1. Close your eyes. Picture a couple of lonely, outdated gas pumps. See the vibrant primary colors of your youth. Run your fingers across the peeling and the rust of your old age. Breathe in not the fumes, but the silence of the abandoned filling station, the beautiful brown field of your existence.
2. Put on a ski mask or bag with cutouts for eyes or rubber Nixon head. Refrain from costumes that make you stand out too much. (No Gumby or Hello Kitty.)
3. Think beyond the cash register. Bear in mind the skyrocketing cost of gas. Before you arrive, be sure your getaway SUV is dead on empty. Then let the premium unleaded spill over and soak your well-worn cowboy boots. Wash away the greed.
4. When a woman in a yellow dress patterned with daisies won’t open her eyes, when she won’t stop repeating “please,” consider what brought you two together, to this very moment. Visualize her husband at home, a man not unlike your old man, extinguishing his cigar on the sole of his kid’s left foot, a left foot not unlike yours.
5. After you’ve jammed your knapsack with bills, don’t forget to ransack the shelves. Pay special attention to Twinkies and other junk food threatened by extinction.
6. Don’t intimidate the cashier. Give the poor guy some advice instead. Tell him he should send his ex flowers on a random Tuesday. Remind him to witness more sunrises. Suggest he not reach for a hidden weapon of any kind. Encourage him to pray or at least call his mother on Sundays.
7. Pilfer a bottle of malt liquor. Preferably Colt 45.
8. Listen to the tinkling of the bells upon your entrance. Feel the gentle thud of the screen door behind you. Wave your pistol around, just a little. State your intentions. Assure customers of their safety, as long as they avoid any funny stuff.
9. Go ahead, reminisce. Flash back to those pumps outside, your cowboy boots bathing in petroleum. Take pause. Wash away the lust, the gluttony, the sloth, the wrath, the envy and the pride, too.
10. Skip the tongs. Fondle the day-old glazed donuts.
11. Check the urge to take a hostage, especially that teenage girl with the glittering stud in her nose and the texting gloves and the tattoo of the eight ball on her forearm. Don’t be fooled for a second by the scent of her suburban malaise. She’s closeting a chronic case of Bieber Fever.
12. Demand thirteen Powerball tickets. Say, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience and cooperation.”
13. Do as the employees are supposed to do, according to the hygiene sign taped to the bathroom door with dents the size and shape of fists. At the sink, belt out “Happy Birthday,” the recommended time it requires to properly cleanse your hands.
14. Shimmy yourself through the tiny bathroom window. Curse your love handles and/or muffin top.
15. After your escape, reflect on the mountainous horizon. Hop into your SUV and drive off as if this was any other pit stop. Ask God to have mercy on your soul. Ask yourself if you remembered the milk your imaginary spouse asked you for hours ago.
16. Locate a deserted stretch of highway. Send your speedometer soaring. Crank the music to something befitting the mood. (No improvisational jazz or Celtic fusion.)
17. Roll down every window. Open the sunroof. Release the remaining ten Powerball tickets into the howling breeze. Hope one of the three tickets you gave the woman in the yellow dress patterned with daisies hits.
18. Hole up in a somewhat more contemporary version of the Bates Motel. Call the front desk to complain about the constant snow on the TV, the ground-in filth on the rug and the blood on the lounge chair, and the empty forty-ouncer of Colt 45 that isn’t yours.
19. Yank out Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the book propping up the television console. Call the one that got away. Leave a long-winded voicemail. Preferably Sonnet 151.
20. Forgive the room its mysterious stains. Forget your old man’s obvious sins. Unwrap a Twinkie. Prepare a bed of cash on the floor. Lie down and revel in the sound of advancing sirens, the approach of eternity.
Amie Heasley received her MFA in fiction from Western Michigan University in 2006. Most recently, her work has appeared online in such journals as Juked, Corium, The Boiler Journal, and Prick of The Spindle, as well as in the pages of Stoneboat Literary Journal. Amie—along with her husband, daughter, and dog—calls Kalamazoo home. She blogs at http://chopperchronicles.blogspot.com and