Home
Editor's Page & Archive Link
"Skeeter", the Official YM Mascot
Guidelines
Contact Us & Links to Other Sites
Factoids
Spook on Rye-Fiction by Will Bernardara, Jr.
A Study in Loss and Hunger-Fiction by T. N. Allan
Tepid Strawberries-Fiction by Preston Lang
The Ice Tombs-Fiction by j. brooke
Uncle Harry-Fiction by Michael S. Stewart
Run, Robby, Run, Part 3-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Hunting Ghosts-Fiction by J.M.Taylor
SkitzoFreniC-Fiction by Michael Bauman
Candy Man-Fiction by Frank Quinn
A Dog of War-Fiction by Robb T. White
The Retiree's Epiphany-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Reckoning-Fiction by Edward Francisco
Sarcasm's Dream-Fiction by Erin J, Jones
Dishes, Dishes, Dishes-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Angels in Vegas-Flash Fiction by Tom Darin Liskey
An Alto for the Choir-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
A Splash of Red-Flash Fiction by Daniel Clausen
A Slight Disposition-Flash Fiction by James Coffey
Together Forever-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
Talky Tina-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Play Dead-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Boycott This Poem-Poem by Michael Marrotti
Monaco-Poem by John Doyle
He Dubbed Himself General Custer-Poem by David Spicer
Moment of Madness-Poem by Meg Baird
A Beautiful Chaos-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Phantom Voices Floating...Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Dirty White Girl-Poem by Ian Mullins
Don't Do It, It Ain't Worth It-Poem by Ian Mullins
Cursed-Poem by John Grey
Regarding the Coming of Man-Poem by John Grey
Threshold-Poem by Kenneth P. Gurney
Word Salad With Ranch-Poem by Kenneth P. Gurney
Turnabout-Poem by Kenneth P. Gurney
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

retiree.jpg
Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017

THE RETIREE’S EPIPHANY

 

Roy Dorman

 

                                                                                                                       

James Callaghan was not paying much attention to his surroundings when a car pulled up alongside him and someone got out.  He almost walked into the young punk who was now blocking his way on the sidewalk.

“Gimme your wallet, old man,” said the punk.

James looked around like he was waking from a dream.  He was recently retired from working construction and hadn’t really found anything to do with his new-found wealth of spare time.  It was still early, only about eleven o’clock, and he hadn’t strayed too from his neighborhood.  But apparently he had strayed far enough.  He’d been….restless.

“I’ll give you my cash, but I’m keeping my wallet,” he said, taking his wallet from his back pocket.  “Credit cards, drivers license….all that stuff is really a pain in the butt to replace.  Here, take the cash.”

“You’re not making the rules here, Jack.  Gimme the wallet.”

“I’m not giving you the damn wallet.  If you won’t just take the cash, you’ll have to fight me for the wallet.”  James had no idea why he said that.  He hadn’t been in a fight since high school.

“I’m not kiddin’.  Give it up.”

“If you take the cash, I won’t even call the cops.  If you beat me up, that’s assault.  Assault and robbery.  You ready for that?” said James without hardly any tremor in his voice.  He assumed what he hoped looked like a credible karate fighting stance.

“Hey, buddy, ya need some help over there?”  A car had pulled up behind the car the would-be robber had gotten out of and the driver looked at the two of them through his passenger side window.

James hoped the new arrival was offering help to him and not the stick-up guy. 

“This low-life’s trying to steal my wallet.  I didn’t bring my phone; could you call 911 for me?” he said.

“Arnie!  Get in in the damn car.  We’re gettin’ outta here.  Now!”

“Shut up, Lizzy!”  said the robber, now known as “Arnie.”

“So, we got first names, Arnie and Lizzy,” said James.  “You two new at this?”

“Cops are called and I got their license number,” called the guy in the second car.

“Forget that fuckin’ douche bag, Arnie,” yelled Lizzy.  “There’s lots more old farts with wallets in the Bronx.  Let’s go.”

