Grease drizzles down my chin as I look at Sherman — the guy whose kitchen I’m in. The guy I’m here to kill. He’s up in his neighbor’s tree in pajama pants, a white tee shirt and messy hair. Must’ve seen or heard the motorcycle and thought that I would come in shooting. The grease is from the grilled cheese sandwich I just microwaved. The problem is I’m starving and could just as easily turn around and finish this sandwich and the beer I pilfered from his fridge. If it weren’t for the deal I made at the beginning of this summer. It was right as I was leaving Samantha and I don’t regret making it. I just wish an amateur hitter like me might get some beginner’s luck or something. So far this has been grueling.
Sherman’s crouched in the tree on one of the main branches. He looks like a cartoon tiger to me somehow. Ready to pounce—but only to throw cereal or sing about his wonderful life.
I take another bite. The crunch is satisfying and the cheese finds a tide pool of saliva on my tongue. I can feel the crumbs around my lips and the glossy grease in my five-o-clock shadow.
I swallow. He is still. Thinking and hoping that maybe I don’t see him. I hear my stomach growl. I take another bite.
I turn and take the beer off the table and then turn again to Sherman’s kitchen window.
No! That was like two seconds. No fucking way he’s gone.
I see a speck of white. He’s still up there but he just climbed higher. I chug the beer. I wipe the tears off my eyelashes. Chugs like a girl. That’s what Samantha used to say. But fucks like a champion. That was my reply when her mother came to visit. Two weeks on the couch. But then she starting coming down to the couch for ‘conjugal visits.’ So I stand by my champion statement. Nobody goes to that kind of trouble for someone who fucks like a loser.
I’ve got like two big bites left and then I can take the last sip of this beer. Run out there and shoot Sherman out of that tree. Neighbors. What about neighbors?
He wouldn’t have climbed their tree if he thought they were…unless maybe he wants…see this is where this job is complicated and where I probably could use some guidance from an experienced professional. Fuck it. I’ll just run out there and shoot him out of the tree. Your first instinct is usually right.
I pull the.38 out of my pocket. Thanks for the meal, Sherman. Time to die.
His backdoor opens onto a patch of white gravel. My first step out of the kitchen and my sock doesn’t protect my foot. Pain, surprise and then I fall. More pain. My elbows and knees come down on the hot rocks. I look up at the tree. Sherman is climbing down. He jumps from about fifteen feet up.
He’s rolling around and holding his ankle. I’m stretched out on the gravel. We make eye contact. I point my pistol at him. He starts to crawl. Dragging himself across the grass like a sneaker that stepped in shit. He’s only twenty or so feet away. I should shoot him. If I miss, the cops will be here in minutes. I don’t even have an escape route. I think about Samantha. Right this moment, I hate her.
“Sherman! Don’t run Sherman! I’m just like you! My wife hates me too!”
“Not as much as me!” he yells.
He looks back and then keeps crawling. I look through the sights on the top of the barrel. I line up my eye, the end of the barrel and the back of his head. And then I change both our lives.
The gunshot, my ears ringing and the red spray all happen at the same time. I don’t know where I hit him. But like in the tree, he’s still.
From the ground, I scan the neighbor’s windows. I rise to my knees and the blood rushes to my head. The gravel crackles. I crawl back towards the back door of Sherman’s house. My forehead’s sweaty. I lick my scraped wrist and it tastes of salt.
Tequila. I bet this Sherman asshole’s got some tequila in there. Think for a second. Don’t fuck this up.
Go get the body. It’s 1pm. All these cookie cutters are buried in cubicles at work. There’s nobody around. Get the body off the neighbor’s lawn.
I lick the salt off of my wrist and do it. Then, suck the lime and give Sherman a nod. We’re sitting in his kitchen sharing a drink. I watch the breeze brush past the drawstring hanging from the door blinds, then the hanging plant, then Sherman’s hair and my forehead. My boiling insides and the cool breeze on my forehead, like when you take that first sip of hot chocolate and taste the whipped cream and cocoa at once. Not to mention the crushed ice margarita I wash over my tongue.
Hot and cold can be a delicious combination. Samantha and I were hot and cold, at least she was when it came to me. I was hot for a while and then cooled. My process was gradual.
Looking at Sherman here, deader than shit with an iris that I expanded quite a bit. I can’t help but wonder about his wife. It had to be his wife. I mean, come on. Who else would care enough to pay me what I’m about to get paid to kill this loser?
This is the first of many margaritas on you, Sherman. Thanks for being such a loser.
Ding. The oven’s preheated. Time to throw in our pizza, Sherm-dawg.
As I’m tearing open the box over by the fridge I notice a charm hanging from the brass handle of a cabinet at my eye level. It’s hanging there by a white shoelace. Reminds of the kind of crap that Samantha had at our place. Thought that shoelaces were cool.
Not as much as me.
What did you mean by that Sherm?
Not as much as you hate me? Your ex-wife hates you more than mine hates me? Doubtful Sherm. My soon to be ex-wife hates me more than life itself.
I pick up my drink a take a walk upstairs. I’m going to find out exactly who I’ve just killed. My first kill and I wanna get to know him. No, it’s not over sentimental. Now I’m sure there’ll be others later where I will just want to forget about them right after. Forget their names, pretend I don’t know them. But I don’t my Sherm-dawg down there to be a one-night stand. He’s my first and we probably have something in common. Something I’ll remember old Sherman by when I’ve killed more people than I care to remember. We seem to have similar taste in food.
I take the right into his bedroom and open the first drawer of the wooden dresser. Boxers. Briefs. Socks.
I pull open the second drawer. Oh boy. Payday. Tons of crap in here. Framed photographs, loose snapshots, a bag of pot and finally, aha! the thing Sherman and I have in common. A “World’s Worst Husband” Mug. It’s a fucking collector’s item. Worth like fifteen bucks. I know because I got the same mug from Samantha.
I knew his fucking wife had to be behind this. Bitch. I bet she’s a mean looking woman. I bet I can tell her from one of these pictures.
No, that’s Sherman at PacBell Stadium with some kid. That’s Sherman with a young blonde that looks like a woodpecker. Tough nose, sweetie. And there is Sherman with Samantha and the guy who hired me to kill Sherman.
And I can smell the pizza burning too.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
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