Respect and a .357

By: Leon Smith - Contributing columnist

Author’s note: The events in this story are true, but some names and some details have been changed. This story was told to me by the man involved in it.

Sam didn’t mind rifles, but pistols were a different matter. They gave him the willies, which is why he never kept one in his and Sylvie’s diner. That is until someone robbed him with one. From then on, he always worried that someone would rob him again.

The gun dealer said he should get a big one, and hang it in a shoulder holster. So Sam picked out a Dirty Harry style one, a .357 magnum revolver. And he hung it on a coat rack within view of the dining room. He prayed he would never have to use that pistol, and even if he did that he would never take a life. He had been a guard at the prison, and often had used a soft voice to calm inmates. But if he had to, he could and would, use his gun to protect the folks in his diner.

The new deterrent was put to the test one fall evening. The weather was cool and his customers were in the mood for fish. They started piling in at nightfall, and didn’t let up until around ten p.m. That was when Sylvie leaned up against the wall beside the serving counter. “My feet are killing me,” she said.

“Mine too.”

In a few minutes another couple came in. She smiled as she took their order: two more fish plates.

After that couple left, the diner was quiet for maybe 15 minutes. Then Sam heard the door open, but paid no attention ‘til Sylvie came up and whispered. “You need to come out here.”

He looked at the dining room. “Why?”

“You’ll see. Bring the gun.”

Sam put on the shoulder holster, and unsnapped the strap that secured the hammer. Then he slipped on his windbreaker to hide the weapon, and walked slowly into the dining room.

To the left of the front of the door stood the biggest woman he had ever seen in his life. She looked six-foot-four and 250 pounds. She wore a flowered dress in a stance that reminded him of Walker, Texas Ranger. Her legs looked like mill posts set into a pair of man’s high-top work books, probably at least size 12. As she cased the place out, her baseball cap jerked to a stop each time she changed her view.

When her nose pointed in the direction of the register, Sam moved slowly within her field of vision.

“Can we help you ma’am? he said, drawing out the words.

“Naw, I didn’t come in here to eat,” she said in a voice of a woman half her size. Her gaze ratchetted past him. “I got something else in mind.”

“Maybe a co-coler, then,” he asked.

“Naw, I don’t want nothing to drink either.” She ratcheted her head again.

He moved a slow step closer. When he saw her eyes, the hair on the back of his neck stood straight out. They looked like the ones in a cat.

He nodded for Sylvie to go in the back. She did.

“What can I do for you, then? Sam asked gently.

“There ain’t but one thing I want.”

Sam pushed his windbreaker back gently and tucked his left thumb in his jeans.

She saw the saw the .357, turned away, then looked at it again.

“I want a ride,” she said.

Sam tried to stifle his sigh before answering. “OK, we’ll get you one.”

“I don’t want to ride with you. I want the police to come and get me”.

“The police won’t come out here, unless…”

“Yes they will. I want a ride. With the police.”

“I don’t think they’ll come.”

“Just…. call…. them,” she said.

“Sylvie, call 911. This lady wants the police to give her a ride.”

“Yeah, you call them, Sylvie,” the woman said. “Tell ‘em Big Mac wants a ride. They’ll be right over.”

Sylvie made the call, while Sam entertained Big Mac.

“Miss Mac, you want something to drink? While we wait? ”

“It ain’t gon’ be that long.” Her eyes didn’t look so much like a cat’s any more.

She was right. It was only a few minutes before they heard the sirens, and then the crunch of the gravel as not one, not two, but three police cars skidded to a stop.

“You in there Big Mac?” they called.

“I’m in here.”

“You got a gun?”

“Not in my hand.”

Three officers came in with pistols drawn, and stepped up to Big Mac.

“You gon’ cause us trouble?

“Not tonight,” she said. “I been off my medicine, but I ain’t been off it that long.”

“Let me have your purse ,” the lead officer said.

She handed him the shoulder purse.

“Go with these officers, then,” he said. “If you go gentle we won’t cuff you in here.”

She jerked her head forward and strode toward the door. After two of the officers followed her out, the officer in charge came back to speak to Sam and Sylvie.

“You don’t know how lucky you are,” he said while the other officers cuffed her and put her in one of the cars.

“What do you mean?” Sam asked.

“She got locked up for robbing and trashing a diner down toward the coast. She kicked in the booths with her number 13s, then shot out every bit of glass in the place with the .357 she keeps in her bra. Then she robbed the place and walked away — on foot.”

“Why did she let us off?” Sylvie asked.

“Two reasons,” the officer said. “She’s gone off her medication. But not long enough to go hog wild. I figure she still had mind enough to see that .357 on Sam’s shoulder. Now if he had drawn it, she would have kicked it out of his hand, and shot him with it.”

“But as it was,” he said to Sam, “you didn’t threaten her with it. You treated her nice then showed her your gun. Big Mac knows .357’s. She totes power too.”

The word must have got around that Sam had met Big Mac without having his place trashed or robbed. His prayers were answered. For the rest of the time he and Sylvie ran the diner, he never even had to take the .357 off the coat rack again.

In the process, the fear of being robbed just melted away. Maybe it was because Big Mac had taught him a recipe for peace in the face of danger. Show your adversary Respect and a .357.

Leon Smith is a resident of Wingate.

Leon Smith

Contributing columnist