Adam J. Galanski is a twenty two year old writer born in Dallas, Texas but currently residing in Chicago, IL after spending many years on the East Coast of the USA. Aside from writing he is a punk rock musician, tattooer apprentice, and an anonymous barfly of the Windy City’s North Side dives.
DON’T SAY THE “C” WORD
By Adam J. Galanski
The man- he could have been any man really-and that little girl, anyone’s daughter. She stood there with the wind in her hair and a shiny red balloon in her grip, like the one from that old French kids movie. She brushed her bangs from her face with her miniature pale hands and laughed into the breeze with those bright blue eyes, lit up like the sky.
He, an older man, probably somewhere in his mid-fifties, had walked up to her outside the wings place I happened to be eating at. I had always passed it by on my way home from work at the office off Chicago’s Western Blue Line stop and finally decided to stop in. I worked at a little credit card processing company that had accumulated a lot of local clientele over the brief period it had been around. The wings joint was right down the street from there, next to this new comedy club. That night as I was relaxing from a week of nine to five, I noticed the long line of kids trailing out from the club’s front doors. The end of the line stopped right outside the window I was sitting at, eating wings. It seemed most of the kids were in some sort of group which was lacking in adult supervision, because whoever was in charge was so preoccupied at the ticket booth that they didn’t notice this gritty man. If only my wife were there. She would have been more outspoken about it. She was the kind of lady who was rough and tumble, but still held some traditional values. Seeing this group with barely any supervision, especially with this man here, would make her very uncomfortable. This guy was equipped with a grizzly beard, messy brown hair and a strange gentleness in his eyes that hinted at some sort of underlying madness. He had his white collared shirt unbuttoned, exposing his curly old chest hairs twirling around the gold chain of his necklace bearing a crucified Jesus Christ. The shape of his breasts stuck out in a fleshy mound, from the tightness of the shirt around his torso.
I sat for a second imagining the man painted as one of those super close and detailed Ren and Stimpy cartoon screen shots from when I was young. I loved how those images were simply made to gross you out. His face would be off colored, riddled with pimples and moles, and his curly chest hair would be accentuated to elevate the level of disgust I saw in him. The necklace would be gleaming all the while. Credit card processing was really the wrong career for me. I would have much rather been an animator, though I had never really put enough effort into the career after I graduated college to make my dreams achievable- Thus my current position.
I watched it happen from the window, about ten feet from the entrance. I was slamming down some sloppy BBQ chicken wings and sipping on a large glass of Cherry Coke. I glared intently at the man between bites and wipes of my slimy fingers on my overused thin napkins. My wife would have had a field day verbally tearing that cunt of a man apart. She could have a big old mouth on her when she wanted, and though she held herself back at certain points she might have been able to prevent this whole situation. The other kids moved up in line while the girl still stood in place as the man cracked a couple jokes to her. She must have thought he was part of the comedy show or something because of his misleading wide grin and the act he put on to impress her. This guy was old enough to have a daughter that age five times over, yet he probably still jerked it in bed to the thought of a snatch that little every night before he closed his bastard bright eyes to go to sleep. I kept staring at that golden chain around his neck in repugnance. The cartoon mental image of his face didn’t seem so funny anymore, though it stuck with me through the night.
There was something messed up inside of me that evening. It was this crooked sensation, not of pleasure, but some sort of mix of awe and disgust that these things were even going on around me. I kept watching, knowing I needed to do something. I didn’t need to be a hero necessarily in the romantic sense, but I needed to step up and say something. I stuck my hand up in the air to call to my waiter as the cars rushed by outside, none of them having a clue of what was going on. The waiter failed to notice me as the vehicles honked in the streets. The people of the line chattered and murmured. I raised my hand again. Dishes and utensils clanged throughout the small restaurant as everybody paid attention to everything but this sketchy guy and this little girl. The weight was on me.
