Armed with guns and swords of various shapes, sizes and colors, we run into the night. The early spring rain teems down in cold, hard, steady streams, the enormous drops echoing off the historical surfaces of the clustered buildings. I wear my blue leather bedroom slippers because after fifteen shots of vodka that’s the thing one tends to do. There are six of us, two of whom I barely know, each keeping a watchful eye out for the next. The excitement rises like acid in my throat.
Down winding stone paths and through two layers of fencing. Adrenaline induced mania, my blood, my whole body engages in existing. There’s chaos once we get there – no need for quiet, our shouts barely audible over the deafening downpour, our ammo blending seamlessly with that of the heavens. My glasses keep slipping down my face and my shorts, a size too big and gaining weight from the rain, keep slipping down my waist.
We didn’t plan the liberation. It was an impulse and here we were, doing what we made up our minds to do. Numbers 3 and 4 lift the sign free and the rest of us keep lookout. It was a beautiful sign, just beautiful. Four feet by six feet and solid steel. We run back, guns and swords drawn. At the entrance to the building we see her – the guard – calculus book open, phone at the ready to call someone with the ability to act if anything were to happen.
“What’ll we do?” Number 6 asks.
Number 3 says, “I got this,” signaling me to take his end of the sign and I do. It’s heavier than I’d thought it would be. The jagged edge digs into my hand and I feel the warmth of broken skin. His gun in his waistband, Number 3 strolls through the door as if it were any other night, takes off his shirt and begins doing jumping jacks. While the others create a wall, Number 4 and I slip by with the sign, sight unseen. Clear sailing from there – into the elevator and five flights up.
We stage a group picture, weapons to the sky. It was our first, and last, job, but a smashing success. I wipe my glasses clean, step back and look at our treasure as it hangs over the wooden frame at the foot of my bed.
In bold, glorious black-and-white letters it reads METAL ONLY. It would have been a crime to leave it there unappreciated, languishing in utilitarian limbo. Throwing on the Misfit’s Walk Among Us we high-five and pass around a bottle, enough for one final shot each, and play air guitar. All, that is, with the exception of Number 2, who plays a bizarre set of air drums.
My slippers squish with each step, leaving large wet spots after I do a jump kick off the mattress, so I throw them out the window and into the dumpster below. How was I supposed to know it had been reserved exclusively for metal building materials? Some jerks took the sign. With Number 3 off to see his girl and the others off to their respective dorms, I fall on the floor, my heart racing in my head. The room spins and sways as I stare at the lonely skull and crossed swords of the flag above.
Six hours ’till macroeconomics. Hold tight, Jim lad, hold tight.
GREGORY T. JANETKA is a writer from Chicago who currently lives in San Diego, where he is inspired by pretty things. His work has been published in Foliate Oak, Flyover County Review, Gambling the Aisle, The Journal of Microliterature, and The Scarlet Leaf Review. He is terribly good at jigsaw puzzles and drinks a great deal of tea. More of his writings can be found at gregorytjanetka.com.