James walked over to the car.  “Who you calling a fuckin’ douche bag?” he said, kicking out one of the tail lights.

Lizzy started driving away without even taking time to close the passenger side door.  Arnie yelled at her to stop and ran to catch her.  She slowed down enough for him to jump in and they took off, turning the corner at the next block.

“No harm, no foul, right?” said the man who had pulled up earlier.  “I can give you a ride home if you want.”

James walked over to the passenger side window and looked in.  “Don’t you think we should wait for the cops?  Those dopes didn’t get anything, but we can still give them their descriptions.”

“I didn’t call the cops.  Get in.”

James looked down to the passenger’s seat and saw a .45 was pointed up at him.

“Go to hell,” he said, and started walking away.

After almost fifty years of taking orders from somebody or other, James had told himself that in retirement he wouldn’t take any guff from anybody.  And now something he couldn’t quite put his finger on had also taken place in his psyche.  He felt….different.

The man drove slowly next to curb, pacing James.  “I’m Bobby.  You’re….?”

“James.”

“I like your style, James.  I’ve got some work now and then for somebody like you.  Ya interested?”

“I’m retired,” said James.  “I’m done havin’ people tell me what to do.”

“So, I’ll ask nicely rather than tell ya.  That work for you?  Small jobs at a thousand a pop…”

James stopped and laughed.  “Who do I kill for a thousand a pop?”

“The grand is for things like drop-offs and pick-ups; stuff like that,” said Bobby.  “Maybe do some driving for me when I have a stop to make and wanna leave the car runnin’.  If I need ya to kill somebody, I’ll pay more.”

James had never even had a parking ticket in his life.  But retirement hadn’t proven to be very much fun so far and he felt this Walter Mitty rush coming over him.  If this guy was for real, James thought he could maybe finish this life with a little pizzazz.

James opened the door and got in.  “I’m at 812 Chestnut.  You go a few blocks down 233rd Street, then down Bronxwood, and then…”

“I know where Chestnut Street is.”

“Ya know,” said James after they had been driving for a few blocks.  “It would probably be a good idea if I had one of your small jobs sooner rather than later.  If I have too much time to think about this, I’ll probably come to my senses and chicken out.”

“Ya don’t seem like a ‘chicken out’ kinda guy to me,” said Bobby.  “I’m a pretty good judge of human nature.  But I’ll get ya somethin’ tomorrow if it makes ya feel better.”

***

The next day, James got a call from Bobby.  Bobby had given him a throwaway cell phone and three hundred dollars in good faith money.  He had also given James a .38 Special and a new shoulder holster.  James felt the phone, money, and gun were probably Bobby’s way of manipulating him, but he had decided overnight that this was something he was going to do.

James’ first job was to take the trains down to the Bowery in the East Village and pick up a package from what turned out to be an upscale flower shop.  Bobby had decided that since James didn’t have a car, James would use buses and the subway.  With cabs there was more record-keeping involved and also closer face-to-face contact.

“I’d like to talk to the manager about placing a large order for a funeral,” recited James to the young woman behind the counter.

“And when will the funeral be?” came the required response.

“He’s not dead yet,” answered James.

The young woman walked into the back and came out with a woman closer to James’ age who was carrying a shopping bag with the store’s logo.

“You’re new,” she said.

“I’ve been around the block a few times,” answered James with a chuckle.

“Oh, did you have trouble finding us?” asked the younger woman.

James smiled at her and then said to the older woman, “Aren’t young people just precious?”

“Well, take care and I hope to see you again,” she said, handing the bag to James.  “Soon.”

***

James didn’t trust Bobby and he didn’t think he’d be able to trust the clients Bobby sent him to visit. Something at that first job made him think the possibility of danger had just been ratcheted up a bit.  

