THE OPPOSITE OF
You have no one to blame but
yourself. Not if you’re being
honest. The life you’ve chosen, your
choices, the total sum of too many parts.
It’s why you ask Carlos if it’s Christine you are about to partake in
when he brings you the plate of ribs. You
do this because you know it’s something Carlos is capable of: his brand of
thinking the stuff which nightmares are made from.
Pretty sure you and me, we’ve moved past such
things.” He smiles as he says this, in a
way which is meant to convey multiple things at once. You sigh in response,
there as you dig in,
but as you pick up your glass you go one better and ask if you’ll be alive by the
time its contents are drained.
I said: no hard feelings. You don’t want to take one for the team, hey,
how can I hold it against you? Solid
earners like you, you don’t come round so often, even with a method as
particular as yours. But come on, give a
man some credit. Maybe he found another
way.” It doesn’t work, not this far into
a situation as sideways as anything you have ever been involved with. But the
sideways you have known is turned
inside out once you return home and confront the pile of family members
congealing before your eyes. The
craftsmanship on display does everything you believe it’s meant to, stuns you,
becoming a reality you can’t deny. What
you also can’t deny is the exclusion of Damon, your boy, the one you’d been
teaching the trade. It’s done on
purpose, you think, the sparing of him a message within a message. Your belief
in this is sound but the parts
you require to understand the depth of everything going down is far from the
you of then, the man you wish you’d never become.
Either way, it’s why you change your
mind and agree to what Carlos has asked; why you finally agree to take one for
The next eleven years taking more than
time from you, more than life. You are
beaten inside. Broken. Face fucked
and sodomized. Your world becoming the opposite of what you
hoped for. The opposite of how you
dreamed. Early release is achieved,
however, but even this comes at a price.
Damon, the boy who survived, he has by now embraced Carlos, becoming his
second in command. Reunited, he looks
more like his mother than you can hardly believe. This breaks something inside
of you. A wound which fails to bleed.
“As we’ve been discussing, my goal is
to make things right between us. To give
us all a fresh start.” You stand in
front of the same table you sat at all those years ago, to the time he’d
brought you ribs. You think maybe you
should have taken the deal, way back when, before Carlos went and decided on
something else. The thought process does
everything it needs to, destroying everything as it should: brings forth the
pile of family members you envision every day.
It brings you your mother. Your
Father. Wife. Sister.
Niece. Their arms and legs dangling
from the dining room table like unfinished art.
The one thing you don’t see, the one thing you never see, is Damon, your
It’s why you’ve continued to blame no
one but yourself.
Why your heart broke when you figured
it out and continued to do so as you counted down the days to your
You tell him you
know it was him; he who got his mother to get your parents there. It doesn’t
take much after that, not after
tipping your hand. Faces snarl, faces
rage, and then the amount of iron in the room is raised by a factor of
two. You stand your ground, arms in your
pockets, the piece you brought taken from you seconds after you entered the
room. It allows Carlos to come forward as
he does, placing the barrel of his gun to the middle of your forehead. He goes
on about how he has only ever had
your best interests at heart---how you had never been able to see. The cherry
on the cake is when he brings
Damon into it and states what you have already known for years; the two of you as
opposite as ownership and the life you wish to erase.
“It’s why I blame myself.” Your words do more than cause each of them to
pause, Carlos more than Damon tilting his head to the side. You go on about
security, how the lot of you
think about such things, and how you knew they wouldn’t look past your gun to
the semtex you’ve housed beneath your feet.
You do this because even though you blame yourself you are still made of
flesh, still held up by bone. A little
taller than usual, sure, and only because the type of explosive you use has
always required a little more room to breathe.
For this you can blame
no one, not even yourself.
Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Rainbow
free, he still has trouble accepting the reasons as to why they changed the
Beckies on Roseanne instead of the Darlenes. A collection of Beau's short
stories will be published by Down and Out Books come Christmas 2017.