A character in a gritty, true to life novel reminded me of mine.

Published in a small literary journal years ago. For those interested in a gritty, true to life character, here’s . . .

Joe Bugle

by Ward Jones

 I’m a professional killer. Not the kind who kills stray dogs that crap on your lawn or ants that crawl in your kitchen. I’m the real thing. You’re wonderin’ how I sleep at night? My wife, who complains about my snoring, knows I don’t have a problem in that department. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain. For one thing, I’m never around when it happens, not like the guys you read about in the Godfather books. What’s more, I’m not Italian. The Bugles came from Ireland after one of the famines they have over there. The name might’ve been O’Bugle for all I know. Never taken the time to look it up, which you could do if you got on the Internet and had nothing to do but sit on your ass all day. Even if I did, what good’s that gonna do me. Think I’ll find a rich uncle? A loaded aunt? Fat chance. Like my old man, they were all nickel and dimers, even before the Depression, and would take any job they could find: dig a ditch; pick the fruit, clean the stalls of a horse barn, which my old man did for three years before he went to jail. Only thing I inherited was his strength. First time I killed a guy, before I knew what I was doin’, I used my hands. Strangled an eye doctor for a woman after this Romeo dumped her for another patient, somebody younger, I figured, and in less than a minute he was dead, slumped to the floor like a side of beef.  Not a pretty sight, but I got a family to feed. My wife’s is from Kansas City, has been since they built the first railroad, she claims. Most of them live with us, and it seems like the whole trainload, her parents, her two good-for-nothing brothers, along with our own kids, have dragged nothing but trouble into my life. Junior and Junior Two won’t stay in school no matter how many times I tan their hides. Our youngest, Abigail, has a speech defect, something the doctors say can’t be fixed. She’ll have a hell of a time finding a husband when the time comes, and if she does you can be damn sure he’ll move straight into my house. They live with me because I’m the only one making any real money. The two brothers dick around with a band. Paulie plays the piano, knows five or six songs he can play without having to search for the right keys. Jackson, the so-called singer, slurs his words because he’s drunk after four in the afternoon. How he stays on his feet I haven’t figured out. They made a CD, sold a few, but most are in a cardboard box in the attic. Six out of seven days they’re in that dive on Eighth Street. During their breaks, they’re playin’ pool or tryin’ to pick up nurses from Saint Xavier, two blocks away. I shouldn’t complain. At least there not suckin’ me dry with medical bills. Babs’s father has a heart condition. The pills he takes for the bad ticker costs me a bundle, even with Medicare, probably cause he can’t figure out the stuff you have to do to qualify. Same thing for her mother who just had her eightieth birthday. A while ago she traded her walker in for a wheelchair. I had to buy a van with a lift thing on the back to haul her bony ass around town, and not just to her doctor appointments,  she goes with Babs to the mall, the beauty parlor, the pet store where Bab buys the special food our girlie, two-pound dog has to have.

