On The Run

Kevin Hopson

A chiming of the door caused me to look up, and a twenty-something male hurried inside the pet store. He turned and pressed his palms against the glass door, attempting to close it.

“That door has a spring-loaded hinge,” I pointed out. “It closes on its own, so pushing it isn’t going to help.”

The man glanced over his shoulder at me, panting. He had a brown goatee and his t-shirt clung to a protruding belly.

“Can I help you?” I said.  

“Does this door have a lock?” he asked, finally getting the door to close all of the way.

“Of course. I know this place isn’t much, but we prefer that random people off the street not wander in at night and steal our shit.”

The man inspected the door, noticing a deadbolt lever below the handle. He quickly put a hand to the lock and turned it.

“Technically, we’re still open,” I said. “Though I wouldn’t mind closing up early.”

“Oh, shit,” the man said, backing away from the door. “He’s coming.”

“Who is?”

The man stared at me with wide eyes. “Some lunatic who nearly ran me over in the parking lot.”

I got up from my chair and circled around the counter. It was past dusk, but I caught a glimpse of a figure outside, the parking lot lights revealing a large man in pursuit and getting closer.  

“You must have done something,” I said. “People don’t normally run you down in the parking lot and then get out of their vehicle to chase after you.” I paused. “Do they?”

“I might have given him the finger,” the man said.

“Might have?”

“I was loading groceries into my car when he backed out of his parking space. His bumper came within a few feet of me. That asshole should watch where he’s going.”

“So, you just left your groceries there?”

“What else was I supposed to do?”

“Do you have any refrigerated items?”

“Just some produce. But it will be fine.”

I nodded. “What’s your name?”


The pursuer stopped just outside the store. He was bigger than I initially thought. Not necessarily in a muscular way, but he was tall and round and imposing nonetheless. The guy tugged at the door handle. When it didn’t budge, he shouted and put a fist to the door, pounding the glass.

“Is there any way you can resolve this?” I asked Jason. “I’m pretty sure the owner has insurance, but he tends to be cheap. If anything happens on my watch, I don’t want it coming out of my paycheck.”

“If I go out there,” he said, “God knows what he’ll do to me.”

The guy continued to bang on the door, yelling obscenities. Then it went quiet. The man peered through the glass, his lips soon stretching into a grin.

“Is that a chameleon?” he asked, his voice muffled through the glass as he pointed to a tank near the front of the store.

“Yeah,” I shouted.

“Can I come in and check it out?”

“No way,” Jason said to me. “It’s a trick.”

“We don’t know that,” I replied. “I mean, I’d probably do something similar if I were in his shoes, but he could have a genuine love for chameleons.”

Jason’s eyes bulged as he gawked at me. “Dude. He’s going to kill me.”

“I think you’re overreacting. I don’t think he would kill you in front of me. I’m a witness after all. 

He might rough you up a little bit, though.”

“He could kill both of us, then there’d be no witnesses.”

He had a point, but the guy didn’t look like a murderer. Then again, what the hell did I know about profiling killers?

“You two have to come to a truce,” I shouted to the man outside. “Otherwise, I’m not letting you in.”

The man eyed me, then Jason, but he saved the stink eye for Jason.

“Fine,” he finally said.

I glided a hand into my pants pocket and slid my phone from its resting place.

“If you don’t keep your word, I’ll call the cops,” I said, holding up the phone.

The man nodded.

I returned the phone to my pocket and walked toward the door, turning the lock and pulling open the door. I stood between the two of them just to be safe.

The man was several inches taller than me. He looked over my shoulder at Jason, his face stern at first. Then, his cheek and jaw muscles eased, and he turned his attention to the other side of the store. He smiled as he approached the chameleon tank.

“I had one of these when I was a kid,” he said. “His name was Predator.”

“Predator?” I said.

“Who the hell names their chameleon Predator?” Jason murmured.

I glared at Jason and frowned, shaking my head.

Thankfully, the man hadn’t heard or was choosing to ignore him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I named him after that creature in the Predator movie. The original,” he elaborated. “They’ve obviously made more movies since then.”

“I’ve seen some of the movies,” I said, “and I can see where you’d come up with that. You know, the whole camouflage thing and all.”

The man bobbed his head. “Exactly.” He leaned over to get a better look at the chameleon. 

“This is a veiled chameleon?”

“Yeah. It’s the most popular breed. And the cheapest. It’s also good for beginners, but you’re obviously not a beginner.”

The man straightened. “When do you open tomorrow?”

“Nine o’clock.”

“Great. I’ll swing by first thing in the morning. I’d like to buy it. I’ll have to buy a bunch of supplies as well.”

“I’m assuming you’re aware of the costs,” I said. “The supplies are going to cost a lot more than the actual chameleon.”

“I know. I’m fine with that.” He glimpsed Jason. “Just make sure that guy isn’t here when I arrive.”

“No worries,” I said. “I’ll keep the door locked until you get here just to be safe.”

Jason rolled his eyes.

The man walked toward the door, eyeing Jason one last time. Then he tugged the handle and exited the store.

“Have a good evening,” I shouted as the door began to close.

With his back to me, the man raised a hand, quickly disappearing from view.

“Well,” I said. “I guess I owe you a thank you.”

“For what?” Jason said.

“Your little cat and mouse game brought in a new customer. The tank, lighting, plants, and food will run him a few hundred dollars alone.” 

“Do I get a cut?”

“No. Just a thank you.”

“Damn. Just my luck.”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “I appreciate the drama, but it’s time for you to go. I’ll be closing up soon.”

“But what if he’s waiting to jump me when I get back to my car?”

I shrugged. “I guess that’s possible.”

I put a hand to Jason’s shoulder, nudging him out the door.

“You can’t do this,” Jason pleaded. “Walk me to my car, at least.”

“Thanks again,” I said, locking the door. “Have a good night. Don’t come back.”