1. A Phone Call
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
It takes a certain kind of person to kill.
You strike a match and put the flame to the end of your Camel, the smooth Turkish and domestic blend, and then puff until it lights. You take a long drag and then blow. The smell of tobacco is slight compared to the vulgar stench of oil-based paint, which is smeared on your tattered Levi's, and on your previously undefiled white V-neck undershirt, and on your hands, and on your neck. You hate that stench. It's a constant reminder that you have absolutely no talent as an artist. But you do have money, so you at least pretend. And there is yet another smell, though delicate or possibly even imaginary. It is the curiously inviting tang of rotting nectarines.
You walk over to the phone on the end table, plant your body on the antique Rococo chair beside it. Resting in the sweaty palm of your hand is a crumpled ball of yellow paper, soggy with egg yolk and a little tomato paste splatter. You retrieved it out of the garbage just moments ago, a full day after you had put it there. It had been a restless night with all that tossing and turning—the kind of bullshit agitation a person (with a bona fide conscience) goes through when life demands hard decisions. Unfolding the wad on the table, you iron it flat with your hand but take great care not to tear the sticky document. You stare down at it for a moment. Badly smudged and barely legible are seven digits scribbled in blue ink. Life's little problems should not require such extreme solutions. You wonder how it managed to come to this.
A mockingbird lands on a low-hanging crape myrtle branch just outside the window. You remember how Snowball used to lurch at the glass whenever little animals would come close. You suck more nicotine into your body, then pick up the phone. You cradle the receiver between your neck and shoulder, but pause before you dial, remembering more: he was bold and energetic, the epitome of kitty-cat youth. A lover of heights and depths and anything he could sink his tiny but hazardous claws into. Since the house was so spacious, he could find and explore endless, hidden voids for days. Whenever he turned up missing, your father assumed he had died in some crack in the wall, and that he wouldn't be found again until he started stinking. But you had faith in Snowball and knew that he would at some point emerge alive and relatively unscathed. And he always did. Suddenly, there he was, rubbing up against your leg after a few days on the missing kitty list. Overjoyed when you looked down and saw him, you would nearly smother him to death with affection. Such a beloved kitty. And he loved to play in the grassy backyard by the tree with the rotting nectarines.
It takes a certain kind of person to kill. You are not that kind. But there are others who are exactly that kind.
You make the call.