Sadly I was the type of old dog that had a bark but couldn’t really follow through with a vicious bite, unlike my lady. I was waiting until I was provoked enough, like I was giving the benefit of the doubt to this old man, that maybe she wasn’t with the group. Maybe she was with him. But at the same time it was so obvious by the way he smiled with that crooked grin. It wasn’t the endearing smile of a father that I remember from my youth, but something more. I couldn’t help but put myself in the parent’s shoes, though I couldn’t truly relate without a kid of my own. What if that was my kid? I was like a full glass of water on the edge of a cluttered kitchen table, ready to explode once it had that first and last bit of force it needed to be heaved over the edge and shatter on the floor. The madness in his soft eyes shot through my nerves while the thick smell of the BBQ wings made my bloated stomach uneasy.
Raising my hand towards my server one last time, I got his attention. I looked out the window again as he came over. The man was crouched down on one knee, his hand on the girl’s shoulder, over her dainty little yellow sundress. His beard was wiry and disgusting. His eyes were a lie, though his demented smile, sincere. He knew what he wanted and I finally realized it as the girl shook her head to say “no,” too nervous to speak. I turned back to the waiter. It was this Italian guy with this jet black greased hair, and these eyes like he was too cool to be working at a place like that on a Friday. I coughed to get his attention away from the busty middle aged woman in the corner booth with obvious dyed blonde hair and big hoop earrings. I shoved the check with my cash into his hands angrily, finally pushed enough to the edge where I would go out and at the least tell the man to get out of there. Who knows, I thought, maybe I’ll end up kicking his ass. Images of an epic battle between the thirty two year old me, and this fifty something year old man swirled me into a dangerous day dream that only enticed me to go have a word with him that much more. I couldn’t help but imagine the possible animation of the battle in all its colors flowing vividly in a furious cyclone of paint. I pictured the precise lines curving around to form his thin strands of hair sticking off his fat head as I lunged at him with a ferocious punch to the jaw, sending him backwards into oncoming traffic. Then with a thud, that devil of a man would be just another casualty of Chicago’s poor driving record, and the girl would thank me as I returned her to her anxious guardians. The waiter snapped me out of it, giving me a passive aggressive annoyed look as I shoved my metal chair out of the way with an abrasive screech. After dashing to the door, I was shocked to find nobody outside anymore. The line had moved into the theatre, and the old man and the girl were out of sight.
My light jacket blew around in the wind like laundry set up on a line in the summer. My combed hair quickly came out of place, adding to the little things that built up to a greater agitation on top of the already frustrating dilemma which was taking place. Looking up, I saw the girl’s red balloon billowing in the breezy evening sky. I stood there in the street a second thinking about it with a baffled look on my face before picking up my cell phone and calling the police. All the while the cars continued to rush by and honk, the people in the restaurant chattered and dishes and utensils clinked casually to the unknowing audience of a girl’s abduction. The police took my report of the description of the man without losing their cool like I probably would, as a lady about my age came rushing out of the club, looking for the missing girl from her group. She called out her name frantically, speaking anxiously about how the girl’s mother would kill her if she went missing. I told her that I didn’t know where she had gone, but that I phoned the police. It was one suspenseful week later in the morning paper that I found out exactly what was going on.
“I killed her, but damn I was gentle about it!” the man, apparently named Rick Chambers had exclaimed to the police in an enthusiastic voice. He had blown her to bits and when the police came to the crime scene shortly after, they found him with his lower body torn off, bleeding to death. It really didn’t seem like he was gentle about it at all. Now I sat in my kitchen at my tan wooden table drinking my morning coffee and doodling on the paper’s pages. I called out to my wife, doing her hair in the bathroom.
“Hey, babe! That fucked up guy I was telling you about last week- I found out what he did with the girl!” Her voice echoed from the steamy bathroom with the water running rampant. The rushing water could be heard flowing through the apartments pipes on top of her reaction.
