In a Flash

Ricky was through with it, through with it all. He’d been railroaded in the courtroom. Couldn’t see his kids. Denise refused his calls. Now she wanted more money.

Well, he’d show her.

He knew she was up at the lake for the weekend, getting the most out of that two hundred a week he was doling out. Ricky had reason to believe Denise already was seeing someone, least from what he’d heard at the lodge.

He took the gravel lot, parking his F150 behind the trees. He stepped out and crept around, only to find a brand new shiny Master lock on his own tool shed. Well wasn’t that something?

Ricky found a cinderblock, the one he used to use as a brake for his boat trailer, the boat he’d had to sell so he could lawyer up. He’d loved that boat, and lot of good it had done him selling it, his lawyer had turned out to be dumber than dirt. He bashed the lock a few times, until the old block crumbled like dirt in his hands when he missed on the fifth whack at it–Yeeooweee!–hit his thumb square on the nail.

Enough of this. Enough of Denise locking up his things, taking the kids, telling them God knows what and living in the house he’d built in the woods. Well, maybe he didn’t build it, but he had made payments, some, when he was working. Still, it was as much his place as hers.

Ricky started for the truck, ready to drive off, get a drink and cool down some, when the bathroom window caught his eye. It was propped open a few inches. Ricky glanced around, the nearest neighbor was old man Willis, about a football field away. Through the trees and brush all he could see was a bit of beige through the leaves.

Ricky gave it some thought. He flipped over the five-gallon bucket, stepped on it with is boot to test it, then he took a breath and heaved himself upwards. Ricky fell forwards, reaching for the window sill when he heard something give, something plastic, something … bucket sounding.

The bucket caved just as Ricky got his right hand on the window. For one, maybe two seconds he was awfully proud of himself for hanging on. At least ’til his slippery fingers, anchored by his not-quite proportional 240 pounds, lost their grip on the vinyl window sill.

Ricky landed on his back, on the bucket. High above, a woodpecker cackled.

Now he was mad. Mad enough to shoulder in the door and get revenge proper. Mad enough to—wait–was that a gas can?

Hornets in his head. An angry buzzing took over his thoughts. Ricky grabbed the canister–one of those newer ones–and checked to be sure his lighter was in his pockets. He was done. Done with Denise getting whatever she wanted. Done with his paycheck being docked. Done with lawyers and damn sure done with judges.

The canister was full. One of those shiny red ones with the safety caps. Ricky took it from under the deck and started around back. He fiddled with the nozzle, ready to douse the whole house.

Nothing.

Aw jeez. You had to have a college degree to operate one of these things. He tried again, grunting and sweating now as he shook the canister. His back screamed. He pressed the little lever thing, tilted the canister so that it took a deep breath. A drop of gas.

For the next ten minutes, Ricky cursed and twisted, clicked and tilted. He tried to twist/turn/tilt and time it right. The lever, the breath of air, the dribble of gas. He got so mad he kicked the canister over, still, not a drop. Eventually, Ricky wrestled the nozzle off altogether. There. He set the thing down, wiped his hands. He was covered in a cologne of sweat and unleaded.

He figured he’d have a smoke and calm down. This was crazy after all.

***

Ricky showed up to court wearing two mittens on his hands. The head bandage covered his left eye and kept him off balance. His smug little lawyer tapped his foot as the deputies led him to the banister, where Ricky figured he’d try to explain his way out of the attempted arson charge. Thing was, by then it was all over the papers, the news, those stupid mugshot magazines on the racks at the gas station. Third Degree: Ricky Turner, the dumbest criminal in Maycomb. 

The boat, the tool shed, the kids, the house. All Ricky could remember was a flash before all went black. Now he thinking, or hoping rather, that maybe, just maybe, the judge might see things his way. But as “all rise” time summoned the courtroom to their feet, Ricky watched in disbelief, as a female judge entered from the side door, took one look at him and smirked.

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