December 17, 1973 – Always

Remember that time I threw a Coke machine at that big Maori guy?  I do.  I wish I would have grabbed myself a Coke before I did that.  Out of everything I miss about home, I think what I miss most is Coca-Cola.  Right now anyway.  Why don’t they have Coke in Madripoor?  Isn’t it a worldwide brand?  Maybe they do in the nicer parts of town but I don’t remember seeing it even in Touristville.  There’s just something about an ice cold Coke.  At this moment it’s the thing I want most in the world.  More than a cigarette even.  More than a stiff drink.  More than a big fat greasy bacon cheeseburger. 

If he didn’t speak English, he’d still be alive.  Isn’t that a kick in the head?  My main problems in Madripoor is that I can’t communicate with most people and the one time I run into someone that can speak English this is what happens.  He’d still be alive if the meeting was someplace normal instead of on a god damn roof.  I’m not trying to say this is anyone else’s fault but my own, but your mind keeps turning it over and over – this only happened because everything was exactly the way it was.  One little thing is different and none of this happens.  That’s not an excuse, I just can’t stop thinking about it.  I guess that’s natural when something goes haywire, you just keep thinking about how it could have been different.

For a very overweight man who was barely five and a half feet tall he didn’t look half bad, a lot of that was probably the suit though – which was killer.  He had a shaved head which normally I don’t like, but it looked good on him.  The only thing that was really gross about him was his skin – he was shiny like he was covered with olive oil.  He didn’t even have a flesh-crawling pimp-leer like I expected.  I thought he might be eyeballing me like a heifer at the county fair but he was just normal.  He was just a man conducting business.

I think that’s what did it.  I’m not even sure why I was there because no one was translating for me.  Dan and Kalenkor and a third guy who I didn’t know were doing all the talking.  That’s another way this could have not happened, if I wasn’t there.  There really wasn’t any reason for me to be there since I couldn’t understand what was being said. 

What I could understand was the tone of the conversation – it was just business.  Like a woman’s life being bought and sold was no big deal.  Like they were talking about splitting up a bill after dinner.  Did you have the soup?  Who ordered the breadsticks?  How many drinks did you have?  All I had was the ham salad so I’m not paying for this dessert!  Maybe the fact that I couldn’t understand it just made it worse?  Hard to say. 

All I know is that I was sitting at that table while three men bartered over a human life and I got madder and madder.  I was told afterwards that the deal had been done, that the details had been worked out already when I did what I did.  Maybe if I knew that it would have changed things.  Maybe not.  It was the casualness of the whole thing that I couldn’t let go.  It clearly meant nothing to Kalenkor or his partner, I’m not sure it even mattered much to Dan. 

I’m not sure if I believe in temporary insanity, but one minute I was sitting there picking at a crispy noodle dish and the next minute I just snapped.  I dragged the big man in his fancy suit with his bald head out of his chair and over to the side of the roof.  I guess the guy with him wasn’t the NBH bodyguard that I heard about because he didn’t try to do anything about it.  He just looked scared. 

Blue told me to stop.  He told me not to let him go.  And I wouldn’t have.  He brought me to my senses.  I wasn’t going to drop him.  But then he looked me in the eye and spoke in English.  His accent was so thick I didn’t catch most of it, but I understood “stupid bitch”.  I could tell that he wasn’t scared at all.  His voice was completely calm – it was saying “I know what you are, I know you can’t touch me”.  And so I let go. 

Blue lunged and caught him by the shoulder of his jacket but it ripped.  I wonder if he grabbed his tie if that would have held him.  How strong are ties?  Since he was hanging over the side of the building he probably “only” fell thirty-six feet or so.  I think I read somewhere that if you fall out of a fourth story window you have a fifty percent chance of dying.  So it seems like there would be a decent chance you could survive a thirty-six foot fall.  But thirty six feet was all it took to spell the end for the king of Madripoor’s middle range pimps.  He actually got up for a second after he fell and then dropped right back down and was stone dead. 

In retaliation, the Paper Boys killed Dan.  That pissed me off.  I’m the one that killed Kalenkor.  Why didn’t they come after me?   How does killing Dan make any damn sense?  Blue said that I should try and lay low for a while because Xu probably will try to kill me.  Since she was in love with Dan and I got him killed.

You know what really scares me though?  Killing him bothers me, but it doesn’t bother me that much.  Honestly what it feels like is when you break up with a guy and you end up being mean about it when you didn’t intend to.  You feel shitty about it, and you feel bad for the guy because you hurt him for no real reason, but it’s over and you don’t really care that much.  You know you did something wrong and you wish that you had handled it better but you’re not tearing yourself up about it. 

That’s what scares me.  I killed a man.  And even though he had it coming, by any rational measure it was still wrong.  And I don’t feel all that bad about it. 

I’ll go back to the CS someday.  Back to Saint Louis.  But I’m never going home.  I realize that now.  Home isn’t a place.  Not really.  It’s who you are.  And I’m something different now.  A killer.

October 16, 1973 – Burning down the house

It’s easy to get a little blue when you’ve been blown up, left for dead, turned into a science project gone horribly right, kidnapped, threatened, starved, kidnapped again, almost murdered, stuck in a place where you can’t watch the Tropics games and seventy percent of the people around don’t speak a language you know, you haven’t had a solid bowel movement in a month, you’ve got split ends like a bastard, and your most comfortable pair of shoes are ninety-four hundred miles away.

But as my grandma said, it can’t rain every day.  Which I think isn’t true if you live in a rain forest but the point is well made.  If you don’t look at the bright side, you create your own demons. The bad news is now this Mr. X character and his deadly assassination squad are probably after me in addition to the Shadow Lords and probably some pirates.  But the good news is that I’ve discovered a new power that probably makes me a really great bowler. 

I dashed into the kitchen while Betty and Veronica were tending to their fallen psychopathic beau.  The big guy came after me, but he was so big he had to slow down to come through the door sideways.  That has to be really annoying.  While he was doing that, I hurled a 1963 Cavalier Coca-Cola machine at his melon.  I believe it was the CS-55-E model which was the first push button multi-select Coke machine.  We had one at the diner I worked at when I was in HS.  I’ve seen that from time to time, I guess they’re kind of cool, but why would you want a vending machine in your house?  It makes no sense to me.  You want Coke around, keep it in the fridge.  I dated a guy in Memphis for a while that was crazy into Coca-Cola memorabilia.  He got into a big fight with his parents because he sold a Christmas gift they gave him so he could buy more Coke shit.

The big man was knocked out cold by the machine, as cold as the delicious soda inside of it.  Irony?  No.  I flipped on a couple burners and tossed some towels onto the flames, figuring that a good house fire would help cover my escape.  I dated a guy back in Chi-Town who turned out to be a big time flamer.  We were at dinner one night and these dudes in trench coats came in and dragged him away.  He was terrified because he thought they were mobsters, but it was the FBI.  I think he ratted out a bunch of people and ended up somewhere in Taiping under an assumed name.  He was way too enthusiastic in bed.  Calm down dude, act like you been there before.

I turned left three times and right once, finding myself in what I assume is the bedroom of one of Mr. X’s private security force/murderous gang.  I slipped on some way too big around the waist pants (good thing I have long legs or I would have been tripping too) an obligatory “I’m a faceless goon” black t-shirt and some extra shoes (good thing I have big feet or they would have been slipping off).  A belt would have been nice but the place was starting to fill with smoke – and not the good kind that comes from cigarettes, the bad kind that kills you – so I ran in a crouch holding a fistful of pants-wad to keep them from sliding down my ass.

