Sorry, But This is Goodbye! (A Short Story)
The man sitting across the table from their captive said, "What's your name, son?"
The captive's name was Jose Velasquez de la Cruz.
"How old are you?" the man said.
"You look a good deal younger than that," the man said.
The captive's eyes shifted, as though he sensed a opportunity. Well...
"Well, what?" the man said. "How old are you?"
Nineteen. Nineteen-and-a-half, if you want to be precise.
"How did you get into this business?" the man said.
Jose shrugged. The same way everybody 'gets into this business,' he supposed.
"How long have you been doing this kind of thing?"
Young. Inexperienced. Stupid.
"Where are you from?"
"Your family there?"
"What'd you do in Mexico, Jose?"
His family had a little tomato farm down there. Jose and a sister he lost contact with had come to America for a better life. Jose had made his way to Hollywood, with dreams of becoming a star.
"You legal?" the man asked, merely curious. It didn't matter to him, one way or the other.
Yes, for the present. Jose had a Green Card. As for the 'becoming a star' thing, fate had not been kind to him.
"You probably never thought you'd become a dealer, did you?" the man said.
No, in truth, a dealer in narcotics was the last thing that Jose thought he would ever become.
The man leaned forward. "You got a habit, that right?"
"And before you knew it, it became an expensive habit, yes?"
"And in order to pay for it, you took up dealing."
The story of Jose's life.
The man sighed and looked off into another direction. He drummed his finger on the table---not to intimidate, but just as some movement to facilitate thought. "I don't suppose you want to tell me about it?"
Tell you about what?
"About who hired you or coerced you---or both---into hitting my operation last night."
Jose looked down at the floor. He just hated to be uncooperative---he really did---but he couldn't possibly say.
The man waited.
Really, if he told, not only would those inhuman bastards kill him, but they would butcher his entire family; they would, no doubt, rape the women first. So you see, he really could not divulge!
The man nodded. "Yes, yes, I completely understand. After all, I know perfectly well how it is."
They both waited in silence for a few beats. Then, because he seemed to think he was required to say this, Jose said, defiantly, that he was not afraid to die.
The man greeted this declaration with a sad smile. Garbage! How could a young man like this, a good-looking nineteen-and-a-half-year-old, with everything to live for, say that he was not afraid to die?
The man cracked his knuckles. "You know, Jose, what I would like to do is put you on a plane and send you back to Tijuana, Mexico, and tell you to go back to your tomato farm. If I could, I'd let you off with advice to get out of this business because you're no good at it, understand? You've only been involved in what some call 'The Life' for six months and look at the mess you've gotten yourself into!"
The light was fading from Jose's eyes.
"But in this situation, I'm afraid, I am bound by what you might call the 'Code of the Streets.' You and your partner not only robbed my people, taking the product and the money---you, YOU Jose, were the trigger man who put a bullet in the back one of my most talent and enterprising 'salesmen,' Ringo, and one in the head of sweet Martina. Ringo is in critical condition; he'll never walk again and Martina was pronounced dead on arrival."
Jose squirmed. He fidgeted. He wanted to say that he was sorry, but he couldn't.
"Anything to say to that?"
Jose asked about his confederate. What happened to him? Where was he?
The man tugged his ear and grimaced. "Ah, your partner. Well, he's in critical condition. Its day-by-day, touch-n-go. The doctors don't really think he's going to make it. Neither do I."
The man leaned forward and looked into Jose's eyes. "Are you jonesing right now?"
"Are you at loose ends. Do you want something to take the edge off? Something to drink? Something to smoke? Something to snort? Perhaps something to shoot up?" The man pantomimed shooting a needle into his arm.
Jose was shaking as if he was chilly. But that wasn't it. He'd like something to shoot up to kill the shakes.
Jose shook his head. No, no preference. He would take anything. Anything at all. Just anything.
The man said, "Anything." He looked at a big man standing by the door. For a second time he pantomimed shooting a needle into his arm. "Robert, would you please go and get 'something' for our guest?"
The big man brought it back.
"Thank you, Robert."
The man fixed up their 'guest' himself. He rolled up Jose's sleeve, delicately probed the arm with his fingertips, found a vein, pinched it, tied it off, extracted a measure of solution from the tube into the needle, and plunged it into the vein. "There you are, son. That's good stuff there, the best. Hang on for the ride of your life."
The man resumed his place.
Lift off! Bang! Zoom! 'To the moon, Alice!' Jose felt 'on top of the world, ma!' He felt like he could jump over the moon. He could hold up Atlas, holding up the Earth. He could punch through steel and float on air. He could walk through walls and karate-chop meteors. His body filled the universe but rolled subatomic.
Groooovy Daddy-O! Words like honey, colors like Persian silk. He was on The Great Space Coaster, flying all around the galaxies; yet he had never been so still in his life, had never been of a single place, of a single point so utterly in all his life, all of all of his lives, for he was eternal, reincarnating.
Jose's throat constricted to one-third its previous diameter. This suffocated him. Which should have been enough to kill him at that, but for good measure his heart exploded and his lungs collapsed at the same time.
His eyes popped out of his head. He convulsively ground his teeth to dust. His tongue turned orange. He finally, mercifully, died.
The man rose to his feet. "Robert, have this cleaned up, please."
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