Shit Magnet

📅 Published on April 3, 2020

“Shit Magnet”

Written by Geoff Sturtevant
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.69/10. From 13 votes.
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They’ve called me a shit-magnet since I was a kid. It’s only an expression, sure, but I think it might also be a real thing. If a smile can attract smiles sure as a corpse can attract flies, there’s no reason a guy like me can’t attract trouble, just by virtue of being me. When they first called me a shit-magnet so long ago, I guess I felt a little insulted. In retrospect, though, I really don’t see it as an insult. I think what they were trying to say was: It’s not really my fault.

That’s what I thought the night I heard the shots; woke me up out of a dead sleep. In my dreams, we were kids again, setting off those pirate crackers in the fifty-gallon drums at the construction site. Blam blam blam. But before I knew it, my eyes were wide open, and I’d been transported back to the motel room. And the shots kept coming—blam blam blam. And there was a shout. A scream, more like it. And then a car door slamming and tires spinning in the gravel. Then a big block engine warbling off into the distance. And then there was nothing.

I lay in the lumpy motel bed with my eyes wide open. I didn’t know what time it was; I hadn’t even brought a watch along with me. I was on my way to pick up an old Mustang some guy had for sale; just like the one I used to drive as a kid. I only stopped in this remote shit town to spend the night. I was the one and only person in this dingy-ass motel. Even the guy manning the office had gone home. It was only me, and…whatever was going on out there.

I lay there for awhile trying to process what I may or may not have heard. Finally, I sat up.

Nah. Those were no pirate crackers…

I got out of bed and walked to the door, pulled the shade aside and looked out the window. It was pouring rain. Not much to see.

I opened the door and looked across the parking lot. Fat raindrops smacked into the puddles like little explosions. Not one car in the parking lot besides mine. Could I have dreamed the whole thing up?

Nah. No way…

I pulled my windbreaker on and walked outside. No sound but the rain. I walked about halfway across the parking lot before I saw it—a nondescript black sedan parked in the roadside opposite the motel. A barrage of raindrops sent steaming off the hood.

I crossed the parking lot, then stood at the side of the pavement and looked up and down the road. Dead quiet. No one around. Probably not for miles.

I went across the street and approached the black sedan. I walked around the car, looked in the windows. No one inside. There was a duffel bag in the back seat.

Around back, I saw one tire was flat. A twist of steam coming off the end of the tailpipe. There were holes in the rear fender—clean, little holes—and I knew it hadn’t been firecrackers that made all that noise. My heart sped up a bit. I looked up and down the road again, but it was still just me. Just me, the car, and the rain.

Or was it?


I waited for a minute, but there was no reply. There was a little clearing out beyond the brush on the side of the road. I forded the few bushes there and looked out into the weeds. It didn’t take long before I saw what I was looking for.

I walked over the crumpled heap in the clearing and nudged it with my foot.


No response. I kneeled down and had a closer look.

The man appeared Mexican, or something like it. His eyes were half-open but there was no life in them. I turned him onto his back and saw the blossom of blood on his white undershirt. The guy had been shot. More than once, by the look of it.

“Now why’d they do that, buddy?”

I squatted there in the rain for a minute, just kind of acclimating myself to the situation. I looked back at the road—still, no one had driven by—then back at the man. I started patting down his clothes. In his front pocket, I found a wallet. Inside the wallet was forty-five dollars. I folded the money and put it in my pocket. I thought of checking his I.D., but I didn’t suppose it made any difference who he was. I put the wallet on his chest.

In his jacket, I found a small revolver. A .38 with a snub-nose barrel. It looked to have been hit by a bullet itself; maybe one of the bullets that killed him. I didn’t know if it would fire right, so I left it where I’d found it.

I stood up and turned back to the road. A gale of wind sent the rain sideways. I walked back to the car and looked up and down the road to make sure no one was coming. I opened the side door and slid in next to the canvass bag. The car smelled strongly of marijuana. I unzipped the bag and looked inside.

There were two rifles. Bushmaster AR-15s. Looked brand-new. Worth at least seven, eight hundred apiece. Almost half of what I meant to spend on that Mustang.

