Old Dogs

THE ROOM


I laughed
as Manny handed me
the chrome .45

it seemed
an ironic joke
considering my talents
as a second story man
precluded the need
for such overt
weaponry

but he
wasn't laughing
and had the look
that quickly extinguished
the amused smile
from my
face

"there's a job
you gotta do

a good man
with us
has become
a liability
and you're
gonna take care
of him
for me"

he had
to be kidding
but Manny
didn't kid

the last time
that I fired
a gun
was twenty years ago
in boot camp
and that
with my eyes closed
missing the target
more than I hit it

he had guys
for this kind of work
and I definitely
wasn't
one of them

"I understand
what you're saying
Manny
but don't you
have anybody better
for the job?
I'm more likely
to shoot myself
than your
mark"

I anxiously
toyed
with the shiny pistol
as he gazed
out the window
of the gentlemen's club
that he used
for an office

he sucked
on his cigar
a couple of times
then took on
a reflective tone
which he only used
when dead serious
about whatever
the topic

"listen kid
everybody's gotta part
to play
in a well-oiled
organization

sometimes
a part needs to change
in order to insure
smooth operation

it's all
been thought out
and done only
for the good
of everyone involved
understand?"

I understood
alright
there was no way
that I could
say no

I had
to agree
then hope
that I could find
some way
to get myself out
of this unforeseen
situation

"sure Manny
whatever you say"

he nodded
the collective tension
easing noticeably
but I knew
that it was only
a temporary reprieve
and was grateful
for any time
that I
could buy

he laid
out the plan

the mark
would be waiting
in an apartment
often used
for drops
and deliveries

he would
be expecting
a briefcase filled
with small bills
and shouldn't suspect that
anything was amiss
if the package
was accompanied
by a courier
who was packing

afterwards
I was to deposit
the body
into the trunk
of a waiting clean car
that I would then drive
to the industrial area
park it
then leave it
for the next man
in the chain
as another
would bring me
back to the club

Manny eyed me

when he said
that I might
have to sit tight
at the apartment
for awhile
until I was sure
that the coast
was clear
to carry the body
out to the car

he knew about
my claustrophobic nature
a nature
that served me well
in my chosen profession
forcing me to
get in
then quickly out
of the target areas
minimizing
the risk
of discovery
and capture

"can you
do it kid?"

sitting
in a small room
with a dead body
was as close
to an inner ring of Hell
as I could imagine
but I knew
that my answer
could only
be yes

"sure Manny
whatever
it takes"

he smiled
and patted my shoulder
something that
he had never done
in our seven-year association
not even
after retrieving
some incriminating papers
that literally
kept his ass
out of prison
did he show
such familiarity

it made me
that much
more nervous

when
Manny was nice
everyone
had a reason
to be afraid

the time
until the meet
passed much too quickly
and I found myself
in front of
the rundown
apartment building

I had arrived
a little early
in order to
have a moment
to breathe in the cool
and crisp night air
before going inside
where the stale atmosphere
would surely trigger
the initial symptoms
of my addling
affliction

vertigo
sweats
shakes
nausea

one last gasp
then through the entry
rapidly up the stairs
to the second floor
and down the hall
to the last door
which swung
easily open
into the ten by ten
windowless
front room

I entered
and hit the light
to find both
interior doors
closed
locked
and knob-less
the same as the one
I had just shut
behind me

a hundred
square feet
not enough space
to keep the moisture
from accumulating
on my brow
before flowing down
my frightened
face

I heard
the approaching steps
in the outer hallway
then a clang of metal
sounding worse
than the closing
of a prison
cell door
the sound
that had originally
spurred my severe
claustrophobic
condition

then
a tentative
shuffling of feet
before
a sighing whisper

"sorry kid
only one bullet
use it
wisely"

retreating footsteps
then nothing
but the sound
of my heavy
breathing

now
the tremors
are here
and the only thing
that I see
is the blinding glare
off the automatic
as the walls
press relentlessly
upon
my spinning
soul