His prissy little cigarette would flame out and lie flaccid until the cops plucked it from the slime with tweezers.
by Jeff Macfee
Weinmann said Tim showed up every day, with the same card around his neck. Four sentences that hung from a lanyard and rested on his big belly. He did it to himself, that’s essentially what the card said.
Damage to hippocampus.
Lambdin did it. Find him. Kill him.
Plastic cut to three inches by two didn’t leave much room for explanation.
His name was Tim, that’s what Weimann said. Weimann managed Hill’s Auto Body like his own personal kingdom. Make it my business to know the customers, that kind of stuff. Even the crazies, he’d said.
Tim walked to the glass doors and spat on his thumb and smeared a track through the grime. He couldn’t see any better, but Lambdin was still out there. Every day he came looking for Lambdin with little in his head but the message on that card. Kill him, kill him, kill him.
A car hopped the curb and pulled into the lot. A black Escalade, driven like the King of Texas, like the dude inside owned the world.
Could be he binge drank, could be he’d slipped in the shower and bounced his skull off the tile. Or, like Weimann said, crazy, crazy like little kids were crazy--licking classmates, sticking fingers in shit, that kind of thing.
Tim rubbed the card and refused to close his eyes. Last time he’d closed them, the future had unfolded, clear like the second before a car crash, visible down to the last breath.
Thing about the crazy kids, sometimes they saw the future too.
“I know what’s going to happen next,” he told Weimann. “And what’s after that and what’s after that.”
“Keep it up and I’ll call the cops,” Weimann said.
Outside, the Escalade man glared, his head a bald missile with slashes for eyebrows. He plowed into an open bay and zipped down the glass, tossed out words with the tenderness of a boxer. An attendant ran over and opened the door, as if the guy had jerked his balls. The guy being Lambdin.
Tim’s eyelids slipped and future time shined into his cortex. He saw the lady from the DA’s office, her manila folder labeled Benjamin, Timothy. She’d leaf though the pages and tell him he’d worked as a butcher, then had weight-induced health problems, then gone on disability, and then disappeared. She’d ask if he owed Vincent Lambdin money. She’d ask if that was why Tim had beaten him to death. Tim remembered it like his first crush, his first wet dream.
Craziness, the yawning blackness of a separating mental fault line. Tim yanked on the lanyard and wondered how many times he’d tried to throw it away.
Lambdin walked into the parking lot, lit a brown cigarette, and spat a cloud of foul smoke. Tim bumped open the door and broke into a sweat almost immediately. He stood a bear hug away from Lambdin.
Lambdin talked to him.
“Sorry bunch of fucks.”
He blew more smoke. The cigarette was a clove.
Kill him now, kill him now. Electrical impulses ordered Tim, told him he would do it. The knowledge was already imprinted on his brain. Tim made fists and moved his tongue in circles. Saliva crusted his mouth like the leftovers of a sane mind. He dabbed at his chin before he started to froth and foam. Come see the mad monkey. Come see the bugfuck crazy fatman.
“There a problem with your car?”
Lambdin showed his teeth. “Was I talking to you?”
If he killed Lambdin he’d be caught. He could see it. He could see Mantle’s name carved in hazelnut, the bat leaning against the garage. Tim would pick it up and take a practice rip. He’d step behind Lambdin, who just pulled out his expensive little dick of a phone. Lambdin would blow smoke and cut a fart and chew someone’s ass, and then Tim would crack Lambdin’s parietal with a huge swing. Lambdin would fall to his palms and drool onto the pavement. Tim would plant a wide stance and lift the bat like a headsman’s axe and drop the hammer on Lambdin, splitting the man’s head open and driving blood out his ears. His prissy little cigarette would flame out and lie flaccid until the cops plucked it from the slime with tweezers.
He’d drive thirty miles to change a friend’s tire. He’d once picked up the check for the whole family, and that included his cousins. Nice guys didn’t play whack-a-mole with stranger’s heads, not unless they had brain tumors. Cellular processes run amok. Black cancer tunneling through their brains that left them for dead and certifiably crazy.
Lambdin looked at Tim like he was a loose thread or a flat tire. Still, he stepped closer, inside the bat’s range.
Tim should walk away. Whether he went by T or T-Dog or something stupid like Big Tim, he should leave. He would get caught and imprisoned, have to deal with fat jokes and ass-rape and beatings with towel-wrapped bars of soap. Lambdin’s syndicate would get a man inside Huntsville. Tim--seemingly alone--would see Cyrillic on muscled arms before phone cord buried itself deep in the folds of his neck. The twist would snap his larynx and after about nine seconds he would die.
Tim looked up at an aluminum sky. Had he wanted to be an astronaut, all four hundred pounds of him?
Lambdin scooted closer. He pulled out his phone and dialed slow, the numbers harmonic. The angular planes of his face sweat grease that slicked his face like bacon fat. Time passed and Lambdin chewed ass, just like Tim had seen, but his heart clearly wasn’t in it. When he stabbed the button to kill the call, he deflated, a deboned prick.
Tim hadn’t plastered Lambdin’s brains all over the street yet he still saw the future. A place where the Washington Post would publish articles on Lambdin’s habit, on Lambdin being a pederast. The Feds would want syndicate money-launderers, and keep Lambdin on the street so they could catch the big fish. Lambdin would disappear two girls and a boy.
While Lambdin kicked ash from the tip of his cigarette, Tim felt like shit, like taking batting practice with a smooth piece of wood.
Lambdin closed his phone and dropped it in his pants. His lips moved and Tim thought he heard the Our Father. Dust stirred in his brain and he smelled sweet cedar, felt the black cloth of the confessional.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Or will soon.
“I picked up two in Paris, Texas.”
It was Lambdin.
“A skate-and-shake,” he said. “Girls so green they couldn’t even get fake IDs.”
Tim knew. They weren’t murdered, but one would birth a kid with Down’s Syndrome. She would cry herself to sleep at night and tell herself she was keeping it.
“Jesus. Do I have to spell it out for you?” He stabbed a finger at his head. “I’m just like you. I see it all.”
Tim wanted to cry. Big pansy. No good waddling piece of shit.
Lambkin turned and walked toward the garage. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and exposed his neck to the sun. As he approached the garage, his steps got smaller and smaller until his forward progress resembled a dead man’s shuffle. Tim followed, wondering if he’d pick up the bat, if Lambdin would let him take a swing. Maybe they’d sit in lawn chairs and swap stories while waiting for Lambdin’s car to roll of the line. Lambdin might even give him a lift. Nice guy Tim. Everybody’s friend. A bomb waiting to go off.