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  April 2007
volume 5 number 1
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  Lynne Bronstein
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Lynne Bronstein
April 2007
   

 

bio


art by jared barbick

    Lynne Bronstein spent many years in the Santa Monica-Venice area and supported herself as a journalist while contributing to the literary community with four books, poems and short stories in numerous magazines, readings, and organizing poetry events. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Awards and her short story "Why Me?" won a prize in the poeticdiversity Short Fiction Contest.

   

 

Why Me

It feels cold against my chin. It is cold in this car. Are we going to move? They are staring through the windows and someone just took my picture. What is this, a zoo? The police must be nearby but they cant get over here. The crowd is preventing it. This crowd makes a lot of noise. They are watching us; it is a show. I wonder if we are on television. They always put things like this on television.
They are taking pictures, of me in my black sweater and my hair just hanging and this cold gun pressed under my chin. It hurts. And because he has the gun just so, the police wont stop us because, because, because the man will pull the trigger if the police move in. I am a hostage.
I think we are beginning to move now. The man in the front seat has his hands on the wheel. We are going to drive through here. The man in the front has just put a cassette in the car stereo. Its an album by the Police. Yes, I wait for the police lower case and they play the Police upper case, wrong police but the song could be an omen, rescue me, rescue me, somebody tear through this crowd and pull me out of this situation and dont let his gun go off. It is cold and sticks in my chin. Im thinking about the bullet if it goes in. No, at any moment, I will be no more. The bang will be the last Ill hear. I mustnt think that is going to happen. I must pretend this will turn out okay. If I believe, the bullet will not blow off my head and the man with the gun will fade away.
When the world keeps running down, you make the best of whats still around. I would sing along with that, but I dont think Im allowed to sing. I am going to try to hum. Hmm. "Shut up back there," says the man in the front seat. The other man with the gun sticks the barrel further into my chin. I think I cant breathe.
Try to look out the car windows. I just see faces of people I dont know, a noisy crowd, dark buildings, stores. I dont recognize the area. We are miles from where this began. It was a regular Saturday and I was behind the counter at the bank. The men came in and grabbed me. They robbed the bank and took me. They could have just robbed the bank but they took me so they could drive on and on and have no police daring to come after them because the man is holding a gun to my chin. Justice is not being served because of me.
I am not going to think about why they took me.
If I dont think about it, I will live and this will all be over soon.
I am going to live. He will never pull the trigger. He isnt that stupid.
He wont pull the trigger while the gun is under my chin. I dont think thats how they shoot people. I never see anyone shot that way in the movies. Not until-not unless-they struggle or run. I dont know what they really do. Ive never been in this situation before. I never held a gun in my hand. I saw a boy at school with a gun; he said it wasnt loaded. I dont look at guns in the movies. I will pretend this gun isnt loaded. It might not be. It might all be just for show. Its just a threat.
My stomach is cold, very cold. I think I may have lost control of my insides. I will press my thighs together, just in case. Each time I swallow, I feel a big lump going down. My breath is going through my body like a cold sword. It all hurts.
But it will all be over soon. He isnt going to shoot me. They are just trying to get away and then theyll let me go. Or if they dont, I ll wait until theres a moment, like if they have to get out of the car, and then Ill run. But maybe not. If they see me run, they may shoot.
Maybe I could make friends with them. But not that way. Oh God, no. I think this man next to me is the ugliest man I have ever seen. His hair looks greasy. He is smoking. He must smoke all the time; the smell of smoke clings to him. Now he is starting to tell a dirty joke. The man in front tells him to shut up. Nobody talks to me. Its lonely and boring. The man in front drives and doesnt sing, hum, whistle, or pay much attention to the Police cassette. He takes it out and puts in a cassette by an electronic group. The man next to me mutters an obscenity. Then he says:
"Youre taking the wrong road."
"Shut up," says the man in the front.
"Cant you say anything else," says the man next to me.
"Theres no more towns for a few miles this way."
"I need some more cigarettes," says the man next to me. For a second, I feel the barrel of the gun pressed less tightly to my face. The man is preoccupied with his lack of cigarettes.
"Youll do without them, for now."
"I tell you I want more cigarettes, I need more cigarettes. I gotta have them. Go the other way, man."
I hate the smell of the smoke but now I am praying that the man in the front will take the other mans need seriously so they will drive to a place where they will get out and maybe I can escape.
Look out the window. We are in the country now. It looks brighter. It is late afternoon now, I think. Some houses here and there, a field, a golden field.
We seem to be stopping.
No, were just slowing down.
No, stopping. The man in the front gets out. The other man continues to hold the gun against me. I think the driver is relieving himself. The other man gestures with his free hand. "Give me the gun," says the driver. Briefly, I experience the sensation of no gun under my chin, but now the gun is being held by the driver. He is kneeling on the car seat while the man whos been holding the gun gets out and turns away from us. He starts to say something and the driver cuts him off. I think he was going to suggest that they make me watch but the driver doesnt want any of that. He sticks the gun against my cheek. I close my eyes. "Open your eyes," he says. I am afraid and do as he says. I have to look at the black stubble on his face up close. His breath hits me in the face, warm but stale. I hear a rasping when he breathes.
