J. Robert Lennon
Because we didn’t like John, our manager, and because we suspected that he planned to rob Circuit City on its final day of operations, we decided (John, John, and I) to rob Circuit City on its final day of operations.
John had been tasked with selling off all stock, which meant deep discounts for our customers on computers, televisions, stereo equipment, video games, DVDs, and home appliances. John elected to close Circuit City for one week leading up to its final day of operations, which was Sunday, March 8, 2009, in order to generate excitement and to promote the store clearance as a “sales event.” The “sales event” would be cash-only, which is an unorthodox procedure at Circuit City and which tipped John, John, and myself off to the possibility that John was planning to rob Circuit City. In movies and on television, which John, John, and I often were able to watch during our shifts at Circuit City owing to its recent decline in revenue, this is known as a “heist.”
“Cash,” John observed, smoking, during our smoke break out on the loading dock, “is harder to account for than other forms of payment.”
“John is going to steal some or all of the cash,” John replied, smoking.
Smoking, I said, “If John intends to steal some or all of the cash, then we should steal some or all of the cash instead.” In movies and on television, this is known as a “double cross.”
We all were wearing the red shirts required of all employees. John wore the required red shirt as well, but upon his required shirt was embroidered the word “manager.” Because we didn’t like John, we called him Manager.
“Manager, this customer is looking for a game controller.”
“Manager, this customer would like to return these cables.”
“Manager, your required red shirt is looking fly today.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Stop calling me that.”
The “sales event” proved successful. Customers lined up around the building in order to buy computers, televisions, stereo equipment, video games, DVDs, and home appliances, all the way back to the loading dock where no one was smoking due to the “sales event.” Circuit City made $42,738 in the hours until noon, at
which time John reduced prices by half, then Circuit City made another $29,722 in the hours until 5pm, at which time John reduced prices to 90% off list, then Circuit City made another $22,835 in the hours until closing, for a grand total of $92,295, which we helped John pack into large canvas sacks. In movies and on television, this is known as “loot.”
John, John, and I made to leave Circuit City, driving in John’s car, after farewells and thank-yous to John, who we didn’t call Manager for the first time ever. John appeared moved but eager for us to leave, presumably because John was also eager to transfer the large canvas sacks of dollars into his car. We came back five minutes later to find John at the loading bay, loading the large canvas sacks of dollars into his car.
“Manager, what are you doing?”
“Manager, are those the dollars?”
“Manager, this is an unorthodox procedure.”
“Hey well now,” John said, and then John pulled a pistol from the crack of his ass and shot John in the head. John collapsed to the ground beside his blood-spattered car, his red shirt, bearing the embroidered word “manager,” soaked red with blood, which was ironic. The shooting was an unorthodox procedure. In movies and on television, this is known as a “twist.” After a moment of reflection, John and I began to transfer the large canvas sacks of dollars from John’s car to John’s car. John asked John if he intended to help and John replied, gesturing towards John’s lifeless body, “I just did. Also,” he said, smoking, which was an orthodox procedure, especially considering that John, John, and I were at the loading dock and were now on what could be termed a permanent smoke break, “it’s my car. John,” he said, meaning me, “you drive,” and he gestured towards the driver’s side door. I got into the car, behind the steering wheel. Driving John’s car was an unorthodox procedure. Outside the car, John shot John in much the way he had shot John. Now I understood that John was bad. In the movies and on television, this is known as “anagnorisis.” The cigarette fell out of John’s mouth, and he said fuck.
John climbed into the passenger seat and pointed his pistol at me and said drive. I drove. John said left. John said left. John said right. John said keep going. John said shut up. John said keep going. John said exit. John said right. John said, his voice distorted by the rutted dirt road we were driving on, keep going.
Now John’s portable telephone rang. In movies and on television this is known as “deus ex machina.” John looked down. I reached behind my back and pulled out the pistol I’d hidden in the crack of my ass and I pointed it at John. In movies and on television, this is known as “peripeteia.” I told John to drop his pistol and instead John pointed his pistol at me, so I shot John, and he shot me. We shot each other. In movies and on television, this is known as “poetic justice.” We died.
We kept driving. This was an unorthodox procedure. Our red shirts were red. The dirt road smoothed out and began to glow. Angels appeared on either side of the car to escort us into Heaven. In movies and on television, I am known as an “unreliable narrator.” Circuit City was later purchased by Systemax and consolidated,
along with CompUSA, into the TigerDirect online brand. This is an orthodox procedure. John and I are still driving. The angels wear red. John and I are beginning to think that they are not angels and that this is not Heaven.
J. Robert Lennon's "Circuit City" can be read in the print edition of The Arkansas International 2.
J. Robert Lennon is the author of two story collections, Pieces for the Left Hand and See You in Paradise, and eight novels, including Mailman, Familiar, and Broken River, out in 2017 from Graywolf Press. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.