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by Beau Johnson

I ask him about his wife and his kids and then if he knew the truth about his father. I don’t have to do this, not at all, but certain things in life are meant to be respected, manners being one of them. Marcus says yeah, big whoop, and I clarify what it is I mean to convey: it was more the why they took Big Jim’s arms as to the how which had gotten us to the place we were. “The symmetry I’m able to create from such a thing, this is what I wish to pass along.” He’d given up his protests long ago, once he’d fully grasped the situation for what it was. I give him credit for this, I do, and exactly for the reasons you might think. Wrists and ankles bound, he’s positioned as I want him, the table saw set to produce sandwich meat first, hard candy second.

“When you hired me you said we’d be exclusive. Can we agree on that?”

Nothing this time. Not a peep. “For the sake of argument I’ll assume you do. I’m not so sure you understand the meaning of what you said though. Oh I’m sure you think you do, but once we factor in all I had to do in order to get us here, the lines, they fail to connect.”

It meant an understanding was in order; that like his father, Marcus would soon see how a man is meant to regard his word. He would feel it was beneath him, sure, my words unworthy of his time, but the fact remaining was this: it was him lying prone and me looking down.

Such things bring power into a different kind of light, one where men like Marcus find themselves blinded but bold, succumbing to the elegance of certain absolutes. “Take Mapone, for example. I do him, the job done, and then you have your man do me. I get it. I do. I will even go one step further and sympathize as to how you might have come to rationalize what you set in motion. The thing you neglected to realize is what most people do: variables. They need to be treated far better than one would treat themselves, Marcus. You need to round all them bad boys up, you do, or at least give them a good old-fashioned what-for and question the possibility of something like this coming to pass. You do that, nothing like this comes to be. Since you couldn’t be bothered you failed not only to see me for what I am, but for what I have to be, especially in a business as particular as ours.”

I continue, just me, Marcus only giving me his eyes. I tell him of my studies, my research, and how homework has always been my middle name. I explain how I compile what I find, weighing instances against instances, until I finally see his longevity for what it is and that it would be in my best interest to watch my back more diligently than I would have otherwise. “Common sense is what it comes down to. Occupational hazards and all that jazz.”

He’s a wall, like stone, but all this changes once I produce his wife’s head. “This right here, this ten or so pounds, this is the symmetry I want you to reflect upon.” It does the trick, destroying him, but I wasn’t done, not yet. I move closer, hover, and give him the one last look I assume he requires. I receive no thank you for this; no I appreciate the time you are granting me with the woman who helped build me my empire. Doesn’t matter, not as it should, and I can honestly say I never really expected it to. What it does allow is for me to explain things from my new employer’s perspective.

I enlighten him to Mapone, how he works, and it feels as though I’m gushing. I’m not though. I only appreciate that he appreciates how certain things are meant to be seen. “More to the point, he offered me triple what you did, Marcus. On the condition you and I had a conversation before we got to the end of what this is.”

Cat out of the bag, I give Marcus the truth: my resignation minus the two weeks’ notice generally accompanying such an event. It brings a look I have seen before, but look or no look, communication is what’s key. I reiterate that a man’s word is his bond and that somewhere along the line he’d forgotten what this meant. He doesn’t hear me, not as he should, so I take a step closer. Bending down, right into his ear, I again say my bit about the elegance of absolutes but add an addendum which, to be fair, would never receive the amount of time it required to shine; that unlike Marcus, I knew exactly what he was.

All told, it begged the question: could the apple continue to fall from the tree?

I didn’t know, not for certain, but before I start the saw I give him my word I’d be sure and find out.

Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. It’s on Tuesdays that he and his family travel back in time to correct that which once went wrong.