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The Witness

About five minutes ago, I knocked down my dad’s pumpkin stack. He, of course, banished me from the counter for the night and tasked me with prowling the aisles for anything out of order. My dad is Charlie of Charlie’s Convenience Store right along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I watch as dad tries to restack the pumpkins, listening to the hum of the coolers. Halloween is in two days, our favorite holiday. The store has been decorated in a way so that I cannot reach most of it. Except, of course, the pumpkins.

By the door, a cackling witch is perched with a motion detector. I don’t like the noise she makes, it’s too loud and startling. Dad thinks it’s funny when I run away from the evil witch, but I don’t care, because I won’t let her get me.

The setting sun casts creepy shadows into the store. Even the buzzing fluorescent lights cannot exorcise these shadow demons. A woosh of cold autumn air enters as the door opens, the bell rings, and the evil witch screams her laughter. Obviously, with hair on end, I scamper towards the back of the store.

I hear dad’s soft voice, which is mostly drowned out by the fridge’s hum. But he seems to cut himself off. Dad’s normal greeting is usually much longer, perhaps something is wrong. Crouching down on all fours, I slowly make my way down the furthest side of the furthest aisle from the counter. I peer in between the shelves, doing my best to not disrupt the plastic-wrapped sweets. What I see is my worst nightmare. A large man in all black, gloves, and a scary Halloween mask is pointing a silver death machine at my dad. An early and deadly trick-or-treater.

My breathing hitches as I watch the man force my dad to fill his pillowcase with money from the cash register. Watching dad’s hands, I know he touched that red button under the counter that I have been forbidden from touching. He says it calls the police, the men in uniforms with the red and blue lights and loud noise. I only wish that they get here on time. I don’t know what I will do without dad.

What about Halloween? Our favorite holiday and our greatest tradition. Every Halloween dad gets us couples costumes, this year he said we were going to be a pirate and a parrot. I still don’t know which of us is the parrot. Our tradition is ours and ours alone. We don’t like to walk the streets of Brooklyn, so we hand out candy instead. Once the night of handing out candy is over, dad takes us home, which is just upstairs. We then have warm milk with honey and cinnamon, bake pumpkin bread and eat it fresh out of the oven. Then we cuddle on the couch and watch Halloween movies. Although, every year I fall asleep about fifteen minutes into the first movie. But I always wake up in my bed with my blankie and my llama plushie. It is my favorite time; Christmas is a close second though.

I see my dad’s eyes flick around the shop, he stops when he meets mine. His brown eyes seem to scream at my green ones, ‘STAY THERE DAVE!!’ I don’t know what I could do anyways. I’m too small to take on that large man. My body starts to quiver as I watch the silver barrel move around in antsy anticipation. I wonder how many times this man has robbed someone before. The mere seconds that have ticked by felt like hours. The sun still has its last view rays stretching to look over the buildings. Intrigued by this horrible event.

The man wants more things than just cash. Yelling at my dad to put things like smokes and Slim Jims, anything he can grab and put into the bag. But dad still hasn’t gotten all the cash out of the register. It is old and the springs have rusted so that they get stuck when you try to lift the clips off of the bills. Because of this, the cash can only come out one or two bills at a time, or else they will tear.

A minute has passed since the man came to rob us. As my body trembles, I crawl again to the back of the store. I don’t want my dad to die. There is still so much left to do. Every morning and night, dad lets me prowl the store and smash all the bugs that have somehow found their way in. He always pats me on the head and tells me he’ll never have to call an exterminator, as long as I’m here. I want to keep being dad’s little exterminator.

I want to stay with dad.

I want to do our Halloween tradition.

I want to make more traditions.

I want to knock down that evil witch.

I want to save dad.

I want to save dad!

My eyes scan the building, plotting what I could do. The man is bigger than me, but I can get higher. I’m usually not allowed to climb the shelves, but I don’t think dad will care right now. The middle row of shelves lines up perfectly with the back of the horrible man. The Halloween mask is tight and doesn’t cover his eyes. My only opening.

