ONE RAINY DAY
Larry walked through the dark streets of Dillington with a briefcase in his left hand and an umbrella in his right. The rain hadn't started yet, but by the looks of the sky, it wouldn't be long. Besides, ol' Chuck Golightly of the Channel 10 News predicted a doosy of a storm. If Larry could make the bus stop before the downpour, he'd count himself lucky for the first time in a long, long time.
"Hey, buddy, spare a couple of bucks?"
A bum stood in a nearby alleyway. He was the stereotypical homeless guy, complete with a bottle of booze in a paper sack. Larry could smell him from ten feet away.
"A couple of bucks, buddy?" the guy asked again.
"Sorry, that's all I have, and I need it for the bus. I'm . . . never mind. Sorry."
"You're what? You were going to say you weren't doing so well, but then you saw me. Am I right?"
Larry gave a sheepish nod. "Yeah, something like that."
The bum smiled. "What would you say if I told you I could fix all your problems?"
"I'd say I don't believe you. No offense."
The bum chuckled. "None taken. I like you. You seem like a decent guy." His face grew serious. "But what if I insisted I have that power?"
Where this was going? He'd seen movies and read books where bums turned out to be billionaires and were just testing people, but this couldn't be that. Could it?
"Follow me. What did you say your name was?"
"Larry. Larry Brantz. What's yours?"
"Call me Mac. Everyone does."
Mac led Larry into the alleyway. This wasn't like him, but there was something about this bum, this Mac. Hell, as bad as things were going, he might as well see this through. Light at the end of the tunnel and all that.
Mac stopped at the chain-link fence that ended the alley. He dropped the paper sack to the ground but held on to the bottle. It looked like an ordinary vodka bottle.
"You're going to think this is crazy," Mac said, "but this is a magic bottle. When I break it, all your problems will drain away."
"Yeah, that does sound crazy."
Mac smiled. "Watch." He held the bottle by its neck and smashed it against a nearby dumpster. It cracked like a gunshot, but neither man jumped. When Mac held up the now broken bottle, nothing happened.
"Well?" Larry said.
Mac brought a finger to his lips. "Patience, Larry. The magic takes a few seconds."
A raindrop hit Larry on the top of his head, and he rolled his eyes. Why had he been so gullible? Instead of having his problems solved, he was going to get soaked. And he'd probably miss the bus to boot. Mary would be pissed when he walked in an hour late. Just what his marriage needed.
"Here it comes," Mac said. "Watch."
Larry did. Mac jammed the jagged bottle into Larry's stomach. Larry gasped and fell to his knees. Pain shot through his entire body. Mac let out a maniacal laugh and jabbed him a second time. So much blood leaked from the wounds that he could hear it dripping on the ground along with the scattered raindrops. Mac walked behind him and shoved him face-first onto the pavement.
As the bum ran off with his briefcase, umbrella, and wallet, Larry smiled. He couldn't call Mac a liar. It might not be a million dollars, but in a minute or two, Larry Brantz would never have another worry.