Last month, I did a guy in Chicago and I’m still waitin’ for the second half of the twenty thousand. They’ll pay, they always do, but they like to string me along. They got no idea how much time I put into it. Same with every other job. At the front end, there’s a ton of work, you gotta prepare, make a careful plan, which can take weeks, and then you gotta make sure it goes the way it’s supposed to go. You can’t do anything half ass, not like in the movies where you walk up to some guy on the street and whack him, then hop in a car and haul ass to Mexico. You wantta keep your butt from being strapped in a chair where they stick a needle in your arm, you better make sure it looks right. Think that’s easy? You do you’re livin’ on the moon, cause that aint the way it works. Take the last one, a guy they wanted me to snuff in Chicago. He owed some people a lot of money, the guy on the phone said, which to be honest I like to hear. I don’t get my rocks off like some do by takin’ a guy down for no reason. Anyway, I had to follow this joker around for a solid week. I couldn’t figure out where to do him. He had this state-of-the-art alarm system at his lake view mansion. No big surprise in a neighborhood like that where all those rich people put in every kind of sensor there is so they can show the guy next door they’ve got more money to spend on shit like that than he does. Mister Big Shot that I’m tryin’ to snuff drove a BMW 640 six days a week to his big ass law firm. A car like that would’ve left my rental in the dust if he’d seen it for five seconds, so I had to stay way the hell behind it. Because of that I lost him more than once. Had to hit the gas and swerve around cars, felt like I was drivin’ at the Indy 500 just to catch up to the bastard. After a week I figured it had to be in the garage. His building looked brand new, even had the smell. First five floors was parkin’. And what was sittin’ in those spaces?  Not a pickup in any one of them, a model more than two years old, I swear to God. Had to put a suit on to make it look like I belonged in a place like that. The days I was there it was warm, muggier’n hell, one of those smog things in the middle of summer. And here I am on my back, looking at everything, holding up the stuff I use, tryin’ to find a place for it.  Shit load of good it did me. Everything was hidden. Tappin’ into that alarm system was like tryin’ to break into Fort Knox with a wire cutter. I gave up. Days later I came back.  Usin’ as little pressure as I could, I pushed the plastic onto a place beneath the front seat, his side. The stuff was like Play Dough, it would stick, but there wasn’t that much, and I won’t go into how hard it was to get that shit, this ain’t Iraq where you can buy it on every street corner. Anyway, there I am, on my back, tryin’ to get it in place, all the while keepin’ one eye out for the chink who kept circlin’ around in his little golf cart. First time that flashin’ light swept across my legs I bout peed in my pants. But I kept goin’, tryin’ to shape what I had beneath the driver’s seat, but it’s thin and what there is needs to be higher. I’m blinkin’ the sweat outa my eyes when, from out of the blue, I think about my blood pressure medicine.  I’d forgotten to take it. Why I didn’t have a heart attack I’ll never know, cause my ticker was about to jump out of my chest. You’d think I’d be used to it after thirty years, but you don’t get used to it, you keep thinkin’ about that needle in your arm, what it’s going to feel like when they strap you in. That’s when you shit in your pants. I’m told that by guys who know.

I need some time off. Go someplace, away from Babs and the old folks who’ve turned our house into a nursing home. Wouldn’t miss the worthless brothers either, or the kids who are driving me crazy. I’d leave my cell phone. I’ve had enough phone calls, all those jobs, all those years of snuffing people, or tryin’ to. And for what? So Babs can sit in front of the television and paint her toenails. For her parents who barely say a word? For two brothers who never lift a finger unless they’re hoistin’ a brew?

I have an account at First Federal Babs doesn’t know about. Not a lot, but enough to last a couple of weeks. Be easy to tell her I was gonna be out of town for a while. I could do that, fly to Miami, stay in a nice hotel, one with a big pool where I’d plunk my ass down in a lounge chair, have one of those blue things with a little umbrella. Just relax, watch the babes in their bikinis stroll around the pool. Might even pack my Viagra. You never know what’s comin’ down there. Up here I do.

 

Labor Day, a day to remember how hard work is. But is it?

Not all the time of course, unless you’re working in a coal mine in West Virginia,  a grill top in a greasy spoon, your shift the noon to eleven, at which time you wash dishes. No, for most people work its part labor, part fun. Depends who you are, talent wise, in apportioning the two. Tiger Woods, before the crash of his car and marriage, had almost all fun playing golf. Chopin banging away on the keys, or Einstein dreaming up theories, you could see them both with little smiles on their faces. But for the average guy, who takes his lunch pale to a construction job, and with his shovel digs, or jackhammers, or carries a cardboard box of fairly large sections of concrete—my next door neighbor’s driveway’s in the process of removal—that kind of work, even with a radio playing Mexican music, can’t be fun. And though it doesn’t come close to the physical exertion of hauling coolie style those blocks of stone,  my own work is, well, tiring. More mental than physical during a sixth draft of a four hundred page novel. The fun parts are when I finally come up with the right words, or what I think are right. A lot of them haven’t been until this latest draft, or so I’m telling myself, wanting so badly to get to the end. Like that poor guy next door to the end of the driveway. The difference being, besides the sweat and agony of hauling a load that would test the spine of a donkey, is that he doesn’t write about it, complain, wanting the sympathy he and not me, deserves for working a good part of the summer in 100 plus degree heat, while I sit in my air conditioned study, typing words I hope someone will read, if I ever get through with all this pecking, this thinking and wondering, and pecking again.