“Oh shit, that pedophile? What happened?” Steam came out of the bathroom as the door opened. She stepped out with her wet hair down, brushing out the knots and a worried expression on her face. A big towel wrapped around the length of her body starting at her pale breasts.
“Well, says here old Rick Chambers brought her to Millennium Park and shoved a stick of dynamite up her cunt- blew her to bits!” She sneered at me.
“That’s awful James…Don’t say the goddamned ‘C’ word.” I laughed and put my left hand to my forehead, the other hand gripping the newspaper tightly. We liked to swear like sailors, but that was where she drew the line. Like I said, she liked to pick and choose her values and though she decided it was alright to curse, she had limits. I liked to push those limits sometimes. I picked up the pen again and began sketching a little cartoon explosion next to the article.
“Well that’s not all,” I continued, “He apparently tripped while he was trying to get away, and that old bag of bones fell just ten feet away from his victim. He had a bad back and couldn’t get up! Half his body blew off and he laid there bleeding to death as the pigs arrived.”
“No shit,” she said, putting the brush away and walking out into the kitchen barefoot. She put her arm around me to look at the paper as well. It was too surreal to believe, but at the same time I barely felt anything but amazement that it actually happened. I felt bad though, but it seemed like I should have felt something more. If only I had the raw guts of my missus. When I was there witnessing everything it still seemed like it wasn’t really happening, which might have been why I didn’t do anything until it was too late. I didn’t think I would ever be a part of that sort of situation. This odd sense of a need to feel guilty was building inside as I continued to draw in the blank space of the newspaper. But should I have felt guilty? Wasn’t everyone just as much to blame? Or was anyone to blame? I shrugged it off for the moment as the need to tell the rest of the tale seemed more urgent.
“Yeah, and that’s not all, look here!” I exclaimed, putting down my pen to pull up the paper tightly, “ His last words were, ‘I killed her, but damn I was gentle about it’.” She laughed that kind of laugh that is more of the start of a laugh than a full commitment. It was that kind of laugh that is a short and heavy breathing in through the nose that shows you found humor in something without bringing it to a full on chuckle.
“That’s fucked,” she said, “That’s probably the least gentle way he could go about it.”
“Well the son of a bitch is probably burning in hell right now, with that gold cross still wrapped around his wrinkly white neck.”
“What?” my wife asked.
“He had this dangly gold crucifix he wore around his neck while he hit on the girl…it disgusted me.” I replied
“He’s a monster!” she said shaking her head, perplexed.
I had this image of Rick Chambers saying that shit and then smiling and taking one more drag of his Newport cigarette (of course), half his body now in pieces, and the other half dying quickly. It was probably only a few moments after that he was gone, that bastard. That cross would still be dangling around his ugly neck, caked in blood. The officials then probably took the remains of both bodies to wherever exploded corpses are usually sent to and the mother would have to find some solace on her own time.
“I can’t help but feel like I could’ve prevented this, though should I really let myself feel guilty? I mean, it’s already played out. The bad guy is dead!” I questioned my wife.
“Well, I think you should have done something, really. You had the chance to skip out on the check to confront that guy and you blew it…” she replied.
“But isn’t it just the unspoken social laws of humans that should be blamed then?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I wasn’t trained each and every day for my entire thirty two years on this earth that I needed to comply with all these little rules set out for me, I might have had the goddamn balls to get up prematurely and kick that guy’s ass!” Riled up, I tried to cool back down. “I don’t know. It just could have happened to anyone. How was I to know it would end up so horribly?”
“You just should have known, James. But please, get a move on and we can find some closure later. You’ve got to be at work in half an hour!”
“Ok,” I said, “Back to the old rat race. Life goes on I suppose.” We looked at each other in the eyes as I closed the paper, then burst out into a gentle laughter. I sighed, putting my arm around my wife’s hips as she stood next to me, still smiling. “Goddamn, a stick of dynamite in the cunt…”
“Don’t say the ‘C’ word James. Please!” my wife said.