The following content is an old short story from my personal blog, Said the Fox.
You can tell an awful lot about a person by the way they die. Never like they aughta – not at all like you’d expect em to, anyway. See, the good ones, the just ones, the ones who don’t even deserve to be dyin – they take time. Poor bastard finds himself on the wrong end of a knife – maybe he catches a bullet or somethin – he’s gotta lay there and writhe about while the big decision gets made. The virtuous shit he’s done has gotta get weighed out against the not so – takes a long time for some. It’s real hard to watch.
Real hard to cause.
The bad folks though, they just go down. They’re so heavy with the weight of all that sin – there’s only one way for the scale to dip. Takes no time at all. They don’t fight it, neither. They’ve been carryin round this terrible burden. It makes ‘em rough, and hard. Makes ‘em like bricks.
Anyway, I guess this all got started with a fella named Warren Heeler, he owned the drug store in the town where I grew up. He was a big man, always clean shaven but a bit of a slob. He had this kinda upturned nose too… ya put all that together and you’ve got a man that looks more like a pig than any rightfully should. “Squealer”, us kids called him, both on account of his hog like nature, and his habit of callin on our folks each time he caught us pocketing somethin from his store. We didn’t think much of ‘im. We’d all had our asses whooped on more’n’one occasion thanks to that “old hog”. But really, we were scoundrels, and we deserved every bit of what he sent our way. He’d just done right by us – squealin us out. Lookin back now, I know he was a good man. I just wish I’d had the eyes to see it back then. I might not have had to carry such a burden down the road.
This one afternoon, ol’Squealer caught me tryin to walk out with a pack of Junior mints, my favorite. He had me by the arm of my shirt, shakin me about, and he was gettin on about how I was gunna learn a lesson that day – how I was gunna finally figure it out.
If only he’d known.
Well, right in the middle’a’this lecture, some bent son of a bitch comes crashin through the front door like he’s on a god damned crusade – set the door bell alive with a sound like breaking glass. Just as soon as he got up to the counter, he started shoutin somethin about how ol’Squealer needed to figure how to keep his mouth shut, and how he had a message for ‘im. Warren’s hand was still grippin at my sleeve, only now it shook from panic, ’stead of rage. Scared shitless I reckon.
In my head, I rooted the Crusader on. Here’s this guy – cool lookin guy, got this look in his eyes like he didn’t take any shit from any body – but he shows up outta nowhere to put ol’Squealer in his place.
You tell him, I thought.
You tell that old hog off.
I was a kid – I didn’t know any better. Spent too much time with my nose in the comic books. Hell, I didn’t even snap out of it till I felt Warren’s grip tighten on my sleeve, like it was a fuckin liferope. The man had drawn this wicked .45, and was usin it to show Warren where to find his own belly button.
Then he shot him. Bastard shot him right in the gut, with me standin right there, rootin him on. Jesus Christ – I was rooting him on, like he was my god damned hero. Awful.
Slowly, almost casual like, Warren slid down the wall. By the time he hit the floor his face was white, blank, and cold – a blizzard – and he was lost in it. The bullet erased all his color, wiped his emotions clear. I guess he was shocked – like his mind hadn’t absorbed it as well as his belly.
I guess I was shocked too.
Wasn’t but a moment after, I heard another shot from outside. My Crusader caught one himself, but he didn’t stick around and make a fuss of it like Warren. He just went down. Bam, thud – like bricks. They knew where he was headed, and they didn’t take no more than a moment to send him there.
By this time, Warren’s mind was catchin up with everything, but I guess the jury was still out. The pain musta hit him hard then – he started squealin like he’d vowed to give the term new meaning. He put his fat bloody palms against the hole in hisself – tried to damn this river of red that was pourin out of him so. He started kickin his legs about – his shoes squeaked as they slid across red-wet lenolium.
