The Piggyback Bandit

This exercise comes courtesy of my friend Mike and a Cracked article: 10 News Stories That Raise Endless Unanswered Questions. Mike thought that the headlines would be good writing prompts, and assigned me The Piggyback Bandit. You can read the story at the link, about a weird guy who would go around sporting events demanding piggyback rides from the players (and often getting them, strangely enough). I took a slightly different tack with mine.

The Piggy Back Bandit

By Amber Marshall

 

Tom yawned a jaw-cracking yawn as stepped off the stairs in front of the building where he worked, into the flow of evening commuters. It had been a long day, nothing but meetings. He could not wait to get home and start his weekend. Mandy was bringing the kids to her mom’s right about now, then the two of them would be off on their long weekend to the Cape. No meetings, no calls, no being on call in Mandy’s case. Just sun and salt air and—

He lurched forward as someone jumped on his back. “What the f—hey! Get off me!” He wrenched at the person’s arm, clamped tight around his neck. Legs went around his waist and clamped on. He froze when he felt the barrel of the gun against his temple.

“Calm down,” said a voice, a male adult voice. “Do what I say and I won’t hurt you.”

What the fuck? Tom thought, swallowing hard. The person was the size of a kid, but obviously didn’t sound like one. Tom was a pretty big guy, though, so it was hard to judge. Maybe it was a small adult. A small person that reeked and had breath like a trash compactor. He tried to crane his neck to look. The gun shoved against his temple, hard.

“Don’t look at me!” the man hissed. “Just do what I say.”

Tom nodded spastically. Fear turned his guts to water. People around him stared, then looked quickly away. Was no one going to help him?

“What do you want?” Tom asked. “My wallet? It’s in my coat pocket. I can grab it for—“

“I want a ride.”

Tom’s brow knotted. “A ride?” he said. “I don’t have a car, I take the subway—“

“On your back, idiot!”

Okay, so I’m the idiot here?” Tom thought. Oh well, don’t argue with the guy with the gun.

“Down to the end of the block, then turn right,” the man ordered. Tom started off, hoping a sharp-eyed cop would see a guy carrying another, gun-wielding guy piggyback and call it in or something.

The man kicked him in the leg. “Ow! What?”
“Put a little bounce in it. Jesus!”

“Are you serious?”

The gun barrel jabbed him again, in the ribs this time. Apparently the guy on his back decided to be discreet. As discreet as he could be while piggybacking someone, that is.

Tom let a breath out through his nose and started again, putting a little bounce in his step. “Why are you doing this? Why me?” he asked.

“Shut up.”

Tom shut up, and followed the man’s directions. His face burned . This is ridiculous. I’m going to be late. Mandy will never believe this. No one will. I should just throw this guy off me and make a run for it. But the man had a clawlike grip on him, arms and legs. He bounced a little harder, hoping to dislodge him.

“Take it easy,” the man muttered. Tom gave up. People they passed were whispering and laughing now. Some had their phones out, snapping photos. Jesus, he was going to be Instagrammed and Tweeted and Facebooked, his indignity spread through the internet to hound him even if he survived this.

It dawned on Tom as he galloped along that the path the man directed him on seemed to head towards the First National Savings and Loan bank. Oh no, he thought. Don’t tell me he’s going to ride me up to the teller and demand the keys to the vault. Please don’t let me die with a little man on my back like a kid on a hobby horse. He was sweating as they neared the place, not just from exertion and the heat and humidity rising off the pavement.

“Left,” Tom’s passenger ordered. Tom veered away from the bank, letting out a breath as he did. He didn’t get far before the man dug his heels painfully into Tom’s stomach. “Stop! Stop here!”

It was a hot dog stand. The vendor looked at them with his mouth hanging slightly open, holding a hot dog in a pair of tongs, mid-way to a bun. “Go to the front of the line,” the man on Tom’s back demanded.

Tom edged his way past the waiting patrons. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. He stopped at the counter.

The vendor looked past Tom to the man riding him. “Nice mask,” he said. Then down to Tom, “This your little brother or something?”

Help me! Tom mouthed. The gun barrel jammed into his neck. “Do what I say or I shoot him,” the man told the vendor.

The vendor seemed strangely calm, almost amused. “Sure, buddy. What can I get ya?”

“One hot dog. Mustard, onions, relish, extra sauerkraut.”

“What?” Tom squeaked. A jab to his neck choked him off.

“More sauerkraut!” the man demanded. The vendor buried the hot dog in sauerkraut. “Perfect. Hand it over. Slowly.”

Tom didn’t know how the man would grab a fully-laden dog and hang on to him and brandish a gun. “Take it from him,” the man directed Tom.

Tom took the hot dog. “Now feed it to me.”

“How are you going to eat with a mask on?” Tom asked.

“It’s a half-mask—DON’T LOOK!” The man used the barrel of the gun to shove Tom’s cheek so he faced forward. “Just do what I say.”

Tom picked up the hot dog, squishy with condiments, and held it over his shoulder. Gobs of sauerkraut dropped onto his shoulder and slopped down the front of his shirt as the man took a bite.

“To the park!” Tom’s rider declared, spraying sodden crumbs.

 

#

                It was in the park that the police finally came to Tom’s rescue. Behind them, on the path, he heard them yelling for him to stop, for someone named Pauly to get off of him. Was that the guy’s name? Tom stopped, sure that the guy would shove the gun against his head again and hold him hostage. Instead, the weight left his back. A short, skinny guy in torn jeans, a ratty hoodie, and a crumpled Batman mask shoved past him and tore off down the path.

The officers caught up to Tom, one following after the supposed Pauly, the other remaining with Tom. He put his hands up, but the officer waved them down. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“Who the hell was that guy?” Tom asked, feeling sick.

“Pauly McAlister. We call him the ‘piggyback bandit.’ He’s homeless, schizophrenic. He likes to jump on people and ride them around, demand food from local merchants. It’s how he gets his kicks, I guess.” She looked down the path where Pauly and her partner had disappeared. “How he gets his meals most times, probably.”

“He had a gun.”

She shook her head. “Just a replica. Real metal but no working parts. Just for show. Actually, it’s bright pink.”

Tom’s cheeks flushed. “I didn’t get a good look at it,” he muttered. If he’d known the guy had been waving a Barbie accessory at him…

“We’ve been trying to catch him, but he’s wily. Quick.”

“Did someone finally call you guys about him? Did an officer see me with him on my back?” Tom asked.

The officer shook her head. “Nope,” she said, trying to hide a smile. “YouTube.”

Tom covered his face with his hands and groaned.

“You’re not the first he’s pounced on. I hope you’ll be the last. Come on, I need to take your statement,” the officer said. She sniffed. “Then you should probably find a shower. I think Pauly’s stink rubbed off on you.”

“Mandy’s gonna kill me,” Tom moaned into his hands.

“Want me to write you a note? Or you can call her; I’ll vouch for you.”

“Might be a good idea,” Tom said. He took out his cell phone and called his wife. “Honey? You’re not gonna believe why I’m late…”

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~ by Amber on May 18, 2012.

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