Roberta lay awake in her room listening to the sounds of the TV, downstairs where her parents watched late-night talk shows. At 11:00, she heard Johnny and Ed saying good night. Then her parents turned off the television. Her dad checked the locks on the doors as her mother trudged to the master bedroom that overlooked the back garden at the rear of the second floor. She feigned sleep when her mom looked in on her and listened through the thin walls. Mom went into the bathroom, peed, flushed the toilet and washed her hands. It wasn’t long after that when she heard her father flick off the porch light and spring up the stairs to repeat the same bathroom routine as his wife.
She listened to her parents argue for a while, but neither of them must have been invested in the fight, it drifted off pretty fast. Roberta listened with her eyes open as the night settled on the house like a stone . Now was where her plan got tricky. There was no room for mistakes. After an interminable amount of time, she crawled from the bed and slowly opened the door to the hallway. Staying close to the wall, she crept to her parents’ door and put her ear against it. There was no light coming from beneath the door, a good sign. She could hear her mother snoring faintly. There was no noise from her father. It was now or never.
Back in her bedroom, Roberta pulled on her jeans and an old peasant blouse that had belonged to her mother. She put on her black wool pea coat and pulled a ball cap low over her eyes. She rummaged under the bed and pulled out her old backpack. It was a pink one with a Nike swoosh. She stuck her hand inside and made sure it was empty. Then she crept all the way downstairs to her father’s workbench in the basement. The work light came on when she turned the switch. In its glow, she knelt to operate the Master Lock on the old grey school locker where dad kept his girlie magazines. She pulled out the stack of dog-eared pornography and set it on the concrete floor. Reaching deep into the locker, she felt what she was looking for. So she began pulling out the pipe bombs that her father had been assembling for the last few weeks. She placed them in her pink backpack. There were fifteen of them. Each was about six inches long and heavier than she had expected.
Another look in the locker revealed a thick envelope stuffed full of hundred-dollar bills. There was also a plastic sandwich bag, filled with marijuana. There were three or four already rolled joints in the bag and a pack of rolling papers. Roberta had seen people roll cigarettes before. Her grandma did it all the time, but Roberta had never done it herself. Oh well, she could learn. She stuffed the cash and the dope into the pockets of her coat, climbed back up the stairs and out the front door, into the night.
It was a four-mile walk to the Starbucks on Central, but Roberta was in a hurry and made it in about forty-five minutes. It wasn’t crowded. She put her backpack on a chair near the front door and meandered over to the counter to order coffee in a paper cup. Keeping the bill of her cap low and looking down as much as possible, Roberta ordered a single espresso and avoided small talk with the barista.
The espresso was delicious, and she gulped about half of it down before standing and leaving through the front door. She didn’t think anyone had seen her go. Moving fast but careful not to draw attention to herself, she hurried away from the coffee shop. It was another three miles to the Greyhound terminal. Chubby’s all-night diner was about half the way there. There was still a phone booth outside Chubby’s, where she called the cops to report a bomb in the Starbucks.
There was a bus getting ready to leave for Eugene when Roberta breezed through the doors of the station. She bought a ticket from the old man at the counter. He wore plastic-framed glasses low on his nose, a green visor on his head and had a non-filter cigarette tucked behind his ear. He barely looked up at her. She showed her ticket to the driver, who punched a hole in it before making her way to the back of the bus. She slumped low and made herself small in a window seat. She got off the bus in Roseburg where she pulled her hair back into a high, tight ponytail and bought another ticket, heading back south.
It took almost a full day to get to Los Angeles from Roseburg.