I breathe steadily, knowing I will probably get hurt. But dad won’t. The shelf is easy enough to climb. I just need to go slowly and quietly. If I knock off one bag of chips, I’m done for. I begin my climb. I feel like a superhero, one that can’t fly, climbing a mountain to beat the evil villain. I can see the top, it’s cold at the top. The bats that hang on the ceiling obscure my vision. I flatten myself as much as I can and slide across the flat top of the shelf. I stop when I hear a shuffling from the villain. Has he seen me?

When he yells at my dad again, I continue onwards. Finally, I peep over the edge of the shelf, seeing my dad and the bad man. I think I hear the police in the distance. I hope I do. I have to time this perfectly so that dad doesn’t get hurt. Preparing myself to jump I gently knock a bag of chips to the ground. When the man whirls around at the noise, I attack.

I scream with all my might at land on his head, scratching and clawing at his eyes. He wails in terror and pain. I can smell the iron in his blood and his salty sweat. I feel his hands trying to grab me, but I am too quick and move around his head, still attacking his eyes. I hear the gun clatter on the ground, and I hear dad shouting as well.

“GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF ME!” The bad man yells.

Outside, blue and red lights with sirens blast like a heroic song. Here to keep saving the day. When I am flung off and over the counter, I was able to catch a glimpse of dad holding that silver metal barrel, now pointed at the bad man. I thump against the back wall, knocking off cans of horrid-smelling tobacco. My head hurts, along with my body. My vision feels dark and untrustworthy. But I can hear my father.

“Dave? DAVE!? Are you okay!?” Dad rushes to my side, the weapon no longer in his hand. A man in a blue uniform is right behind him, wanting to ask questions.

“What happened, sir?”

“Dave, Dave saved me. He jumped onto that robber and started scratching. Oh, he looks hurt. What do I do?” Dad says to the new man, as he picks up my limb body.

The policeman looks at me, my eyes are half-open. His gaze in amazement. He puts a comforting hand on my dad’s shoulder. “Do you want our help? Sir?”

My dad can only nod, his tears wetting my cheeks. The policeman guides my dad who is carrying me to a flashing car. I fall asleep when we get in.

When I awake again, I am in the hospital. My dad is standing with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes over me. The policeman that helped us is next to him. I guess he wanted to make sure everything was okay. I’m not sure. A nurse walks in and pets my head, scratching behind my ear.

“Mr. Puckett?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, so this is all good news considering. Dave has a very small concussion and a broken front leg. But nothing is too bad and he should be feeling much better in a couple of weeks.” The nice nurse puts some small round treats before me. Chicken flavor, my favorite.

Dad wipes his tears away, taking a deep breath. He thanks the nurse who smiles and leaves, saying that we can leave whenever we’re ready. The policeman comes around to where the nurse had been standing, crouching down slightly to look at me in the eyes.

I cock my head to the side, not understanding what he wants. He slowly pets my back, gentle long strokes. I purr happily. I think they may have given me painkillers.

“This is one hell of a story to tell the others down at the station. I already got your statement and we caught the guy, who had to go to the hospital because of this little fella.” says the policeman.

“Thank you so much, Officer Buckley. Dave is all I have, so thank you for helping more than you needed to.”

“Oh please, call me Sam.” 

*

The next day and a half are a blur. I think it’s due to both the concussion and painkillers. Halloween, however, I could never miss. Dad said he got help cleaning up the store from regular customers, those that are known by name. He says that they all asked about me too. Dad also says that it is funny that I broke my leg. He says it goes with my costume perfectly.

He colored my cast in brown and carefully put me in my costume. It cheered me up, knowing that I still get to dress up. Dad sets me in front of the mirror before getting dressed. I’m a pirate! I have a hat and a magnetic earring that feels a little weird but it’s fun. My cast goes amazingly with the costume, it looks like I have a real peg leg! All the customers are going to be blown away this year.

Dad comes back out in a silly bird costume. He’s a red parrot with lots of different colored feathers and a beak over his head. I think it’s one of those onesies that I see some of the older kids wear as costumes. He carefully picks me up and takes me downstairs.

On the way down he says, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Sam, that nice police officer that helped us, he’s going to join us tonight. I hope that’s okay. He seemed to really like you. I hope you’ll like him. I know I do.”

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