Writing Prompt: Bag

Benjamin had lifted the backpack right off the old dude without even trying. It had been easy, almost too easy, and he couldn’t wait to find out what was inside. It felt pretty heavy; if he was lucky, there’d be a laptop or a tablet inside. Something Lucas could leech personal info off of, anyway; it’d make the paycheck bigger.

He swept the assorted detritus off the top of his father’s workbench, not caring that one or two of the little wooden figurines his dad liked to carve hit the ground and cracked, sending splinters into the air. Giggling a little to himself, already imagining all the things Lucas’ money could buy, he upended the bag and let the contents spill out.

His giggles were cut short when he saw his supposed treasure. Meaningless bric-a-brac, trinkets and doodads galore. No laptop. No tablet. Not even a cell phone. Just a bunch of junk.

He swept through the pile, scattering it a bit, hoping to see the gleam of black metal or hear the chime of a mistreated bit of electronic wizardry, but no luck. All he saw were inhalers, empty pill bottles, a switchblade, ticket stubs, a bag of marbles. More crap.

There was a bang on the shed’s door. Benjamin jumped, but paid it no mind, his hands still rummaging in the treasure pile for something actually of value. At the second bang he glanced over his shoulder, irritated.

“I’ll be out in a minute, Dad! I’m busy!”

There was silence from outside for a moment. Then a third bang, but this time it wasn’t knocking. It was the door being blasted inward with what must have been a massive amount of force. Standing on the other side was the old man Benjamin had lifted the bag from in the first place. He recognized him from the ugly orange jacket and the battered fedora the old guy was wearing; no sane person would wear that kind of getup in a Floridian summer.

“You have something of mine,” he said, his voice cracked and weary with age. “I’m going to have it back.”

Benjamin snorted. “What? This crap? Fine, take it, you old fuck.”

Benjamin swept his hand across the worktable again, scattering the items and causing more than one to hit the floor. The old man winced as he heard something crack, as though it caused him actual, physical pain. He moved forward, into the shed, bending over his treasures.

Benjamin saw his chance. The old bastard was right there, right below him. His hand crept out and picked up his dad’s hammer. The expression of surprise on his face when he tried to bring it down and couldn’t move, couldn’t even command himself to take a breath, would have been comical if it wasn’t also terrible.

Blood began to run down his chin, staining his Slipknot t-shirt. The old man had picked up the switchblade and without batting an eye or giving Benjamin any time to react, had driven it into the boy’s stomach.

The old man stood, pulling the knife out in a motion that spoke of years of practice. He folded the blade and set it gently on the table. Then his fingers pulled the hammer from the boy’s hand and set that aside as well.

“Glug,” said Benjamin, then repeated the syllable a couple more times as if for emphasis.

“Glug, indeed,” said the old guy, as he wrapped one of his gnarled hands around the boy’s throat and began to squeeze.

When it was done, the body safely tucked in the corner, a grisly present for the boy’s father to find later, perhaps, the old man bent over and began putting his treasures back into the bag. After he had accounted for each and every one, whispering to them as though they were lost children, he stopped, considering.

Slowly and carefully, he picked up one of the wooden figurines from the floor. This one was of a swan, or would have been, had it been finished. The general shape was there, but details were still hard to pick out.

“Benjamin,” the old man whispered to it, stroking its splintered backside. “Welcome to the menagerie.”

He added the wooden swan to his bag, before shouldering the pack, and walking away.

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