I was coughing pretty soundly when I found myself in a room with a window.  I annihilated said window by throwing a hideous couch through it (one handed, not to brag).  It must have been a custom job because the ends (What is the end of a couch called?  Must have a name) looked like sexy cat ladies.  I mean they were supposed to look sexy.  They didn’t.  I knocked out the rest of the glass with an ugly yellow vase and hopped through to freedom.  And by freedom I mean two dudes wearing armor vests pointing assault rifles at me.  Despite the fact that I may have been wearing one of these guy’s spare clothes, I admit that I had kind of forgotten about all the armed men I had seen standing around outside when I was brought here.  But as my grandma said, when the plane is going down, you jump and worry about a parachute later.

I gestured wildly (and pulled up my stolen pants) “People are killing your boss, what the fuck are you doing out here?!”

Neither one of them moved.  It’s hard to find good goons these days isn’t it?  Although the plume of ugly black smoke coming out of the window may have been a factor as well.  I shoved one of the men towards the window admonishing him to go do his job and protect his boss, and he very tentatively crawled inside.  Where most likely he was immediately overwhelmed with smoke.  His friend was still giving me the evil eye though and when I made to get out of there, he jabbed his gun at me.  I don’t know why he did that.  The bullets come out buddy, you don’t need the barrel right against my ribs to shoot me if that’s what you’re going to do. 

My intention was to snatch the rifle away from him like Kwai Chang Caine grabbing a pebble but I hadn’t counted on the strap.  When I yanked the rifle in a downward motion, his head came with it.  I’m not sure exactly what happened but he passed out instantly.  Is that what whiplash does?  I kind of thought that whiplash was just something people said to get more money out of a personal injury lawsuit.  Is it really that easy to smack your brain around?  Seems like it should be better protected.  Although on the other hand, I am as strong as twenty very strong men. 

I probably should have grabbed the rifle, to sell if nothing else, but I just boogied on out of there.  At one point, I jumped over a low wall and tried to roll like they do in the movies.  I tell you this much – it’s a bunch of bullshit.  I hit the ground like a drunk duck.  I think I messed up my shoulder bad.  If only I was as tough as twenty very tough men.  I didn’t cry though.  Anyone who says they saw me crying is a damn dirty liar. 

I had a horrifying vision of skulking around the rich part of Madripoor for days trying to find a way out but serendipitously I saw Say’s friend Meylupa coming out of a nearby mansion where she works as a maid.  I’m surprised she remembered me since we only met once, but I suppose I am pretty memorable around these parts.  Using a pidgin of French, English, and what little Malay I’ve picked up (pantomime helped too, some gestures are universal), I told her I had been making sweet, sweet love to a rich man nearby when his wife came home and I had to make a run for it.  Hence my makeshift clothing and my disheveled appearance. 

I’m pretty sure she said something about me being a whore but she said that I could hide in the laundry room until she was done with her work.  I told her that if she found me some clothing, I could help her out and she’d be done that much faster.  It’s a funny old world you know?  One moment you’re fighting a lunatic and his motley crew of killers in a battle to the death, and then an hour later you’re pulling a wad of hair out of a shower drain.  There’s probably a lesson there. 

Once we were done at mansion number one, Meylupa and I walked over to another mansion and helped out her friend working there, and then the three of us headed to another mansion to repeat the process.  At the end of the day, this left us with an hour to stand around and gab (well they gabbed, I missed 90% of the conversation) until a fellow came to pick them up in a 1961 Checker Marathon that had been repaired so thoroughly I wonder how much original car was in there.  Seeing that car made me understand the “grandfather’s axe” thing one of my teachers droned on about. 

You see, this is what I’m talking about.  Even in a place like Madripoor that seems like a total indictment of the human race as a whole, you find good people.  Some folks like to say that people are only as good as the world lets them be, but that’s hogwash.  Plenty of people get the shaft and they don’t get bitter about it.  We’ve only got one life to live and we’re all here together, don’t be an asshole.  Whatever mistakes you’ve made or compromises turned you away from your original path, that’s fine – just turn back.  It’s not so complicated. 

I started out the day with a kidnapping and I ended up at a bar on the beach getting drunk (well, they were getting drunk, I think I’d need several gallons of high proof booze to do anything to me these days) with new friends.  You never know how things are going to turn out.