Monday, October 6, 2008

Fortunate Son

“I know you,” said The Voice. “I know who you are. I know what you have coming to you.” And The Voice was smooth and syrupy and all Jason Barnes could get. Around his head, wrapped like the invisible man, four or five yards of duct tape. His eyes covered so tight he was getting a migraine.

“Scratching his way to the top,” said The Voice. Jason knew the headline well. “Local resident Jason Barnes of River Drive came up big in the Pot O’ Gold scratch-off lottery game.” Reading, louder as the sentence went on, The Voice. “Now he’s set with a cool hundred grand.” The dollar amount spit like spoiled milk.

What Jason wanted to do was yell. Yell for help. Yell for mercy. What Jason wanted to do was yell but he couldn’t do more than taste the bitter adhesive side of duct tape. And thinking maybe he shouldn’t have agreed to a profile in the local paper. Or at least not posed for the picture.

“So what will happen here is three-fold. First, I’ll tell you what I need. Then, I’ll demonstrate the gravity of the situation. And third, you will graciously assist me. Understood?” And Jason mumbled something through a gluey mouth. “Nod,” said The Voice. And so Jason did.

* * *

“I don’t believe in luck for the same reasons I don’t believe in God. First, neither can I see. And second, neither has done me any favors. Everything I have, I have not by the grace of God. Not through good fortune. Everything I have, I have because I took it. Everything you see around you is mine because I grab opportunity by the proverbial balls. Well, of course you don’t see it. But imagine.”

Jason imagined he was in a mildewed basement, maybe a single overhead light bulb swaying from an extension cord. Nothing but grease stains and concrete and a roll of duct tape. Places like that were for situations like this. So Jason imagined.

“And moreover. I recognize no claim with a basis in luck. What has randomly fallen in your lap may just as well have fallen in mine. I have just as much right to the fortunes of fortune.”

Hollow footsteps bounced off the floor, further away each clack. Then the sound of rummaging like a tin of Altoids shaken. “What I need of you,” The Voice now across the room. “Is your PIN number. And before you decide whether or not to abide, let me prove how serious I am.” And like punctuation on his sentence a low mechanical hum rose from the same corner in which The Voice now resided. Bruuuuuuummmm. Bruuuuuuummmm. Then the footsteps again. Advancing this time.

“We’ll only do this once.” The Voice so close Jason could feel its heat. “So long as you cooperate.” And now louder this time Bruuuuuuummmm, the unmistakable roar of an electric drill. He thrashed and squirmed and jumped but Jason was duct taped tight to the chair. And as the bit burrowed through his jeans, his meat and chinked against bone, Jason prayed, oh Lord let me crawl from my skin. Bruuuuuuummmm. His whole body tightened. Legs flexed, asshole puckered, stomached clenched, his teeth bit down and splintered. And his mouth filled with grit. And blood. And then he slept.

* * *

The room was bathed in the swath of light from a desk lamp. Floored with hardwood panels. Not really how Jason had imagined. Then he looked down and saw the drill bit still deep inside his knee. Denim, brown and sticky with congealed blood. And it struck him, his head was no longer wrapped tight. And it struck him, this whole deal was totally fucked.

“What…fuck…what’s happening?” Jason coughed through broken teeth.

“What is happening?” The Voice standing behind him. “What is happening is, you are about to give me your PIN number.”


“Because if you don’t, I’ll take your other knee.”

“1486…1486, what the fuck. What fucking good will that do you?”

“Are you in shock? Have you forgotten who you are? Or what’s in your bank account?”

“I’m Jason Barnes. And I won the lottery. $100,000 to be paid over twenty years. That’s five thousand a year before taxes. And I won’t receive my first annuity until next month. I’m broke bro. I’m fucking broke.”

What seemed like an hour passed in only a few beats. Then The Voice, it said, “Goddamn Jason. I guess we’ve both had some horrible luck today.”

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