by: Damien Edwards ((Header art is one of David Mach’s remarkable matchstick sculptures.))
When The Closer is called in things get real, and the gasoline flows like water…
We’d pour gasoline down the small holes, pull out the tiny box of wooden matches and with one brave strike, light the gas-soaked area and wait. Whoosh and those little fuckers would run out of the holes Usain Bolt fast into the pop of a .22 shell. Those that were lucky. The rest would squirm and burn, left half-scarred from the aftereffects of the regular leaded. Some made it back into the ground to one of the hundred of holes in the pocked-marked gopher mound they call home. We’d get them next time we figured, taking our fill of the coliseum entertainment for the day. Shooting guns, drinking bottles of Coke and blowing off a Saturday afternoon. Who in their right mind gives a twelve year old a rabbit rifle and shoo’s them out the house? That’s just the way of it, I guess. Fuck, if I don’t laugh every time I tell this to my hipster friends.
I’m a closer. A bona fide and legitimized badman for big business. They call me in for the all the firings and layoffs. Technically, I’m an impartial asshole with no emotional or legal ties to the company. I have no problem telling someone that they will lose their home, car and probably their spouses during the next economic downturn. So, I come in and close. Close the books on whole departments. Close the careers of those expecting to retire on green Arizona fairways. Close the gates on the dreams of those just starting out. I take pride in my work and yes I still sleep at night. And right now, I’m working a lot.
They set me up in a small corner office, one vacated the month prior before my arrival. There was some small time stuff done by email and a letter but now I’m here for the big show. Today it’s fifty people in a department of what was one numbering one hundred. From the corner of my eye I can imagine them all flipping coins, there’s a fifty-fifty chance of survival, right? The gasoline is in my briefcase and we’re about to get busy.
If you’ve ever seen a horse laid up lame because of those goddamn gopher holes you’d be out there gas in hand with me. Farmers would pay us ten cents for each brown furry tail. Most of the time those were the first things to torch out. Not much proof for the reward. Most of the time we didn’t care unless we ran low on cold sodas. Those gophers deserved every lead ball they got. And if they escaped, well then they were given reprise until the next hot summer afternoon came around. By summer’s end you can be sure my aim was on point and only the smart ones survived. I always wondered if they told stories of us deep in the dark underground. Of the giants with the hot wet invisible death. If we filled their sleep with nightmares, causing their offspring to believe in the legends of evil. I doubt it. The young ones were the easiest to pop.
The first ten were easy. They knew it was coming and just wanted to see what the negotiation of departure was worth. Some tried to bluff their way around with large words and workers rights, but I’m not a fucking moron. I knew everything about what I was doing. I have a job because I’m fucking good at it. I can quote chapter and verse from every charter and contract around. And I knew them. I had every file weeks before hand. I knew which ones would shake my hand and which ones would piss themselves crying. And the ones who wanted to punch me out. No this wasn’t my first rodeo. And gas spread thin still leaves a big flame.
“Someday you’ll get yours.”
He never really said it to my face as he stormed out the door. Yes, probably I will. But by then the economy will have turned around and everyone will be happy. Colonies of happy people, unaware that I’ll still be around.
“Can you get Geneva for me Susan?”
Susan was my gift for today. Unfortunately she had to stay after I left, not something I think the company really took into account when they offered her up to me for the day. I was on a roll and it would seem that the two days allotted for my services wouldn’t be needed as I’d have this all wrapped up in one. Shame really as I hadn’t planned on a day off. Susan scurried off to escort Geneva my way.
“Mr. Simms?” she politely asked for an entrance.
“That was my Father, I’m just David,” I said as I nodded for her to take a seat.
She was pretty enough to distract me and that wasn’t fair. My rules, my game.
“Mr. Simms, by now we all know why you’re here and what you’re doing.” She was still very polite even with what she had probably witnessed all day.
“Can I just please have my departure contract to sign and I’ll be on my way? It’s too nice of an afternoon to waste in here.”
I just about handed her the contract. Just about threw the gas to watch her burn out of here. One does get away every now and then.
“Can you do something for me, Geneva?” She looked at me like I had just propositioned her for sex.
“Take a two week holiday. You do have four weeks left, right? It says here that in one week you’ll have made a ten year commitment to this company. That entitles you to another twenty percent in stock bonuses. Not that it’s worth a heck of a lot right now, but…”
She saw me smile and caught my drift.
“As far as I’m concerned you are away and I’ll make sure this contract reflects your service.”
She smiled back.
“I’ll have the papers sent to you when you get back, so go and enjoy the afternoon.”
She got up to go, leaned over and shook my hand.
“Thank you David.”
I watched her leave down the hall.
“Susan, can you put this on Geneva’s desk when she leaves?” I asked as I handed her a large white envelope with corporate letterhead on it.
I didn’t kill them all. And it wasn’t because I was a bad shot. It’s just that if you get rid of the whole mound, then I knew my Cokes would be paid for out of my own pocket. Sure, I’ll do someone else’s dirty work and enjoy doing it. But sometimes it’s good just to not use all the matches up. After all, the mounds really never go away, do they?