Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shotguns work better

The power goes out while I'm on the crapper. Never a good sign. But I'm occupied. And alone. So I just sit there, humming the theme to Hawaii Five-O and pondering which Steven Segal movie will help me sleep tonight.

At least I thought I was alone. I didn't hear the front door open. But I hear a slow gait of boots and dragging left foot coming down the hall, toward the bathroom.

I stop breathing. Just listening. Trying to figure out if I should try the window. Or peel my spare pump action shotgun from the back of the bowl.

The footsteps stop outside the door. I opt for the silent treatment. Sometimes it works.

"You in there, Johnny?" asks Ron.

Should have gone out the window.

He knocks twice. Slow and deliberate. Like an old lady checking the ripeness of a cantaloupe.

I sit there. Trying to figure out what he did to the power. And why.

"Hope you don't mind some company," he says. Then I hear him strike a match off the wall. He takes a long, loud drag. I imaging the crackling embers of the unfiltered Pall Mall. The ashes falling on my hardwoods.

He's probably blowing through the keyhole. The room is already hazed with smoke.

"How about a courtesy flush for me, boyo?"

I flush. Tidy up. Decide I might not need the double ought, since Ron almost sounds sober.

"That jackleg old commie got me, Johnny."

Something slides under the door.

"I had my IMI Eagle up to the trigger in that puckered mouth of his, yelling at him, 'Diga mi nombre. Dígalo. Diga mi nombre usted perro del diablo.'"

I open my cellphone and shine the feeble light down to the floor. There's a photograph there. An old one. Black and white job.

"He gets all doe-eyed on me. Starts trying to jabber something. But all the broken teeth and a mouth full of cold American steel make it sound like he's gargling rocks."

I crack open the door. My phone casts Ron's face in ghostly shades. His cigarette is down to a nub. In the other hand he has a box of hollow points. He's either sweating or crying. But space/time hasn't imploded so I know he isn't shedding real human tears.

"I was gonna grin at him, like this" Ron makes a chesire smile all teeth and gums and a hint of the tattoo on the inside of his bottom lip, "and pull the trigger until the gun went click."

On the back of the photo is a date (1959) and a note: Yo y mi hermano Romei. Dos de los perros más sucios a cagar en la cara del dios.

"But that mummified old codger reaches under his sweat-stained pillow and pulls out that picture of us. Points to me. Points to him. And cuts loose with the waterworks, again. He's blubbering like a school girl until I climb off of him. It gives me this wicked flashback to when he showed me how to hand roll cigars and we'd rebuild cars together under those hot Cuban skies. Back before his cabeza turned to pudding and he thought he was Caesar reborn as a Spaniard."

I still haven't said anything as Ron wipes his nose, turns around, and shuffles to the front door.

"Anyway. I left his punk kid brother in charge for a while. So I'm back."

He turns around on the front porch. Drops the flimsy remains of his cigarette onto my welcome mat. And grinds it under the toe of his good foot.

"I left something of mine in your stash, Johnny. I had to drop the power to get into it, though. And I changed the combination to something other than your birthday. You predictable faerie. But trust me on this one. Just let it be for a while. 'Til I find another safekeeper."

I should have gone for the shotgun.

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