I grabbed the plate with one hand, the dishtowel in the other. Resentfully, I ran the damp towel over the slippery, white plate, half-conscious of the late new blaring in the next room.
"The manager of a Mr. Quick convenient store was fatally wounded in an attempted armed robbery around 8:00 tonight." Like in the movies, the plate slid from my hand, floating toward the floor. The crash reverberating in my ears, I watched the pieces bounce up only to clatter into smaller and smaller pieces as they hit the floor. With robot-like movements I got my purse, feeling for the cold metal of my car keys. My mind was racing. 'Mike's the only manager that works at night. Did he say fatal? Maybe it was a Seven-Eleven, not a Mr. Quik. Maybe it was the cook, not the manager.'
The car complained with groans and sputters from being awakened and put into gear before it had time to warm up. Thank God after years, driving becomes a mechanical response.
Mike and I had co-managed a store when I worked for Mr. Quik. All the fighting over differences of opinion had served to strengthen the blond between us. He always referred to me as his "better half," but he was by far the better of the two. He was a good man. He went out of his way for his fellow man. Like the time J.C. was six dollars short of the amount of his purchase. Mike told him just to bring it by when he had the extra money, and Mike put the six dollars in the register from his own pocket. J.C. never had "extra" money and Mike knew that.
I could see the lights from the store now. There was Mike's orange and white GTO. And I could see Reese, the supervisor, and all these people standing around like a bad spirit had cast a spell on them, filling their limbs with sand so they could barely move.
Stumbling from the car, I shoved my way through the crowd, calling Mike's name, praying that I would hear that funny "Bay St. Louis" accent saying "Hey Sher, what's up." But the voice never came. The shocked response on the faces of the people I pasted while calling his name knotted my stomach like a vice squeezing my insides dry. "No, it couldn't have been Mike," I though, "why would God be so cruel as to take away my best friend?"
Went I reached Jerry, I saw his lips form the words, "It was Mike." I never actually heard the words. What I did hear was the gravel, making grating sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard as my feet slid out from under me. I saw the ground getting closer. A horrible scream pierced the hushed voices; everyone looked at me. Was that my voice which sounded like a banshee in the night, out of control and mourning?
I saw Mother kneel beside me, or was I dreaming, she was fuzzy and hazy. She knew Mike and I were close friends. I heard voices in the distance; she was speaking with someone. Someone took my
arm and with cold fingers pushed up my sleeve. I felt a small prick, but no pain, as I became aware that the man who held my arm so tenderly was a paramedic.
It seemed like an eternity later my senses dulled even more. I could feel nothing but my eyelids struggling against the weight. Everything was growing gray, like the dusk moving in on me; then black. I felt peacefully silly. How long since I had slept. It felt like days. I was slipping down, down into the darkness. Was I dying too? I hoped so. Maybe I would see Mike there.
I wrote this in January 1979 as an assignment for an ENG 101 class in college.. It took me almost three years before I could put it on paper. Michael Alexander Romanoff was shot and killed in an attempted-armed robbery on May 29, 1976. He was only 22 years young. Several months later, Charles Sylvester Bell was arrested for the murder of Danny Montgomery, the owner of another convenient store. Bell was convicted and sentenced to death in Montgomery's death, and was sentenced to life in prison for Mike's murder. As far as I know, Bell still resides on death row in Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi. Two of my children bear Mike's name in his memory - my son, Jeremy Michael, and my daughter Alexandria Kristine.