Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Man of Steel and Musty Jacket

"I have asked you two here because you are like sons to me, and I trust only you with this embarrassing task," said Don Johnson (born Donald Johnson, now Don of the Johnson family) to the two men standing before him, "I understand that a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Mills has been intimate with my wife." Don Johnson set down his cigar into the ivory ashtray close at hand and leaned his elbows on the table, steepling his fingers. His heavy eyebrows and nose worked with the bare lightbulb overhead to cast shadows down his face. The cherry of his cigar glowed in his black pupils. It was cold in the meat locker, and so his breath condensed, making him look every inch a vengeful devil.

Which would be a comparison that he would enjoy.

"Although my wife has been a terrific slut about town, I cannot stay mad at her. It is these stronzi, these teste di cazzo, these..." he trailed off.

"These assholes?" asked Tricky Finger Jimmy, looking up from playing with his tricky finger.

"That's what I said. These assholes seduce her. They have their way with her. And then they leave her. I have tried to take care of them personally, but it is too much. I have to ask you to step in because I have a dentist's appointment this afternoon."

"So you want us to, you know, take care of this Lawrence? Real nice?" asked Mickey "The Mauler" Maga.

"That would be what I am getting at, yes." He handed a piece of paper to the Mauler. "Here's his address. There is only one catch," Don Johnson began, but Tricky Finger Jimmy cut him off with a wave of his eponymous finger.

"Nothing to worry about, boss, we've taken care of these guys before," he said.

"Now, hang on-"

"We're on it, boss," the Mauler said. The pair pushed their way between two sides of beef and out of the door. Don Johnson shook his head.

The pair went into the parking lot and, checking to make sure that they had their tire irons, they drove off to the house of Lawrence Mills. They took their weapons of choice. Tricky Finger Jimmy took a few practice swings through the air around knee-height.

The Mauler rang the doorbell.

A man in a wheelchair answered it. He wore a green khaki military jacket, from the Vietnam era, with a frayed patch over his heart that read "Mills." He didn't wear pants because he didn't need to. He was missing his legs.

"Can I help you gentleman?"

"Listen up, Larry. Don Johnson has a beef with you," The Mauler said. Tricky Finger Jimmy knew his role. He stood next to the larger man and made faces at Lawrence.

"Which one, the star or the criminal?" Lawrence asked. "Because I've banged both of their wives."

The Mauler balked.

"A smart guy, eh?" Tricky Finger Jimmy said. "Look, I don't give a shit if you did serve this country in Vietnam, I am gonna break your kneecaps..." he trailed off. Lawrence grinned.

"Don't get smart with me," The Mauler said. "You still got arms!"

Tricky Finger Jimmy grinned and grabbed Lawrence's sleeve. Empty. He grabbed the other sleeve. Empty. Lawrence grinned harder.

"What the fuck are we supposed to break on this guy?!" Tricky Finger Jimmy wailed. He started playing with his tricky finger and biting his lip. "Boss is gonna be pissed."

"Boss ain't the only one that's pissed," The Mauler said. He put his foot on the front of Lawrence's wheelchair and kicked him back into the house. Then he shoved Tricky Finger Jimmy through the door and slammed it shut behind them. He dropped his tire iron and pulled out a small, snub-nosed pistol with a long silencer.

"He didn't say to kill him!" Tricky Finger Jimmy said.

"He didn't say not to, either. I don't want word getting out that some hard-on bag of guts with no arms or legs fucks with Don Johnson and gets away with it! Say goodnight, Nancy!"

"Funny, that's what your mother likes to say in bed," Lawrence said.

The Mauler's gun whispered a bullet out of the barrel and at Lawrence's head. He rocked back in his chair then was still.

The Mauler looked at his gun with adoration. "I love these .22s. Now we don't have to crack out the gloves and ammonia because the bullet don't come out of the skull and stays where it does the damage."

"I love .22s as well," Lawrence said. A small spot of blood trickled down from his hair, but he only continued to grin.

"What the hell?!"

"I was a volunteer, you know. Signed up. Wasn't drafted. A lot of people asked me why I wanted to fight, and that continued while I was over there and when I got back. What'd you get out of it? I never had an answer that was very satisfying. What'd I get out of Vietnam? This musty old jacket, flashbacks while I'm in line at the Super Saver, and a piece of high-grade U.S. guvmint steel grafted into my skull courtesy of Charlie. And Don Johnson married my sweetheart while I was gone, so he can go fuck himself if he's going to begrudge a torso the only thing that he had to look forward to while he was climbing out of pits full of punji sticks."

"I'll cut your throat," The Mauler said. Tricky Finger Jimmy looked aghast at his partner.

"Come on, Mickey, maybe we should just leave. This guy's a veteran, after all..."

"No," The Mauler said. He put away his gun and pulled out a long, thin knife and walked behind Lawrence.

"Let's see you survive this, Larry," he said. He dragged the blade across Larry's throat. It made a rasping noise.

"That tickles," Lawrence said. "Guvmint steel in my throat to cover up a hole made by a bit of friendly fire. I attended my assailant's funeral a few months ago."

"Fuck this!" Tricky Finger Jimmy said, and dashed out the door.

Lawrence took the opportunity to make his escape. He rocked his head forward into the wheelchair control and whirred out of the entranceway and into the living room.

"Dammit!" The Mauler said, following Lawrence. Or trying to follow Lawrence. After two steps the rug beneath his feet collapsed and he fell into a pit lined with sharpened bamboo. The stakes weren't angled upwards, so he didn't get hurt immediately, but they formed a ring of barbs around his foot. If he tried to pull it out, they'd cut everything below his thigh to slivers.

"Okay, so I got a musty old jacket, flashbacks, heartache, some guvmint steel, and a few tricks."

The Moral: not all stories have to be about ghosts, just the good ones.

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