by Neil Krolicki

 

Yes, cop negotiator guy barking at me on your bullhorn – I hear you! God!
Between you and the non-stop howling of these panda babies in my pockets (is it cubs?), it’s enough to make me wish I’d never started with this whole lone-gunman scenario. The part the news can never hope to get across over the TV are these hot wafts of air like being breathed down on by an elephant with a dead tusk. Incubated drafts of animal musk and bad milk recirculating through this tight viewing hallway. Not a fan.

Ma’am? Ma’am?! I’m gonna need you to stay seated there like I asked, alright? Yes, I realize it reeks like ass in here, I mean it’s a nursery but it IS still the zoo y’know? Just keep those fingers laced behind your hea-

Sir! Sir!? Do not even think about it, sir! You put that butt back on the floor, mister. We don’t need any heroes here, nobody has to get hurt if… huh?

Of course I know how to work this gun and don’t make me show you! No, I just said DON’T make me show you. Okay fine, tough guy, you pull this sucker back like…. wait.. like… wait… like this!

See, buddy? Bullet in the chamber! Yes the saftey’s…. wait…

NOW it’s off! So back off, man!

No, this wasn’t the plan. But even the ‘plan’ was more bullet-pointy, looking back.

 

  • Acquire handgun from sporting goods store (print and use Groupon for Sporting Goods store)
  • Have salesman show you what kind of bullets to get. And where they go. And how to cock it. And how one generally fires said gun. (could have paid closer attention here).
  • Gun in pocket, enter city zoo grounds in a casual manner. Stay hunched down. Windbreaker collar up. Sunglasses on at all times vigilantly scanning the area in erratic darting looks.
  • Acquire raspberry-lemon shaved ice on orange half. Consume, again ever so casually, as you tread to the nursery.
  • Remove newborn baby pandas from incubator.
  • End of plan.

 

You’ve seen these little jerks on TV. The twin pandas. If you haven’t you need to adjust your vicodin-to-chablis ratio or you don’t watch a hundred hours a week like I do.

What’re you a reader, then?

Nobody reads.

These pandas, they’re the fluff piece the news jams in between that day’s helping of teacher-having-sex-with-underage-student and are-your-elderly-loved-ones-being-fingered-by-their-daycare-handlers? And that’s all well and good, but this countdown.

It’s just too much.

Ma’am!? Ma’am?! Don’t give me a reason, okay?… A reason. A reason to shoot you, what do you think? Well, I apologize for not being clear in my threat.

They don’t even let us ever have these pandas, did you know that? The Chinese? They’re just on loan till they want them back. These pandas don’t even have names yet because Chinese traditions say you can’t name a newborn until they reach one hundred days old. Human or panda. Guess they don’t want to chance blowing a sweet name on some baby if that baby’s just going to bite it ninety-nine days in.

So there’s a countdown.

A cheery graphic of a panda face on every local channel ticking away until these little punk bastards get named. It started small, one-twelfth of the TV screen, maybe. Now it’s ballooned one-eighth. That dumb panda face pushing further and further in on my Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay. How am I supposed to learn how to bake a banana whoopie pie from scratch or grill the perfect goddamn tuscan ribeye with that little black and white bastard in the corner?

It had to stop.

It was just going to be a grab-and-go, just a guy easing in and picking up a couple small animals in front of the two dozen people on the other side of the glass who waited an hour to get in. That’s all! If that one husky nurse in the rainbow scrubs hadn’t smacked that emergency lockdown button with her little rubber-gloved hand there wouldn’t be this whole ‘hostage’ thing.

Oh my god, YES! I heard the cop ask what my demands are! Shut up, I’m thinking on it. No, I didn’t have it all worked out in advance, sir. One thing’s for damn certain that countdown thing is coming off my TV!

Awww, son of a – if these little assholes piss in my windbreaker one more time!

Hey, what’re you all doing? Sit down! I said sit…

Ahhhh, not the face… C’mon.. does EVERYONE have to punch me?

 

Uggh, the choke hold’s unnessisary sir, let’s ease up… here, take the gun, god. And the cubs, yeah whatever.

Okay… we cool?

Have I ever what? Tasted the butt of a gun?

Why would you ask tha-

 

***

 

Neil Krolicki is a Bram Stoker Award nominated writer and illustrator whose stories have appeared in Chuck Palahniuk’s Burnt Tongues, EXPOUND, Here Comes Everyone, ThugLit, Shotgun Honey and Nailed Magazine. He was a semifinalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition. His noir comic ‘120 Doses’ is available now on Comixology.

 

 

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