Just My Imagination by Patrick Baggatta

A ‘72 Chevelle SS sputtered around the corner, the flattering street lights doing favors for the tired paint job that used to be called Malsanne Blue. Noah tapped the steering wheel to the beat of his favorite Rolling Stones album, adding a flourish here and there that he truly believed even Charlie Watts would appreciate.

“Shit! It’s time to get Tommy,” he spat, startling Shelia, who’d drifted to another place. This always happened to her on the Upper East Side where they’d been cruising, looking for promising security lapses. The lives of those more fortunate drifting by for hours made her dreamy and melancholy in exactly that order. Noah jammed the gas, the Chevelle coughed and, for the first time all night, they had a destination.

Noah hit the brakes in front of Al’s Custom Body Works. Tommy was waiting outside, leaned against the wall, smoking, chatting-up a young neighborhood girl who looked like she had a shitty go-round waiting for her in this world. Shelia never liked Tommy. There was no reason she should.

“Tommy!” Noah yelled across the passenger seat. “Send the cooze packing, brother! We got work!” The young girl flipped Noah the bird on pure reflex.

“Could you not fucking scream in my ear like that, please,” Shelia yelled back at Noah who was blowing kisses to the young girl as she walked away.

“Get in the back,” Noah replied calmly.

Tommy waited outside looking down at Shelia with the same expectation. Shelia put a cigarette in her mouth, pushed the car lighter in, and waited, making her point. “I said, get in the fucking back.”

“Shit, Noah, can I light my fucking cigarette first?”

Noah took a deep cleansing breath, a technique he’d learned from watching late-night reruns of Kung Fu. Shelia lit her cigarette, made sure to blow the first hot smoke in Noah’s direction, and climbed into the back in an undignified manner.

“Watch the fucking upholstery!”

With the front seat empty, Tommy tried the door. It was locked. Shelia smiled in the darkness of the backseat. The locked door was no mistake.

“Goddamnit, Shelia!” Noah said, as he stretched across the passenger seat to unlock the door. “You’re really pissing on my last nerve tonight.” This had become Noah’s new favorite vulgarity and Shelia couldn’t help but like it just a little. Fortunately, she could pretty much call it out on demand.

“Who we robbing tonight, kids?” Tommy asked as he pulled the door shut and planted his feet on the dashboard.

“Get your fucking feet off my dash, shitbird!” Noah replied with a smile. “I saw a sweet brownstone with perfect cover on a side window.”

Tommy stamped his feet excitedly on the dash. “What are we sitting here for? Let’s go rob the fucker!”

Noah turned up the radio and hit the gas. In the backseat, Shelia smoked her cigarette and quietly sang along. It was just my imagination, running away with me.

Patrick Baggatta lives in San Francisco and writes in various forms including screenwriting, short stories, and interactive scripts. Lately he’s enjoying a focus on writing crime fiction. Check out more on his blog: Hard Boiled Chapters: http://hardboiledchapters.blogspot.com.

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