Tater is not Tater’s real name. When he was younger people called him Tatertot, but that wasn’t his real name either. Tater is 19 years old and about 5 and-a-half feet tall, weighing in at around 300 pounds. Some people have started to call him Potato. He is hoping it won’t catch on. His mother is crazy, she can’t hold down a job. She reads secondhand romance novels all day and when she isn’t doing that she’s smoking cigarettes and playing candy crush. Tater’s mom has not kept track of Tater’s social security card, or the number on the card. She also lost his birth certificate. Tater does not have a father or a driver’s license.
Tater stopped going to school after turning 18. He was in adult ed. He just sat in the back and played his Gameboy, nobody noticing him. Tater doesn’t think anyone noticed when he stopped going to school.
The first time Tater found out he could teleport was when he stole food from a gas station down the street. He had a liter of Mountain Dew Code Red in his pants and was loading up on beef jerky and nachos. The gas station guy caught him red-handed and laughed, saying not to move and that he was calling the cops. But he said it like Tater was a funny video he found on the internet that he had to show his buddies. Tater shut his eyes real hard and all-of-a-sudden, when he opened them: he was in the parking lot of the apartments where he lives with his mom, with the food.
This is how Tater gets new clothes. He brings a bunch of stuff into the dressing room then tenses his body up until he shakes like morphing into a super saiyan, then poof: he’s in the parking lot back home. Tater steals all kinds of expensive shit from the mall and sells it on Ebay and Craiglist, using the library computers down the street.
It was Devil’s Night and Tater was hanging out with his friends. They thought it’d be a cool prank to burn down the abandoned house they were in then go rob the dollar store in town. His friend Eric worked at KFC, he bought some scary-cool masks and drove around a big van full of drugs. Tater hadn’t told anyone about his teleportation. He wasn’t sure what to think about it. Sometimes he thought maybe everyone could teleport, but they just didn’t talk about it, sort of like tying your shoes or looking at yourself in the mirror.
Tater was tasked with setting the basement on fire. He went into the cold dark downstairs and lit up a creepy rocking chair with his Bic lighter. Some friends set the living room on fire, while others went upstairs and lit everything up there on fire. Once the house was good and burning everyone donned their mask and drove to the dollar store laughing. Tater was given a troll mask that made it hard to see and breathe.
They pulled into the parking lot, it was dark with leafless trees. The bright lights from inside the store looked cozy to Tater. The entrance to the store was decorated with a scarecrow and corn stalks and cartoony purple bats painted on the windows. The moon was so full and bright that it looked like a decoration too. Everyone ran inside hooting and hollering, knocking shit over, Tater following close behind. Once inside he went and grabbed a giant case of microwavable instant Ramen because he had a microwave at home. Everyone else was getting beer and liquor and bags of candy all while trashing the store. Eric was pointing a black handgun at the girl behind the counter and she was shivering as she tried to empty the cash register. Eric was tall and goony with a big werewolf mask and flannel. Tater recognized the girl from his adult ed. class. She stayed in and got her GED.
Eric held out his open palm and calmly waited for the girl to place the money there. Tater didn’t think Eric was robbing her for the money because it didn’t look like very much. Once the money was in his hand Eric waved his gun in the air and shouted for everyone to scram back to the van. Everyone did, Tater trying to keep up and jumping into the back of the van just as it had begun to move. There were no seats in the back, just a couch that people always had sex on. Eric was driving. Tater sat on the floor, cradling his Ramen, heavy metal music blasting through the speakers.
Suddenly red and blue lights flashed behind them. Eric started freaking out and pulled over into a vacant lot. Tater looked behind, squinting through the peepholes of his mask he could see a blue cop car. Two big tall cops were out with their guns drawn. One was flanking the driver side of the van while the other was behind the cop car door yelling into a megaphone. Eric was yelling for everyone in the van to calm down. Everyone in the van was freaking out and trying to hide all the drugs. Eric took the hand gun and crossed it over his body, sticking the barrel against the door panel of the van at an angle so maybe the bullets would go through the door and hit the cop.
Tater’s heart was pounding, his face was red and sweaty, and he couldn’t breathe with the mask on but didn’t want to take it off. He didn’t understand why they had to rob the dollar store. Tater didn’t understand a lot of things, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to understand anymore. Tater curled up, spooning his Ramen, grinding his teeth, grinding his whole body. And then Tater disappeared from inside the van.
Jon Berger lives in Saginaw, Michigan. He is Anti-Heroin Chic’s featured poet for the month of October. His work has appeared in Five 2 One Magazine, Jellyfish Review, The New Engagement, and fluland mag, among others. He tweets @bergerbomb44.