[Author's Note: This was a writing challenge. I write a story in 750 words or less that started with the line "the strangest thing happened to me on the way to the store" and ended with the line "and that is why I spent the night in jail."]
The strangest thing happened on the way to the store yesterday," I said as I entered the hotel room.
"Where have you been?" Denny stared at me from the bed.
"It's a good story, Denny." I tossed the hotel key card on the dresser and flopped onto the other bed on my back.
"You've been gone all night," Denny sat up, feet thumping on the carpet. "What the hell happened?"
"I went out for smokes." I stared at the spiral textured ceiling; it reminded me of the downward spiral last night had taken.
"And I haven't seen you since." Denny was staring at me; I couldn't see him, but I could feel it. "We were supposed to go out."
"Lemme tell you what happened." I grabbed Denny's cigarettes off the nightstand, pulled one out of the pack, and lit it with his lighter.
"The concierge said there's a twenty-four hour store down the street, so I headed there. On the way I saw this street preacher standing on a crate and screaming at the top of his lungs: 'Armageddon is near! The seas will boil! The skies will burn!' Crazy shit. Everyone was ignoring him, but I stopped.
"The guy was classic: skinny with crazy hair and a face like a choked rat. I'm chuckling when I feel this tap on my hip. My first thought is pickpocket, so I spin around, but no one's there. It was definitely a tap, like someone was trying to get my attention. Then I hear his voice at the same time I catch him in my peripheral vision. He's a midget, up to my gut. He says, 'five bucks' like I'm checking out at the cash register, like he just expects me to pay him. A friggin' midget!"
"You got rolled by a midget?" Denny was smiling through his astonishment.
"Listen," I took a quick drag and crushed the cigarette out in the ashtray. "The midget wants five bucks, so I say, 'piss off' and turn towards the store. That's when he kicks me, hard, right in the ankle."
"Dude, if you're going to tell me a midget kicked your ass..." Denny wasn't even trying to hide his amusement.
"Just shut up and lemme tell the story. So I spin around ready to knock the little bastard on his ass, only now it's him and the preacher. They're looking at me like I'm dinner. Two on one ain't good odds, even if one of them is a midget."
"I think they prefer 'little people'," Denny had the biggest grin on his face when he said it.
I gave him a blank stare. He didn't stop grinning, but at least the comments stopped.
"So the preacher says, 'you gotta pay to hear the word.' I'm getting jacked up by a crazy street preacher and a midget. I'm sure as hell not gonna pay, so I tell 'em to stick it and take a few steps back. Right into number three. I turn my head to see who's there and he grabs me, pins my arms to my sides. Then the midget punches me right in the nuts."
Uncontrollable, raucous laughter burst from Denny.
"I lean into the big guy behind me and start kicking. I catch the little guy right in the head, then hit the preacher a good one in the crotch. They both go down, but the big guy won't let go. There's a crowd around us when I hear, 'Break it up! Police!" The big guy drops me and kicks me square in the ass. I go flying and land on the midget.
"I'm trying to get up when they grab me, one on each arm, and haul me up off the midget. The preacher's gone, the big guy's gone. It's just me, shorty, and the cops. I tell them about Tattoo's partners, and the one cop says real quiet to his buddy, 'guy got his ass kicked by a midget; he's making the other guys up.' So I turn to him and say, 'listen, you donut-eating motherfu..."
"You didn't." Denny stared at me.
"I did. And that is why I spent the night in jail."