JACKIE BOY - AJ HAYES
I like Mr. Johnson. He always smells of cigar smoke and a little bit of whiskey. My daddy always said you can't trust a man who doesn't drink because you know when he wakes up in the morning that's as good as he's going to feel all day long so he gets mean after a while. I don't know exactly what that means but mommy always said daddy knew what he was talking about.
Mr. Johnson's nice though. He always lets me keep the change. Buy yourself something he always says. Sometimes he gives me two dollars for the daily and sometimes three for the sunday. That's a lot of change. I've got three big glass jars full of dimes and quarters and one day I'm going to use them and go to the zoo. Tonight though Mr. Johnson says he has a job for me so I say okay Mr. Johnson. Yessiree Bob Mr. Johnson you bet. My daddy used to say that when he had a job to do. I don't remember most things so good but I remember that he used to say that. Good boy jackie Mr Johnson says. I'll be by after you close the stand tonight.
I close up early because when the wind off the river blows the snow up and around in swirls it gets cold and people don't come by for their papers as much. I pull the shutters down and snap the big brass lock through the loop. The river wind gets inside my wool coat and makes me feel like I'm frozen.
Doc the old guy with white eyebrows who sleeps in the box next to mine in the alley behind Mr. Johnson's building says it's arthritis in my joints. I don't know what that is but I memorized how you spell it off an old brown glass medicine bottle I found. Anyhow Doc says that's why the wind hurts. Like it does tonight.
Pretty soon Mr. Johnson comes by and says come on jackie boy it's time. Yes sir Mr. Johnson I say. Mr. Johnson has a big old car with little fishtails over the tail lights. I get in the front seat slow because the arthritis is pretty strong tonight. I like the way the seats in the big old car smell. Mr. Johnson says they don't make them like this anymore. Mr. Johnson's pretty old too. Anyhow the seat is nice and warm and I get a little sleepy so the time passes pretty quick. Mr. Johnson parks in front of one of those falling down buildings with the windows out and we climb a lot of wooden stairs that squeak like mice and come out on the roof. It's flat and there's a small wall around the edge that keeps people from falling off I guess. We walk over to the wall and lay down on the gravely roof. It's your time now jackie boy just like always Mr. Johnson says and hands me the long bag with the leather handles. I pull the zipper down and take out what's inside.
H&K PSG1 7.62 sniper rifle with a Russian made silencer semi automatic with roller delayed blow back and Hensoldt 6 by 42 600 meter scope. Mr. Johnson says despite your grievous head wound jackie boy in some things you are truly amazing. I'm not really listening because I know what comes next and I'm already scanning the street below acquiring target data and chambering one of the subsonic death viper hollow point rounds.
Brown overcoat Mr. Johnson says gray hat in front of the hotel. I center him in the cross hairs and when Mr. Johnson says go the round is already halfway there. The gray hat flies straight up spinning and the top of the targets head evaporates in a red and gray fog. The men and women around him run and some fall down and some look like they're screaming but I can't hear if they are or not.
Time to go lad Mr. Johnson says and we hurry back to the big old car.
Mr. Johnson parks behind his building and walks me to my box. He leans over and pats my head and says good work jackie boy. You made your last one a good one the best you've ever done. He smiles at me but I think he looks sad. What's the matter Mr. Johnson I say you look sad. Mr. Johnson sits down next to me and takes a silver thing out of his coat. He unscrews the top of it and takes a sip from it. I'm not sad really jackie boy he says I'm just sort of sorry it's over. What do you mean it's over Mr. Johnson I say.
He leans back against the alley bricks and sips some more. Well lad he says I mean we're through with the job. It took us a long long time but you and me we got every single one of those murderin plottin traitors. We got the last one of em tonight. They thought they could run and hide but we found em. We found em all. He stands up and looks down at me. I can go home now and you can just be the old man on the corner who sells newspapers and lives in the alley and has a nice peaceful life he says. He stops a minute to wipe his eyes. I guess the cold wind is making them tear up. I'm going to go now jackie boy he says you have a nice life. I will Mr. Johnson I say. He walks into the night and I hear the old car start up and drive away.
A swirl of cold wind makes my head start to ache and I crawl into my box and settle down. Good night doc I call and doc says goodnight jackie boy.
I snuggle down and listen to the wind blow and like I do every night I look at my wall and the picture of the pretty lady with the dark hair in her pink dress and wonder why she looks so beautiful and so sad.
Oh well I think tomorrow is another day.
BIO: AJ Hayes is from San Diego and -- god help him -- good friends with Jimmy (Mad Dog) Callaway, who provides great advice and the occasional smack in the mouth with the butt of a .45.