He had seen something when he was leaving the flower shop that he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to have seen.  When he had reached to open the glass door to go, the reflection in it was that of the front counter.  Only the younger woman was in that reflection.  

James was not entirely surprised by this.  After the goings-on of the last twenty-four hours it would have been hard to surprise him.  He used that lack of presence in the reflection for what it was – data.  It told him Bobby was most likely not the highest level of authority in this organization.  He was probably just a delivery boy like himself. 

James had been flattered when he thought the woman may have been sending a friendly vibe his way.  Now he realized he may have interpreted it incorrectly.  Even so, he knew he was really committed to this walk on the wild side when he found himself hoping Bobby would have another pick-up in the Bowery soon. 

James thought she had very nice eyes.

***

Four weeks went by before Bobby told James he had a pick-up for him in the Bowery.  James had had one drop-off near Times Square during that time period and it had gone well.

In the meantime, Bobby had arranged for James to get a private investigator license and this entitled him to get a concealed-carry permit for his .38.  The private dick cover was important because even if James never had a need to pull out his piece, the chance of him being frisked during a routine stop could cause problems for everybody if he had no permit.

 

                                                                                                               WILD FLOWERS was the name of the shop and the password phrases were the same.  James was handed the shopping bag and felt a thrill when the woman held the bag a little longer this time, causing a lingering touch of their hands.

“I know we’re not supposed to exchange names or engage in conversation, but you could call me “Rose” if you’d like.  And there’s a little coffee shop down the block; we could have some coffee and keep the conversation light and not work related.”

“I’m James.  You can call me James,” said James with what he hoped was a warm smile.  “A coffee break sounds swell.  I don’t bother much with petty work rules.  I do my job and that’s what I get paid for.”

They found a table by the window and ordered coffee and croissants.  For a minute, they just watched the passers-by hurrying to and from their important business doings.

A young mother with a stroller accidentally bumped their table and Rose’s cup of coffee looked like it was going to end up in her lap.  But both the spilled coffee and the cup and saucer stopped in mid-aid and hovered a few inches above the table. 

James had reacted quickly.  He had set his cup down and had both hands around Rose’s cup just as its fall had been arrested.  Now he held it, leaning across the table looking at Rose, while a loud, but not unpleasant, choral refrain sang in his head.  Slowly, the cup in his hands allowed itself to be lowered to the table and the errant coffee surged back into the cup without a drop spilled.  The refrain slowly subsided.

James took his hands from the cup and smiled at Rose.

“Good trick,” he said.

“I suppose this raises some questions,” said Rose.  “I was hoping to be friends.”

“Anything’s possible,” said James.  “And when I say, ‘Anything’s possible,’ I mean just that.  Anything’s possible.”

James then told Rose about the attempted robbery and meeting Bobby.  He told her how he had gone from a mild-mannered retired construction worker to an underworld bag-man.

“Something happened to the way my brain’s wired during that robbery attempt.  I mean, my idea of reality and some of my core values have changed.  I don’t know if I’m explaining it very well, but I’m not completely ‘me’ anymore.”

“I think that a lot of ‘you’ is still in there,” said Rose.  “You just appreciate the ‘more’ there can be in life.  And you want it.  Am I right?”

James stared at Rose.  She had put into words what he hadn’t been able to do.

“When I left your flower shop the first time, there was a reflection of the front counter in the glass door.  Your side-kick was in it, but you weren’t.  At some level, I’d like to know more.  But maybe I should just keep letting the whole scenario unroll day by day.  For some reason I trust you.  What do you think?”

“I think we both have to be very careful for a while.  I’m going to go back to my shop and you’re going to deliver the package to Bobby.  Please don’t mention our coffee date to him or anyone else.  If it’s okay, I’ll be at your house at ten o’clock tonight to talk.

“It’s in the Bronx, at…,” started James.

“I know where you live, James.”

“Will I have to invite you in?’

“Well, I would hope you would,” said Rose.

