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The Chameleon: A Short Story

Life Is Fleeting

I killed myself this morning.

It was much easier to do than you might suspect.

It takes very little talent to actually kill oneself, but it does require a willingness, and therein lies the major roadblock for most people.

I was quite willing.

I could either kill myself, or wait for Max Pignataro to do it for me, and his way would have been much more painful.

the-chameleon-a-short-story

The Process

The hardest part of the whole operation was killing Max’s top man, Alfie, and that turned out to be a walk in the park, literally. Alfie had been following me for a couple days, not being too damned sneaky about it, letting me know that Max had not forgotten about the thirty grand I owed him, thirty grand I did not have, never would have, and that fact would ultimately lead to me floating in the Blue River, face down, a leaking head wound from a forty-five slug to the brain pan, fish food for the Crappies and Carp, not a future I was willing to accept.

Truth be told, Alfie isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, never has been, not when we were kids, not now, so it was fairly easy to lose him in the park, double back around him, and bash him over the head, jagged rock doing the damage, and Alfie bled out within two minutes, no sound, no one to come to poor Alfie’s rescue, the fallen maple leaves stained red, a lonely man on a lonely path on a lonely night.

Drag the body back to the parking lot, that was the tough part of the plan, Alfie in sore need of a diet, but drag him I did, found some leverage to lift him up into my car, me sweating like a pig, finding muscles I didn’t know I had, fear always the greatest motivator.

I drove Alfie to the quarry, right to the edge, one-hundred foot cliff to the rocks below, pulled him over into the driver’s seat, doused the car with gasoline, lit a match, pushed it over the edge, the night sky awash in yellows and oranges as Alfie took the final plunge, no longer concerned with weight loss or raising his IQ. Tossed my driver’s license over the edge, there for the cops to find, nice and tidy, poor s.o.b. (me) decided to end it all rather than wait for Max, or better yet, the cops would think that Max had killed me, jail his sorry ass for a good, long time.

The plan wasn’t going to fool too many people for too long, maybe three or four days, longshots rarely win in life, just long enough for the M.E. to discover Alfie’s crushed skull, run a DNA test, but by then I would be three or four days into my departure.

I killed myself this morning, and I didn’t feel a thing.

Looking for salvation

Looking for salvation

The Reason

How did I find myself in that situation, the need to fake my death?

Poor choices? Poor upbringing? Parents who didn’t care? Bullshit! If I’m being completely honest with myself, it just comes down to the fact I’m wired differently than most folk, always have been. I’ve been running from stupid decisions and faulty wiring for most of my life, and that’s just the real of it. I wore my poor parents out, calls from the school principal about pranks I pulled, starting back when I was ten or so, and it just got worse from there.

I’ve been arrested twelve times. My best friend is a transvestite hooker by the name of Maurice. I haven’t had a mailing address since I was sixteen. You can’t find a beat cop who doesn’t know me by my first name, so this thing with Max, it was coming for a long, long time.

My old man said excuses are like assholes, everybody has one, so you won’t hear one from me about this current detour in my life. I did what I did, and deal with it I would. Three or four days would put me halfway across the country, where mountains reach the damned stars, maybe further, within sight of the Pacific, it all depends on the rides I can flag down on the way.

I had had the foresight to grab Alfie’s ID before he took the rocky dive, so for the time being I was Alfie Petrocelli. Not a great name but, in my situation, beggars can’t be choosers. He and I didn’t look that much alike, but I’m non-descript in appearance, look like a million other people, a chameleon blending into any scene, so I could pass for him in a crunch.

Maurice Is Not Happy

“You did what, you crazy bastard?”

No, not happy at all.

“I killed Alfie, dumped him and my flaming car into the quarry. What the hell choice did I have? Max wasn’t going to stop hounding me until I paid up or he collected his pound of flesh.”

“Now what do you plan on doing? Your little stunt isn’t going to fool anyone for long?”

“I’m heading west. How much cash do you have? I’m good for it, you know that?”

“How the hell would I know that? You’re in this trouble because you couldn’t pay back a loan,” but as he said that he walked to a cupboard, took out a container, opened it up, and took out a handful of bills.

“I was saving for some cosmetic surgery, but that will have to wait. Here, two-thousand, take it, get the hell out of here. Maybe things will calm down in a year or so, but I doubt it.”

The Getaway

I grabbed my coat, nothing more, fist-bumped my best friend, walked out the door into a night threatening. Despite the wind and smell of rain, the streets were filled with the lost and the lonely, the forgotten and the discarded, all looking for exit doors in one way or another. My feet brushed by discarded syringes, the smell of booze and despair in the air, the syncopated beat of music coming from dive bars, thousands of horns and screams and sirens providing a symphony of anger and helplessness as I made my way down State, took a right on Eighteenth, not a soul paying me any attention.

St. Marks coming up on the right, my old stomping grounds as a kid, praying my ass off for salvation, not having a clue what that meant, just keeping the nuns at bay by appearing devout. I opened the door, a quick detour, walked down the marble floor, my footsteps echoing, a giant cross guiding me to the altar. I dropped to my knees, wondered if the god of my youth was paying any attention whatsoever, dredged up prayers of that youth, my lips moving, hoping someone was listening, anyone, for the love of God, get me out of this mess, bless me Father for I have sinned.

“I figured you’d end up here, you crazy Mick asshole.”

The sound of Max’s voice arrived at the same time as the barrel of his forty-five pressed against the base of my skull.

“What did you do with Alfie?”

There was no point making up a story. Max has known me since we were both kids, at St. Marks, both of us the best of friends, ducking the blows of Sister Philomena.

“Alfie took a wrong turn at the quarry. He took a nasty plunge, I’m afraid. How did you find me?”

His laugh was as empty as his heart.

“Where else would you go? St. Marks has always been our sanctuary, since we were kids. I figured you for hoofing it out of town, but a quick stop here. I didn’t have much faith in Alfie doing the job proper.”

The gun pressed harder into my flesh.

“Say a quick prayer and let’s go. I think it’s time for our story to end, don’t you? I’ll just have to mark your loan down as the cost of doing business with a perennial loser.”

He was right about one thing. It was time for our story to end. I felt the comfort of my old combat knife, sheathed at my waist, as I made the sign of the cross and stood up.

Dig a new grave

Dig a new grave

Write Your Own Ending

I don’t much care which of them makes it out of that church alive. You can decide. Seems to me they both need a little salvation, but they may not meet the requirements.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)