The Grifter Flew

The limp dick pimps back, black hat cocked to drop shade on his grief-limned mien.

He drives a coupe. It's blue.

He's parked beneath the laurels on the ave outside of town. Salinas. Rialto. Poodle Springs. Town, and town out of town. The houses row up nice out there; with yards, with walks, with doors. They row up straight, in columns, all concordant and forward facing.

Out front, behind the wheel, the dick's pimped back; we know that. He's scooched down to have-snooze, a hip flask of hooch tucked up under his heart, over his arm. He's parked beneath the laurels. Far out, outside of town.

He's waiting for a man. A goon. They're dressed alike – the men, them all, all them, out there. They're wearing the same suit. They're covering their heads with hats and sharing vacant faces. Oh sure: they're varying shades, these guys; two tones of taupe, a tinge of beige. They look the same, though, they, them all.

At Shady Lane and Sunny Way (up here), miles uphill from way down there (downtown), a dozen suits an hour pass, looking like the ones that looked like that before. We're sitting for The Grifter, though. And this one, see, he's different. This piggy's sui generis.

He's a killer and a fiend and a madman and a thief. True: he's plenty beige and full of taupe. And too, he's wearing that same suit that everybody wears. BUT: his undiluted wickedness is clearly manifest.

SO: Spot the wanted man. You can't miss his:

A.exaggerated overbite

B.pronounced limp eye

D.broken nose

E.eight fingers

F.birthmark / tattoo.


This is the man we're after. The Grifter.

Now: the dick sits beneath the trees. He's quiet. He's hiding from the sun.

You'll never hear him talk, but when he talks you'll her him pitch a quip that's quicker than a flicked ash turns pitch to fire. And when conversing, he's conversant in cliché. He ties lithe chains round concrete images. That's when he talks (which he is ever loathe to do).

Hear now: here he is. Under the California trees. Beyond his tilted hat, the stockyards pump the time; bolt guns sonic-pocking air like metronomic balls. Cows dying. Far off, Cardboard City lines the sky.

And, a-sudden, there, on the corner, Jane, in plain sight (her frail pins wheeling) skirts a stray tomato truck, twists her broad face to toss a kittenish wink at a passerby and, sticking to her getaway, gets now down the lane.

The dick, dutiful, double-cranes his rubber neck.

But that's not why we're here.

202 Shady Lane. Windows, dormers, porch and door. It's sheltered by the laurels and set back from the street.

The dick sits back out front, standing steady sentry. He's been here for a day, and then a day, and then a half. He's had a few (a nip or two), too, to rid from him the hours. Now, slumped back and hung over under overhanging limbs, he watches, waiting for his watch to spin, to lift the weight of watching.

This stakeout's of its type. You know: it hews close to the mean. Profligate longueurs occur. It cannot but be so.

Who is he, though? The man that we're here after?

The Grifter, you may say, has made copious faux pas. He broke the laws that bind. He cracked some moral code. You know? His repute's taken ill and it precedes him now to here. It's been there by the laurels and over near the curb. (Be patient for emergency – the Grifter will show soon.)

Out there, beside the house: There's a rustle all a-sudden in the bushes near the back.

The dick eyes the shaking shrubbery and steels himself for war. He roots his car for arms. (Were he a man who spoke, he'd tell himself a joke. He'd lighten up the mood; a silly pun or two.)

Ominous and cocked, a black gat is strapped under the front dash of his blue coupe. The dick fiddles with the buckle, and shakes addle from his brain. At last, he palms the gun; clears from his head the gin.

He steps softly to the street.

The bustle from the hedgerow's moving round now to the rear. When he gets there (to the bushes), he sleuths evidence of graft: bent grass, scuffed twig, aromatic lingering of sneakthief in peripatetic perpetration.

The dick, concealed in leafy greens, squats silent in the shrubs. A slim shade he spots, wading among the wayward rays of sun and shadow veiling the back way. The man's limping, lading a load too weighty for his lame leg. His teeth are sticking out and he's squinting through one eye. He looks dangerous, depraved, deformed, insane, outré, armed and (odds are) ill behaved.

The Grifter's finally shown. He's here beneath the trees.

He's got some boys to help him. They throw illicit freight.

Their truck is filling fast.

The dick sees them, checks his gat. This is his cue to speak, to pitch his ever-ready quip. He doesn't do, though; doesn't feel it. Were it possible, he'd quit. Wave it off or ask to give another take. He doesn't say a word.

What is the crux?, the thinks. Let's strip this scene down clean. The crux is all that counts. The crux is all there is. He checks his gat again.

There's right and then there's this.

He stands there, draped in bushes, merely readying his gun. His shirt is stained and stretched. His breath still smells like gin.

The Grifter loads the freight. The dick steps forward – one, two, three. He's dutiful once more. He's wholly parsed the crux; and now comes what must come. His cue has long gone by, but he libs it like a pro: "Hey!" The Grifter drops his box. "Ahhk!" This is it, here. The one thing, stripped down clean. It's mano a mono: that singular monosyllabic dualistic duel that's all that's real herein. And etiquette is clear. The precedent's in place. SO: Everybody shoots. A swarm of dust and smoke. Then everybody falls. The boys, they tried to squirm. They splay there, on their sides. The Grifter flew, then fell. He lies there on his back. They're all already dead. The dick is looking up. His back is on the ground. He's waxy, white and red. He lies beneath the laurels; all dappled by the sun. He checks himself for daylight, finds it spreading everywhere. He doesn't say a thing. "It's beautiful," he says.

About the author:

Kelvin Gordon is a liar and a scumbag.