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You Had One Job

Revenge is a personal thing. In the Gutter, personal can refer to everyone you love.

You Had One Job by Beau Johnson

“Tell me the truth: you didn’t even recognize me at first, did you?” He didn’t. I know he didn’t. Only when I reintroduce myself does his double chin go and register me as someone who’s back from the dead. “It’s fine, though. All good. I don’t much resemble the man you knew back then anyway.”
True. Being chucked off an overpass and multiple surgeries will do that to a man.
“I know what you’re thinking too: how is it possible for one to survive something like that? I can’t really say, Carl. Not to an accurate degree. Luck had more to do with it than anything—the handrail and my eyes locking eyes on instinct, I suppose. Either way, the way I bounced, I should be more than a distant memory.”
True again. Instead I break my face in six different places and pretty much as many ribs. I hold on, though, and end up in Tucson by the time the train stops. Once I’m there I make contact with a cousin. Heal. Get work. Earn. All of a sudden handed my own crew and then it’s thirty years later and the big bug inside me decides to grow as many tumors as it has legs.
“This is the reason we sit across from one another, Carl. Why this colostomy bag and I have become the type of friends most can do without.”
I tell him more, tons: how I thought about him a lot over the years. I include that I was at least smart enough to bury what happened and just get on with things. I concede this to be one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. “I wanted Marcel as well, but it would seem he ran into his own type of jackpot. Man by the name of Rider, right? Marcel took a run at that man’s family and lost is what I heard. Was I heartbroken over this news, Carl? Sure. Of course. But it wasn’t until you popped into view that fifty percent became my new favorite number.”
The vein in the middle of his forehead led me to believe he understood the math. Hell, a man like him had to understand it the moment he woke up between the other two men sitting across from me. Mick and Tommy knew it all too—every part in regards to the me and Carl of then to the me and Carl of now.
It means their timing would not be off. Not when it was meant to count.
“I bring this up because it’s what I remember most as you and Marcel hoisted me up; that you and he were on about timing and how it would have to be just right to leave nothing of me behind. Again: how’s that working out for you? Understandably, I’ve taken precautions so something like what happened to me fails to happen to you. And this is where men like you and I differ, Carl, and why you and Marcel ended up failing where someone like me will not.”
It came down to commitment and how one pledged himself to such a thing. Maybe he agreed with me on this now, seeing how far into the black his life had come, but then again, maybe he did not. Back then, though—back then I think we’d both agree he fell squarely into the realm of could not give a shit. Either way, it’s what put me and my boys in Jersey last night, the two men on either side of Carl integral to the dry run his youngest boy participated in.
I expected many things to come from me explaining this. I expected veins. I expected thrashing. I expected a bulging of the eyes. What I didn’t expect was just how warm my spine became.
“Think of it this way: you’ll have quite a bit to talk about once you and he find each other again. However, for that to happen you are going to have to leave the limo, Carl. You gonna make the boys drag you out, or are you gonna take this as you should?”
I want to say the rest was easy, and in a way, it was. Timing played a big part too, yes, but that can be said of anything.
“The past is what we’re witnessing here, Carl, and that whistle you hear is screaming exactly what you think it does. Mick, he’s going to be the one who grabs you as Marcel grabbed me. Tommy will be a stand-in for you. They will each take an arm. They will each take a leg. The arc they create releasing on three. You understand what this means, Carl? It means the circle you created is finally closing. Problem is, my diagnosis not only brought us back together as it has, but it allowed me to create one of my own.
It’s why I’m confident that other boy of yours, he’ll prove partial to trains as well.”


In Canada, with his wife and three boys, Beau Johnson lives, writes, and breathes. He has been published before, on the darker side of town. Such places might include Underground Voices, the Molotov Cocktail, and Shotgun Honey. He would like it to be known that it is an honor to be here, down in the Gutter. A collection of Beau's shorts is due out 2017 from Down & Out Books.