Switched Sides by Robert Ragan

I’m standing in line at the Kangaroo Circle with a pink can of Seagram’s Spiked Jamaican Me Happy. Two of the cashiers are talking about someone who just robbed the store and drove off in a black Explorer.
Sure enough, two cops walk in the door wearing vests all in black.
Immediately, my heart skips a beat and I patted my pockets expecting to feel my glass bowl and an eighth of loud called Birthday Cake.
I’m relieved to have nothing on me.
I get high at home but don’t carry it everywhere with me anymore.

In a way, I’ve turned into a law-abiding citizen.
I listen to these two women tell these cops what happened and I say to myself, whoever you are I hope you get away with this. I’m pulling for you even if I give a fuck now and try to stay out of trouble.
Trust me, I once won ‘Petty Thief of the Year.’ I’d go in your car and steal all the change out of your center console.

I once was shot at after spotting a double-barreled shotgun in the back window of some old rednecks’ truck. Of course, he was smart enough to lock his doors. I stood there for a good twenty minutes trying to pick the lock with a knife. When the lights on the balcony came on, I started running and felt gunshots hit the ground near my feet. I spent the rest of the night ducked down hiding in the woods.
The good ‘ole boys teamed up with local hick cops to finally catch this bastard who’s been stealing everything not bolted down. They shined spotlights through the woods up and down the road but never got me that night.
I was in a small town doing small-time shit. But in my mind, I had a pistol and was out committing violent armed robberies. I even saw myself stab people.
I once imagined myself with a gun in each hand, and sticking the barrels to someone’s eyeballs and pull both triggers at the same time.
Did they or did they not see it coming?
What I always wanted to do the most was strangle someone.

Sadly, I didn’t have the heart to do any of this.
All these gory things in my head and I couldn’t even hold an unloaded pistol on a little old lady.
I sat in the car disgusted at the low lives I was with. I broke the law, but there were codes I didn’t break.
Still, you can bet your ass I helped them spend every dime of the older woman’s social security check she’d just cashed.
So, I wasn’t the one to pull a home invasion with guns blazing. It’s okay, I’d just wait till they left home and break-in. That was really better for both of us. I could take whatever I wanted, and nobody had to get hurt.
At the same time, I know the real money is in the bank and someone may have to be home to go make a late-night withdrawal.
There are so many contradictions in the game. Most times, you have to play every situation differently.
Listen to me…
Nowadays, I hold doors open for people. Last week I helped an older woman on a walker cross the street with traffic coming.
I’m an all-around good guy these days as long as my mind is obliterated on drugs and alcohol.
Still, I don’t have a problem.
Sometimes you see me drinking, then you don’t.
Sometimes I sniff pills, but I can stop anytime I want.
You see me smoking the best marijuana. And then you…well no, you always see me smoking that shit. If not, I’m somewhere raging at the world.
Having a job is the only thing that keeps my head above water, and I feel like I’m drowning there every day.

No matter how tough it gets I know I have to do it…working is the only thing that keeps me out of people’s shit.

They can leave their car doors, even the front door of their homes unlocked. Somebody might get you but nobody can say I did it.

A couple of years ago someone stole a car a town over from mine. Whoever it was terrorized the community.

The prints of a size 12 Reebok Classic were on front doors all over the neighborhood. Said three of them would storm inside and demand these people to give up everything they had.
They swore I was in on that shit! Too violent for me to mastermind, but I had to be in on it.
Funny how at the same time this was going on someone stole a honeybun and Twix bar at the store near my house.
Wouldn’t you know they swear that was me!
I’m like, I know they have cameras they’ve caught me stealing on them before.

This time the film proved I was innocent.
Hell, I know the three goons who went on that robbing spree, and I know who stole the snacks from the store.
I may be on the straight and narrow, but I was still pulling for them.
Just like I’m pulling for whoever robbed the Kangaroo Circle tonight.
I may have switched sides, but I’ll always be a criminal piece of shit at heart.

Bio: Robert Ragan, from Lillington NC, lives his life for art and writing. He has stories and poetryonline at Vext Magazine, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, and Terror House Magazine. Alien Buddha Press had published his short story collection “Mannequin Legs and Other Tales.

Robert Ragan