I walked out through the sliding doors to be met by a dying man heaped on the blacktop.
In October of 1998 I stood beside the reaper man for the first time. The banality of it all struck me as everything seemed like such a natural thing. The whoop of approaching sirens seemed a perfect auditory backdrop to the perfect quietness of the dying in front of me. There was even too little blood to seem real.
My fridge was going on empty. So I made a list; Eggs, Bananas, Flour, Orange Juice, Tuna, Bagels, TP, and more that you usually get at Wal-Mart. It was a perfectly ordinary day, like a Wednesday or a Thursday. A bit of a chill in the air, biking season ending, school picking up the pace. Thoughts of some girl while letting my mind avoid important tasks. Turning leaves and rainy nights. But maybe all things really do change on ordinary days.
The shots rang out loud, startling the people in the parking lot. From around the painted Crown Vic. The police car which until now hadn't registered with anyone around it. Two shots fired, two slugs hitting a body at point blank range.
Of this I see nothing, hear nothing. I'm on my way from picking Orange Juice from the store's cooler to the check out. One of those that say "20 Items or Less" badly printed in black marker. Going through the old dance of buying groceries with a cashier who dutifully says "How Are You" and "Have a Nice Day" while thinking "GodImSoBoredIThinkICouldDie" every time. Print check. Sign check. Pick up bags and leave. Through the sliding doors of the east entrance of the Warrensburg Wal-Mart.
I'm met by approaching sirens in the parking lot. By dying and the reaper man standing on the side. Waiting for what is his now. The picture in front of me is instantly recognizable: A cop just beginning first aid on a white man in his early thirties or so. An audience is gathering. Craning to see what is happening. I can feel the echoes of the shots still even though I never heard them. Thinking that there's not enough blood for it to be real.
He is dressed in blue jeans and a green T with blood flowers on his chest. It's perfectly quiet. Every sound exceedingly clear but in a different place. It's definitely not dramatic enough to seem real. The sirens are getting closer anyway.
Next day's Warrensburg Gazette: "Shoplifter shot to death outside of Wal-Mart".
Apparently he'd been arrested for stealing inside of Wal-Mart. A man in his early thirties, with an outstanding warrant for something else, I can't remember what petty crime. He made an attempt to get away, pulled a knife on the officer. Who pulled a gun and fired twice. At point blank range. To the chest. Bam! Bam! indeed. It even made the KC Star, a little inch and half again note in the back somewhere.
I'm standing there right beside death and wait for it to happen. The ambulance comes and takes away what is now a corpse and I go home. A picture and memory stashed away. Cooked some food with the groceries I bought and life went on.
Nothing dramatic had happened that day. I'd only met a dying man on the parking lot blacktop.
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