May 2009


Thanks to the aging of the baby boomers, we’re also seeing an increase in the amount of retired government-employed hit men entering the Former Assassins Relocation Program.  So it was inevitable I’d run into an old coworker at some point. 

Which I did last Sunday afternoon.  He’s now a greeter at Walmart (I can’t tell you which one, but don’t make any sudden suspicious moves around those greeters, just in case).  Our eyes met, then he did the classic double take.  He gave me the old signal so I wandered over to the discounted chips and stared at Doritos for awhile until he walked by.  Then I followed him casually into Health and Beauty until he stopped to look at mouthwash (which he always needed, as I recall).  I picked up some toothpaste and read the instructions (I didn’t know there WERE instructions on toothpaste; have you ever met anyone who was stumped about how to brush their teeth?).

While holding some Scope up to the light he said, “Are you here to eliminate me?”

“No,” I said, “I’m here for deodorant.”

He turned and looked at me.  “Really?”

“Yeah.  I didn’t know you were here.  Remember, our locations are supposed to be kept secret.”

“But ALSO remember that it’s the US government who promised us they’d keep that secret.”

He had a good point.  I seemed to recall a few other promises from the government that weren’t kept.  A couple of years ago a former assassin known as seven-double-0 (because he always got things backwards) had an apparent heart attack in a movie theater.  Upon closer examination he was also found to have a bullet in his head (for those of you who have no medical background, that is not common for a heart attack).  The general feeling was that the government had decided he was too risky to have around.

But be that as it may, it seemed to be nothing but a genuine coincidence that me and the Walmart greeter wound up in the same town.  We talked for a few minutes and he pointed out a few lazy employees he said he’d like to remove (in the strongest sense of the word), but since we really weren’t supposed to communicate I picked up my deodorant and headed out.

A minute later I circled back in and walked up to him.

“You’re not really thinking of doing anything to those employees, are you?”  I asked.

He smiled.  “Are you kidding?” he said.  “And spoil this set up?”

We old assassins still have a sense of humor.

Thought-provoking quote of the week:

“History suggests that we tend to be overconfident about what we know, and that we never know as much as we think we do.  Whatever age we live in, our perspective is always much more limited than we believe, and even as we progress in our understanding, blind spots remain that astonish and appall those who come after us.”

From “Acedia & Me,” by Kathleen Norris

How smart are we, really?  What “facts” are we so confident of today that will be proved foolish tomorrow?  I love how the idea in this quote bursts the bubble of how knowledgeable we think we are.  We’re so quick to be arrogant and so slow to be humble.

Am I the only one like this?  I have favorite sounds.  Here they are:

First and foremost, the sound of children laughing.  My absolute favorite.  The rest are in no particular order.

Tires or shoes crunching on gravel.

A lonely train whistle in the distance.

The sad call of a Mourning Dove.

The Red Wing Blackbird, announcing Spring.

A horse munching on hay.

A lawn mower in the distance (but only when my own grass doesn’t need cutting).

So, am I nuts?  Anybody else have favorite sounds?

It was dark.  In the distance a train whistle made its mournful cry.  A man stood on a bridge looking down into the water.  A Burger King bag floated by underneath him.  The taste of a Whopper filled his mouth. 

Another man slowly walked towards him and stopped about about 6 feet away.  “Are you Rico?” he asked.

The man continued staring into the water.  “Who’s asking?” he replied.

“I’m a friend of Sean’s.”

He turned and looked at the newcomer.  “Yeah,” he said, “I’m Rico.”

Sean’s friend leaned on the railing next to Rico.  “Sean explained what I’m looking for?” he asked.

Rico nodded.

“The target is a guy named Walter Kurl.  He works for the Glass Paper Company.  He’s–”

“Glass paper?”

“It’s not paper made of glass, Glass is the name of the family that owns the company.”

“Huh.  They should’ve gone into the glass business.”

“Yeah.  We get that all the time.  Anyway, Walter Kurl is a supervisor there.”

“We?  You work there too?”

“Yeah.  Kurl is my boss.”

“Pretty sick of him, huh?”

“You have no idea.  He’s got this coming, and then some.”

“Okay.  Where’s the place located?”

“At a deserted warehouse on the edge of town.  Kurl  works late every night, then he walks–alone–through the parking ramp to his car.”

“What kind of car does he drive?”

“A ’68 Rambler.  Maroon and white.”

“Really?  What kind of engine?”

“I don’t know.  Never looked under the hood.”

“Hmm.  I suppose I’ll be in too much of a hurry to take a look.  Oh well.”

“Anyway, I figure you can hide somewhere in the ramp and get him when he comes out.”

Rico nodded.  “I’ll push him down for you.”

“Hard.” said Sean’s friend.  “I want him pushed down real hard.”

Rico turned and looked at him.  “You must really hate this guy.  Get a bad performance review or something?”

“Never mind why.  Just push him down for me.”

“You bring the money?”

Sean’s friend nodded and reached into his pocket.  “$17.50, right?”

Rico nodded.

“Here’s a twenty.  Keep the change.”

Rico crumpled the bill into his pocket.  “You got a picture of Kurl?”

A photograph appeared from a pocket.  “That’s him on the left.  The guy with the bow tie.”

Rico stared at it.  “I didn’t know handlebar moustaches were coming back.”

Sean’s friend sighed.  “They’re not.”

At 5:40 the next evening, Rico stood in the shadows in the parking ramp.  The ’68 Rambler was about 20 yards away.  No one was in sight.  An owl hooted.  Rico chewed gum, and waited.

At 6:12 he heard hard shoes on concrete, echoing in the ramp, slowly clop-clopping towards him.  He spit his gum out.  His body tensed.

A shape came into view.  As it passed under a light, Rico saw the handlebar moustache.  He silently moved into a course to intercept him just before the Rambler.

Walter Kurl approached his car and reached into his pocket for his keys.  A voice spoke behind him.

“Mr. Kurl?”

Walter Kurl turned.  Rico used the palms of both hands and pushed Kurl hard in the chest.  He went down on the concrete, his keys sliding away.  Rico chuckled, then turned and ran.

“Hey!” yelled Walter Kurl.  But it was too late.