Though quiet, the voice was proud yet defiant, spit out under the breath with palpable contempt. Beneath it laid a certain resignation. It was my voice.
This voice had a contempt all its own, almost impatient, assuredly annoyed.
“What?” I was furious – what was this fool doing?
“What did you say?” He scowled down at me, a picture of pure menace. He was clad in black jeans and a hoody but wore a black watch-cap as well. He looked about 32, Latin, short hair closely cropped, and had a razor thin mustache under his beaklike nose and menacing eyes. He looked down the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun, the muzzle inches from my face.
A bath had seemed a good idea, squeeze into the tiny tub, soak in some hot stinky water, as is the available sort in charming Sylmar, and let my mind unwind. As much of my writing is bathtub based I have become fairly accomplished in Splash Fiction. In order to facilitate such endeavor, I bathe with a recorder within reach to dictate my brilliance for later transcription and embellishment. In the steamy darkness (as I shut off the light, using a low watt nightlight so I’m not entirely in the dark), I can create, unencumbered by clothing or dryness. I’m not really sure as how either of those act as an actual impediment to writing, but why argue with a winning program?
So I immersed myself in the comforting waters, closed my world weary eyes and thought of creative marketing strategies for No Biz. Now, if there is something more distressing than opening your eyes to a vato with shotgun pointed right at your face naked in a tub, I do not wish to know what it is. As it was, physiological response to the sight rendered the waters unfit to drink. Or bathe in, but he had me at an advantage and I remained motionless in the constrictive tub, my arms uselessly jammed against the sides, water squirting up as my muscles constricted.
“Nothing.” This clearly displeased him, but as he was there with designs on my life I wasn’t overly concerned as to his pleasure. To be honest, I had taken an immediate disliking to him. A snap judgment, yes, but on occasion one must forgo the charm of nuance out of existential necessity. He curled up his lips.
“What duh fuck did you say?” He looked at me like I was crazy, yet there he stood in my bathroom at 2:00 in the AM pointing his stupid gun, being all curious.
“I said, ahh-ooga.” While providing him a technically accurate response, he still didn’t understand the significance. And for some reason, he decided he needed to, all the sudden. His gun arm had tired from holding the shotgun – his plan was to point, pull the trigger then vamoose, this ascertained later in another story – so he changed his stance and gripped it with both hands, favoring his left.
“What duh fuck that mean?” I felt contentious. Fuck this asshole.
“What are you doing here? Pointing a fucking gun at me. Ya asshole.”
This baffled him as he was apparently more used to pathetic begging and pleading and I was busting his balls with a Model-T horn. He found himself conflicted.
“What the fuck does that mean?” He shook the shotgun barrel in my face but I wisely chose to not have him hit me with it and diminish its aesthetic appeal. My face, not the shotgun, Jerk. He looked around, both of us amazed that everyone else in the house was just sleeping away, all la-dee-dah while young heathens were menacing me in my own rented bathtub in my own bathtub story. I would deal with them later.
“None a your business.” My defiance maintained its furious piquancy. His annoyance escalated and he cocked his head, scrunching his neck and looking around, returning his finger to the trigger, bringing the barrel within an inch of my face. But now he had made it a mission, he had to know.
“Tell me or I’ll blow your fuckin’ head off.”
“Fuck you. You’re already gonna blow my head off. I owe you no favors.”
“Fine.” He shifted about to prepare for the recoil, pulled the black Mossberg pump back to his shoulder, steeled his face then really fuming, lowered the weapon. “God dammit, tell me what that means.”
“What the fuck do you care? You’re here to kill me.”
“Tell me why you said that.”
“No. It’s none of your business.” And then to really rub it in, “So are you gonna kill me or can I get out of this and put on something?”
“Tell me and I’ll kill you and we’ll be done.”
“That is hardly a motivator.”
“Well, I’m not killing you till you tell me.” He pulled the shotgun back into rest position.
“That isn’t much better. Why are you here? Why are you going to kill me?” He looked at me and nodded as if assuring himself.
