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by Jayne Martin

His voice is calm and deep. He only wants to help, he says over the bullhorn. I’ve gotten myself into quite a pickle. On that we agree. Although he doesn’t use the word “pickle.” That’s a word my grandmother used when I’d gotten into one kind of mess or another and my father was going to beat the crap out of me.

My hostages huddle in the corner of the bakery, scared, some crying, which makes me feel bad because I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. It may be the gun that’s giving them that idea. I offer them a tray of croissants, the ones with the chocolate chips that are my favorite. I’m a bit offended when they refuse.

Outside, day has turned to night and the sky spins with flashes of red and blue. They have the place surrounded, they say. Come on out and no one will get hurt, they say. Just like on TV. There are reporters out there, too, no doubt hoping for footage of a shoot-out for the 11:00 o’clock news. I could be famous. Wouldn’t that make the old man proud?

I’m tired. And I have to pee. And three hours of nothing but cookies and coffee has my brain racing, my guts in a twist.

It seemed like an easy mark, a bakery at closing time, customers gone, pushing my way inside just as she came to lock the front door. Plenty of cash, I’d thought. Turns out most people pay with plastic. Turns out even bakeries run by sweet little old ladies have alarm systems. Turns out I’m every bit the loser my father always said I was.

Fucking gun isn’t even real.

Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her work has appeared in Literary Orphans, Spelk, Crack the Spine, Midwestern Gothic, formercactus, Barren, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Blue Fifth Review, Bending Genres, Hippocampus, and Connotation Press, among others. She lives in California where she drinks copious amounts of fine wine and rides horses, though not at the same time. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.