“Guess that’s a bad idea,” I said. Maybe I was talking to myself; maybe I was talking to my other self. But it was my other self who answered:

“Guess it’s my lucky night,” I said.

Maybe I was right on both counts. In the end, I was walking back out into the rain with the duffel bag under my arm. I walked back to my car in the motel parking lot and unlocked the trunk and set the duffel bag inside. I covered it with some old clothes and towels and closed the lid.

The rain was coming down harder now. I hurried back to my room and toweled off in the little bathroom. As soon as I had, though, something occurred to me.

“Well, shit.”

I went back out into the rain. I loped across the parking lot and back to the car. I reached under the dash and felt around for the trunk lever. I pulled it, watching the lid through the rear window. I went around back and opened it.

Five more duffel bags. Plastic carry cases. Cases of ammo. The trunk was packed with guns.

For a minute, all I could do was stand there looking at it. That weird feeling like you stepped in a puddle maybe a little deeper than you thought it was. But by then, you were already in it, weren’t you? Even if the water was seeping in over the tops of your shoes.

“In for a penny,” I said to myself.

I slung the duffels over my shoulder and stacked the five pistol cases on the lip of the trunk and fumbled the lid closed. I carried them back to my car and set the bags inside the trunk with the others. Then I arranged the pistol cases inside so they wouldn’t shift around too much. My body was all full of adrenaline, same as it was when I went all-in on a poker hand, or bet my ass on a horse. I was about to close the lid and get ready to go, but my curiosity got the better of me. I flipped the latches on one of the heavier cases and peeked inside.

“Well, goddamn…”

I closed the case. Took it and another two cases back into the room with me. I set them on the bed and opened them, and just sat there enjoying the adrenaline thumping through my heart. I chuckled to myself, then reached in and lifted out the gold-plated Desert Eagle. I weighed it in my hand, ejected the magazine, popped it back in. I gripped it and looked down the sights. I pulled back the slide and looked down the barrel.

“Almost wide enough to fuck…”

There it was on the slide—.50AE. And how much does this thing bring in at the Five and Dime?

There were five of them; two gold, three nickel, all in .50 caliber. Two thousand for the gold-plated, a little less for the nickel. No telling where they’d been lifted from, but come inventory time, someone was gonna have a heart attack. Maybe a .50 caliber embolism.

I packed the guns and the rest of my stuff in the car and dropped the key in the return box. I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, my headlights panning the crime scene from right to left. I was about to take off, but I stopped there a moment.

“…in for a pound,” I said.

I pulled in next to the shot-up car and parked. Checked the rear view mirror. Pulled the trunk lever. I got out and opened the trunks of both cars. I lifted cases of 5.56 and .50 caliber ammunition from the trunk of the sedan and switched them to mine. When I was done, I could swear the ass of the old Toyota was hanging an inch lower. I closed both trunks and got back behind the wheel, wiped the rain from my eyes, and checked the mirrors again. There was no one out here but me and Chico; not a single passerby since the whole thing went down. In any case, though, I was done pushing my luck.

The radio said it was 3:00 a.m. Felt about right. And I drove down the road with around $15,000 worth of guns and ammo in the trunk, the moon following me through the leafless trees like a knowing, watchful eye. Would I have done anything different if the motel man asked for ID, or if I’d paid with a card, or left any other evidence of my presence behind? Probably not. It was just luck that I hadn’t.

I finished the night behind an abandoned gas station in the corner of town. When I opened my eyes, the whole thing felt like just another of my crazy dreams. But this was no dream. Everyone gets a lucky night once in awhile, even a guy like me.

I got out of the car, stretched, checked my surroundings. The morning sun burning off the last of the rain. The perfumed country air. I felt like the last man on earth. I reached in and popped the trunk. There in the light of the morning were the damp canvass bags, pistol cases, and ammo. I flipped the latches on a case and looked in at the gold-plated Eagle. I’d keep this one, I decided. The rest I’d sell off, but this one was mine.