Somethin changed in me then. I wasn’t shocked anymore, wasn’t even scared. I just stood there, blank faced, and ate those god damned junior mints. Jesus, fat bastard is breathin his last breaths, and I’m actin like I’m at a god damned picture show. Awful. Just fuckin awful.
That was it – that was the start of all this. I enjoyed a pack’a mints while I watched a good man die, but I didn’t feel nothin. Nothin but the weight of the mints as I swallowed – the first few ounces of this grand burden of sin. It was by no means the worst thing I’d do – but It was the worst I’d done, and it would stay with me forever.
Since then, I’d seen lotsa Warrens bleed, lotsa bricks fall. It’s made me into a pretty decent judge of character. Enough so, I can mostly tell just by meetin a person whether they’re a brick or a Warren.
Like this guy I work with – soon as I met him, I knew he was a brick. Cold motherfucker, built like a Sherman and twice as dangerous. Ironic bit? His name’s Danny, but they call him Danny the Brick, or sometimes, just Brick. The weird shit life throws at you sometimes, yeah?
Anyway, whoever gave him that name was right on the money. This guy wanted nothing but to bleed people; watch em squirm. Sure, I’d punched my share of tickets for people who might not have deserved it – but I didn’t revel in it like this guy. He laughed as he did it. Always cut em, too – never used a shooter. I thought to ask him once – why he always gutted em so – but to be honest, I didn’t much care to know. Besides, when you’re in the business of killin people, it’s often best not to ask questions.
So one day, orders come down to this Brick and I. Some dumb shit bet the wrong people’s money on the wrong fuckin pony. Debt’s way past due, and it falls on us two to remind him of his place in the world. Now, there’s no good to be had in putting a bullet into a man that owes you money, so instead we’re sent after this shit’s daughter.
I’d seen this girl around town – good woman, sharp. Legs for days, that one. Soon as I saw her, I could tell she wasn’t no brick. It was too bad – fine woman like that. She’s the kinda ticket you’d love to punch in one way, but hate to punch in the other, yeah? At least, that’s how it was for me – as soon as that Brick got his eyes on her, I reckoned he was lookin forward to punching both. Like I said – a brick if there ever was one.
The job didn’t feel right by me – but by that time, any job killin a Warren had started to feel a bit off. Mighta been that I’d just had enough, mighta also been on account of how much that fuckin Brick enjoyed it. Either way, I kept out of the dirty work and minded the door. That Brick had no complaints – he’d made it clear what he wanted from the poor girl. Even took the time to remind me that me and my “limp dick” would only get in the way. Motherfucker. Anyway, I was just keeping watch, so my conscience was clear. Not that it mattered; I was a brick just the same. Whether or not this girl got cut didn’t make a lick of difference.
She kicked and screamed as he wrestled her down – bawled even, squealed. I couldn’t help but think of Warren – the first Warren. He laid there, squealin, waitin for his train, while I snacked on his junior fuckin mints. How awful that was.
Brick, just the same.
From there, it’s mostly a blur. Somethin changed in me. I tried to pull that Brick up off the poor girl, but he had his knife in me before I knew he’d swung it. Three or four times he must have stuck me – like he’d been beggin for the fuckin opportunity. Jesus H – what a fuckin Brick that guy was. Had barely finished gutting me before he turned back to the girl.
I fell back against the wall. I could feel this warmth pouring from my chest – this cold snap of copper in back of my mouth. I don’t remember firing – I don’t even remember drawing my gun, but I heard familiar sounds as I put a bullet into his skull.
No surprises there.
The girl stood – I guess she was shocked. Her mind hadn’t absorbed it as well as his. God damn, she looked like hell. She passed this glance as she walked out the door – looked like gratitude.
Hah. Wishful thoughts of a falling brick.
I sat there a spell, and wondered.
What am I doin, waiting?
Ticket’s punched… was I wrong?
People don’t die like they aughta.
Not at all like you’d expect ‘em to.