Thursday, January 5, 2012

The killing blow

He falls to the ground, beaten, and lays still. Hardly breathing, he waits for me to step in and finish the job. I step forward to oblige.

Standing over him, I don't see a formidable enemy; I see a broken, foolish old man. I raise my staff to strike him.

He raises a weak hand over his head. "Stop!" he croaks, "give me a minute. You've got me, okay? Can I get a last request?"

I don't answer him. I keep my staff raised, ready to bring it crashing down, but I stare at him. He takes my silence as permission. With pleading eyes, he reaches into the inner pocket of his frock coat and pulls out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. "Just one last drag, okay? Send a man off right?" He gingerly pulls himself into a supine position, lights up, and takes a deep drag. Immediately, he starts hacking and coughing; there's a little tinge of crimson on his lips now.

"Ohhhh, yeah. It hurts so bad, but feels so good," he smiles up at me. "I think you broke a couple of ribs this time." 

I don't answer him. I maintain my position, waiting for him to finish. The staff is beginning to get heavy, keeping it raised like this. I tighten my grip, refusing to let go.

He takes another drag, letting out a long thin stream of smoke. He examines the glowing ember at the tip. "I have to tell you, I'm surprised that it's come to this. I always thought you were all talk." He grins up at me, a ghastly face with already drying blood from his nose crusting in his long beard. Leaning against the wall, he continues. "You always said that you were gonna end our relationship, but why would I believe that? You've never really protested anything I've suggested. Heck, most of the time you came after me! And who knows you better than me? No one, not your parents, not your wife, nobody knows you like I know you."

The stick is so heavy, my arms are starting to hurt. I can't lower my guard, but I have him where I want him. I lower my weapon, ever so slightly. Just to take some of the edge off.

He looks around the alleyway, scanning the dim area for his hat. Spotting it, he slowly crawls on bruised knees over to where it is lying in a puddle of brackish water. "Ach, just look at it!" He makes a futile attempt at shaking the water off the velvet, to no avail. "Man, do you have any idea how much Bencraft charges to clean it these days?" He puffs on his foul cigarette, ponderously looking down at the ruined hat. He shrugs. "What the hey. I'm not gonna need it soon anyway, right?"

He turns to me again, looking at me coyly. "That's why we're here, isn't it? The final showdown. After all we've been through together, the good times we had. Things that you can only talk to me about, because I'm the only one who understands you," his voice turns bitter, "I thought we were FRIENDS!" 

Leaning on the wall for support, he slowly climbs to his feet. I'm too far away at this point to stop him. He points a long finger at me. "Well, I'm not fooled," he mutters. "You still need me. It's only a matter of time until you want something so bad, and I'll be the only one willing to go with you to get it. You can't finish me." He backs away into the darkness, blending in the shadows.

I lunge forward, swinging my weapon at the space where he had just been. He's gone.

His voice floats around me, filling my ears with the familiar sounds of my very own pulse. "You'll always crave something. You can't kill me because you don't want to."

His laughing echoes after me as I walk out of the alley, cursing my failure.

v'haMeivin yavin


redsneakz said...

Only tzaddikim truly ever kill that sneaky old bastard. For the rest of us, it's all about the battle.

Shmuel said...

Most definitely.

One could say that they are Tzaddikim because they didn't hesitate. When it comes to that one last little push, we (I) find ourselves pulling back in fear...

Neil Harris said...

Great story and description.

It is when we forget that, mamash, we're fighting a battle, that we begin to loose our footing.