Red ribbons.

The knock is strangely loud as I tip over a glass of water in my hurry to the door. I’m not sure who I expected to be there when I opened it, but I guess a 14-year-old kid in rags was the furthest direction from my first guess. He stares blankly at me for a second then shoves an envelope into my hands, I fumble with it and it falls. By the time I pick it up he’s gone, I run into the street, but there’s no sign of him. I undo the red ribbon that held the envelope closed, I pull out a large stack of paper with a photo clipped to the top. A teenager stares back at me brandishing a machete and some sort of deer. His name is scrolled on the bottom in black cursive, though I couldn’t pronounce the name if I wanted to. I tuck the papers under my arm and walk inside, setting them on the chair I clean up the mess of the spilt water.

Once more, and maybe this time with feeling, though to be honest I doubt that there’s a knock at my door. I roll off the couch and stumble my way towards it. There was no delivery boy, just another envelope tied together with red ribbon. I pull the ribbon free and let it fall onto the floor, pulling the paper from its enclosure the same teen stares back at me, with the same scrawled name. Undoing the clip I spread the papers on my coffee table. A map, a hand drawn blueprint, and a list of crimes. I shake as I read over the deeds, it was a startling level of malicious acts to be committed by such a brightly faced boy, and the fact that this was being brought to my door confused me more. After the 10th page, I was shaking so bad I could no longer make out the words. I pour myself two drinks, I slam the first and take the next with me as I lay on the couch once more. I spin the silver knife in between my fingers, the silver dances along with a grace I didn’t know I had, but as most things are; what is there, isn’t seconds later. The blade falls onto the ground with a clatter. Persistent on the thought my fingers still make the motion. I see his smile, that smile. It spoke better than his words, that smile spoke. I think of that instant, that pause. The whiskey makes me sleepy like it does.

The echoing footsteps pound on and pound forever, the shadow of him chases me down the hall. The floor is wet and slippery as his smile grows brighter and brighter extending the shadow in the pursuit. Stumble, slip, slide, the red mush, the red ribbons flow over the hardwood like a stream undammed. I fall, I twist, the pounds become crashes, become storms, become…

I jolt upwards, the door once more is being pounded upon. Scooping the silver knife I run to the sound. I swing it open and nearly drop the knife at the sight of him. His smile is as devilish as the last time I saw it. “Are you going to poke me with that thing, or like should I just come in?” I move out of the way and Eugene walks inside. “So as like you might have guessed it, I’m in sorts retiring.” he says removing the weathered hat from his head. I pour two drinks, well three, but I try to drown my shock with the first. “This, if everything worked out probably is like pretty weird and stuff to you.” He takes the glass at the instant I set it on the coffee table. He drinks; a slight exhale leaves his chambers as he puts the empty glass down. “I’m here to like pass the torch to you, or well, like pass the silver stabbing thing to you.” I start to speak, to sputter the words of my disapproval, but all that I spit out are mutters of anger. “Like you must be P.O.’ed with me, and I get that. But if you give me a second, you know what fuck this, I’ll just drop this act now…” His voice and posture changes, a transmutation of someone I didn’t know. “You see Karl we’ve watched, listened, and I can say learned from you. You’re quite simple with your mistakes, though mistakes are our best features.” He pauses to take tightly rolled cigarettes from the case hidden in his breast pocket. He shakes his head at my flinch. Extending the cigarette in front of him I take it, the silence almost unwelcoming, to the point that I can hear the paper scrape against his fingertips. We sit for one more moment to be had, probably plotting out our next words when the silence is broken by him flicking a match to life. I lean in and puff the flame till the tip burns.

“A feature that we’re all burdened with, that until we unleash these burdens to be benefits, to trophy our mistakes along with our accomplishments. They deserve as I see fit, in the neutral of what makes us, well, us.” Eugene finishes by flicking bits of ember and ash onto the floor. I take the moment as a chance and speak. “But this doesn’t really explain the envelopes, the ribbons, the smile, you dying. This doesn’t really explain any..”Putting his hand up he pauses me in my tracks. “Explanations are like food, everyone deserves it, this doesn’t neglect the fact that they’ll probably starve to death. You see I’m not here to guide you, no, I’m here to point you along the right.” He pulls a small envelope from his pocket, it bulges in the middle tied neatly with a red ribbon. “This is for you, for now.” I take the envelope and undo the tie, with one shake the silver Zippo falls out. “We made it just for you, no more 19th century dials or turns. This works such as the silver dagger. Just think it and you are there.” I palm the burnt silver of the Zippo, I look up wanting to ask the questions again, but the words are his before they even leave my mouth. “I am retiring, I will die, you know I do. This is¬†inevitable¬†we, we die. I had to do such, to do this for you, I know this may be heavy and hard to digest, but the envelopes will never stop coming. It’s your road and no longer mine.” putting the cigarette into the ashtray he looks up at me. “Do what you’re good at; make mistakes, burn things down.” Within a blink, he’s gone.

I lay all the papers across my desk, as I try to sort through them, I even resort to trying to search this name in Google, but nothing is found. I guess in the light or maybe the darkness of all this it had to be done. His crimes were many, but my want to play god was few. Again the door beats with the sound of a tiny fist. I know what’s there and I leave it, I know what I must do, some paths aren’t the easiest.

The day is dry and hot, the house or shack sits exactly where the papers laid it. I squat in the bush waiting for something though my gut was uncertain of what. Hours pass, my shirts sticks to my wet skin. Soon a beat-up Toyota comes rambling down the makeshift dirt road. The young man leaps from the bed as it stops and waves goodbye to his comrades. He works on a run down Datsun as dusk comes. I sit and study his movements. I ache for my 1911, I ache for something to reach out and end him, lost in thought I don’t notice him walk into his house. “Three rooms, of tin and wood.” I bolt toward the broken car, picking up the gas can, I rip out the ragged plug and make circles around the house pouring its contents at the edges. Making it to the place I started I try to set the rag on fire with the Zippo I was just given, flint scrapes but no flame is given. From the fumes and the confusion, I spin in circles as it turns into night. “I’m here, do, do, do, it…” I repeat over and over to myself as the horizon twists around me. I stop and a fire inside me burns, it engulfs my doubt and before I really know it I’m in the door. Shoving the gas-drenched rag into his sleepy mouth. I begin to squeeze the life from his throat. I push down harder and harder, something cracks and his kicks stop. I pull the lighter from my pocket, give it one last flick, and the flame catches.

The house glows, it ripples and licks the sky. My eyes feel the warmth, the loving warmth. The fire loving warmth. Kicking at the dirt I curse him and myself. The Zippo still in my hand I think of my house and it’s there, the smoke still circles the ceiling. Somehow, once again there’s a knock on my door.

I slowly pull it open expecting nothing, but she stands there instead. “I guess it didn’t work.” She says with still red eyes. “No, I tried, I did.” I say as she in a falling lunging motion grasps me. My arm hurts as I squeeze her. “Can I stay the night?” she asks. “Yeah, of course.” we hug for a moment longer then depart. Walking to the liquor cabinet she pours herself a drink. She pauses before she puts the plug into the bottle. “Do you smell gas?” I look up from my hands and just smile.

-Karl