Ren and Chuck weren’t Mormons. Not as they walked along the sidewalk in short-sleeved button downs and black slacks in the thick of summer. Not with their trimmed haircuts, or Ren with his black Buddy Holly glasses and shoulder strap bag. Not as they carried stolen bibles Ren had lifted from a hotel room. Not even close.

“The ladder to heaven?” Ren shook his head. He’d been good and worked up since he woke up and found there was no coffee left in their tiny studio apartment near the overpass. So it was off to Starbucks. And since he was up Chuck was up, and since they were both up they might as well get some work in along the way. Check on a few prospects, Ren had said.

Now the pair hurried away from a ranch style house where a scowling old man made no secret of watching them from the window. Chuck shrugged.

“What’d I say wrong?”

“It’s Latter Day Saints. L-A-T-T-E-R. As in later. After. My God you’re an idiot.”

When Ren like that it was best to just let him vent. But it was plenty hot enough outside without all of his huffing. Too hot for coffee too, he thought. But Ren always drank funny things.

“I’ve told you before. I’ll do the talking. You are never to speak.”

Chuck shrugged. Fine.” Let’s just go get your coffee, okay?”

He was kind of hoping to get a croissant out of the deal, considering Ren had that gift card he’d plucked from a purse last week. Overall, Chuck liked this Mormon gig the best. The walking, the dressing nice. The ties. Everything but the conning and stealing.

Walking in there was a line, and this made Ren huff some more. He tapped Chuck on the chest.

“I gotta piss. Hold our spot and no talking, okay?”

Chuck nodded. Even through his moods, Chuck listened to Ren. Ren was a guy with ideas. It was Ren who’d helped Chuck get through juvie, got him out of juvie. Ren always had the next move and together they’d been through three states. Lots of camping and side jobs and schemes but so far they hadn’t starved.

So Chuck stood in line. Quietly. He liked the jazz music, it went nice with the air conditioning. He stared outside, at the lazy traffic. He bobbed along. He hardly paid attention to the guy who entered, then brushed past him and into that nice family up front. The guy who pulled a gun on the nice little girl at the register.

Chuck didn’t think that was very nice. He eyed the bathrooms, wishing Ren would hurry. Chuck shuffled his feet. He didn’t like this guy with the gun. That poor girl was crying and carrying on as she opened that register. Chuck couldn’t stand to see a crying kid. It reminded him of things he’d rather not to think about. But this guy with the gun, waving it at people.

He needed to be reminded of some manners.

Later, after the interview with the TV people, Chuck and Ren were walking off, back towards the apartment but Ren was all worked up again.

“Really Chuck, you got mud in your brains. You really do.”

Chuck thought Ren would be happy. He’d done good. The crying little girl had hugged him. The manager gave them free coffee for a year. That reporter sure had made a fuss over them too, even called them heroes. But Ren, he was grousing all over again. Couldn’t be pleased for nothing.

“What’d I do now?”

Ren stopped in his tracks. Just stopped and looked like he wanted to reach up and slap him.

“You said we were prostituting.”


He tapped his temples. “It’s proselytizing dummy. Proselytizing the word.”

“Like when you get a fake arm or something?”

Ren walked off, leaving Chuck smiling in the heat. He’d stopped the bad man though. And that was all that mattered to him.


–Pete Fanning/2016


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