I'm depositing money at the bank when four robbers burst in with machine guns. I assume they want money, but they point guns at one girl and threaten her life unless she tells them a secret. Trembling, she stutters that she'd once cheated on her boyfriend with four guys on the same day. The robbers dismiss it as pedestrian and want something darker. She eventually lets slip the fact that she'd faked a funeral for her perfectly healthy sister to get sympathy money so she could buy herself Tiffany accessories. They force an old couple to admit that they've despised each other ever since one Christmas thirty years ago when the old man took out his life savings and blew the money starting a strip club next to a church�he felt religion secretly produced the most deviant sinners.
The revelations vary in the potpourri of fetishes, phobias, addictions until it's my turn and they demand a story that'll make them weep or they'll shoot my legs. I tell them about my guinea pig and the day she choked to death on pellets and how hard I cried. They think it's comedic, but I tell them it was the last gift my girlfriend gave me before she disappeared, how every time I saw the guinea pig, it reminded me of her vacillations, her whimsies, her restless meanderings. They seem content, provoke a few more testimonies. Then they gather us together into a big huddle and ask us to say one last word before we die. Several break into tears. We hear gunfire. I shut my eyes, frozen in terror by the burst of bullets. I'm surprised when a minute later, I'm still alive and the robbers are running out. They had fired blanks. "Wait!" one man who'd revealed he had seven illegitimate daughters calls. "What was it all for?" Even though he is in tears, the robbers don't reply, laughing as they exit quickly.
Some of the victims embrace, trying to soothe one another. But more are ashamed, embarrassed about the confessions they made. I stand apart, wondering if guinea pigs would impale their memories with artillery the way I would. I wished the robbers could have just pilfered my memories instead of leaving me standing with an empty slip for my deposit that has me wishing there was a cure for regret
BIO: Peter Tieryas Liu has stories published or forthcoming in
the Bitter Oleander, Camera Obscura Journal, decomP, the Evergreen Review, and the Indiana Review.
His collection of short stories, Watering Heaven, is coming out in the fall of
2012 from Signal 8 Press. You can follow his work at tieryas.wordpress.com.