The Bystander

The bell at the entrance of the diner was still ringing when the man with the gun turned towards the people at the corner tables.  On account of her aching hip, Susie had seated what was left of the lunch crowd, a couple, a family, and a single woman there. In his usual booth by the door, a regular had just finished his two eggs-and-wheat-toast and most of his Sunday paper when the bell rang. While taking his last sip of coffee, he noticed the man, and when he saw him reach inside his coat pocket… , the regular ducked under the table.  hooded man entered.   and turned to the chatting and … animated customers. 

The couple in the tweed jacket – matching jackets by the wall were knee-deep into a conversation about criminal law reform when the man appeared. The woman was arguing on behalf of the state’s obligation for rehabilitation support.  The man believed that  …  professor at the state philosophic debate over the motivations of mankind… contradiction between the well-dressed man and woman … Neither of them looked up when the man turned and faced them directly square-on. , 

In a battle-of-wills with their toddler boy at the round table in the middle, the mother was picking up tomato packets from the floor. THe father was clenching his teeth in a struggle to control his temper as the boy pushed through the straps of his high chair and laughed with glee at the unending attention that he earned with each defiant act. While rolling his eyes, the father didn’t see the gunman standing with a hood half-concealing his face -cover his head…. 

The young woman at the small table in the corner  was gazing with searching eyes at her phone when the man entered. When he pulled the semi-automatic from his side coat pocket, her attention remained fully fixed to the screen and while the first, quick spray of bullets shot past and pierced the wall behind her and as the second round started. The stray shot that ricocheted off the … and ended up plunged through the arm of her skin… pushed her to the floor? 

The moment that the man reached into this coat pocket, the regular ducked under the table. At the  first round of gunfire, the couple held up their hands and … pleading …  froze with gaping mouths. The father pushed his son and wife to the floor, shielding them from … the bullets taht ripped through the ceiling and that …  young woman that lay on the floor bleeding.  screams and by the the whimpers and and … table, the blood-struned … Under the smashed windows and bullet-torn wallpapers,  and after a quick spray of bullets pierced the wall behind them, they turned, mouths gaped open and … 

The gunman’s rifle jammed after the second round. The man worked at smacking and pushing the trigger , the regular pushed himself off the floor. In a mad dash, he flung himself onto the guman., pushing the hot tip of the weapon away from him and towards the …. Bullets that spattered against the counter and shattered the mirror, and with a sudden move, Gregory thrusted his forearm into the gunman’s chin. At a standstill over the gun, the pair fell to the floor.  A busboy cowering by the coat rack charged forward, and the owner…  jumped toward the flailing bodies. The rifle flew to the door. The regular’s foot at the gunman’s neck secured to the floor – the bell rang once, twice, and three times more as the ambulance and police, and … rushed inside to help.

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