[ fiction - july 10 ]
Pinky placed an eight-inch stick of dynamite, one and a quarter inch in diameter, into the mouth of a famished, toothless Afghan man. Pinky walked twelve feet with the lead wire. His compatriot and brother, Quirt, placed another stick up the scrawny Afghan's butt. Quirt likewise walked twelve feet, standing next to Pinky. On the count of three they electronically detonated the blasting caps, sending their erstwhile foe into jihad paradise. They stared at the vacated earth on which he disappeared.
It was much more satisfying than jabbing whittled-sharp sticks at caged rabbits in the backyard. Their Boy Scout knives chopped them up into little pieces. Their mom and dad never knew and the boys slept well, just as they had after the Afghan exploded.
Pinky left special ops a year ago. He wanted to know why was a 2005 Chrysler 300 parked outside his house. Pinky had lost twelve pounds three days after noticing the sedan. Its straight pipe and souped-up engine blasted fiercely every time he sat down for meals. He liked his life in Afghanistan, even its cruelty, where you could do what you want.
On special-op missions, he was freer than sitting in the recliner, stuffing his gob with Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby, its fudge and peanuts going down his alimentary canal, then eliminating all his hard-earned calories and fat down the toilet. He could not maintain his weight.
Weighing in a week later, the scale showed he was down another nineteen pounds. He felt punier in both mind and body. He was unaccustomed being the weakest link.
For breakfast, he placed a salmon into the oven, smearing it with butter. He made a four-egg omelet, loading it with cheddar cheese, peanuts, ham and walnuts. He ate slowly, thoroughly masticating the food, making sure all calories were absorbed. He read online how that worked for underweight people.
Sitting at a table in the kitchen, he looked out the window. The sedan was in its usual spot, Quirt making certain that the stakeout continued. With 20-20 eyesight, he saw him take slow bites out of a large hamburger. Ketchup dribbled from his lips as he wiped it slowly away. Then French fries, nibbling each fry with great deliberation, he staring at Pinky.
After finishing a soda, Quirt stepped out of the car. He was a large muscular man, his camouflage cargo shorts revealing massive legs. He smashed the soda can on his forehead just as he used to do in Afghanistan. Quirt reached in a pocket, pulling out a Diesel Troopero hat. He put it on, then tipped its large bill as if acknowledging a task well executed. Tomorrow Brooke would visit Pinky.
Online, he played Condemned: Criminal Origins. A grubby, sinister agent searched city-wide for the roots of urban violence and mass hysteria. Pinky's dick hardened, controlling massive firepower and hand-to-hand action, the game's smutty, grimy obscenities making his balls ache knowing Brooke would come back.
For dinner that night he ate sautéed scallops, imitation crab salad, gumbo (white crab meat and okra ), and mahi mahi dishes. For dessert, he chomped handfuls of cashews and a dozen strips of fried bacon. The scale said he weighed 134. "Why not depart from life, a sated guest from a feast?" wrote Lucretius. That was his dream, destroying himself as one stuffed, contented man, a soldier of gluttony. Losing fifty-six pounds, Pinky felt trapped. Prisoners at Bagram Airfield had it easier.
Brooke walked into his living room. The door had been open because Pinky thought air circulating might help gain weight. A mystic, Pinky. Better living in the 13th century, fasting with Francis of Assisi.
"Hi, Pinky," Brooke said, hugging and kissing him. "God, why so thin? Are you sick?" She wore Capri pants, reminding him of Jean Seberg wearing Capri's in the film "Breathless." He had seen it with Quirt on leave in Manila. Brooke's hair was as short as Iowa's Jean Seberg's. The blue Reebok sneakers and white ankle socks made Brooke look athletic. She threw her handbag onto a chair.
"Sick of that," he said, walking to the window, pointing at the Chrysler. Quirt glassed him with military binoculars. Brooke saw Quirt, saw his shaved head, his tattoo on a bicep, even his glinting sliver tooth.
"Quirt? What's he doing out there? Invite him in," she said. Pinky grabbed another cold chicken thigh, chewing rather than answering her. Superstition is the religion of feeble minds. He remembered the Edmund Burke quote, one that Quirt told him at a bar in Bangkok. His cognitive power was at the point where concentration weakened, perhaps from lack of oxygen-enriched blood in his brain due to weight loss. Feeble as in feebleminded, or at least he thought he thought. Lingering special ops survival prowess steeled his mind, if only fractionally.
"I've lost fifty-six pound since Quirt's doing his stakeout routine."
"Has it anything to do with me?"
"Did you give him his share of the money?"
"Just as you told me to," Brooke said, leaning back, bending her leg to her breast. She clasped two hands around the knee. She shimmered Gloria Grahame, tossing Doris Day onto the cutting room floor.
"What did you really do with the all that moolah?"
"Mullah? I never let a Muslim take it away."
"Nah. Banknotes. We kill Muslims, especially opium growers."
"I thought the deal was to waste Quirt, friendly fire, you know." Pinky tried recalling what Haruki Murakami said about guts and a labyrinth. He would have remembered that if healthier. Pinky realm was visceral not operating from the cerebral cortex anymore.
"I couldn't do it. The blood from those rabbits, those cats, those dogs, that drunken bum on the side of the road leading to our farm," he said. "Too much spilled blood."
"I can't hear you. Speak louder." He repeated himself. He felt his only hope was butchering Quirt. He and Quirt as kids killed that vag, stomach-cutting his life away. Too weak now
"Bonding. Sure. You look awful. Have you seen a doctor? It might be cancer."
"Helpless sadness, maybe. I'm no shrink, no nutritionist."
They sat, hearing silence thrum through their hearts. Quirt vroomed the car.
If Pinky and Brooke glanced outside, they would see darkness. He slumped on the couch.
"I'll take care of everything," she said, getting up, hoisting the handbag over a shoulder. Pinky sunk deeply into the couch cushions.
She walked towards the car. Up close, Quirt looked too handsome, too bright, too too healthy, too substantial. She bent down, exposing her breasts. Quirt licked them. She opened the door, sliding onto the backseat. He slid himself over the front seat, Brooke upon her back. He gracefully moved on top of her, his hands rubbing her breasts, her nipples hardening, her legs spread. He dry humped her.
"I'll get a condom," she said.
"You've a tubal ligation," her said, in spite of his erection.
"You'd fuck a corpse over there," she said. She struggled with her arm, sliding it down to the bag on the floor. She grabbed the Smith and Wesson .38 Special. She fired five times, blood drenching her Capri's and shirt. His full weight pinned her down but she managed to squirm out from under him.
She grasped the handle, opened the door, then with great effort stood up. Every muscle ached. Quirt's dead body would never ache.
She walked back into the house, seeing Pinky stretched out on the couch.
"Pinky, wake up." She gently shook him. She felt his carotid: no beats. She might not have done it right. She dialed 911.
The police arrived. They turned on the lights. Attendants wheeled the gurney out the door.
They booked her on suspicion of murder. They handcuffed her. Another ambulance took Quirt to the morgue.
They released Pinky after a month's stay at the hospital. Back to full strength, he thought about another tour of duty. With Quirt out of the picture, he could not kill any more. If some shithole staked him out again, he would kill that son of a bitch.