Lazlo was a bad terrorist. Not “bad” in the sense of being perfectly evil, though he did aspire to that. No, he was bad in the sense that he was simply terrible at his craft. He never managed to accumulate followers like so many of his peers, his suicide bombers always got cold feet, and when they didn’t, the explosive devices inevitably failed to go off. One time, he threw a pipe bomb under a police car, only to have it fall down an open manhole, where it promptly fizzled in the human waste below. Another time, two of his agents managed to explode a bomb at a frozen yogurt shop in a popular square in the capital of a well-known Middle Eastern city. Only they blew the place up at 2:30 in the morning when no one was around. The police called it a gas explosion and the owner – who was thinking about closing the place anyway – got a healthy settlement from his insurance company.
Jason lived alone, and he had a bad earwax problem. He tried to avoid it, but he often found himself cleaning his ears on white towels, which left stains. So he had the idea of buying towels that were that same dark honey color, so they wouldn’t show the stains. But the towels looked strange in his bathroom, so he got curtains and rugs to match. Then ultimately he had to retile the counter and get new fixturs to make everything look right. By this time, he was really liking the earwax-colored scheme in the bathroom, and wishing he had more of that around the house. So, new paint, sideboards, couch reupholstered – really a total remodel. And only then was he happy.
Rollie could spot a killer in two seconds, so when he saw the man in the red windbreaker on the boardwalk, he was immediately suspicious. He ducked into a doorway and watching the man for more than hour. Then, when he was ready, he slid in behind a group of teenagers and followed them right up to the man in the red jacket. “You’re not so good at your job, mug,” he whispered, clutching the man’s collar. “You want to kill me, you better be on your game.” The man looked at him confused. “I’m not here to kill you, buddy,” he said. “I’m here to kill that guy.” And he gestured over to an older man, nervously trying to read a newspaper in the wind under a tree. Exactly the kind of person who gets killed.
Things are very important, my uncle Werner used to say. They have memories and feelings, not of themselves perhaps, but even more importantly, they have our memories and feelings. Like containers. “And we have a responsibility to them,” he once told me (He used to look at me as if through a cloud of cigarette smoke — but neither of us actually smoked). “When you have more than one of a thing, you have a collection — and that is a responsibility, like a family.”
And so it was that four men of very specific ethnicities — but not necessarily the same ethnicity — were standing around (Oh, it doesn’t really matter what they were doing, but let’s just say that they were hanging around a lunch truck.). And then another man, also of a very specific ethnicity walks up. This new person orders a burrito (it doesn’t matter what kind) and then pulls out his wallet to pay. As he does so, a bill falls out of his pocket onto the ground. This is very important, because his wallet was in his back pocket, the man is unaware that the bill has fallen out, but the four others see it very clearly. The four men freeze, and then one man (whose ethnicity you think you know, but are completely wrong about) slowly bends forward to pick it up. The other three (again, not necessarily of the same ethnicity, which again you will be wrong about) watch him carefully, wondering what he will do, and what their reaction to that will be. But the man picking up the large bill knows exactly what he will do.
Jenson parked his car deep in the airport Economy lot, high in the alphabet, high numbers. He didn’t even bother to note the location. He put his head down as he climbed on the shuttle bus. Gilbert, the driver, was driving yesterday and might recognize him. He settled back in his seat, comforted at the prospect of several hours rotating through the airport, the parking lots, the terminals. So relaxing to just sit and circulate. He used to taking airplanes, but the more he thought about it, he realized that he really just enjoyed this part. Jenson didn’t have to get on a plane. In fact, he could just draw this moment out for hours. Just sitting and moving and thinking about going far away.
Normally, an answer like would be far from disqualifying, potentially even intriguing. But when he smiled and said, “I sometimes get angry at food,” she new exactly what he meant, and could not leave the St. Martin Bar soon enough.
In his dream, Franklin was talking with God under the palm trees on the bike path, right by the pier. Later, he wouldn’t remember what they were talking about, but it didn’t seem important. Then suddenly, there was this gigantic dog running at the two of them and both took off away from it. God ran one way and Franklin the other, and of course the dog followed Franklin, barking and snapping its teeth. Then he woke up.
The evangelist, Dustin, lived in a world of incredible certainty. So when the strange man with the incredible ideas about the rainbow god Rafinere, his response was preordained. Even when he found himself liking this little man in his frumpy white shirt, black vest, and hilarious accent, there was no way, no chance that he would ever give these ideas a second thought. Certain was the evangelist in his vision of the higher sphere. Years later, decades, long after he had forgotten about the little man and his rainbow god, Dustin died. And a moment after he closed his eyes in death, and opened them in the afterlife to gaze upon the visage of the colorful deity Rafinere, he didn’t cry. No, he just laughed.
And so it came, finally, the end. Robertson had lived a long life, in fact, lived many lives. There was his youth as a jazz musician, then his foray into business, then as an actor/artist, then finally as a semi-famous author of spy fiction. He had many children, and even more grandchildren. He had thought about this moment for years before it came, and considered in advance the great questions that would occur to him regarding death and the afterlife, about the meaning of it all. But when death was finally at his doorstep, and he lay there in the hospital unable to raise his head, he stared at the ceiling surrounded by family and wondered what would happen in the next Bond movie.