This is the gizmo.
Don't ask me how it works. I can barely describe what it does. What is does is unforgivably weird.
I was there for the night of the robbery. Guy comes in stretching a stocking over his head, pulls out a gun, and walks up to the register. It was the owner of the place behind the register tonight. He sighs, flips open the cash drawer, pulls out the twenties, tens, and fives -- pointedly leaving the ones in the drawer.
The guy with the stocking on his head nods, says, "Whatever." He stuffs the money in his sweatshirt and backs toward the door. Gil, behind the register, must have looked like he was about to jump the counter because the thug puts a round into the espresso machine, causing a cascade of cups and mugs falling to the floor and a burst of steam. Gil takes a step back, cursing.
He confided in me once that the espresso machine was an Italian brand, shiny and blue with a kind of painted finish on it you usually only see on expensive sportscars. He said it cost about as much, too. Even used.
Thug backed out of the door and beat feet. It was over in less than a minute.
A couple of super-stunned people were still drinking their coffee as if nothing had happened, but shaking. One woman was on the floor under her table, sitting in a quiet puddle, sobbing. Gil comes around the counter, stepping over the busted crockery, but walks right past her and comes right up to this lamp-looking gizmo. It's never worked since I've been coming here, but Gil never got rid of it or got it fixed.
He comes over to it, flips both switches up, then down. He holds onto the switches, counting under his breath. Sobbing continues in the background, but Gil ignores it. I stare at him, because, well, the lamp thing is right next to my chair, and he's acting weird.
Then he nods and flips the switches up and down again. It's really quiet. The woman has stopped sobbing and is back in her chair like nothing happened. Gil walks away and goes over to the door. He opens it and looks out, but I know the man has to be long gone.
Gil takes a step back from the door just as the man comes in, pulling a stocking over his head. Gil grabs the gun away from him while he's half-blind and smacks him double-handed with it across the temples. The guy in the sweatshirt drops to the floor in the doorway, bleeding furiously from the forehead.
Everyone is staring, craning heads, getting up to see what's going on. Gil puts the boot in a couple of times and shoves him out into the gutter, off the sidewalk.
Gil drops the gun in a pocket and comes back in. Then he looks at me, and then he looks at my hand. I've been holding onto the lamp-gizmo the whole time.
Everybody else is milling around, buzzing. Someone's calling the cops on a cell phone, but he looked at Gil first to make sure it was okay. Gil shrugs and waves him off.
He comes over and speaks very quietly. "C'mon, man. Let go. I'm going to have to do it again."
I shake my head. If you asked me right then why, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you why I didn't want to let go.
Gil sighed. "Suit yourself, then, man. But trust me, that's nothing you want to play with, or even admit to anyone you know anything about." Gil, a serious man, looked just about as serious as I've ever seen him.
I let go of the lamp slowly, like you let go of a stairwell's railing after an earthquake.
He reached a hand for the switches, but looked me in the eyes. Then he smiled, pulled his hands back, and went back behind the counter. All the cups were all stacked up and the espresso machine was intact.
Every night afterward I've come in here and sat in the chair next to the broken lamp gizmo. Every time Gil comes close, I find I'm gripping the stalk of the thing, white knuckled, hanging on for dear life. But I never touch the switches.
Once when it was quiet I asked Gil where he got the thing. He said he bought it off a leopard on a trip to India. I started to ask him if he meant leper
, but then I decided I didn't really want to know.
Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri