Slim sped down the highway with one hand wrapped around the steering wheel and the other gripping his Colt .45. After careening through a long, sloping, tree-lined turn, he hit the accelerator on the last straightaway before entering city limits. “Yee-haa, baby-doll,” he hollered and shot a nervous smile toward his pregnant girlfriend sprawled in the backseat. “Hang in there, Runa. We’re almost there.”
“Oh baby,” the woman said. “I’m fixin’ to pop any minute.”
“We’re almost there,” Slim repeated, stomping down harder on the gas pedal. “You and me, Runa. You and me, we aren’t long for this world.”
“You’re crazy, honey,” said Runa. “That’s why I love you so much.”
They hadn’t been back to the city for nearly a year, not since their getaway from the bank heist caused the fiery crash that left two cops dead on the scene.
“Slow down, Slim,” said Runa. “This isn’t the time to get pulled over.”
Slim eased up on the pedal. “Sorry, honey, but it’s not every day a guy’s gonna have a baby.”
Runa grit her teeth through the pain. “You’re not the one having the baby, darling.”
“I know, honey-pie. I’m just excited, that’s all.”
Slim slowed down to the speed limit and eyeballed his gun on the seat. We’d been safe in the cabin for so many months, he thought, but with our wanted posters plastered all over the city for nearly a year now, no one’s gonna forget this face. Slim glanced at his heavily tattooed mug in the mirror and lit an unfiltered Camel.
“Slim, don’t,” said Runa. “The baby.”
“What about the baby?” Slim asked, taking a long drag.
“Smoking’s bad for the baby, even now, honey.” Runa rubbed her belly and held her breath, as if that would protect her unborn child from the toxic cloud forming in the car.
“Alright,” said Slim, flicking the half-smoked cigarette out the window and watching in the sideview mirror as sparks danced on the asphalt.
“God, baby-doll,” said Slim. “I hate seeing you in pain. Can I get you something?”
“Just get me to the hospital in one piece,” Runa answered. “That’s all I’m asking.”
“We’ll be there soon,” Slim replied
Runa wailed when they hit the speed bump in the hospital driveway. After screeching to a stop in the no-parking zone by the main entrance, Slim grabbed his pistol, leapt from the front seat, and opened the back door. As he helped Runa to her feet, Slim spotted the security guard coming their way.
“That’s far enough,” Slim shouted. “We have some business to attend to here.”
“Take it easy, mister,” said the guard. “You won’t get any trouble from me.”
By then Runa was bent over and holding her belly. “Wheelchair,” she shouted and groaned some more.
Slim hesitated, wondering if letting the guard fetch a wheelchair was such a good idea.
“Wheelchair,” Runa yelled even louder.
“Okay,” Slim shouted at the guard. “You heard the lady.”
“I’m moving,” the man said as he walked toward the hospital entrance. “Just quit pointing that gun at me, and I’ll make sure she’s next in line to see a doctor.”
“Jesus, honey. It hurts. It really hurts.”
“He’ll be back soon, baby-doll. Hang in there.”
While waiting for the guard to return, Slim bounced on the balls of his feet, a nervous habit he had since childhood. He got even more animated when he saw the guard coming back.
“Hurry up, man,” he said. “My Runa’s fixing to burst.”
“I’m going as fast as I can,” said the guard. He was sweating hard and breathing heavily. “Alright ma’am, let’s get you inside.”
“Thank God,” Runa replied before shrieking so loud it scattered a group of crows sitting on a nearby telephone line.
Slim followed as the guard wheeled his Runa up the ramp, through the lobby, and down a long brightly lit corridor, her moans echoing off the walls of the empty hospital and drowning out the squeal of the wheelchair’s rubber tires.
The security guard stopped at the elevator bank and told Slim to push the button for the third floor.
“Oh God,” Runa moaned. “Oh God.”
“Push the button,” the guard repeated.
Slim stared at the illuminated panel that tracked the elevators going up and down in the building. The moving lights reminded him of the arcade in the mall where he and Runa first met. “Number three’s on its way,” he called out. “We’re almost there, Runa baby. We’re almost there.”
He ran to the number three elevator door and bounced some more on the balls of his feet.
“Come on, number three,” he urged like he was cheering on a horse and the track.
Runa let out another agonized scream like the baby would drop right there on the floor.
“Get your ass over here,” said Slim, motioning to the guard with his gun.
The man held his ground. “It’s best not to move her until absolutely necessary,” he said. “I’ll bring her over when the door opens.”
The ping of the elevator signaled its arrival.
“Here we go, baby-doll,” said Slim. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Runa replied through clenched teeth.
Slim was staring deeply into Runa’s emerald-green eyes when the door slid open and four uniformed cops rushed the gunman with the tattooed face, pinned him to the floor, and got in a few sharp gut punches for good measure.
“Slim!” Runa screamed, as the security guard rolled her into the elevator.
“No need to worry about Slim,” said the guard. “Those boys will take good care of him.”
“I told you, baby-doll, I told you,” shouted Slim as the officers cuffed him.
“Told me what?” yelled Runa as the door slid shut.
“You and me, honey. You and me, we aren’t long for this world.”
Greg is the author of Breakfast with the Alien and Other Short, Short Stories, https://breakfastwiththealien.com/, a collection of quirky flash fiction. He’s written books for young adults, including biographies of Bruce Lee, Vince Lombardi, and Rickey Henderson. And his travel articles have appeared on GoNomad.com and CemeteryTravel.com. You can learn more at www.gregroensch.com.