“Oh, you know. You know exactly what this is about.”
“I have no idea. Are you sure you got the right address? Maybe you’re at the wrong house.” This really pissed him off. Not only was I denying him the information he demanded, but now I was challenging his direction following capabilities. He wasn’t warming to me.
“I got the right fuckin address, motherfucker. I came for you.”
“You’ve never even seen me before. I’ve never seen you. It could just be a simple mistake. No need to get upset. We can figure this out. Together.” My attempt to bring him to my court failed miserably. But it kinda had to, given my proclivities.
“The only thing we’re doing together is me blowing your head off then me leaving.”
“Well, that’s hardly together; you’re doing pretty much everything by yourself. All I get to do is die. Maybe of shotgun blast, maybe hypothermia.” This confused him.
“What? I don’t know why you won’t just fuckin tell me. I don’t know what’s the big deal. Ahh-ooga. It’s like a car honking.”
“Listen. I know you’re in the wrong place. 15960 El Cabron.” This caught him off-guard.
“What did you say?” I had him.
“See? I told you. Jeeze, you almost killed the wrong guy.”
“What’s the address? Here. This address.” His annoyance gave way to grave concern. Killing the wrong guy was a double problem, one because you killed the wrong guy and two because you still have to kill the original target, doubling your kills with no appreciable economic incentive. Bad for business.
“15960 El Cabron. Sylmar.” I added the city just to grind him, a street sure, anyone could make that mistake, but the wrong city? Get a Sherpa, Hillary.
“Bullshit.” He was beginning to cave. Just had to reel him in. The bathwater was getting stinky. Floaters were a real concern.
“Who are you looking for? Dude, I tell you it’s not me.” And to send it home, “I’m nobody.” He shifted the gun in his hands and pulled out his phone. I goaded him. "You’re gonna tell them you went to the wrong place? That’s gonna look bad on your performance review. What address are you looking for?” He considered my position. The fewer who knew of this, the better. He gripped the undialed phone in his right hand and the drooping shotgun in his left, looking me over, suspiciously.
“There it is! One block to the East. I get packages for them, even the Post Office makes the mistake. No harm, no foul.” I recoiled in horror at the bathwater – no foul indeed!
“You telling me it’s the next street over?”
“Absolutely. People make the mistake all the time.” Sizing him up, “Perhaps not to this degree. But still.” He gave it a think, then raised the shotgun back to my head. “What are you doing? I thought we’d established that I’m not your guy. Don’t even know your guy. Innocent bybather; just soaking through here.”
That last one struck him as absurd and he was so pleased he understood what absurdity was, he started to laugh. He relaxed the weapon and shook his head. Lowering the gun he looked at me through reddened eyes as his laughter abated to chuckles. Suddenly he raised the weapon, “Naw, gotta kill you.”
“Let’s think about it. Right now, you have only threatened me. Well and broke into my house.”
“Had some a that ice cream in the freezer. Like 10 different flavors…you makin’ that shit?”
“Know a driver for a local concern.” Found my way back, “So beyond the breaking and entering, threatening to murder me and eating some ice cream, what really have you done? People do that kinda shit all the time, don’t have to get all killy about it. I’m happy to write the whole thing off.” He saw the logic in my position. He put the safety on and lowered the weapon. Realizing I was trembling in the harsh cold of the Southern California winter, he grabbed my robe from the door and tossed it to me. I grabbed it and climbed out of the tub, wrapping myself in it. “Thanks.”
“Innocent bybather. Classic.” He shook his head and stepped out of the bathroom and ambled down the hall, the big gun pointed to the floor. Stopping at the kitchen table, he glanced at a piece of mail addressed to me. It took him a beat to register what he read and he turned around, raising the gun. “Hey…” But it, of course, was too late and I gave him four slugs from the 9mm Beretta I keep for just such literary emergencies. He took them with aplomb, two to the gut one to the chest and the last to the throat, so he’d stay alive just long enough to hear me.