Beau Johnson

Saving the World, One Appliance at a Time

“Can you hear me now?”

I know. I know. But we only get the one go-round, right?

We’re at the place, our special place, and my work face has replaced my everyday face, lack of hair included.

“I’m only going to tell you why they call me ‘The Arm’ once, so do yourself a favor and listen up. You do that, all three of us can get to where each of us needs to go.”

I look over to Randy, offer him the megaphone. He shakes his head, pulls his pants up and over his ever-expanding gut.

“I ever once take that thing when you ask?”

I smile and look back down at the man of the hour; the man whose name was Paul. He’s wearing skinny jeans and a ratty flannel shirt, trying over and over in vain to run up the sides of the empty pool. Sliding back down, nothing changes, the man coming to rest amongst the beer cans, wine bottles, and other, less distinguishable waste.

“It was an accident, really, how I got that nickname. Me and my brother here just doing our bit the day it went down.”

I go on, my voice echoing down from above. I tell him all about Marty Barnes and how he and that particular piece of shit shared the same strain of dirt-bag; middlemen to monsters who used children like toys.

Taken by surprise, Barnes had gotten past both Randy and I that day, but Randy, his abdomen nowhere near the unstoppable expansion it would become, was up and after him before I could pull myself from the floor.

“Everything happened fast after that, Paul. I mean, really fast…”

In boxers and a beater-T, Barnes was catching his breath behind an old, rusted-out Ford down below. To my left, on the concrete, was the air conditioner I would become famous for. I picked it up, heaved away, and called out to Barnes two or three seconds after the leaking machine had left my hands. Now, I have never been the best of shots, not on the best of days, but I will admit to being somewhat lucky in life. It’s the only reason Barnes broke cover when he did, I think, and why he’d looked up at just the right moment.

“I saw his eyes too, there before I took them away. Not fun. Not how you’d think. Every last bit of bone, hair, and gray matter parceled out into something like a nine foot radius. This doesn’t even include the blood puddle his neck creates.”

My little speech done, I finally release the bowling ball I’d been promising. Lob it like the weapon of destruction I want it to become. Paul screams as it descends toward him. Continues to scream as the concrete beside him cracks, relents, and comes to hold the ball like a big black eye.

Behind me, Randy sighs. “You know you have a problem, right?”

I want to ignore him, I do, but sometimes a brother is the only friend a man can have.

“It’s only a problem if you can’t stop. I’ve read the books. Pretty sure you should read them, too.”

He eyeballs me hard, just like our father used to do. It doesn’t do half of what he thinks it does but it’s a game neither of us can quit. Not if we wanted answers.

I turn back around, drop ball after cinderblock after microwave oven. The balls I found on sale at SPORTCHEK, everything else being me adjusting to the environment I’d been given. So you know, either way.

Paul dances and rolls, shucks and jives, and still I come close to hitting him more times than not. I can’t quite hear the words pouring from his mouth, not really, but a pretty good bet would be he knew we were done with fucking about.

Last bowling ball deployed, I straighten first my holster and then my badge. Randy does the same.

Time to see if our incentive took.

Time to see if our bird was ready to sing.

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