sharp point by the wrong turn of an ignition key and a dead end in the Destiny.
“Hey, Mr. Cutter, I see you. You think I am so stupid, coming here.” Howie’s leg danced nervously under the table.
Cutter looked up from wiping the counter. “This is the Destiny Café, you know.” He grinned slightly, revealing crooked teeth. “Word is, they want you real bad. If you’re lucky they’ll send you back to your island, mon,” he said, in mock island patois.
Howie had never seen him this happy. “And if I am not a lucky one?”
“Then Timmy will find you first.” Cutter’s cackle was abruptly cut off by screeching outside.
Three police cars braked to a halt against the curb, their roof lights flashing like the Tilt-A-Whirl at a carnival.
“Guess you’re about to find out,” said Cutter, retreating behind the counter.
The bell dingled above the door.
Howie flinched and turned to see Two-Ton Tommy come in. Tommy used to be a rink rat at the community arena, but couldn’t handle that and was now a homeless person. Tommy entered and glanced warily around, water from his baggy, wet clothes puddling the floor.
Cutter’s head swelled as he growled at him. “Haul your filthy ass outta here!” he yelled, whipping a saucer at the man.
Tommy ducked, hands up to protect his head, knocking off his red toque. The saucer sliced past him, smashing the café window beside Howie in a horrendous crash. A fire hose of curses spewed from Cutter.
The cops withdrew their weapons as Howie shot to his feet, his arms up and out, shielding himself from the raining glass.
Gunfire roared from the curb.
Howie’s body jerked like a puppet and slammed back against the vinyl seat. He gasped in short, rapid breaths staring at the poutine.
Cutter peeked out from behind the cash register. “Guess you should have eaten that cherry, Howie.” He slipped the ten spot into his pocket and picked up the Crime Stoppers card that had fallen to the floor.