I opened one of the ammo cases and took out a box of .50’s. I slid out a magazine and started thumbing in the obscenely big cartridges. It might’ve fit seven, but I got in five, and decided to leave it at that. I slid the mag back in, gripped it, sighted down the barrel. Held it at my side, felt the weight in my hand. I looked out into the wooded area behind the station. Damn, did I want to shoot it; the very idea made my senses tingle. But I had better sense than that.

I brought the gun up front with me, set it lovingly on the passenger seat. I looked at it a last time and pulled away. The radio said it was 9:00 a.m.

I stopped at a diner on the way out of town and ordered a big breakfast. I sat there eating eggs and bacon and thinking about money. Thought about what I’d do with all of it once I got my hands on it. Maybe hit the track. Maybe an all-nighter at the blackjack table. Hell, I might even win this time; it sure felt like I was starting a lucky streak. And if I didn’t, it was free money to begin with. All this, of course, was predicated on finding some troublemaker willing to pick up what I was putting down. Maybe some shit-magnet himself.

I paid for breakfast with one of Chico’s twenties, and let the waitress keep the change. Thanks, Chico.

I pulled into the long gravel driveway at 2:00 p.m. I saw the Mustang sitting in the driveway, looking just like it did in the pictures. An old 5.0, 4.10 gears, upgraded wheels. Old Stanley had decided to drive something more practical, he explained. Most people got practical as they got older; the word itself was a common refrain among guys my age. But I didn’t like it. The way I see things, there’s nothing graceful about aging gracefully.

A barking dog announced my arrival, and Stanley came out on the porch. I put the Desert Eagle in the glove box and flipped it shut. I parked the car and got out to meet him. We shook hands.

“Thanks for coming out all this way. So here’s yer Toyoter, eh?”

“Just got a few things in it I have to move, then it’s all yours. You gonna junk it? Fix it up?”

“I’m undecided,” he said. “Might could spruce her up a bit. Got no parts for it, but I could patch the rust and maybe paint it. These Toyoters run forever—real practical vehicles. We’ll see.”

I nodded. I didn’t care what he did with it, as long as the plates were off of it, and it was no longer traceable to me. I’d take the long way out of town with my new acquisitions and drive the speed limit all the way back home. No doubt they’d found Chico by now, but there was nothing linking any of that to me. All I was guilty of was a little finders-keepers.

I made sure my car was locked up, and we took the Mustang for a spin. Pleased, I pulled in next to my old Toyota and parked. The agreed-upon price was 3k and the Toyota. It was a fair and reasonable price, and I was ready to pay it. But first, I studied the guy’s face. Maybe Staney would be interested in an alternative form of payment.

“So waddya thinkin’? Like the car?”

“I do. I was just wondering if maybe you’d be interested in something other than cash.”

“Other than cash?” An odd look came across his face.

If there was a tactful way to suggest what I had in mind, I couldn’t decide what it was. I figured I might as well just come out with it.

Got some brand-new Bushmaster AR’s. Worth maybe eight hundred apiece. I’d take five hundred if you’re interested.”

He lifted a hand. “Nah, no can do,” he said. “I need the cash.”

I cleared my throat. “How about three fifty? That’s the absolute lowest I can—”

“Cash only. Sorry if you had any idea I was willing to trade it out, but I’m not. The best I could do was knock off $500 for the Toyoter, but that’s it. You still want it?”

I pretended to reconsider for a moment, but I went ahead and shook his hand. If I had ever intended to back out of the deal, that option went out the window the minute I found those guns. There was no way I was driving out of here in the same car I arrived in.

The money changed hands, and that was that. Or it should have been, anyway, but Stanley wasn’t too keen on social cues. He seemed intent on standing right there with me until the moment I left. Probably meant to wave bye-bye and everything. Which meant there was no way to discretely move the arsenal from the Toyota to the Mustang. Discrete was plan A. Plan B would have to be nonchalance. So I went ahead and popped the trunk.

“Yeah, I’ll tell ya. When it rains around here, it sure does rain. I know we need it, but…”

With the pause in his sentence, I knew old Stanley had spotted the contents of my trunk. “Yeah, sure, we need it,” I said.

