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A Day in the Life of Aloysius
I instinctively flinched as the gunshots rang out.
“Who-who are you?” the man stammered, still clutching his gun. He had been drinking well before I got here. Nuts. The drunken ones were always the worst. As he tried to reload the revolver his hand slipped and the bullets rained onto the wooden floor.
“Mr. Bartlett? My name is Aloysius. Call me Al. I’m here to talk about you.” I said, taking a few steps inside the one room shack. He stumbled back to his cot, flipping a chair to stall me. I sighed. He was panicking now. This was the worst situation I could be in. He couldn’t harm me, sure, but my job was to save him, not let him die in a–“Mr. Bartlett put down the match box!”
“Well Nutritious le-let’s see you run through fire!” he said. He hiccupped, accidentally snapping the match against the box. He dropped the second one. I had to interrupt him on the third.
“No, my name is Aloysius. Just put down the matchbox, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
“Oh a chall-cha-challe… a dare is it? You’ve got some nerve Malicious” he said, successfully striking a match. Cackling madly, he dropped it onto the wooden floorboards. A small black mark appeared around the match, then it burnt itself out. I put my hand to my head and sighed. Humans could be so feeble sometimes.
“Mr. Bartlett! Sit down. Just… just listen to me. Do you like living the way you do? Do you like begging for food and money? Do you like living in this shack?”
“No I don’t, but nobody wants to give me a job. If the government would just-“
“The government, businesses, it’s always someone else’s fault isn’t it? Why don’t you take responsibility? Why don’t you take charge of your life?”
“We…well… I guess it’s not all society’s fault.” Bartlett had slid down onto the ground, belly spilling out onto his lap. “It’s just… hard sometimes to do… y’know… stuff.” He hiccupped.
“Yeah, sometimes it is. But you need to face that. So, why don’t you clean yourself off, sober up, and get a job!” I said, trying to force a smile. This was the crucial moment.
“Yeah. Yeah! I can do this! Thanks Alufiscious!”
“No it’s Aloysi-oh what the hell. It was my pleasure.”
“To the future!” Bartlett said, pulling out his hip flask and proffering it to the sky.
“Wait I think you’re forgetting one of the things we… two for three isn’t bad.” I said, shrugging to myself. I had already left him by then, and was soaring over the countryside. Bartlett’s one room shack looked tiny, as did the hamlet he lived by. Only the saloon could still be seen, its brightly painted sign shining in the ocean of dust. I followed a trail for a while, passing the occasional horse and coach. They couldn’t see me, but I liked to keep my distance. The sun had almost set, poking its brilliant light between the mesas on the horizon. As little appreciation as I had for material things, I appreciated the southwest. The barren desert stretched out for miles in all directions and it helped me relax after a day at work. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. My work could be both excruciatingly painful and incredibly rewarding, and for that reason I love it. Cases like Bartlett’s fell somewhere in between. It may have ended happily, but he’ll fall into his old habits soon enough. But enough of that. I have work ahead of me.
The sun had set, and I could see a campfire mirroring the sea of stars above. This was my next target. Now was the time to prepare. Everyone I knew had a different method; some went for a scare-‘em-straight, others used logic, and even more broke their subjects down emotionally, then built them back up. Some appeared as people, many went with small animals, and a couple changed into taco shells with Jesus’ face on the side. To each their own. I prefer going as a person, but I adapt. With Bartlett I scrapped a disguise for the shock value. Tonight, I think I’ll go as a weary traveler.
As the camp grew closer the silhouette split into two. A friend of my target? Not likely. They all died with his family after that cholera outbreak in his hometown. Should I wait another night? No, if I wait too long the people from collections will take over. Maybe I could wait for him to leave to pee or something… no, that won’t work. I could try and draw the other stranger away, but how? Who is this guy? I was close now, close enough to smell the choking smoke of the fire, to see the beads of sweat as Ron grappled with the conversation, close enough to see the creases in the stranger’s jacket. Ron looked away from the fire and straight through me. Humans could only see me when I wanted them to, and even then I seemed a little transparent. On my left was Ron, the man I should be talking to right now. Across the fire was a man dressed in a black jacket, dusty pants, and a tilted hat. The firelight seemed to stop right at his chin, leaving the bulk of his face tucked in shadows. They were talking quietly, but Ron seemed very confused. He would stop mid sentence and scratch his head, or try and start again but cut himself off. The other man by contrast was rigid, rarely gesturing or moving himself in any way. He was clearly driving the conversation. Who was this guy? Peering under the brim of his hat I saw two bloodshot eyes rolling independent of each other in their sockets. Suddenly, they both came into focus on me. I yelled and fell backwards, only to hear another yell. I scrambled to my feet and saw the stranger getting to his feet, looking straight at me all the while. Well, straight at me is a bit of an exaggeration.
“Who are you?” the stranger asked. Then it all fell into place. This was Crazy Eyes, another one of my kind. He got his name because he never quite learned how to control his eyes when in disguise. This wasn’t as much of a problem in the days of pirates and eye patches, but nowadays he had to resort to wide brimmed hats. But why was he here?
“What are you doing here? This is my case!”I shouted. The one cardinal rule of my job was to never ever interfere with another’s case. And here was Crazy Eyes, interfering with my case.
“Clearly it’s my case as I’m here first. Now get out of here before I report you for interference.” He said indignantly, crossing his arms. It was impossible to take him seriously when it constantly looked like he was watching the world’s fastest tennis match. Ron, on the other hand, had begun to eye his horse.
“Ron, relax. My name is Al. I don’t know what this other man told you, but I’m here to help you.” I said, forcing as much empathy into my voice as possible. He could hear and see me now, which calmed him a bit. Before that Crazy Eyes was just shouting into the night.
“Well, uh, okay. Wh-why don’t I…uh… just get going. I wouldn’t want to” he paused, starting to gesticulate, “bother you two.” He got up to leave.
“No!” Crazy Eyes and I shouted in unison. Ron stopped, then sat back down, defeated. Crazy Eyes and I continued to bicker. After I made it clear that I wasn’t going to leave, Crazy Eyes brought me up to speed.
“We were just talking about how Ron’s parents loved him very much” he explained
“My parents were deadbeats that left me to die! You don’t know what it’s like living hand to mouth at twelve years old!” Ron was standing now, all previous signs of resignation gone.
“I think your parents were trying to look out for you in their own way.” Crazy Eyes said, gesturing for me to leave. He wasn’t going to steal my case that easily.
“Then why did dad leave to fight? Why did he go and get shot, leaving mom all alone?” Ron shouted indignantly, tears welling in his eyes, “Mom couldn’t take it. We had no money, no friends, and no food. She… she just couldn’t take it. When dad didn’t come back, a part of her died. No matter what I did, she… she wasn’t the same. She…” Ron trailed off, crying into his clenched fists. I turned to Crazy Eyes.
“I thought his parents were killed by a virus.” I whispered.
“Me too. I guess we both heard wrong.” He whispered back.
“How could they leave me like that? I was only twelve!” Ron’s voice cracked, his rage becoming engulfed in sadness.
“Do you think they wanted to leave you? Your parents loved you very much. Your father went off to fight to create a better world for you and your mother.” I was bluffing. I could see Crazy Eyes giving me what I could only assume was a questioning look before he opened his mouth. This was the pivotal moment.
“And put yourself in your mother’s shoes. She just lost one of the people she loved most in life, and on top of that she had to feed herself and a young child. She did her very best she could. But in the end, they’re both human.” Crazy Eyes added. I gave him an approving nod. Ron, on his knees now, punched the ground. He then doubled over and cried. I looked over at Crazy Eyes. Our work here was done.