Wal-Mart in a Flash

So I was too busy writing this new flash story to post any more of my old flash stories, but if there’s any real interest in that sort of thing I could get around to it at some later point. So here’s my story for Patti Abbott’s flash fiction challenge. The rest of the participants can be found here.

By Bryon Quertermous

The Vigilante’s assistant was a liberal, but it never seemed to be an issue except when they ended up at Wal-Mart. Rumors of a Wal-Mart popping up in Super City had been around for years, but it wasn’t until two years ago that the right mix of corrupt and/or right wing city council members was able to push the store through. The Vigilante’s assistant thought Wal-Mart was the corporate face of the devil, but he was there for every one of the monthly trips hoping to sway The Vigilante to his point of view. For his part, The Vigilante liked being able to get ammo, hand-to-hand weapons, and sewing supplies for his suit at a substantial and convenient discount.

“Regardless of their abhorrent business practices,” Assistant always said.

This time was different though. The monthly visit fell on the Friday after Thanksgiving and that exposed both of them to a human depravity shocking even to men used to battling super villains. Compared to a crowd of sleep deprived soccer moms on the hunt for unsustainably priced foreign toy goods, Dr. Zap and The Chemist seemed like mere playground bullies.

“All these people,” Assistant said five minutes into the visit. “All this overtime and they still won’t make enough for a decent Christmas and god forbid they get sick over the holidays.”

“You don’t believe in god.”

“And this company doesn’t believe in—”

“Not today. I don’t have the patience for your speeches today. These crowds are awful and, I mean look at that. If this is such a craphole why are there…two four eight, sixteen people standing in line to apply for jobs?”

“In this economy—”

“Nobody’s forcing them to work here. Now go get the stuff off your list from housewares and I’ll be over in sporting goods.”

On his way to sporting goods, The Vigilante couldn’t help but think about the troubles of everyone he passed. His whole career had been devoted to fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves and standing up to impossible foes. Were these employees in the same situation?

* * *
Meanwhile, over in hardware at the same store, Dr. Zap was pleased to find the batteries and wiring he needed for a bomb were on sale. Normally he wouldn’t have ever been in a store like this on such a busy day, but the lab he’d targeted was getting their latest shipment that day and he needed to act quickly and there was no denying the selection and convenience (and yes, price) of the evil empire.

Zap fancied himself something of progressive villain. He drove a hybrid car, always recycled, and shared much of the wealth he accumulated with those less fortunate than himself. His crimes were also of a social nature. He robbed banks linked to nazis and corporate raiders, he attacked organizations and individuals linked to a variety of crimes against humanity.

After grabbing a couple more things he couldn’t pass up, Dr. Zap was heading to the checkout when he saw The Vigilante’s Assistant. If Zap was a socially conscious “villain” he saw The Vigilante as a violent, right-wing motivated, hate machine. His particular bent was taking out innocent citizens who successfully defended themselves against criminal charges brought by the zealous and corrupt prosecutor for Super City. But his assistant was a fixture at area soup kitchens and gave much of his salary to charitable causes.

“Tell me your corrupting him from the inside,” Zap said.

“Oh, you. He’s a good—”

“He’s a thug and you’re his accomplice.”

“Why are you here?”

“Plans are afoot,” Zap said. “Time is of the essence and such. I’m sure your boss has told you about it.”

“I just come along for the ride and make sure he doesn’t screw up too bad.”

“You’re like Jiminy Cricket?”

The assistant didn’t answer so Zap left and headed for the door.

* * *

The assistant watched Dr. Zap leave without paying for his goods but didn’t tell anyone, figuring the store deserved it. The Vigilante was indeed aware of Zap’s plan to blow up the labs and that’s what he was getting supplies for that day, and the assistant suspected there was a broad commentary to be made about how, karmically, Wal-Mart’s existence balanced out in the universe because for every poorly paid job they gave out and for every super villain who purchased their world dominating goods there, they also supplied heroes like The Vigilante at a low cost and provided a lot of good things to their local communities, even if only out of corporate guilt.

But he couldn’t concentrate on any of it because he was too absorbed by the idea of a 60 inch flat screen TV on sale right then for $400. A world that could provide such a thing didn’t need superheroes.