Sunday, November 30, 2008

"The Postman Rings Several More Times"

One

I blew into town on a Thursday. Thursday? Or Wednesday? I don’t know. You lose track of the days when you float around the country like I do. I hopped off the jogger I had been riding for the last eight or nine miles.

“Thanks for the lift.”

“My back hurts so bad.”

Just up the road was a big diner, the only building I could see. Looked like I could get a decent meal in there. I walked inside and the place was empty. Dead as the man I killed in Poughkeepsie. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t be saying that. Well, I am a drifter. Who’s gonna find me? So yeah, the place was as dead as the train conductor I murdered.

“Hello? Anyone in here?”

“One sec, darling.”

When she stepped out of the kitchen I passed out for a minute. This woman was gorgeous. As pretty as that woman I met in Pittsburg, the one who slept with me after I told her I was a famous European basketball star.

“Wake up, sweet thing. Come on, wake up.”

“Oh. Thank you. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Don’t you worry. Men like you do that all the time in here. So what can I get you?”

“Whatever’s the house special would be great. I’m sure you’re a hell of a cook.”

“You’re too kind. One deep fried horse heart, coming up.”

“Actually, I’ll just have a coffee.”

She went to pour a cup.

“You work here alone?”

“Today, yes. My husband is in town working up some contracts.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?”

“You’re married.”

“Well, technically, yes, but I’ve wanted to murder him for two years now. I just don’t love him. He’s old and dirty and he talks during movies.”

“What do you say me and you kill him? Right when he gets back. We’ll off him and ditch this town. Just me and you. What did you say your name was?”

“Cora.”

“Just me and you, Cora. We’ll see the sights, roam this country like the vagabonds we are.”

“Yes!”

“We’ll have great times. We’ll laugh it up at the Grand Canyon!”

“Yes!”

“We’ll smooch at Mount Rushmore!”

“Yes!”

“We’ll fly through the skies propelled by a trash bag full of bees!”

“What?”

“We’ll dance at Niagara Falls!”

“Wait, did you say something about a trash bag full of bees? Flying with bees? I don’t understand.”

“I love you, Cora.”

“I love you, too.”

“Now let’s kill that husband of yours.”

“Oh yes!”

“Where do you keep the bagels around here?”

“What do you need bagels for?”

“Why, to kill your husband, of course.”

Two

He came back about six that night. He was old, maybe sixty. At least as old as the barber I tricked into giving me a free haircut in Cincinnati. And he was dirty. Dirty like the underside of a car, like the one I stole from President Hoover. He had some Eastern European accent.

“Guess whozhe back?”

“Hi, Gustav.”

“My zhweet Cora. Come! Here! I have new partnership with big farm. We get our eggs very cheap now!”

“That’s great, Gustav.”

I was hiding in a booth. I don’t think he could see me. I was holding a bag of six bagels. They were pretty firm, the kind of bagels you could really use to kill a guy. Gustav turned his back for a second and I leapt from the booth.

“Oh, look at zhis! A customer!”

Before he could protect his face, I smacked him with the bagels. Whap! Right in the nose. It wasn’t as effective as I had hoped. He stared at me.

“Why? Why are you hitting me with bagels?”

I didn’t really have an answer. What was I going to say, ‘To kill you’? I couldn’t do that. So I kept hitting him. A few more in the face, some in the ribs, one or two in the kneecaps. “Thwap, thwap, thwap,” the bagels said. I realized then that maybe a gun or a crowbar or a pipe would have worked better. But I kept at it. I followed him around all day, hitting him while he restocked the kitchen.

“Could you pleazhe shtop that? I am trying to get work done and here you are with the bagels and you hit me! Always hitting me!”

Right. He was pretty much correct there. I had been at it for a couple of hours. So I hit him some more and some more and some more and some more, until two of the bagels were reduced to crumbs. Finally, around midnight, Gustav choked on a piece of steak and died. Was I jealous? A little. That piece of meat had been more effective in three seconds than me and my bag of bagels had been in six hours.

Three

“Cora, get in here. I did it.”

“He’s dead? You killed him?”

“Um, yeah, I totally killed him.”

“He doesn’t look real dead.”

“No, trust me. He’s out like a light.”

“Vhwy am I on zhe floor?”

“See? He’s alive.”

I broke a plate over his forehead.

“Ouch! Whoze gonna pay for zhat plate?”

I broke two Coke glasses on his chest.

“Zhose glasses aren’t free!”

He was right. This murder was getting pretty expensive. And there was a lot of glass to sweep up.

“Christ, Gustav. You’re making this hard on me.”

I picked up the Tommy Gun Gustav kept behind the counter and shot him a hundred and eighty-eight times.

“Zhose are my bullets!”

This whole prefect crime thing was starting to seem tougher than I thought.

“What’s it gonna take for you to die, Gustav?”

Always the businessman, he said, “For five hundred dollars, I die for you.”

Cora and I emptied our pockets. Just barely five hundred.

“You make a great offer I can not refuzhe!”

Gustav died there. I wish I had bargained him lower. I wonder how he spent the money.

Four

We had to clean up the body. It stunk up the place. It smelled like the Hooverville I incinerated.

“What are we gonna do?”

“We have a few options, Cora. We could dig up a big hole and bury him.”

“That’s no fun.”

“We could drive out to the harbor and dump him.”

“That’s not very creative.”

“Or we could turn his carcass into a go-kart and ride him away.”

“That’s it!”

So we emptied the register and bought some parts from the auto shop and got to work. We replaced his heart with an engine, his legs and arms with tires, and his intestines with the transmission. Looking back, it was gory, disgusting, and insane. I don’t know why we did it. It’s the kind of stuff psychotic killers do. But I am glad we did it, because once we got him started up, Gustav got sixty miles to the gallon.

We strapped on our riding goggles.

“Ready to go, Cora?”

“Where are we headed?”

“Wherever the road takes us, darling. New York, Chicago, Dallas, Cuba.”

“Cuba is an island.”

“What?”

“You said Cuba.”

“Wherever the road takes us, darling! Just you and me.”

“Just you and me.”

“Don’t forzhet me!”

“Jesus Christ, Gustav.”

Five

I’ve been holding Gustav’s head underwater for the past eleven hours while I’ve been writing this story.

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