It wasn’t just a good newspaper story; it was a great newspaper story.
On a Sunday night, the owner of a small off-brand convenience store was working behind the counter of his store, which has a big sign in the window reading “EBT CARDS WELCOME.” The store is in a poor neighborhood, seven blocks from a housing project, three blocks from the homeless shelter and just a half-a-block from a laundromat.
It’s in the city where I live and work as a reporter, a former cotton mill town of 88,000 with an education problem, a heroin problem and an unemployment problem. The last time I was in the neighborhood was the night a guy with $100 in his pocket showed up to buy some sneakers from a guy he’d agreed to meet, after dark, on the street. The guy with the $100 got robbed, and the robbers took off, the cops chasing them and their 9-year-old Toyota through crooked side streets with cars parked on both sides.
It’s a good neighborhood for the brave.
The guy who owned the store was maybe two hours from closing when a masked man dressed all in black entered the store and demanded money.
The store owner, a small-scale pursuer of the American Dream, said no.
The robber, understandably angry, reached over the counter and tried to hit the store owner with what the police called a “collapsible baton.”
The store owner, also angry, picked up a two-by-four he keeps next to the register, and started hitting back at the robber. Most of the items on the counter ended up on the floor, including some cigarette lighters and a free-standing display of grape-flavored cigars.
Emboldened by his successful resistance, the store owner grabbed a large knife he keeps on a shelf under the cash register and stepped out from behind the counter to continue the discussion.
The robber fled into the darkness.
It was a perfect story, as American as Dan’l Boone killin’ a b’ar.
And it got better.
Interviewed by the paper I work for, the noble American store owner said he hadn’t been afraid at all.
“God is my bodyguard,” he told a reporter.
God is my bodyguard? What a phrase!
Glory! Glory! The guy fends off a robber with a piece of lumber, and then says he owes his fearlessness to God. You KNOW Pat Robertson gonna be drawlin’ about that on his television show!
“God in his compassion saw this man’s faith and gave him the strength to smite this godless ninja drug addict,” is what Pat’s gonna say.
Can I get an amen?
Sadly, you cannot get an amen, and Pat Robertson is gonna have to keep talkin’ about how God wants all the gays to vanish in a flash of fire.
The store owner’s first name is Ahmad.
Turns out the brave American small-scale capitalist is a Muslim. The picture in the paper showed him with his children and his wife, who was wearing the head scarf of their faith.
Guy’s an immigrant, too. Syria. He told the reporter that, after what he lived through in Syria, he’s not afraid of too much.
I feel bad for the guy. If it wasn’t for his religion and his place of birth, he could have been a hero.