Wednesday, January 5, 2011

POP20: “Killtown USA”


The jail cell Merrily was chained to smelled of decay. Her hand touched something on the floor behind her, cold and dust covered. A loose iron bar.

The world enclosed her in darkness. In some distant place, the sun rose. A corner of her swollen eye glimpsed, through an opening in a wall, the reddening, expanding city.

Rays of light fell then on her pink bangs. She saw the revelation of blue painted walls. Sunlight! Everywhere around her. Pleasing, healing sunlight. The beaten girl basked in it.

She’d thought about much during the endless night. The only way she could save Max was by killing or dying. Her small, sinewy hands slipped with tearing skin out of the handcuffs. Her right hand gripped the iron bar beside her. She lifted the bar and swung it, testing its weight.

What was death? You died and became dust, became life for new organisms. The cycle continued. Somehow, somewhere, in some distant time, you lived again. She wanted to believe that.

Merrily had missed a chance at Fake Face with the gun Sal had given her. But she’d give herself another chance to stop the madman. She heard his footsteps now, ascending the stairway.

Merrily knew she’d meet Max again. She visualized Max’s face. A phrase popped into her head. It made her feel good to repeat it: “It’s only life!”

The steps grew louder. The rising sick smile came into sight. Merrily crouched, the iron bar hidden behind her legs. The Face approached, closer, close—Merrily sprung and aimed the bar directly at his head to destroy it to destroy him!—but the Face moved at the last instant the bar jumped against his shoulder, a bullet from his golden pistol smashed into her torso in an explosion of yellow flame and black smoke, through her spine.

Merrily fell forward would have plummeted but Fake Face grabbed her hair. There was yet a spark of life in her eyes, glaring at him with undaunted fury—he took her neck and choked her with his fancy gloved hands until the spark left. Then he tossed her below.


With the bait dead there was no hope of getting the Big Boy away from his nightclub. They’d have to go to him. Fake Face gathered his gang into a line of cars, his yellow limousine at the front. He climbed awkwardly into the backseat, hiding his stiff shoulder. Eager Jake Pol sat next to him clutching a sawed-off shotgun.

“Let’s go hunting,” Fake Face said.

Within ten minutes the gang surrounded the Green Club. Jake Pol helped the stiffening Fake Face from the large yellow car. Fake Face caught Jake’s sweaty expression. What was Jake’s look? Fear? Disgust? It wasn’t friendliness. It wasn’t benevolence. In the Fake Face gang all were required to be benevolent.

The Face pointed with a smudged yellow glove. Behind a battering ram his men invaded the Green Club.

Most of Big Boy’s crew had fled as soon as local websites and radio stations screamed, “Gang War!” They wanted no part of that. Their only loyalty to Max was through a pay envelope.

Big Boy had waited though, along with his three best football player friends. Four giant men. They believed they could take on the world.

They retreated into the club, backs against the long bar, which was wrecked. They held weapons. The other side held more of them.

“No shooting,” Fake Face suggested as he stepped into the room. “Otherwise we’ll all be dead.”

“Just you and me,” Big Boy agreed, tossing aside his machine gun and adopting a fighter’s stance.

“Why not?” Fake Face laughed in a sing-song happy voice. “You’re a slow, heavy punching bag—an easy target. If I can reach you I can beat you.”

He put away his gold pistol—and produced instead from his pocket a chunk of pink-colored human hair. Pink, with dried red blood through it.

In shock and grief, Big Boy put his hands to his head. For a moment his strength left him—enough pause for Jake Pol to knock him over with a chair. Within minutes Max and his friends were tied up. Max himself was curiously subdued. He filled now with other thoughts. His fight and his cheap role-playing were over.

“The Big Boy is no more!” Fake Face proclaimed.

(NEXT: The Saga concludes with “The Prisoner.”)