When they call your name, the silence that follows is deadly.
It was a Saturday night and I was looking for a brawling good time. The first thing on my to-do list was to get ripped, plastered, tanked, and piss-faced. The second thing I was going to do was get some gorilla to break me into pieces. Maybe I’d take a piece of him with me like an eye or an ear or a nostril or something. Lastly, after walking out of the hospital for a concussion or broken bones or whatever else I suffered I was going to buy a gun at the closest pawn shop and blow my fucking brains out.
“She’s not worth it,” the bartender at McGinty’s was pretending to be my friend. If he knew how much I was going to tip him, no matter how bad his service was, then he’d have left me alone.
I was piss-faced after my first fifteen minutes, thanks to my own personal formula for instant intoxication: black and tan, Magnar’s cider, and a shot of Jameson’s.
I shouted at him above the clamor of the bar and blaring television set, “I caught Marcy sleeping with my pal! You know who I am? Chester P. Felderman!”
The grizzled, glassy-eyed old man next to me asked, “Who?”
The bartender shrugged, saying it’s the same name on the tab, and I said, “Me!”
It was the best I could come up with in my stupor. An unseen hand guided me back onto my barstool before I fell over.
My head sloshed around. I focused on the blue and red credit card tucked in a glass before me. It was my card, and I eyed the bartender suspiciously.
“I ain’t closing no tab. What’s this?”
He smiled at me sympathetically.
“I’m closing it for you. Pay up before you hurt yourself.”
The familiar late night jingle of the lottery played above us. The chatter in the bar died down like we were at a funeral. Silly description, I know, especially because nobody died while the lottery was on. The yellow jackets were going to be announced. Starting tomorrow morning men and women would die because of the Golden Rule being taken to the extreme.
Whoever’s name was called tonight would have a week where the rule of law didn’t apply to them. It was a week where they would wear a yellow jacket, and carry a gun, and rid the world of anybody they felt wasn’t worthy. Fucking stupid law.
“And our fifth Yellow Jacket this quarter is… Chester Felderman!”
A hush came over the bar. Their voices had been lowered for the lottery, but now they were nonexistent. You could have heard a church mouse dropping a needle.
Everyone was staring at me like a deer stares at headlights. The old man beside me was trying to hide his shaking.
His voice wavered as he spoke, “Yes, I remember a Chester B. Felderman. Good man, he was.”
The barkeep took the glass away from me, and handed me back my credit card.
“Tab’s on the house friend. Sorry about your girl.”
I fumbled tucking it into my back pocket, and it hit the floor. The old man had jumped out of his seat with a start. Before I could lean down, he grabbed the card off the floor and handed it back to me.
I studied it for a moment, and pointed out my middle initial on it, making it clear to him.
“P,” I said. “Not B. P as in Paul, or ‘Probably wouldn’t hurt a fly.'”
And stumbled out of the bar unmolested. Even the city government was against me getting into a fight tonight. Anybody who threw a punch at me over the next week would be sentenced to death for assaulting a Yellow Jacket. What a wasted night.
By the time I had stumbled back to my apartment I had vomited in the bushes three times. I had fallen up the stairs, something I never thought was possible, and discovered the brown parcel left outside my door. A yellow jacket, the insect, was stamped on the outside with my name in place of an address. I opened it right there in the hall and held the yellow trench coat in one hand, and the pistol in the other.
Merely four hours earlier I had walked into my apartment to find my girlfriend, Marcy, practicing naked yoga with my best pal, Damian, in our bed. I stumbled into the living room not quite knowing what my state of mind was. The place was empty.
The bedroom was a mess. The drawers of Marcy’s dresser had been ransacked and a pile of clothes had avalanched out of the closet when she had pulled her luggage from the top shelf.
Can’t blame her for leaving so quickly. It’s only logical, I guess.
The drink was slowly wearing off. With comprehension came realization and with realization came depression. We’d been together for five years. I could never dig up the courage to marry her no matter how much I loved her. Hell, last week I was drinking at McGinty’s with Damian and he helped me to pick out the right ring on my cellphone. That bastard. That rotten two-faced bastard.
Sitting back in my recliner, I realized I had the gun to my temple. Like a morbid drama, I watched my reflection in the television set wondering if I was going to do it. The lottery had saved me the trouble of buying a gun. I could end my pain right here, once and for all.
And that was when it dawned on me. In my own television show about my life I was about to die alone. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever dreamt of my life ending like this.
I imagined the long life that I wanted. The life where Marcy and I were married for sixty years with five children, and fifteen grandchildren. We’d traveled the world with all of them, and we’d raised them with the right values. Laying in my death bed it was not lonely, but full of the warmth and the love of my family and friends. A life fulfilled.
Shooting a hole in my head was not the answer.
It rang three times on the first call, five times on the second call, and once on the third call. Damian was ignoring my calls.
Wearing my new jacket I caught a cab across town. The cabby waived my fare, saying that at 3 a.m. all cab fares were free. I tipped him a twenty, and kicked in the front door of the brownstone. I didn’t want to wake anybody by ringing doorbells.
I knocked on Damian’s door for several minutes but there was no answer. When I knocked on his neighbor’s door his neighbor swallowed hard upon seeing the new jacket.
“Excuse me,” my parents taught me to be polite. “Sorry to wake you, but have you seen Damian Woods?”
“N-no,” the little old lady answered. Her face was knit with fear. Her silver hair had a blueish quality in the dimly lit hallway.
“I’m a friend, and I’m looking for him.” Wanting to be more humorous than hung over I added, “It’s a matter of life and death.”
She swallowed again, “He came by a couple hours ago. Had a girl with him. But they left around one o’clock.”
