My First Armed Robbery

In late 1969, Ray Blute fell in lust with my wife. He had just published one of my short stories and my first article in two of his local magazines and now wished to pubicize my wife. I in my depression was thinking of letting him, as was she in hers; I had been ignoring her because I had recently been fired, was deep in debt, indifferent, artistically frustrated, immature, and unwillingly married.

      One night during our cheap wine patrols, my crime partner-to-be started flirting with my future ex-wife in front of me, and she responded. I being bohemian believed in freedom of choice but got jealous anyway and tried to compete. She bloomed beneath our dueling affections and rose in wine and smoke and slowly shed her clothes down to bra and panties. We all went to bed when the wine ran out, and they touched too much while I faked sleep.

      The next night at Burger King, Ray talked to me of robbing the place, while I thought of breaking his fingers so he couldn’t touch her again. He was desperate, in need of quick money because his ad agency was failing and he was about to lose his typesetting machines which were publishing me. I gave him theoretical advice, like you can’t do this, you might try that, Burger Kings are bad, big box office movies aren’t. Within the week he showed up at our apartment with two large hand guns.

      I hadn’t thought our conversation serious but went along because it was something to do and I was bored. Since we were going to rob with guns, he figured we should shoot them first, so we went out on a golf course after dark and fired them. We each shot once into the night, producing a huge nasty gut wrenching noise. I took my gun back after he’d removed the clip and pulled the trigger and it went off, the bullet hitting the ground between my feet.

      After Ray left our house that evening, Red said he had visited her he day before while I was out. They’d talked awhile, then he took her hand and led her into the bedroom, unbuttoned her robe and caressed her bared breasts. He wanted more, but she didn't; the interest of another and their furtive touching temporarily satisfied her.

     I know she loves me, which is why she tells me this, but I would rather be alone, be an artist. Hippie me, I feel I’m free of this possession package the suburbans wrap around their female property. I don’t own her; what she needs to fuel her future is her business, weighed on her karmic balance, not mine. I don’t want her, yet hate his want and her response. I know I ignore her, but wish she would run to more than him.

      The day of the robbery I write in my journal: 29 January, 1970 – Thursday 12:19 PM about 55 degrees heavily overcast occasional short showers. Me, I’m tired. Mainly from lack of sleep, but partially from beginning fear – fear that says we’re going to go through with it tonight. I want to, and I don’t want to.

      Since I’m a freak, I slick my long hair back, wear a white shirt with a narrow black tie and Glidden-Durkee safety glasses as a disguise. As we were leaving, Ray’s wife calls, crying, asking if I know where her husband was. She’d been drinking and seeing the snake of truth, knowing something was wrong but not specifically the guns or breasts. She talked for ninety minutes, seriously cramping our scheduled crime spree. As I calm her, I saw her husband’s hand on my wife’s flesh.

      I chose the 7-Eleven in my boss’s neighborhood. We walked into the store and hesitated, not really believing we’d do it. We wandered around waiting for the customer to leave. Ray bought a twenty cent pack of cigars, and as he paid, I tried to pull the gun out of my pants, but the gun sight got stuck on my belt. After a couple tugs, I finally got it out and pointed at the clerk and coolly said, “Leave it open” just as he closed the cash drawer. He reopened it and handed me all the money: sixty-four dollars.

      It wasn’t enough. I didn’t know then they hid all the big bills under the cash drawer, but I knew there had to be more than that so demanded his wallet. As he handed it to me I said, “No, that’s yours. I can’t take this,” and handed it back. He was smiling as I told him to lie down on the floor, and we ran out just as more customers rolled into the parking lot. Scared, we cut through the alley and up a hill. It was raining and Ray was right in front of me as I slipped on the wet grass and fell face first in the mud and my gun which was straight out in front of me went off when I hit, but somehow I missed him. That made two of us I’d missed so far. We bought some more cheap wine and went back and flirted with my wife.



* Chapter 1 of "Stations of the Lost - a true tale of armed robbery, stolen cars, outsider art, mainstream poetry,  underground publishing, robbing the cradle, and leaving the country" by Smith & Lady (an as yet unpublished memoir)