For Pat LoBrutto
Bower pulled the sun visor down and looked in the mirror there and said, "You know, hadn't been for the travel, I'd have done all right. I could even shake my ass like him. I tell you, it drove the women wild. You should have seen 'em."
"Don't shake it for me," Kelly said. "I don't want to see it. Things I got to do are tough enough without having to see that."
Bower pushed the visor back. The light turned green. Kelly put the gas to the car and they went up and over a hill and turned right on Melroy.
"Guess maybe you do look like him," Kelly said. "During his fatter days, when he was on the drugs and the peanut butter."
"Yeah, but these pocks on my cheeks messes it up some. When I was on stage I had makeup on 'em. I looked okay then."
They stopped at a stop sign and Kelly got out a cigarette and pushed in the lighter.
"A nigger nearly tail-ended me here once," Kelly said. "Just come barreling down on me." He took the lighter and lit his smoke. "Scared the piss out of me. I got him out of his car and popped him some. I bet he was one careful nigger from then on." He pulled away from the stop sign and cruised.
"You done one like this before? I know you've done it, but like this?"
"Not just like this. But I done some things might surprise you. You getting nervous on me?"
"I'm all right. You know, thing made me quit the Elvis imitating was travel, 'cause one night on the road I was staying in this cheap motel, and it wasn't heated too good. I'd had those kinds of rooms before, and I always carried couple of space heaters in the trunk of the car with the rest of my junk, you know. I got them plugged in, and I was still cold, so I pulled the mattress on the floor by the heaters. I woke up and was on fire. I had been so worn out I'd gone to sleep in my Elvis outfit. That was the end of my best white jumpsuit, you know, like he wore with the gold glitter and all. I must have been funny on fire like that, hopping around the room beating it out. When I got that suit off I was burned like the way you get when you been out in the sun too long."
"You gonna be able to do this?"
"Did I say I couldn't?"
"You're nervous. I can tell way you talk."
"A little. I always get nervous before I go on stage too, but I always come through. Crowd came to see Elvis, by god, they got Elvis. I used to sign autographs with his name. People wanted it like that. They wanted to pretend, see."
"What were they, say, fifty-five?"
"They were all ages. Some of them were pretty young."
"Ever fuck any of 'em?"
"Sure, I got plenty. Sing a little 'Love Me Tender' to them in the bedroom and they'd do whatever I wanted."
"Was it the old ones you was fucking?"
"I didn't fuck no real old ones, no. Whose idea is it to do things this way, anyhow?"
"Boss, of course. You think he lets me plan this stuff? He don't want them chinks muscling in on the shrimping and all."
"I don't know, we fought for these guys. It seems a little funny."
"Reason we lost the war over there is not being able to tell one chink from another and all of them being the way they are. I think we should have nuked the whole goddamned place. Went over there when it cooled down and stopped glowing, put in a fucking Disneyland or something."
They were moving out of the city now, picking up speed.
"I don't see why we don't just whack this guy outright and not do it this way," Bower said. "This seems kind of funny."
"No one's asking you. You come on a job, you do it. Boss wants some chink to suffer, so he's gonna suffer. Not like he didn't get some warnings or nothing. Boss wants him to take it hard."
"Maybe this isn't a smart thing on account of it may not bother chinks like it'd bother us. They're different about stuff like this, all the things they've seen."
"It'll bother him," Kelly said. "And if it don't, that ain't our problem. We got a job to do and we're gonna do it. Whatever comes after comes after. Boss wants us to do different next time, we do different. Whatever he wants we do it. He's the one paying."
They were out of the city now and to the left of the highway they could see the glint of the sea through a line of scrubby trees.
"How're we gonna know?" Bower said. "One chink looks like another."
"I got a photograph. This one's got a burn scar on the face. Everything's timed. Boss has been planning this. He had some of the guys watch and take notes. It's all set up."
"Me because I've done some things before. You because he wants to see what you're made of. I'm kind of here as your nurse maid."
"I don't need anybody to see that I do what I'm supposed to do."
They drove past a lot of boats pulled up to a dock. They drove into a small town called Wilborn. They turned a corner at Catlow Street.
"It's down here a ways," Kelly said. "You got your knife? You left your knife and brought your comb, I'm gonna whack you."
Bower got the knife out of his pocket. "Thing's got a lot of blades, some utility stuff. Even a comb."
"Christ, you're gonna do it with a Boy Scout knife?"
"Utility knife. The blade I want is plenty sharp, you'll see. Why couldn't we use a gun? That wouldn't be as messy. A lot easier."
"Boss wants it messy. He wants the chink to think about it some. He wants them to pack their stuff on their boats and sail back to chink land. Either that, or they can pay their percentages like everyone else. He lets the chinks get away with things, everyone'll want to get away with things."
They pulled over to the curb. Down the street was a school. Bower looked at his watch.
"Maybe if it was a nigger," Bower said.
"Chink, nigger, what's the difference?"
They could hear a bell ringing. After five minutes they saw kids going out to the curb to get on the buses parked there. A few kids came down the sidewalk toward them. One of them was a Vietnamese girl about eight years old. The left side of her face was scarred.
"Won't they remember me?" Bower said.
"Kids? Naw. Nobody knows you around here. Get rid of that Elvis look and you'll be okay."
"It don't seem right. In front of these kids and all. I think we ought to whack her father."
"No one's paying you to think, Elvis. Do what you're supposed to do. I have to do it and you'll wish you had."
Bower opened the utility knife and got out of the car. He held the knife by his leg and walked around front, leaned on the hood just as the Vietnamese girl came up. He said, "Hey, kid, come here a minute." His voice got thick. "Elvis wants to show you something."
"The Job" was originally published in 1989 in Razored Saddles, a short-stories collection published by Dark Harvest Press. It later appeared in Electric Gumbo, a collection of Lansdale's short stories published Quality Paperback Book Club; and in High Cotton: Selected Short Stories of Joe R. Lansdale, published by Golden Gryphon Press. "The Job" © 1989 Joe R. Lansdale.
Okay, folks, Elvis has left the building! Come back next week for another free dose of Mojo madness by Champion Joe! We'll be up and running with a different story on Thursday, March 2. See ya then!
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