The Subtle Difference Between Love and Hate
Like in some country song, he was Nashville-bound, driving a beat-up truck with one hand on the wheel and the other on a gun. A lipped cigarette smoldered fiery red with a slow and steady cadence, and the sun, just now thinking about setting, was being helped along as he sped east on the interstate.
People sound more badass when they don’t have names, just descriptions to pin to them, you don’t want to get the wrong impression of the man, come to think that he was anything other than a real hardnosed sonofabitch, which a name like Ollie might get you doing.
Now you couldn’t say he was real big or nothing, but muscled through and through, which always makes a difference; a result of the workout scheme favored by a number of our nation’s orange-jumpsuit-wearing-penitents. On the outside he wore clothes that made him look cheap, simple, like any Randy would who shopped for his duds in places that also sold beef jerky. He would settle on jeans and a button-up with a v-neck beneath it. On his feet were boots. On his head a hat. His face was five o’clock shadowed and elsewhere scarred, like it was used to losing a fight. Which is fitting, because that is where he was heading.
That she cheated on him while he was holed up and serving a 2-5 that turned out to be a 3 was not the biggest of her mistakes. Neither was her choice of an interim partner; though dead in Little Rock with twine wrapped round his wrists and ankles and an extra hole in his head he might have thought differently, if he could go about thinking at all with half his brain redecorating a bathroom. Guess on his count the thinking should have come first, before he done fucked another man’s girl, and so to, in the process, himself. No, her biggest mistake was underestimating the lengths to which he would go, the hell that he would unleash, to pay some bit of recompense to her for not once showing up to see him when he was locked up like a dog.
Before her first beau got a discount on central AC he spit out two names along with most of his teeth, the fucking rat; one was a man’s, the other, a town’s, one with a welcome sign that was now visible in a rearview.
Inside and outside a convenient store on the edge of town was where he found what he was after. Inside: a couple bucks in change, a phonebook, a city street map. Outside: a payphone, and someone willing to make some calls.
Hey kid, I’ll give you twenty bucks if you make a couple phone calls for me. Nothing sick or sinister mind you, I’m just looking for my daughter. The thing is she’s been out with her boyfriend and I don’t know his parents by name. I just know his last name is Johnson. So all you have to do is dial these numbers and ask if Cynthia is in. I’d do it myself, it’s just, well I don’t want her to know it’s me that’s calling is all. Now, if they say, ‘There ain’t anyone by that name here,’ then I guess you know what to do. But if they say, ‘Yes there is, hold on a sec,’ or, if she happens to pick up the phone and says something like, ‘Yep, this is her.’ Then you ask…and this is real important, you let me listen so I can hear her voice, and then you say the name I’m gonna tell you like it’s a question, like this, ‘Cynthia Weston?’ She’ll say no, because that’s not her name, so then you just say, ‘Sorry, I must have the wrong number.’ That’s all. Then you can go on your way twenty bucks richer.
It’s the seventh listing Johnson Brett L 1313 Edgewood Rd, and across the street and a few houses down is parked a beat-up truck with Arkansas plates. In this truck sits a man, his hat pulled down low, his eyes unblinking; just sitting there, waiting, having learned the subtle difference between love and hate, and ready to deliver some retribution.
Inside the house sits a man and a woman, the light from a TV like the flashes of a searchlight sweeping their faces. Now, it would be fitting if they were watching some grim horror movie, perhaps one where the privacy of a couple was infringed upon by the perversions of an unnamed man. But they are probably watching Everybody Loves Raymond or some such waste of time shit. Sitting there, thinking horrible things, not loving each other, or anyone (least of all Raymond), except maybe themselves; just sitting there, waiting, almost deserving of death.
Put the gun in your hand and you could do the job just as well, only the details might differ. Did you knock at the door, or did you wait until they were asleep? Did you try to sit them down and have a little chat, or did you just come through the door with your gun spitting fire? Well, if you didn’t know before, you’ll know now, that the only thing difficult about killing a man is coming to terms with the idea that you are killing yourself right along with him. And if you don’t care any about being caught, you can do just about anything once or twice.
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Portland Fiction Project
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