Aug 1, 2012


 by Lazlo Azavaar

Long thin straps…my favorite kind.
The woman stands at a store front, window shopping. She’s an odd bird: forty-something, ugly pale, yellow hair worn long and wavy. She is wearing a colorful sun dress that seems to have been hijacked from one of the more regrettable corners of the seventies. At her side hangs a boxy black purse hanging from long, thin, vinyl, spaghetti straps.
All too easy for the likes of me.
I walk up to her, weaving around the occasional passers-by, and close in. From her reflection in the store front’s glass, I can see she has many blotchy freckles on her face; I can also see that she has seen me too, and has begun to turn.
I make my move. I catch the purse strap at a point around her elbow, and unhook it from her shoulder in a smooth and well-practiced move. Time slows down for me as I quickly run the strap down the length of her arm, to free it, even as I start to accelerate. Usually, I can get it free and start to run before my victim can hook it with her fingers, and get a good grab at it. Occasionally, they do manage to grab the strap; but not for long. By then I’m running, and the strap usually slips from their grip. Vinyl can be slippery.
The blonde woman, though, manages to get a good solid grasp of the strap. Instead of her losing her grip, it is I who nearly lose mine. I am almost pulled off my feet. I turn and grab the purse with both hands. There is a tug-of-war I begin to understand I cannot win. She is screaming something unintelligible. People on the street and on the sidewalk are starting to turn around and take notice. This is not good.
I am about to release the purse to get away, when the strap breaks in her hand, causing the both of us to fall on our rears.
It seems I have won after all, but now I see from behind the woman, a young, athletic-looking guy start coming towards me.
The heroic type. Fan-fricking-tastic. This I do not need.
I get up with my prize, turn, and start running.
As a purse-snatcher, my greatest asset is speed; and I am fast. That is enough, usually, to get me out of most scrapes.
As the world around me blurs, I tuck the purse into the cradle of my left arm, like a football, and haul ass. There are not that many people on this side of the street, which is a blessing, as dodging around obstacles will slow me down and complicate the task of escape.
I really want to stop and look behind me to see if the guy is still giving chase, but I know better. I resist the urge and continue on. Besides, there is an intersection up ahead, and I will have to slow down to avoid getting hit by a car. I’ll look then.
When I reach the intersection, I slow to a quick stop. Seeing no cars on the intersecting street, I get ready to start off again.
Before then, though; I risk a quick look back.
Son of a bitch.
He’s still coming.
He looks up and sees me. I can tell that he’s determined. Very well, I’m determined too. I turn and commence running again.
I run as fast as I can, and the world blurs once more.
I now have no idea where I am anymore. I should, as I’ve only run in a single direction from my original position, but somehow I don’t. I try to calculate it in my head, but a bleary haze of confusion gums up my concentration. It feels as if all blood and energy is draining from my body, into my legs. A second wind perhaps, as I can feel myself going faster and faster with less and less pain. Soon, all senses bleed away and the world has fused into a single focal point.
Suddenly, I trip on something, and my speed and momentum flip me into a forward somersault to the ground. I actually end up on my back somehow, staring up at the sky like a broken doll.
For awhile, the sky is filled with spots and colors; a giant doughnut of purple then bleeds through the blue of the sky, and subsumes the other colors into itself. I close my eyes, and the purple doughnut is with me in the dark; it looks at me with a cold naked stare. My head feels like a parcel that’s been shaken a little too violently by the postman.
Also, I hurt like hell.
I’m breathing like a morbidly obese man near sexual climax, and my heart feels like it’s lodged in my throat and trying to squeeze its way out. My bones feel like shattered glass.
So I lie there and await my pursuer to reach me, as he certainly must, any moment now.
But he doesn’t.
I wait longer, and still he doesn’t.
After another interval of time, I open my eyes again. The purple doughnut is gone, and has taken all the other color spots with it. The sky is blue once more.
Slowly, painfully, I get up. My brain still feels gelatinized, but my breathing and heart rate have slowed to something more rational. To my relief, my bones are not broken. I get up to my shaky feet and realize that I’m alone; my pursuer is nowhere to be seen.
I must’ve run really fast.
I look around. I seem to be in an abandoned and unfamiliar part of the city. This is strange because I know the city well, and yet I’ve never seen this part of it before. The buildings look empty and the store fronts are shuttered; a pervasive feeling of gloom and unpleasantness hangs over everything like a suffocating mantle. There is no one is around.
How fast did I run?
I look, but cannot find what tripped me, but the odd woman’s purse lies at the entrance to a narrow alley. I go to it. After all, it is my prize, and I paid dearly for it; it’s only right that I take its contents for myself.
I pick up the purse and sit on the ground, my back to the alley wall. It is gratifyingly heavy; though it feels solid, and when I shake it, there’s no rattle of items, or sense of looseness. Whatever is in there is densely packed.
I turn it over in my hands until I see the zipper, but only to find that it is missing its opener. The silver metal fasteners seem to smile at my frustration, as I try to pull it open first from one side, then the other, to no avail. It will not open.
I take out a small pocketknife from a leather holder looped into my belt, and try to jimmy the zipper. When that also ends in failure, I stab the side of the purse with the pocketknife. One way or the other, this purse is going to spill its guts.
But the knife finds a meaty thickness I was not expecting. It feels like I just plunged my little knife into the side of a cow; and like a cow, the purse begins to bleed a thick red liquid that stinks like a swamp. It gets all over my fingers and pools into my lap, but I am only more determined to pierce into the mystery of this purse.
I pull at the flap of the “wound”, and see only bleeding red meat. I jam my thumb into it, but cannot press past a superficial depth.
The purse suddenly moves and bucks in my befouled hands, and in surprised shock I throw it out into the street.
It wiggles on the empty street, and rights itself, broken vinyl spaghetti straps whipping in the air like living things. From underneath its bottom, long bird-like stick legs unfold, and bear the purse aloft.
It seems to look around, until it “sees” me, and starts skittering my way. My shock breaks, and I get up and run, into the alley. This is a fatal mistake, as there seems to be a chain link fence blocking the end of the alley.
When I reach the fence, I start to climb. I almost make it to the top, when two long thin vinyl straps wrap themselves around my ankles, and pull me back with enough force to make me lose my grip on the chain links, and fall to the ground.
I turn around and cannot fail to notice that the purse’s zipper is open now; and the last thing I see before red hell is two grinning rows of silver needle teeth chomping and salivating, eager for their meal.

No comments: