"Half an hour," he whispers to himself as he looks at the clock that reads half past four. Stephen's worked for this company for nearly a dozen years now, since he was fresh out of college. It's nothing too exciting, but it's convenient and he has always been grateful for his job. The people are mostly nice, the business is doing well, and the commute isn't anything he would complain about. Still, it's Friday and this week felt like one of the longest he's had in awhile.

He starts wrapping up his task for the day when he gets a text message from his wife: "Can u pick up lettuce and ketchup 4 the burgers? Thanx luv." He considers for a second if they can do without the roughage and condiment, but he knows it would only cause grief for his wife and their kids. Besides, the grocery store is on the way home next to the gas station, and he needs to fill the car up for the weekend.

"Sure. Cya soon." His computer always takes about ten minutes to fully shut down. It just occurs to him that it's been about three years since they promised him a new one, and it has been about seven years since his last upgrade. How could they expect him to keep up the pace of the changing world? He's even thought about using his own money to invest in a newer, faster work computer, but every time he considers using his own money something else always comes up. About six years ago, their third child was born. Four years ago, they built an in-law's quarters and brought her feeble parents into their home. Last year, they had to replace their hot water heater the same month they made repairs to the roof. It was always something, but that's partly what keeps life interesting, right?

He pulls into the parking lot that joins the gas station and grocery store and starts to head to fill up first, but decides he might as well just pick up the goods first so he can get gas and head straight home. The store isn't very large, and he knows it almost as well as his own home. He almost walks right past the ice cream when a half-gallon of moose tracks flags him down, reminding him that it's his kids' favorite flavor and would be the perfect reprieve from the summer's heat. It shouldn't have taken long to get in and out with the few things he needed, except that old Mrs. Jennings, their long-time friendly cashier, is evidently back from her knee surgery and is eager to catch up and ask about the family. As he talks about his wife and kids, he can't help but feel blessed, so before he pays he grabs one of the small bouquets of red-orange lilies and baby's breath by the door and adds them to his order.

He sticks the groceries behind the driver's seat and gently places the flowers on the seat beside him. It takes just a few moments to drive over to the pump and fill the tank; he is all set to get home. Maybe he'll take his family to the lake this weekend if it doesn't rain.

He opens his door just in time to notice a rough-looking car he's never seen before pull up and park in the space closest to the door. From what he can tell, the driver looks to be in his late twenties. The guy tosses something in the back before reaching into the glove compartment and flinging open the door. He looks around before scurrying into the store, concealing his possession under one side of his jacket. The man's body turns naturally as he jerks open the door, angling him just enough for Stephen to see the black, metal handle he is attempting to conceal. The presence of the two other sedans and a minivan tells him that other souls are in there.

He's in the gas station store before he has time to think of anything else and just in time to see the man approaching the cash register. The clerk sees him from the back of the store and says she will be right with him as she starts in his direction. Stephen rushes to her to warn her to leave until he can check the man, but the gunman senses something is wrong. Stephen spots a child wandering an aisle away from his mother, one aisle closer to him. "Run!" Stephen yells to the cashier as he races the man to the child. They collide before either reaches the screaming boy and Stephen wrestles the gunman to the ground.

The cashier is outside calling 911 when another man, younger and stronger than Stephen, rushes in to help. Another middle-aged man tries to somehow secure the gun away from the man, but the jumble of bodies makes it nearly impossible. The gunman still grips his weapon within his coat, desperate not to relinquish it. A gunshot cracks the air; the men all drop for three long seconds.

Stephen is the only one not to rise again.

Police swarm the parking lot, take the shooter away, and begin to question everyone involved. A silent ambulance pulls up to the doors. Like ants, the people perform their duties to clean up the scene and return life back to normal.

A blue Ford waits with its tank full and watches the whole scene happen. The keys in the ignition sway lightly in the breeze from the open driver's window. The ice cream behind the seat melts without its protector, seeping permanently into the upholstery. The passenger's seat is being stained red from the wilted and weeping bouquet that was once so full of life, and an odor of lilies permeates the air and swirls with the breeze. Like a passing thought, its presence is only for but a moment.

Sarah Davis is a sophomore majoring in English. This piece won the 2015 Holy Spirit Library Fiction Contest.