STUPID IS AS STUPID DOESN’T - JIMMY CALLAWAY
“You ever thought about the irony of your name, Darwin?”
J.T. smirked. “Never mind.”
“What’s this place again? The Tilted Skirt?”
“Kilt, man. Tilted Kilt.”
Darwin frowned back down at the menu. “Why can’t we go to Subway? Javier always takes me to Subway when we do a job.”
“For the hundredth time, man, Javier’s in RJD. Won’t be out for six months. And for the thousandth time, Subway doesn’t have hot broads in short plaid skirts workin’ there.” J.T. peeked over the rim of his sunglasses at a passing example. He sucked his teeth.
“What’re you complaining for, man? How often you get to go to a Padres game while working a job?”
“Yeah,” Darwin said and smiled. “That’s true.”
“If anybody should be complaining, it’s me. Lookit you.”
Darwin looked down at his chest, his arms. “What?”
“Your little warm-up jacket,” J.T. said. “Your little Giles jersey. Isn’t that fuck in jail now, too?”
Darwin reddened. “He is not! He—”
“Lookit you, is that a helmet? You’re not even wearing a regular ball cap, you’re wearing a fuckin’ batting helmet. Jesus, Clarke, you’re in your forties, dressed like that. These people all must think you’re my retarded son.”
Darwin frowned. “Javier never calls me names.”
J.T. laughed. “C’mon, man. I’m just fuckin’ with you.”
“Hi, guys! Ready to order?”
“You betcha, sweetness,” J.T. said. “Tell the pretty lady what you want there, Darwin.”
“I wanna go to Subway.”
Low man on the totem pole is fine. J.T.’s not unrealistic. But fetching sandwiches, shit like that. Go-between with the fuckin’ scumbag dealers in Logan. All that’s one thing. Baby-sitting this mongoloid, that’s something else entirely.
Lookit him. Every time one of his beloved Padres is at bat, he’s muttering, “C’mon, Gonzales, c’mon,” or “C’mon, Torrealba, c’mon.” It’s embarrassing. In the first, J.T. was just getting the chickie a few seats down to return some eye contact when Headley drove Hairston in, and Darwin leapt to his feet, screaming, spit flecking off his lips. Goddamn embarrassing.
Do this job, the boss says. J.T. says fine. Take Darwin to the ballgame, the boss says. That’s it? That’s it, the boss says, Darwin will know what to do. J.T. didn’t say nothing, though he couldn’t imagine Darwin ever knew what to do. He’d be surprised if that gump could tie his own shoes if you spotted him the rabbit and the tree.
Lookit him. “C’mon, Salazar, c’mon—” and then he snaps to, sits straight up. Like a guard dog that heard a noise.
“What?” J.T. said.
“I gotta go to the bathroom,” Darwin said.
“Yeah, all right. Hey, get me a beer on your way back.”
Darwin followed the target up the stairs, keeping two or three people between them. His gloves were in his warm-up jacket, one in each pocket. He slipped his hands inside them, kept them there in his pockets. The length of piano wire nudged his left hand. The roll of quarters in his right had a calming heft.
The target went into the nearest men’s room. Monday night game is already pretty dead; more than half the seats at PetCo were empty. Bottom of the 6th with one man on, the rest of the seats were full, everybody waiting until “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” before going pee.
Darwin was on the target’s heels as they entered the men’s room. It was empty.
Darwin pushed open the stall as the target tried to close the door. “Hey, I’m in—” and then Darwin punched him in his big, fat, stupid mustache face, the same face in the picture the boss had shown him that morning. Teeth and quarters splashed to the floor.
Before the target could yell, Darwin spun him around so he faced the toilet. In one motion, Darwin brought his leg up against the backs of the target’s knees, pinning him to the john, while bringing the piano wire tight around his throat.
The target thrashed—they all did—but Darwin put all his weight on the target’s legs, pulling the wire tighter. Darwin’s left foot slid back a little on the floor, but he kept himself in place as the target quickly breathed his last.
Once the target was dead, Darwin turned him around and sat him on the john, dropping the gloves on the target’s lap. He locked the stall door and slid himself under the partition into the next stall. It was a squeeze, but Darwin was in and then gone by the third out.
“Took you long enough. You playin’ with yourself?”
Darwin sat down, said nothing.
“Hey,” J.T. said, “where’s my beer?”
“Get your own,” Darwin said.
“Whoa, wait. What did you just say to me, you—”
Darwin looked J.T. in the face. “I said, get up and get your own fucking beer.”
J.T. got up and got his own fucking beer.
BIO: Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA. Big thanks to Cameron Ashley and Josh Converse for line-edits, and to John Desy for being a hell of a guy and a dear friend. Please visit Attention Children: Sequential Art for more weak, broken-bat singles.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago