"But what about you—"
"Me? Man, I'm yesterday's news. They'll pass right by me and never give it a second thought. It's you they're after. You. So you'd better get used to it. 'Cause when they find you—and they will—they'll chew you up and spit you out."
"But I didn't do anything."
"Yeah, like I've never heard that before. I swear, you newbies are all alike. Think you're special. Think you're different somehow. Well, you're not, lemme tell you. I've seen your kind come and go a hundred times before, and it's always the same. Oh, maybe for a while you'll get away with it. And after you've gotten away with it for a while maybe you'll even start to thinking you're home free, that you've got it made in the shade, as they say. And then the list comes out."
"List? What list?"
"Baby, baby. Where you been all your life, man? We're talking the big list here. The big one. You know. Top Ten. Most Wanted. And you wake up one morning and there it is. It's like you're a Hollywood movie star with your name in lights over some fancy-schmancy movie theater marquee. Only it ain't no marquee and this ain't Hollywood. It's the list, kid, and you're on it, and it's everywhere. That's when they really come looking for you. In the dark, wee hours of the morning. They're out there now, you know."
"Out there. Mulling around in the parking lot. Shuffling their feet. Standing in line. With nothing more'n a hot cup of coffee to keep 'em from freezing their asses off. And it's all because of you, kid. It's all because of you."
"Yeah, but the end comes real quick like, y'know. In another minute or two one of the sales associates'll open up the doors. They'll squeeze their way in. Two, three, maybe even four abreast, and they'll bee-line it right for where you're sitting now. I swear, it's like they got radar or something. And just like that—poof—you'll be gone. Snatched away in the prime of life. And all because you're this year's most popular Christmas toy."
Michael Pelc writes short fiction and even shorter biographies.
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