"I'm sorry. What is your name again?" Mr. Rockwell asked into the cell phone.

"José. José Bordero."

"José," Addison Rockwell's voice said. "I have to tell you something: this is no joke. You can't go back on this. The last guy that flew in was from Sardinia. He said he wanted to do it--he said, in fact, he was sure he'd go through with it. But when his flight came in we had dinner together at a French restaurant across the street from the hotel. And when we returned to the hotel--I'd had it all ready to go too: the Hydrocodone pills, the cough syrup, the butcher knives, and the plastic carpet--he changed his mind at the last second."

Addison Rockwell heard a pause from the ear part of the receiver. Then shallow breathing.

"Which is understandable, José. I want you to know this: I will think no less of you if you decide not to go through with this. Because (1) it costs me money--for the hotel room and your airfare. And (2) the painkillers that I am to provide you with should indeed render the bulletwound painless. But if you peter out after having ingested the painkillers/fever reducers and you decide to live the Acetaminophen is not going to do your liver any good in the long run. Do you understand me?"

A deep exhalation came from the ear side of Addison Rockwell's cell phone. Then:

"Yes, Mr. Rockwell. Absolutely."

The man Mr. Rockwell was talking to on the other end was from Mexico, but his English was very fluent. So fluent, in fact, that Mr. Rockwell had hoped he wasn't really just another American voice making fun of him.

Addison Rockwell had received many prank calls since last month--the first time he posted the add on Craigslist. Man Searching Another Man to Eat. Then after clicking on it the description it said No joke. Serious questions/queries only please.

One caller with a Texan accent called and told Mr. Rockwell he was dying of lung cancer and that he wanted to die painlessly and effortlessly and if cannibalism floated Mr. Rockwell's boat...then so be it. But before Addison could ask the caller his weight and height he heard in the background what sounded like drunken fratboy laughter accompanied by a click.

Mr. Rockwell thought nobody on Earth would take him seriously until he met the Sardinian in an Internet chatroom. The Sardinian had told Mr. Rockwell all about how his wife had left him for his brother.

"This is why I drink. And then my liver goes to hell," he said.

"That is horrrible," Mr. Rockwell said.

"Do you think you could help me?"

The Sardinian's voice had pleaded with him.

Rockwell knew he could. He really wanted to help him. He'd spent years of his life working as a male-nurse in Brazil. He knew how to take care of people. He knew the sounds of pain.

The Sardinian flew out to Arizona a week later. When Rockwell had picked him up at the airport he was greeted with a "hello" accompanied by the rank stench of cheap vodka. After dinner they went to the hotel room and the Sardinian topped off the rest of the vodka, using it to chase down the Nyquil and Hydrocodone pills.

Mr. Rockwell was surprised to see that the suicidial mixture didn't kill the Sardinian.

Doesn't even knock him out, he thought.

He had hoped he wouldn't have to use the gun on him. Know he knew he had to.

Mr. Rockwell took the gun and the silencer from his small black leather satchel and assembled them into one whole then he pointed it at the Sardinian's sweat-soaked bald head.

The Sardinian sat there rigidly, his neck and his lower abdomen strapped tightly against the chair.

"Mr. Voglia. What I am about to do to you should not hurt at all. I am aiming for your brainstem. If done correctly it will kill you outright. If it fails to do so, I promise you I will finish you off as quicky and humanely as possible. Do you understand me? Are you sure you can already feel the painkillers working?"

Mr. Voglia nodded.

Mr. Rockwell smiled faintly and then he said: "Mr. Voglia. With me you are a free moral agent. If you decide that this is not for you, that you'd really like to live your life and give it a second chance now's the time for you to speak up. Do you understand me?"

Mr. Voglia said nothing.

"All right, Mr. Voglia. This is it. I am counting to three. If you decide to brave the storm, I would like to tell you now that it has been a pleasure getting to know and getting to work with you."

Mr. Rockwell trained the pistol on the Sard's head. Then counted.

"One. Two. Thre--"

Muffled cries escaped the ball-gagged mouth.

"You've changed your mind?"

"Yes, man! I am sorry. I can't. I can't go through with this. It would be an unpardonable sin against my creator. I cannot do it."

"That Sardinian business was in the past," Mr. Rockwell reminded himself today on the drive to the airport, to pick up the Mexican.

He wondered if the Mexican would change his mind too.

Not much was said on the drive to the hotel room. José was in pain. Addison Rockwell saw it. The man's face was yellow and sallow and solemn-looking. And when they got inside the hotel room Addison Rockwell knew by Jose's morbid dispostion he was going to have a meal.

He hadn't had one in a long time.

"Mr. Addison Rockwell"

Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow


Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.

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