***

After meeting Bobby in the park to drop off the package, James stopped at a liquor store and picked up a couple bottles of merlot.  They had chips and dip, so he got some of them too.  He laughed at himself for the preparations – they made him feel like a nervous school boy.  But he had to admit he was enjoying the feeling.

At ten o’clock, the doorbell rang.  When James opened the door, he found Rose standing on his front porch with a bouquet of roses and a small cake box.

“Well?” said Rose.

“Rose, welcome, please enter my humble abode,” said James.

“So that’s done,” said Rose.  “Do you trust me enough to take off that shoulder holster?”

“I kept it on in case you showed up with Bobby,” said James.  “If that happened, I was going to kill him.  I don’t know what would have happened next.”

Rose shrugged.  “So, merlot and chips and dip.  I’m impressed,” she said, looking at the array on the coffee table.   “I bet you even did a little straightening up.  You consistently show me that I’ve not made a horrible blunder.”

Rose set the flowers and cake box on the table and kissed James on the lips.  It wasn’t a passionate kiss; just a “good to see you” kiss.

James took off the shoulder holster and set it on an end table.  He opened one of the bottles of merlot and poured two glasses.

“To us,” he said, toasting her.

“To us,” Rose said back to him.

For the next hour they talked about music, books, and art.  They talked about current events, the neighborhood, and the cost of a bottle of good wine.  They talked about everything except that Rose was most probably a vampire.

“Bobby killed those two who tried to rob you,” said Rose, finally bringing up something work-related.  “He ran into them at a 24/7 they were trying to hold up.  He shot them both in the back and fled the scene.  Now the police are looking for him.  Damn him, he knew a low profile was essential to his position.”

“Won’t the big boss be pissed?” asked James.  

“I’m the ‘big boss,’ James.  And yes, I was very pissed”

James let that piece of information sink in.  “If you’re here to ask me to take care of him, I don’t know if I can just straight out kill the guy.  Not without him actually being a threat to me.  Even having gone through some kind of weird epiphany, there would have to be a good reason for me to kill somebody.  Even Bobby.”

“I thought that would be the case, so I had Leah kill him.  Leah’s cover is one of being my assistant at the flower shop, but she is also my protégé, learning the darker arts.”

“Now, there’s somebody who is obviously good at acting her part,” said James.  “I would have never expected she was capable of taking Bobby out.”

“I came here tonight to make you an offer.  Leah and I are going to relocate to London soon.  I’d like you to get a passport if you don’t have one, and also put your house on the market.  If it doesn’t sell right away, I have a friend who will buy it.”

“Why me?  What’s special about me?  What can I offer that some other schmuck can’t give you?”

“I like you James, that’s ‘why you.’  I’d like you to be my companion.  My human companion.  I would like you to keep my human side alive.  Do you think you’d like to do that?”

“What about Leah?  Couldn’t she do it?”

 “I’ve done something to Leah that has made her more like me than like you.  What do you say?  After London, it may be Paris.  Or Rome.  Maybe Cairo.  Are you interested?”

The new wiring in James’ brain continued its evolution.  He thought about the sharpened stake he had made from the end of a garden rake handle.  It was easily accessible just under the couch.  His mind played out what would happen if he plunged that stake into Rose’s heart.  He saw her eyes open wide in surprise.  Her body would then explode in a cloud of dust that would drift to the floor.  His doorbell would ring and Leah would be standing there with crimson eyes and long canine teeth.  She would say, “I’m the new boss and have you to thank for it.  May I come in?” 

James’ mind could just as easily conjure up the scenario that would play out if he didn’t use the stake.  If he chose to, he could watch that scenario play out for minutes, hours, or even years.

James looked at Rose standing in front of him waiting for his answer.  He decided not to see what his future with Rose would be.  Not knowing seemed more human to him.

“Interested?” he said.  “Hell, I haven’t been more interested in my life.”

END





Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights.  He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines. 



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2017