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The Job

Remember Hemingway's Iceberg Theory? Mckay Williams does. He also remembers ain't nothing sexier than a cold-blooded assassin wearing nothing but stiletto heels. Even when she holds the knife over your heart...


The Job by Mckay Williams


The door closes but I don’t look up; the click-clack of her heels has already given her away.

“You miss the bus or something?”

She pulls a chair from the table, sits and opens her purse to remove a small compact. Her thumb and index finger trace the corners of her mouth, shaping her makeup. “Traffic.”

I pull a fresh cigarette from the crinkled pack of Parliaments and light it with the end of my last before crushing the finished smoke into the empty dinner plate before me. “Three hours.”

“I get the point, all right? I know.”

“Where were you?”

She reaches under the table and slips off her black pumps, tossing them to the corner of the room. “Is there anything left?”

“On the stove.” I drag deep into my lungs and blow twin plumes of blue smoke from my nostrils. A sleeping dragon.

The battered clock on the wall clicks for a full minute as she moves to the stove and picks at the foil-covered plate I’d saved for her. “Where were you?”

“You made stroganoff? I love stro—”

“Where the fuck were you?”

“Jesus Christ. I was out. OK? Out. You need a fucking itinerary now?”

“No. I need you to be here when you say you will.” She removes the foil and places her plate wordlessly into the microwave. She leans in quietly behind me and runs manicured fingers through the back of my hair.

“That’s not what why you’re upset,” she whispers softly in my ear, the weight of her breasts pressed against my shoulder. I can smell her soft perfume, like candied apples. Her lips are so close to my ear the skin on my neck pricks in the warmth of her breath.

I turn away and ash onto the plate. “We’ve got a job to do.”

“Suit yourself.” She seamlessly returns to the microwave but the apples linger over the cigarette smoke.

I think about the taste of her sex, the smell of her hair.

“It move yet?”

“What do you think?” I roll the cigarette between my thumb and forefinger and look out the window across the street to the white dry cleaning van parked there. It hasn’t moved in three days.

She takes the food from the microwave, digs a fork from the drawer and sits back at the table. The green Formica covering is curled upward and her plate sits cockeyed on the edge. She eats slowly and methodically. She notices me watching her.

“You can be pissed all you want," she says.

“I’m sick of watching that van is all.”

“It’s three hours before curtain.”

“I know.”

“What happens if there’s no movement?”

“We figure out something else.”

I watch her cross one long leg over the other and take my cigarette from me. She examines the cherry before pressing the butt to her lips. She drags and exhales the smoke in one big serpentine push. It bounces off the table and dissolves into the air. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.

“You going to cowboy up?”

“If I have to.”

She sets her fork down and looks up at me. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“With no plan?”

“You give a shit?”

“Fuck you, Jack.” She crushes the cigarette into her half-eaten meal, shoves away from the table and walks down the hallway into the bathroom. I give another look out the window and follow her.

“Look, it’s not going to come to that,” I say to the closed door. I can hear the water running in the shower. I imagine her dropping the black silk dress, first one shoulder then the other until it pools off her curves and onto the floor. “It’ll move.”

My watch reads 2:47. A little less than three hours before show time. My eyes are bloodshot and strained. I walk down the hallway and into the bedroom. The dirty mattress is bare, stained with years of squatters and prostitutes. I lie down anyway and stare at the ceiling. A tiny cockroach pokes at a crack in the staccato plaster for a way out and then moves on. The shower stops.

“You’re right. I don’t give a shit.” She’s standing above the mattress stark naked. The water dripping from her like candle wax. I sit up and scoot my back against the wall.

“OK.”

“You want suit up and play cowboys and Indians that’s your business.”

“You want to play Ken and Barbie instead? This is the job. This is what we signed up for.”

“The fucking professional.” She grabs a soft pack of Marlboros from the shabby dresser that sits empty against the wall. She taps one into her mouth and lights it, her trademark serpent smoke chasing me into places of my mind I’m not sure I want to explore. “What about La Paz?”

“We can’t just go blind. We do the job first.”

“If it doesn’t move?”

“Then we figure it out and get it done anyway,” I say. “What’s with you?”

“I just don’t know why you’re rushing into this half assed. Wait a week.”

“The drop is in three hours.”

“There will be another drop.”

“We do the job, Chelsea. Christ.”

She sits on the edge of the mattress and touches my leg. “What if we didn’t?”

“We go to La Paz?”

She nods.

“We can’t. Not blind.” I take the cigarette from her between my thumb and forefinger and draw, exhaling through my nose. The dragon stirs. She leans over me and supports herself with her arms on either side of my waist. Her hair is dripping water down her neck, over her breasts and into my lap.

“We can figure it blind. If we had to.”

“You asking?”

She takes the cigarette from me and crushes it into the wall. When she kisses me her lips taste like peppermint and bees wax. “I’m asking.”

We collapse into each other and I turn out the light. Outside the van’s diesel engine starts.

Mckay Williams lives and writes in Oakland. His stories have appeared in Intersice, Thunderdome, Dirty Noir, and several others. He is currently working on his second novel.