He gestured toward the trunk. “You a gun dealer or something, mister?”

“Yessir. Hope I didn’t alarm you.”

He was still looking in the trunk. “No, no. Headed to a show or something?”

“That’s right.”

“Where at?”

We made eye contact. “Bethesda,” I said. It was the first place that came to my mind.

“A gun show in Bethesda?”

I nodded. “Figure I’ll get there by tonight, check out the town, and the show’s on Saturday.”

“What’s it called?” he asked.

We met eyes again. “Bethesda Gun Show,” I said.

That must’ve satisfied him, because he appeared to relax. He went on pelting me with platitudes while I transferred the guns and ammo to the Mustang’s trunk. When I was all loaded up, I closed the lid and returned to the glove box to retrieve my Eagle. I stuck the gun under my waistband. It threatened to pull my pants down, but it was more appropriate than brandishing it.

I thanked Stanley for the car and bid him good day. I backed out of the driveway and onto the main road, enjoying the throaty rumble of the engine. It was going to be a long ride back home. God knows, it’d go a whole lot faster without the contraband in the trunk.

I pulled into a gas station about twenty miles east. I got out of the car and stood back to admire my new ride. I’d had one just like it when I was a kid. A nineteen-year-old shit-magnet with similar sensibilities. Crashed the thing into a dumpster one night. Totaled the car, but walked away without a scratch. I don’t remember how I got home, don’t even remember what happened to the car. All I know was that was the last time I drove one. Until now.

Second chances. Everyone deserves one.

I went into the store to pay with cash. The man at the register regarded me suspiciously, like most people seem to do. Must be something in my eyes, I guess.

“Can I help you?”

“Twenty bucks on pump one,” I said.

The man took my twenty and rang me up. I looked down at the bulge in my pants, still toting the giant pistol like some obscene erection. Had to be the worst carry-weapon I’d ever worn, especially without a holster. But obscene is just how it felt, and it felt so good. That other part of me—the one I talk to sometimes—he wanted to pull it out and point it at the guy. I knew if I did, he’d be seeing the thing in his dreams.

Go ahead, I said to myself.

I could feel my heart rate increasing. Same way it did when I was out looking for coke or shopping for hookers. I glanced up at the corners of the shop, but there were no cameras; just those anti-theft mirrors. I wondered how much cash was in the register. I looked at the cashier, pictured his buggy eyes bugging out even further while he stared down the half-inch-wide barrel.

I could even kill him if I wanted to.

I was pretty close to entertaining that little voice in my head when the blue and red lights started flashing in the security mirrors. I looked out into the parking lot. A trooper had parked right behind my Mustang. And while I watched, another cop car pulled right in front of it. Furious, I looked at the cashier, but he seemed just as confused as I was.

There were four cops. Three of them stayed back, circled the Mustang, peeked in the windows. The fourth was approaching the store.

Stanley. Good old Stanley, took my money and called the goddamn cops. Probably reported the Mustang stolen; told them I’d robbed him at gunpoint.

I can’t say I knew exactly what I was supposed to do at that moment. But in all my confusion, a few things were pretty clear. The cops knew about the guns in my trunk, and I wasn’t going to be able to explain that away. Not only were the guns themselves enough to fuck me, but I’d inevitably be linked to the whole murder thing that happened to Chico out by the motel. And my brand-new gold-plated Desert Eagle was as good as gone, without even the chance to shoot it. Somehow that seemed the most tragic part of all. One way or another, that gun was coming out of my waistband. Only question was: Would it be the cops taking it out, or would it be me?

“Are you in some kinda trouble, mister?” the cashier asked.

I looked at the guy. This boring, good-boy cashier working at his local gas station for minimum wage. Probably never rocked the boat in his life. Probably never had any excitement. Maybe never had any fun at all.

“I was born in trouble,” I said.

I pulled the Desert Eagle out of my waistband and racked a round. I leveled it at the approaching police officer. A flood of adrenaline coursed through my body, making my ears ring and my head swim.