Then he surprises me. "You like to sing?" he says.
I nod. "Sing us a song," he says. He holds the gun toward my chest, now. The man from the back seat is watching us outside. He gets into the front seat.
I begin to sing an old German ballad I learned in school. The stubble-face shakes his head. "Sing pop," he says. "Rock and roll. American junk." I begin to sing a Police song, in English. "Every Breath You Take." "Not American, English," groans the other man.
"English-American-theyre all scumbags," says the stubble-face.
"How much English you know? Eh?" says the man in the front seat. "You know more songs in English?"
"You know songs in Italian maybe?" says the stubble-face. "You stop that and sing in Italian."
"Maybe you can sing a dirty sailor song," says the man in the front.
Stubble-face snaps at him with his free hand. The man in the front makes a face at me, teeth bared, tongue out. Then he makes a kissing sound at me.
I forget the words. I stop-I cant go on even if this means the gun will go off. My thighs are wet. A tear runs down my cheek. Now I am not so afraid they will kill me as that they will rape me. Or make me take off my clothes and still sing. Or make me touch them and do things to them. Or that they will ask me dirty questions about what I want to do to rock stars. I can read their thoughts. They are filthy men. Why would they take me otherwise.
I am eighteen. I live in Cologne. I have never been anywhere else. I am a year out of school. Yes, I touch up my natural blonde hair. I am a bank teller. I would rather be a singer but maybe I cant be a singer. I have dated a few boys. Its none of their business whether or not I am a virgin. Either way, I would never touch them. The gun is going to kill me because I am not going to touch them.
The man in the front says I am stupid and leaves it at that. He says he wants to drive for a while. So the car starts up again and now Stubble-face holds the gun to the top of my head, not too close.
How can anyone hold it there for so long. Does his hand cramp up? My neck is stiff. I am hungry and thirsty and my panties are soaked and the gun is starting to be the least of my concerns. Its so monotonous. I am used to the sensation now. I do not believe this man will shoot me either. I am not going to die. I think I could manage this for the rest of my life-or a few more hours. I suppose that if God said to me that for the rest of my life I would have to sit with the barrel of a gun stuck to my face and not going off, I could live with it as long as I knew I would stay alive. But I would always be looking at the gun and expecting it to go off anyway, somehow. So there would be the suspense to relieve the boredom.
We are driving through a town again and people are standing by the side of the road and waving and cheering. Who are they waving and cheering for? I see TV cameras. Some people have signs. They seem to be cheering the two men I am with. How could they? What about me? I turn to the window and there are some people waving at me, too. I see someone holding up a sign with a photo of me, cut from a newspaper. I am in the news, then. We are in the news. We are a band on the run. I hear people chanting my name. The driver waves to the people. Where are the stupid police? They arent coming to my rescue. They wont get near our car. Theyre afraid of these two men I am with.
Our car stops. People hand the driver objects-beer cans, cigarettes, food, newspapers. The men accept all these presents of survival and the car starts up and speeds away. Later, they stop in a field. They eat and I get nothing. I have to watch them eat. Finally, one of the men gives me a small bag of chips. I eat them, first slowly, because my mouth is so dry, and then I grab a bunch and stuff them in my mouth. They give me a sip of beer. It drips down my face. The men laugh-I never heard them laugh before. The greasy-haired driver laughs in short bursts and the Stubble-face laughs once, just a "Ha!" And then were off again. I want to fall asleep but can I sleep with the gun still next to me? The gun held to my head is my life now. I am afraid that soon, if they command me to put it in my mouth and lick it, I might just do that.
If I get out of this, I am going to become a singer. Last summer, I met this boy and he thought I sang well. He said I should come to the club where he worked and he would talk to the owner and I could sing with the house band. I know I can sing. You just dont ask me to sing when Im scared. What do you expect?
We are slowing down again.
We have stopped.
The man in front is getting out.
He is holding up his hands. He is screaming at someone.
I think maybe its the police. At last. I cant see where they are.
The man with the gun is holding it to the side of my head. He tells me to get out of the car and walk.
Oh, God, no.
I cant move.
"Get up!" he barks. I get up and get out, the gun never far from my head. I begin to walk. I see a barrier ahead on the road. The police seem to have cleared the road. I cant hear what the police megaphone is saying because the blood is pounding in my ears.
I see the man who had been guarding me and later was driving, holding up his hands, but suddenly he begins to run. He tries to run off the side of the road. I hear a shot.
I duck down by the side of the car. The man with the gun grabs me by the hair. He is yelling at me. He pushes the gun right under my chin again. He makes me ge tup and pushes me in front of him and we go to face the police. He is screaming and the police megaphone is screaming. It is all noise. The police have their guns ready but they cannot shoot a hostage.
They cannot.
I have heard a shot; I know these guns are real and their bullets can kill. I think this is the end. It will be over in a flash. I will be hit. It will happen so fast I will not know what it really feels like. It will all go black.
It will not happen! Nobody will dare! No one can shoot me! There is a beautiful golden field over there. I am going to run to it.
I am running.
The
Beautiful golden field
Is right over
there.

copyright 2006 Lynne Bronstein