Cosmic Flash - Chapter 1: The Volvo

It was 1987.

Zach hadn't had any sleep in the last twenty-four hours and by the time he stepped out of the 7-Eleven with the twelve pack of Budweiser under his arm, he could tell that he wasn't going to be partying as hard as his friends back at the Frat House.  It wasn't like he had any plans to anyway.  He reached up and pushed his glasses to his forehead as he rubbed his drowsy eyes delicately.  At that exact moment, a patron happened to be crossing over the sidewalk that Zach stood on, knocking him off the pavement and onto the concrete beside it.  The beer nearly slipped from his grasp as he stumbled over into the lot, his spectacles slipping from his head and onto the ground.

"Hey, watch where you're going," Zach snapped, reaching down to pick up his glasses.  The man who'd bumped him out of the way gave Zach a nasty look before turning and heading into the 7-Eleven behind him.  Zach turned back to his glasses, which had a few minor scratches around the edge of the lenses but were otherwise unscathed.  He put them back onto his face and walked to the front seat of his old Volvo, popping the trunk from the lever under the steering wheel.  With it open, he walked to the back and dropped the twelve pack in, closing it behind him.  Taking an exhausted sigh, he looked down at his watch.  It was 6:30pm.  He could spare some time before he headed back.  He needed to make a phone call.

Zach walked across the parking lot of the convenient store and headed over to the payphone by the road.  His cellphone's batteries were out of power and after dropping it several times in the past and having to toy with it constantly to get it to maintain a simple phone call for longer than five minutes, he was tired of fussing with it anyway.  It seemed to be a waste of money at this point.  Another dollar in Capital Hill's pocket, Zach thought dismally.  He headed to the empty phone booth across from him and stepped in, sticking a quarter into the slot and dialing the number, then waited patiently as he lounged on the glass of the booth, blinking his eyes excessively to get rid of the heavy fatigue he felt in his eyelids.

"Hello?" A voice on the other line answered.

"Yeah, it's me," Zach greeted.  "You called me earlier?"

"Much earlier, boy," the tone of a gruff masculine man growled on the other end.  "Where have you been?"

"Around, dad," Zach said with a loss of patience.  "Look, I've got somewhere to be so can you please make this quick?"

"Don't you start getting smart with me, Zach," his father said threateningly.  "You make time for me, you understand?  I took you in, I can take you out."

Zach snorted humorlessly.  "Yeah, like I haven't heard that one before."

"What was that?"

"Nothing.  Dad, seriously, what did you want?"

Zach's father hesitated.  "I need you to send some more money."

Zach sighed.  "How much?"

"Just $300.  I'll pay you back as soon as I can."

"You know you still owe me that $500 that you gambled away last month, right?"

"I know, I've got you on that too.  I haven't forgotten."

"Wait," Zach started.  "Don't you also owe me an extra $80 from that loss in Tampa?"

Zach's father sighed with annoyance.  "Yes.  I owe you that too."

"Dad, why are you draining money for me when you've got your own?  You know how things are right now.  Money is already tight as it is.  I'm working extra hours at the Bakery just to keep up and its interfering with my studying."

"What're you working extra hours for?  You barely have anything you need to spend money on.  You live in your car, all you eat is cheap stuff"-

"And I have a crap load of friends who mooch off of me the same way you do and don't pay back a dime just like you do too"-

"You watch your tone around me, Zach.  You understand?"

Zach shook his head and scowled off from the receiver before answering.  "Yes sir."

"Now just do it, Zach, you know I'm good for it."

"Alright, whatever.  I'll wire it to you this weekend-"

"I need it tomorrow," Zach's father responded.

"I can't send it tomorrow.  I need to go grocery shopping and I promised my girlfriend I'd take her out tomorrow.  I get paid this weekend, I'll send it on Saturday."

"I need it tomorrow, Zach," his father repeated sternly.

"Dad, I just told you, I can't get it to you tomorrow"-

"Zach," his father said loudly, almost shouting.  "I NEED it.  Tomorrow."

Zach finally softened when he realized what his father was hinting at him.  He shut his eyes slowly in frustration and swallowed hard.  "Dad....did you get yourself on somebody's bad side?"

