Eddie had waved at him. The kid waved back. Eddie followed up with a little hippety-hoppety dance, and the kid smiled. Then he walked over, purposely almost tripping over his two giant rabbit's feet. The kid laughed. Eddie stretched out his white-gloved paws and Mom helped her son jump into the eager arms of Rambunctious Rabbit. Eddie slid one hand between the boy's legs and the other behind his head. He touched his rabbit nose to the kid's nose and got another laugh from the boy and a happy shriek from the mother. The father scrambled for his camera. "Can we get the statue in the background?" he said, in surprisingly perfect English.
Eddie snuggled the tiny genitals in his palm and walked toward the thirty-foot bronze likeness of the late Dean Lamaar. Dad took a picture. Then another. Take your time, Eddie thought, re-cupping his hand so that his thumb rested in the crack of the sweet little butt. This, he thought, as cold, clammy sweat trickled from every pore, is even better than the school bus driving days. Good pay, good benefits, and parents who lift up their kids and hand them to me crotch first.
At that moment, Eddie had less than an hour to live. He spent another twenty minutes in Tyke Town, then he and Noreen headed for the tunnel that led to The Rabbit Hole, the vast underground world hidden beneath Familyland's 866 acres. Above ground was fantasy. Below ground was the hard reality of hundreds of miles of electric cable, sewage lines, refrigeration pipes, and of course, scores of locker rooms, cafeterias, toilet facilities, and rest areas for the 6,200 employees who made the fantasy happen. There was still another half hour till quitting time, and Eddie needed a smoke. As soon as they got through the tunnel, Eddie pulled off the rabbit head. "I got something to do before I change," he said. "See you tomorrow." "Goodnight Eddie," Noreen said. "Thanks again for the video."
Eddie had picked up an old Brad Pitt movie at a flea market for two bucks. "My pleasure," he said. "I know how much you like him."
The entire Rabbit Hole was a No Smoking Zone, but Eddie knew a spot where he could light up out of view of the security cameras. He wound his way through a maze of ductwork, plopped down on the cool tile floor, and set the giant Rambo head down next to him. He lit a Marlboro Light, inhaled deeply, leaned back against a water pipe, and exhaled the smoke from his lungs with a long, slow breath.
It was his last.
The rope came from nowhere, cutting deep into his neck. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. He tried to inhale, but nothing came in.
Thirty-seven seconds later, Eddie Elkins, a.k.a. Edward Ellison, sex offender, child molester, and convicted pedophile, had his last conscious thought. God, I was so happy. Why now?
He knew better than to ask, why me?
I wish I still smoked. Some occasions just seem to go
better when I inhale deadly toxins. Occasions such as
opening Joanie's monthly letter. But I gave up
tobacco seven years ago, so I had to resort to other self inflicted
I did forty-five minutes on the bike, managed 114 situps, then hit the shower, slowly edging the hot water from invigorating to excruciating. I switched to cold just before my back started to blister.
I was out of coffee, but there was half a pot of Juan Valdez's finest still on the counter from yesterday. I poured a cup and nuked it. It tasted like Juan's donkey's finest, but at seven in the morning, I'll take my caffeine any way I can get it.
I poured myself a bowl of Cheerios. Andre heard me chewing and showed up before I swallowed my first mouthful. "We're giving out numbers this morning," I told him. "I'm One. You're Two. Wait your turn."
Copyright Marshall Karp 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Macadam Cage.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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