Thursday, February 2


"Attention Barnes and Noble customers, the time is now 8:45. Our store will be closing in fifteen minutes. Please make your final selection and head to the register."

This is my cue to squat down behind the shelf marked "Computer and Technology" and look absorbed in the latest edition of XHTML for Dummies. The remaining stragglers, a few tweens in the Graphic Novel section that are trying way too hard to be different, begin to file down the stairs to the first floor and the long counter full of registers. Behind each register is a grim-eyed employee, smiling as hard as they can manage in this economy. They may hate their jobs and every customer they have to deal with, but they love that meager paycheck.

Heath is in the queue for the fifth register. The girl he's crushing on, Tish? She's six people ahead in the line, same as every Tuesday night for the past two months. I've watched every time. They always run into each other in the Science Fiction section. Once, Tish's hand lingered on a copy of Heretics of Dune just a few extra seconds, long enough for Heath to reach awkwardly for the same one and brush her fingers with his. This is what they do instead of dates. Neither of them are socially competent enough to even ask the other's name, let alone invite them for a cup of coffee, or Christ, to raid a dungeon with the other's guild.

It's okay, though. It's Valentine's Day, and Cupid is here for them.

I hunch behind the shelf and make a few necessary adjustments to the pistol crossbow in my coat. Ten minutes. If any employees are going to make a final round of the upstairs before closing, this is usually the time. I pull out a copy of Javascript and JQuery and bury my face in it, trying not to giggle at the stilted writing. I wonder who gets hired to write these things. Engineers, probably.

I read some incomprehensible programming instruction for five minutes, waiting for the next closing announcement. No one else wanders by, so I pull out my lovely little crossbow and take aim. I am a very good shot.

I have excellent timing, today--chubby, spotty Tish crumples lumpily to the floor just as her turn comes, and when Heath hikes up his ill-fitting pants to run to her side, I put my second gold-tipped bolt in his head. He falls flat on his face next to her instead, his sweaty hands flung out to her even as he's begun the involuntary shaking and jerking that follows massive brain trauma.

People are screaming and ducking for cover, but I've already made it down the stairs on the opposite side. I put my hands to my face and yell, "Oh my God," a few times. That gets me to the side of the building with the cafe exit, and no one's watching me anymore. They're watching Heath and Tish bleed out in unison, hearts pumping as one, together forever.

I adjust my coat and start whistling discreetly, but it's just too good, so I start to sing softly. "I've got you under my skin, hmm hmm hmm, I've got you deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me..." I even do a little soft shoe to the Sinatra in my head on my way out the door.

True love is such a beautiful thing, I think to myself. I amble through the parking lot, in search of the next lucky couple.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "At a Barnes and Noble book store in Daily, Georgia, Heath Dipolo is standing in line behind Tish Bejerano. Have them fall in love in 600 words." and I challenged M. Hunter with 
"'C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent!
Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas;
Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,
sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent.'

--Charles Baudelaire, 'Au Lecteur'"