I kicked in his door. The old woman was right. Damian and Marcy left his place in a hurry. The drawers of his dresser were pulled out and dumped on the bed. He was in such a hurry that he forgot his laptop. It was glowing at me from his small brown desk.
“Damian, Damian,” I tutted, and logged into his computer. He never password protected his laptop because login screens annoyed the living hell out of him.
Marcy’s phone had an app, PhoneBug, which allowed us to track it. Years ago she had purchased the phone and PhoneBug along with it because she was so prone to losing the device. It still makes me cringe to think of how much money I lost to helping her replace lost cell phones.
A map was embedded into PhoneBug’s website. It showed me where her phone was currently located. There was a Jim & Johns Motel on the edge of town and that’s where they were hiding. I bet they’re going to be so surprised when I knock on their door.
What a dump. The motel was for truckers and trailer park whores. The proprietor, a sleazy man with the half grown mustache and missing teeth and a severe case of body odor, was kind enough to offer me a good rate by the hour as I walked in the door. When he saw my gun and my jacket he was willing to let me stay for free, and even settled for letting me see the guest registry.
At gunpoint I escorted him to their door, Room 368. It was a long way down to the parking lot with only broken concrete to cushion a fall. He knocked twice.
“Who is it?”
“Ralph from the front desk,” he said, and glanced at me. I motioned him to get them to open the door. I was careful to be out of range of the peephole. “I have a credit card. I think you left it at the desk.”
I heard them throw the chain latch. When the door cracked I kicked it in. Damian screamed out in pain as the door caught his toes. Marcy was hysterical.
“You!” I said to Ralph. “Whatever you hear, you ignore it. Understand?”
He nodded, saying, “Police won’t do anything anyway. Can you at least… please keep the carpets clean?”
I slammed the door shut, and locked it by both deadbolt and chain. As Damian pulled his naked body across the floor, his broken toes leaving a bloody smear across the houndstooth carpet, I pulled a chair in front of the door. My ex-girlfriend and my ex-best friend were naked on the bed in front of me.
“I’d be lying if I said breaking your little piggies didn’t make me smile on the inside.”
Tears were streaming down Marcy’s rosey cheeks, “Chester, please don’t kill us. Please, I’m asking… I’m begging you—”
There was a bottle of wine on the nightstand. It had been opened, but not finished. I couldn’t see what kind it was through the green glass.
“Red or white?” I asked.
She looked over at it while Damian nursed his toes.
“Blecht,” I hated red wine. “It’ll have to do. Bring me the bottle.”
Marcy reached for it, and I stopped her.
“I was talking to Damian. Stand up and bring it to me.”
The look in his eyes was either fear or anger or an acidic mix of both. The lottery had put them in a hard place. Whatever their affair was, it had transformed into a whole other beast tonight.
Damian grabbed the bottle, and scuttled to me as best he could. I kept the gun pointed at his chest.
“Seriously, Damian, can’t you hold the bottle by the base? You’re holding it by the neck like you want to club me.” The intent was in his eyes, but he knew what would happen. “You’re well aware I won the lottery tonight, and if not I suppose this jacket gives it away. You even pinch me and the police will execute you.”
The wine wasn’t half bad. I drank it straight from the bottle as he collapsed back onto the bed. Then it occurred to me.
“How long have you two been fucking behind my back?”
“Chester, please,” Marcy was cut off by Damian.
“Does it matter? You’ll shoot us no matter what the answer is.”
I shook the gun at him. “Not true! Well, maybe true. I’ve had a lot to drink tonight.”
That’s what I didn’t like about red wine. It coated your mouth like a bitter cotton. There was table, and I failed to throw the bottle so it landed safely on it. Instead, the bottle bounced and rolled off the edge. The red wine began pooling on the carpet.
“Were you two going to tell me that you’re doing it? Or were you going to kill me and hook up after?”
“You’re drunk,” Damian said again. I bet if he still had unbroken toes he’d have chanced leaping at me. “She never really loved you, Chester.”
Marcy was pleading still, “That’s not true! He lies.”
“I was picking out a ring. Did you tell her that?”
I let it sink in for a moment as I explained. Damian was shaking his head slightly, telling me not to go into it. What honesty.
“Tell her Damian. Tell your whore about the ring I was getting her.”
She was trying to look in his eyes, “You knew this? And you didn’t tell me?”
“And let him take you away from me?” he snapped, eyes still boring holes in me. “If you’re going to kill us, get it over with. You’ll still be alone, Chester. Marcy and I are meant to be whether it’s here on Earth, or if it’s in heaven.”
“No, no, no,” I said, emphasizing it by tapping the gun on my head. “You don’t get it. I’m only going to shoot one of you. Shooting both of you teaches us nothing.”
The color drained out of each of them. Marcy mouthed an airy, “Who?”
He said, “Shoot me then. Spare her.”
“No, not like that. Can’t have you choose,” I looked up at the ceiling. “Okay. Each of you choose a number between one and ten.”
She screamed as I pointed the gun at them with authority.
“That’s stupid,” he spat at me, and I really wanted to shoot him. But that wasn’t how I wanted this to go down. “How do we know you won’t change the number?”
“Because I don’t cheat on friends? Fine. You’re right. I could shoot both of you and we don’t have to do this. Okay, new idea.”
I rooted through my pockets, but found nothing. His pants were on the floor, so I rooted through them. A bright shiny quarter.
“Heads,” I pointed at Marcy. She flinched, hiding behind him. “Tails,” I pointed at Damian.
The look in their eyes was priceless when I flipped the coin in the air. All color had left their skin, leaving them cold and clamy, sweating in fright. A croak left Damian’s throat as he watched the silver coin flip over and over through the air.
I slapped it on my knee. Both were shaking as lifted my hand. I smiled. “Heads it is.”
I put the gun to my temple and pulled the trigger.
I bet they never saw that coming.