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Cigarette Break

by Asher Ellis

We all have ways of getting revenge. That’s one thing you shouldn’t forget. A counter is a thin barrier between you and us, and we have an advantage you don’t: we can cross it at any time and become one of you in an instant. But you can never be one of us. Because we’re special. And you’re not.

Take Louie for instance. All I have to do is say the word and he’ll hawk a loogie right smack in the middle of your quarter-pound patty. And you won’t notice. Just like the cop that once gave Roscoe a hell of a time just for his bloodshot eyes. Made him empty out his pockets right there next to the register as if Roscoe would carry anything to work. Cop didn’t find anything because Roscoe was just tired, that’s all. Your eyes might get red, too, after working three shifts back-to-back-to-back.

The cop didn’t apologize. Just said to hurry up on his order. And we all watched as he chowed down on Louie’s secret sauce. But he didn’t notice. He slurped down his Diet Pepsi and mopped up the fancy ketchup with a spongy fry.

I bet he found something amiss when he came home and saw a stranger had taken his place beside his wife that evening. And when he had been parking his car in the garage I bet he didn’t expect to be taking out his gun and blasting his wife and the stranger against his own bed’s headboard. But only after he took the barrel into his own mouth and pulled the trigger did he realize that ol’ Louie Loogie had gotten him back. For all of us.

From what I read in the paper, it was quite the mess. Neither the police nor the doctors could figure out how you could literally blow your brains out the back of your head and keep on living. The blood loss alone should’ve put out the lights for good, but when the paramedics finally arrived at the scene, there he was: sitting in the corner, staring up at them in utter confusion, a hole in the back of his skull and healthy as a horse.

He must have been confused throughout the entire trial, too. There he was one moment, taking the quick and easy way out of this monstrous dilemma, and the next he was facing a judge and jury, charged with a double homicide.

How could he have messed up the suicide? As a cop he’d seen it many times before, knew the right and wrong ways to do it. But here he was: clad in an orange jumpsuit next to an expensive but failing lawyer.

They ended up giving him a life sentence, but not at first, of course. The first ruling was a nice, old-fashioned lethal injection. The trial lasted for a long time, I can’t even really remember the exact number of weeks, but after contested rulings over and over again, the outcome was always the same. There wasn’t a chance in hell our cop friend was going to avoid his toxic cocktail. And that’s just what he got.

Three times, in fact, least that’s what I heard. But wouldn’t you know it, no matter how much they increased the dosage, the old shot in the arm never seemed to do the job. Nor the chair for that matter. And what a waste of time that was. Ol’ Sparky had been outlawed for a good forty years when the governor began his campaign to bring it back. Even with the concrete evidence that a convict deserving of the death penalty had built up an immunity to every lethal chemical they could think of, lobbyists fought hard for the cop’s right to be released. He had, after all, survived their first attempt so didn’t that make him a Get Out of Jail Free card carrier?

Of course it did. But you have to understand at this point in time our cop friend was no longer residing in a penitentiary. While he was waiting for his date with the strapped table, Crime Dog had been assaulted countless times by cons who all had a bone to pick with him. They must have thought they had won the lottery when the arresting officer responsible for putting them behind bars was fatefully dropped in their laps.

I can only imagine how surprised his first attacker must have looked after he rapidly jabbed a homemade blade into the cop’s stomach, only to see the cop in the cafeteria the next morning. It was probably the same look as that of any inmate who tried to stab, strangle, smother, or beat the cop to death.

So anyway, by the time the governor finally succeeded in bringing back the chair — to his great relief I’m sure, since needles just weren’t doing the job any more — Officer Friendly was handed over to the federal government. I can’t recall which institution he was in last; they kept transferring him all around the world. Electrical shocks, submersion in water, exposure to smoke, you name it. The lab-coats tried it all and just couldn’t crack the mystery. A new day, a new death. I think they were just getting up enough courage to toy with fire when the cop tried it himself.

I want to say it was four months ago that the orderly came to his room to wheel him to whatever death method the docs had cooked up for that afternoon when the alarms went off through the hallways. After an extensive search that involved not only the institution’s staff but local police and federal agents, it turned out to be a janitor who solved the case.

The cop had somehow snuck out through the heating system and followed the vents that eventually led outside. I have to give it to him: it was a pretty good idea, considering his condition and all. Who else could have survived the fire and heat from that monster industrial furnace?

That last part I didn’t read in the paper, in case you’re wondering. All the papers and TV had to say was that the cop had figured out how to end his own life. I suppose they could have admitted his escape and asked the public to be on the lookout, but they never released any photographs of what the man looked like. Probably because he looked even freakier than the abomination of nature that he was. The last thing they wanted was to stir any sort of sympathy from the people and get forced into an apology. And some will do anything but apologize. Just ask Roscoe; he never got one from the cop.

Well, as I was saying, the only reason I know the true outcome of the cop’s exodus is that I actually see him from time to time. We’re open 24 hours now, and once in a while I work night shift. And that’s when he comes in. He usually gets the same thing: a quarter-pounder meal just like the one he ordered after harassing Roscoe that day so long ago.

We leave his food alone and let him eat in peace. There’s nothing more we can do anyway. He’s just hungry like everyone else, no different than the rest of them minus a bandaged face. It’s not that bad, kind of resembles a post-op wrap job following plastic surgery or what have you. I’m sure, given enough time, he won’t even need any bandages at all. Even after everyone he’s ever liked, loved, known, or talked to has died and left him utterly alone, his hair may still start to grow back. Don’t they say “time heals all?”

Though you may be hard-pressed to get an apology from anyone else, I’m going to offer you one right here and now because I just can’t talk anymore. I’m on the clock and I have a job to do. And I think I just saw a damn tour bus pull in, too, so the guys inside are gonna need my help. Well, what can you do when’s there’s bills to pay?

It was nice chatting with you. And thanks for the smoke. I’m afraid all I can offer in return is some advice: remember what I’ve told you. I might scrape the bottom of the French fryer so you only get the burnt ones. Roscoe might stiff you on some change if he can tell you won’t take the time to count it yourself. Or Louie, our resident fountain of youth, might spit in your Coke and you’ll live forever.

We all have our ways of getting revenge.

Copyright © 2010 by Asher Ellis

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