Zippity

He wouldn’t take the lighter back.  I left him staring at the bird and he returned to an anime character in my head.  I didn’t want to be late for my shift.  Nobody bothers me as long as I show up on time and load the trailers correctly.  When I applied for the job, the interviewer asked me what my goals were, goals for a minimum wage job loading trucks.  I wanted to tell her to go fuck herself, but I needed the money so I played the monkey, hat in hand, and delivered the bullshit line she wanted to hear me say.  "To succeed and do my best," I forced a smile and looked her in the eye.

I imagined Smooth Boy shooting her, the action advancing slowly frame by frame, him entering the front office brandishing the gun, she looking surprised, he pointing the gun at her with his enigmatic, east-west face, the POP–POP–POP, ending in a wisp of smoke and bullets exiting her body in V-shaped sprays of flesh and blood.

I looked for the bird in the morning, but there wasn’t a trace of it. I thought about what Smooth Boy had said, but he was an anime character, the gun was probably a toy, his threat the bluster of an overactive mind. I squeezed the lighter in my hand, I intended to give it back to him that evening, force it into his hand or drop it at his feet if he refused to take it. If it was too good to be true, it was too good to be true.

That night, when I left for work, a television van was parked across the street from the honey locust tree. A reporter stood where Smooth Boy had sat twenty-four hours before, her cookie-cutter face an odd match for his anime features. She stuck a microphone in my face and asked for a comment.

“Sea monkeys are bullshit.” I said and kept walking.

I read the paper later.  Smooth Boy had killed a machine shop foreman,  two immigrant mothers who had had the bad luck to be filling out applications in the vestibule when he had arrived, and then himself.  An employee who survived said that Smooth Boy had been fired for erratic behavior a month earlier.  It wasn’t a big corporate place where faceless executives talked about mission statements, synergy, and becoming proactive.  It was a small manufacturer on the north side where everyone lived paycheck to paycheck and the owner was happy enough to put his kids through college and pay for a three season vacation home up north.  Smooth Boy never told me who he was going to shoot, what was I supposed to do? The paper said he had a permit for the gun, all nice and legal.





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