There was silence on the other line.  "They're sending loan sharks to collect tomorrow."

"Son of a bitch," Zach replied, shaking his head.

"I said, watch your mouth, boy-"

"What the hell were you thinking, dad?  How many times do you have to learn your lesson before you realize that you've got a problem?"

"Don't give me that crap, son.  I know I screwed up, okay?  I can fix it, just send me the money tomorrow and it'll all be done."

"Will it really?  Or will I get another phone call from the cops telling me that another one of my foster parents was killed because of some street thug mafia bullshit."

Zach's father hesitated.  "You...put a lot of emphasis on 'foster,' you know?"

"Well that's what you are, aren't you?"

"Yeah but I thought your mom meant more than that to you."

"She did, dad," Zach responded, reserving his frustration a bit.  "But you getting back into this mess is starting to remind me why she's gone in the first place.  I'll get the money to you by tomorrow morning.  Clear this mess up and I don't want to get another call about this gambling bullshit anymore from now on."

"Don't treat me like I'm a child, Zach.  When I say its not going to happen again, its not going to happen again, okay?"

"You should stop getting so defensive when I start talking to you like I'm an adult, because that's what I am now, no matter how much you want to deny it.  I figured you'd have figured that out when I started bailing you out every few weeks."

"You know what, once I get this money, I don't think we're going to be talking too often afterward."

"Yeah, looking forward to it," Zach said with force before slamming the phone down on the reciever.  It wasn't the first time he'd fallen out with his father and it certainly seemed like it wouldn't be the last.  Just before Zach could take a sigh of relief or anguish or any variation thereof, he spotted out of the corner of his eye the same man that had brushed his way past him on the sidewalk, rushing out of the 7-Eleven with a thick burlap bag under his arm.  Inside the store, the cashier was moving about frantically.  As the man made his way into the parking lot, his eyes darted back and forth, spotting the car nearest to him, which just happened to be Zach's Volvo.  "Oh boy," Zach muttered as he watched the scene unfold before him.

Sure enough, the man sprinted for the Volvo and reached back with a gloved fist, driving it into the driver's window of the front seat.  It shattered immediately.  Zach swore under his breath and tumbled out of the phone booth, sprinting across the parking lot for his car, which was currently being jacked by this fleeing convenient store robber.

"Hey!  Hey!" Zach shouted at the top of his lungs as he booked it toward the vehicle, just as the robber had hotwired it to life.  Pulling back on the gear, he put it in reverse and began to whip the Volvo out of its parking spot.  Zach made it to the car just in time to reach into the window, just as the Volvo began to pull off the lot.  Zach was dragged along by the window, stepping quickly alongside the vehicle as he grabbed hold of the robber, who's eyes were wide with fear as he tried desperately to knock Zach away.  Zach reared back and punched the robber in the face as hard as he could several times before his legs began to drag across the pavement.  Zach kept his sight ahead to make sure that if they were headed on a path with some kind of obstruction ahead, he'd know when to let go.  He kept his hands in front of the driver's face to obscure his vision and force him to lose control of the wheel.  Before long, Zach's grip began to weaken and he felt himself sliding off of the Volvo's window.  Soon, he was forced to let go, tumbling off onto the road as the Volvo began to speed away.  The robber leaned out of the window to see Zach scrambling to his feet....only to feel his body lurch forward violently and the airbag spring from the steering wheel, smashing itself against his face.  The Volvo collided with a nearby telephone pole a few feet from the convenient store, causing its front hood to bend upward slightly and its front bumper to cave in.

Zach stood up from where he lay in the middle of the street and sprinted to the sidewalk to avoid the oncoming traffic.  He steadily limped towards the crash site and leaned in to the driver's side of the car.  He could see that the thief was completely disoriented and wasn't about to flee anywhere anytime soon.  In a fit of rage, Zach reared back and struck the thief in the face twice before pulling open the car door and ripping him from the seat.  Zach tossed the thief onto the ground aggressively and watched him squirm away.

"Stay where you are," Zach growled angrily as the thief stopped moving and stared up at him with timid eyes.

"Look," he stammered nervously.  "I-I'm sorry, okay?  I just needed the money."

"I don't give a damn what you needed.  NOBODY gets away with my car!"

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