Last Updated on Friday, 27 November 2009 12:31
Twelve Bucks and A Bullet To the Head
Here's the first chapter of something I'm working on at a ridiculous pace.
Dedicated to Raymond Chandler who threw a lot of fast ball sentences right down the pipe.
I guess. If ya gotta go out. If your time is up. If you've just about exceeded your allotment of air. There's no better sight to make an exit, than looking at two young children staring at the sky. Both smiling.
Not that adult smile you see so much of on the final act of your trip along the twisted, rock-infested pathway during your last three-quarters of life. No, the kind of smile only a child can pull off. The kind of smile that truly ain't nothing more than a smile. The kind of smile any thinking person knows should be the image used in a a dictionary to define the concept of smile. But in the dictionary, it's not. Instead we use words. And the words are inadequate to define what really makes up a smile.
A true smile is a child staring at something wondrous.
I was on my back in a ditch. A few extra holes in my carcass. Holes I wasn't born with. I should have been hurting. But I can only surmise I was so fucked up, my nervous system had received it's pink slip from the stained convolutions of my brain, snagged it's severance check and punched out early on life's timeclock to give me a break.
I was numb as I stared at the two children. One maybe 4-years-old, a girl. The other, maybe six. Probably her older brother. Both watching the fireworks explode in a colorful splendor. Both young faces aimed way up in the sky with the awesome backdrop of stars to lend additional wonderment to a young mind.
I always liked the Fourth of July.
They were prancing along the banks of a lake. The little girl's eyes lit with the fire of youthful excitement. The innocent happiness of just being alive. I could see their eyes sparkle—even at night. A bright gleam of what may be.
I was across the blacktop road. Propped up on an incline between two cypress trees. My dark-blue pinstripe suit had a few blood-soaked holes no seamstress could repair. I was glad the suit was dark. I was glad I was laid out back in the woods, where the kids would not see me. I did not want to stain their lives with my exit.
It's a long row to hoe if you get hammered early.
What you want. What I want. Is a clean exit. Like vacation.
You check into a hotel in a strange land. You have a choice. You can be a surly ass; indifferent to the wonders that may lie ahead. Or you can roll with life. Reach out with both hands. Stroll forth with both legs. Look for something that will charge your memory battery. It doesn't matter if you sit in front of the tube the entire time, or jump like a rabbit dropped from a helicopter into a ripe field of carrots. It just depends what you are. Deep inside. The key is an open enjoyment of your days above ground.
If you check out of that hotel and leave all the tip you're financially capable of, with a fucking huge smile on your face. Or if you leave nothing for the maid, and stride, still full of bile and regret, out to the the taxi taking you to the airport—that's what you can look forward to on your way out.
That shit about your whole life flashing before your eyes. I don't know. Hasn't happened to me. Yet. I know one thing. There's a scale. It weighs shit. I don't know if anyone is monitoring that scale—except you. It's like that absentminded toss you make at the trash can with a scrunched-up paper. It goes in. But if you stare at the can for a moment. Focus all your mental abilities— the paper hits the edge. Caroms off and lays there on the floor. It’s some kinda damn cosmic reminder of uncertainty.
That scale is like that. You may not have been keeping score, but something in your skull has. I only know that because right now, when I'm damn sure it's check-out time, the long goodbye, the big sleep—I feel pretty good.
It's almost a toss-up. But I'm smiling.
I was sitting, sunning the soles of my wingtips . Feet propped on the corner of the desk. Ass comfortably settled in the office chair. Eyes closed.
A redhead walks in to the office. Legs longer than the Gettysburg address. Pale freckled skin. Large, generous lips spackled a deep red that only comes from a cosmetic cylinder. Eyes some shade of green that was infinitely more interesting than the green on a freshly minted C-note. I tried to take her in with one look: but after the initial view all I could think of were the opening words to wedding vows. ‘Do you take this wom...’
“Hell yes," I thought. "Get to that part where I kiss the bride.”
She tossed a stack of cash on my desk. Four bundles. Each bundle an inch thick. Held together with a rubber band.
"Alright," I said. "You have my full and undivided attention."
"My husband is rich. He's sleeping with everyone but me."
"Well," I said, morphing into my most powerful smile. "He's obviously one of the stupidest men on earth."
"I want proof. I want pictures. I don't want to see them, but my attorney will want to."
"If you go to court," I said. "The best you can hope for is half. How about I just kill the bastard?"
It was a good fantasy. I was enjoying it. Until the office door flew open. The knob of the door embedded itself in the cheap Chinese drywall, and in walked the biggest human being I'd ever seen.
I cursed. My feet having jumped off the desk, encountered gravity, and hit the floor with over two-hundred-fifty pounds of dead weight urging them downward. My fragging heel sent an urgent message of pain to my head.
He was five feet tall, and he was six-feet wide at the shoulders. His head was nearly bald and full of wrinkles, like a bulldog.
But that wasn't the worst part.
The worst part was the blood that streamed down his neck. Flowing from somewhere behind his skull. The collar of his light-blue denim shirt was soaked with it. His eyes were wide with what might have been pain or single-minded purpose. He took two strides toward my desk and tossed a small, crumpled pile of cash. It hit my empty calendar, rolled, and stopped atop my copy of Farewell, My Lovely. The book I was rereading before I took the express train to Napland.
"English. Bad. " He said. His voice like something coming out the business end of an iron cannon. "Little girls. Sex. No good. Police shoot,” He pointed at his head. ”Me."
I pushed a finger through the cash he'd tossed. A crumpled Ten and two singles. I stood, shaking my right leg to scare away the pain in my heel.
He turned his head and pointed somewhere in the vicinity of a neck the size of a fire hydrant. I saw the hole, still leaking blood. Some of which had found a trail over his neck and rolled on down his chest.
I had my Ruger Bulldog .357 in hand. Normally I would have emptied three rounds into his upper body to get him off balance, then aimed and put three more in his head. You see, if there are six-billion people on the earth, five-billion, nine-hundred and ninety-nine million, nine-hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine—hate me.
I ain’t exaggerating—much. I’m just anticipating. My line of work don’t tend to make friends. The cops hate me. My friends hate me. The only people who don’t have an opinion about me are the ones I haven’t met yet. And when I meet them—they hate me.
A private Dick don’t have the allure they used to.
Instead, I looked at the monster and said, “What the fuck you want me to do about it, Bluto?”
His eyes, large orbs unlike the ones usually seen on mutants of his size, squinched in a universal caricature of incomprehension.
‘Dammit’, I thought, now awake, and unhappy. As I looked into his eyes I knew here was a man I couldn’t communicate with, but if I could, I’d want to.
He was so big, and so ugly, only his mother could love him. But his features came together and told a tale. A tale of a man who you’d want standing next to you in the dark. A man who did his job. A man who walked the earth with every intention of enjoying his days and that enjoyment had nothing to do with harassing his fellows. The eyes said it all—and that pissed me off.
I looked at the back of his head. It was a bullet wound; no doubt. He had muscles on his neck that appeared to be growing out of muscles on his neck. Still, a bullet in the head is usually associated with a fucker falling down. Not this guy.
“Come on,” I said, using the hand not holding the Ruger to grab his forearm, which was the size of a loaf of white bread. I stopped and stared into his eyes. “If the fucking cops really did shoot ya, then they probably followed ya. Either way, we should disappear.”