“That’s a bad idea, buddy.”

I glanced at the cashier. Funny thing: I couldn’t tell if he’d said that to me, or I’d said it to myself. As usual, though, it was my other self who answered; not with words, but a pull of the trigger. The blast was such that I nearly lost hold of the gun. But I didn’t. On top of that, the ensuing slug might’ve been the luckiest shot of my life.

The concussion liked to have disintegrated the window before the bullet even got there. Beyond which, the policeman’s head just plain disappeared. One moment it was there; the next, it simply wasn’t. And he was still walking. Two or three steps, almost like he didn’t realize his head was missing. Then he dropped. Out by the pumps, sheer pandemonium. But I heard nothing.

The cashier was gone.

I aimed at the trooper’s car and fired three shots. Two went wild, but one hit the car behind the ‘stang and blew out all four windows. I ducked behind a magazine rack and waited. It was quiet for a minute, but then a barrel peeked over the hood and returned fire. Something punched into my shoulder, but I was pretty sure it was just the magazine rack getting hit. I waited for a break in the shots, then slid out behind the rack and fired toward the hood. I don’t know if I hit him or not. I advanced, ducked behind a closer shelf. Shots came, careened off the bricks, shattered glass drink coolers in back of the store. I waited, popped up, leveled the gun and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened. The slide was locked back.

Empty already.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—I’d loaded the thing myself; I should’ve been well-aware there were only five shots in it. But the truth is, I’ve never paid much attention to anything. Not when I was a kid playing with firecrackers, not when I was a teenager driving drunk, and certainly not now, doing whatever the hell I was doing. Whatever I do, I just do it. And whatever happens, that’s just what happens. When it all comes down to it, I don’t have much of a say in anything. It happens to me. I haven’t made a conscious choice in my whole goddamn life.

“My lucky day,” I said.

That’s when the shot hit me; felt like a car crashing into my back. The Desert Eagle flew out of my hand as I hit the floor. My last conscious thought lamenting the beautiful gold finish as it skittered across the tiles.

* * * * * *

I’d taken a load of birdshot to the back, compliments of the friendly cashier, and a .38 to the shoulder by one of my cop-friends. The surgeon plucked out every last one, though, and I was told I’d make a full recovery. My guns, of course, were gone, and so was my Mustang, but at least I’d held onto my life.

I did a pretty bang-up job defending myself in court, I thought, even if the judge and jury didn’t see things my way. Maybe after I get out of prison, I can become a defense lawyer or something. Of course I’m never supposed to get out of here, but no one knows better than me; an object in motion tends to stay in motion. And a shit magnet is always in motion, because even though I’m locked up, I know the shit is still coming my way. And when it does, I know something is gonna happen.

I’ll tell you the first thing I plan to do when I get out, though. First thing I’m gonna do is find another Mustang—an even better one than the one I bought off that rat Stanley. Maybe I’ll even get one of those new-style ones. I don’t know how I’m gonna get it, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something when the time comes. And by that time, I’m pretty sure I’ll know what I’m gonna do next. I’ve always lived like that—one step at a time. In fact, if you asked me my secret to living a good life, that’s probably the advice I’d give you—just put one foot ahead of the other. One foot in front of the other, and eventually, you’ll get to where you’re going. Whatever happens along the way, well… You can hardly be responsible for that.

Rating: 7.69/10. From 13 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Geoff Sturtevant
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Geoff Sturtevant

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Check out Geoff Sturtevant’s critically-acclaimed collection of short stories, Occupational Hazards: The Blue-Collar Omnibusnow available on Occupational Hazards is an omnibus of acclaimed novelettes from the “Return to the Dirt” and “Just Speculating” collections, and new, exclusive stories only available in this book. The stories exemplify the unsavory side of our everyday existence. Existentialism, absurdism, and outlandish humor merge with ordinary, workaday life for a unique and hilarious perspective of the human experience. Occupational Hazards is an unflinching ride through the absurdity of it all. Not recommended for the faint of heart or easily offended. But if meaty stories are what you’re after… I hope you’re hungry.

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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