Odd Job Man


          I get confused a lot but this may have been the way it went.

          She said, “I was told you could help me.” She sat stiffly in a straight-backed chair, a bag balanced on her lap. All women look alike anymore, and she wore what all of them did. She reached in her bag and pulled out some kind of clear plastic dildo with water in it. She took a long drink. Something in her face suggested she was nervous, but I can’t really trust those kinds of clues these days. “They also told me you were odd.”

          I nodded. “How so. I mean, I agree I’m odd. I’m…” I tensed searching for the word: cats, cameo, curio, yellow, yellow curio “…curious! Curious about just how odd I seem to have become. To others. Not to me. I know. How odd. How odd I am, I mean.”

          “You think you have dementia.” She stared at me frowning a little. She wasn’t afraid to look at me, which is usually good. “But you think you can fight it off.”

          I stopped her, pointing at her and saying. “No. That’s wrong. I don’t think I can fight it off. I’m just trying to fight it off. Sometimes I struggle for words when I talk. Not always. Not usually. But enough to annoy me. But one day I won’t even struggle, and then it will be over. What do you want me to do?”

          “I need to move.”

          “Pretty sure I’m not a mover.”

          She ignored it and looked down into her hands, avoiding me. “I live with someone. He’s not—he’s not okay with it. I need someone to be there so there won’t be a problem.”

          “He’s violent, this guy?”

          “Yeah.” Her voice was kind of small and I could tell there was a lot of story back there. I didn’t much want to know it; or maybe it was all a little too easy to guess. She looked up at me and leaned forward a bit, like a saleslady. “I don’t think he’d ever hurt me, but…but it will be unpleasant and—and I need it to be over. I need him to behave. Juanita said you can do that. Can you? Can you make him just, behave while I get my stuff?”

          I leaned back in my chair and and turned it a little to look out the window at the other window outside my window. People moving around over there. Well, that happens.

          “Yeah, I can do that. I can probably get him to load it all up for you, if that’s what you want. Half the time people expect the worst and then the whole thing is easy as pie. Everybody’s cool, even a little hurt that you would think they might harm you.”

          “And the other half?” she asked. Something about the way she said it rang phony, like somebody reciting lines in a play. I didn’t trust her much.

          I grinned wickedly. “The other half you’re forced to break somebody a little bit.”  Somebody, I said. I didn’t mention who.

          Okay, this part is tough to understand, maybe; let’s just say things went skew whiff a bit. Hard to describe but I must have walked off to “not-a’clue” for a while, because the next thing you know this big guy—and I mean big guy—is standing in front of me and he’s got one of those long hunting knives with the channel cut into the side to let the blood run, a freshening blade I think they call it, and he’s all tough and handy looking.

         “Tell me why I shouldn’t just cut your ass up,” he says. And I am trying. It’s the language that’s eluding me, always. So frustrating. I feel it building inside as I struggle for what ought to be perfectly ordinary words until I blurt out, “Roger Miller—“ in this choking, struggling voice.

          His face scrunches with a puzzled look like “Wha?” and I’m fighting for the right thing: Roger Miller, chug-a-lug, my uncle used to love me but she died, dang me, dang me, my daddy was a pistol I’m a son of a—“Gun!” I shout and then I whip it out gleefully. “Because I have a gun! See?” And so I poke it in his face and pull the trigger.

          At least, I think so. Seems likely.

          I hear a scream and some lady—that first lady? Dunno, they all look alike anymore—is staring at me, horrified, saying “I didn’t expect you to kill him.”

          And I said—I remember this part clearly—I said, “Why would anybody want to sleep with Olive Oyl?”

          After that somebody kills her, that lady, not Olive Oyl. I guess. I don’t know. Anyway, she’s dead, too.

          So I’ve written it down to the best of my recollection, just like you wanted. Signed this date…well, signed. I forget the date.

In a gray-green room with one long table a man sits facing a long mirror and signs the above with a flourish. He reads it one more time; he grunts. It will do, he guesses. He folds his hands and waits for someone to come take his confession, if that is what this is. He isn’t certain. No one comes.

He gets up only to find the body on the other side of the table. The neck appears to be broken. He wonders who could have done this. Thinks: do, ti, la, so, fa…”

The answer is right on the tip of his tongue.

—Don Whittington


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