12 Steps-1)

Arnie pushed his wobbly cart stacked with bulk apple boxes down the aisle with his head hung low. The cheap neon light flickered overhead as a squeaky wheel rotated every half second. When he neared the fruit section there were too many customers swarming the area. Arnie despised this. His two choices were to leave the cart and walk away or to stand there awkwardly. Standing there always meant he’d have to pretend to not be standing awkwardly and also he might be berated with annoying questions.

Within seconds the crowd dispersed and Arnie proceeded to dole out a mountain of honey crisp apples. No one had told him to do so but he felt taking the initiative was a good move. Maybe for once he’d get noticed or better.. even rewarded. His display grew and he took great care in stacking them as high as possible.

Without missing a beat Gary, Arnie’s supervisor, strolled over, chest puffed out as per the norm. “Well, well, well. What do we have here, Bar-vin?” Gary always added a consonant to the front of Arnie’s name and delivered it with heavy emphasis on the first of the two syllables. “Let me show you what happens in a stupid scenario like this where you’ve just wasted company time? Oops.”

Gary grabbed a real shiny one from the bottom of the pile and the hundreds of apples collapsed and rolled everywhere. “Are you gonna just stand there sucking your thumb or are you gonna clean this crap up?!” Gary smiled and walked away, stepping around the many honey crisp that littered the floor.

After picking up the lot of them, just after clocking out Arnie went upstairs to collect his paycheque. Gary was slumped over in his chair, drooling and snoring. Arnie cleared his throat and knocked on the door. Gary choked himself awake. “Dang it boy, you just ruined the best dream of my life! What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Arnie pointed to the envelope sitting on the desk addressed to him. Gary beckoned him to come get it.

Arnie opened it as gently as possible then unfolded the statement inside. “There’s got to be some kind of mistake here. This is nearly three hundred dollars less than what I worked for.” Arnie passed it to Gary. Without touching it Gary responded. “I don’t make mistakes, Gar-vin. You were late that one day. Now get the hell out of here.”

When Arvin got into his apartment he took off his shoes then sat down on a kitchen chair and stared out the window. His face crinkled up and his fist started beating down on the kitchen table harder and harder until he couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and looked at himself in a mirror attached to the fridge. He raised his hand as though to hit himself but he did that thing were you go to shake someone’s hand but you psych them out and run your hand over your hair. Arnie couldn’t hurt a fly.

With ten seconds to go on his tv dinner Arnie grabbed a fork and a napkin then dropped his food tray on his tv table and sat down. He flipped his little tv on and then the place went black accompanied by that little fizzle sound in a power outage. For maybe a minute Arnie just sat there. Similar to that few seconds before the tea kettle whistles or before that little temperature tab pops out on a cooked turkey, Arnie was simmering hard.

He opened his mouth big, as though to let out a scream to end all screams but nothing came out. No sound, no air. Nothing. He gently moved his tv table, put on his shoes and grabbed his coat.

Just up the street was a brightly lit Toys R Us and inside he went. Arnie went straight to the toy gun section. Nerf.. no. Water guns.. negative. Assault rifle.. maybe too much. Hand guns.. boom. He picked out the most real looking one, in his mind anyway.

He ran the scenario in his mind over and over. The liquor store up the road has taken thousands of his dollars and have given him poison in return. Now it was his turn, time to take back. No one would stop him. It’s pay back time. But on his way there, maybe a block and a half before it, was what looked like a mini-church. On the front there was a sign that read “AA meeting tonight”. Nothing more and nothing less.

This sign was now becoming a sign in Arnie’s mind, beckoning him to maybe the one place he should be. Maybe instead of redemption upon the liquor merchant Arnie could find redemption in his heart. With the toy gun in his back pocket he pushed on the door and stepped inside the church.

Sitting before him was a small room with a big table and seated on the twelve or so chairs were all women. It took him a second or so to register what he had walked in on. “Excuse me sir, can I help you?” One stout woman asked, still seated and staring at him, as the lot were.

Arnie fidgeted and scratched his head. “Well I was walking by and I felt sorta called, if you will, to come inside.” A couple of women laughed as did the stout talker. “This is for woman only sir. You’re going to have to leave. Now.” She pointed towards the exit.

“Well see I was about to do something really bad and I thought coming here was a smarter option.” Arnie stammered a bit, feeling his stress-o’meter rising again. “Sir I don’t give a good donkey damn what you’re standing there saying. Get out!” Some of the women began to stand up as though to defend their ground.

As though in a dream Arnie yelled out. “Alright, that’s friggin it!” He reached into his back pocket and brandished his kid pistol, waving the barrel around wildly from woman to screaming woman. He pointed to the stout one. “You. Go lock the front doors and turn off some of these lights. We’re going to be spending some time together after all.”

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