31 May 2013

"This is the Job"

By Curtis C. Chen

I had to burn my clothes after the first time. There was no way to get the smell out. It wasn't that the odor was unpleasant, exactly; but it was such a unique thing, something you wouldn't, couldn't smell anywhere else. It would always remind me of the job.

The second time wasn't any better. Different, sure. I went out with a partner, a guy with a handlebar mustache who would not stop talking. Eventually I figured out that if I just kept feeding him, he'd be too busy eating to yammer about his wife or his kids or his goddamn athlete's foot. As an added bonus, the smell of the raw onions he piled on his overcooked street-vendor hot dogs helped mask the smell.

That one didn't go so well. I work alone now. But thanks to that yappy idiot, I can't eat sausages anymore, either. Reminds me of the fucking job.

Sometimes it feels like the work is taking over my life, making it so I can't do anything without thinking of how it relates to the job. I hear a song on the radio and remember that it was playing in the shopping mall where I did number four. And playing everywhere, piped into every corner of the damn place, even those long, bare concrete back hallways where every sound echoes like a curse.

I was interrupted that time. Some kid leaving his shift at the food court, still wearing his stupid colorful uniform and sipping on a giant plastic cup of sugar water. He dropped his drink and ran, but I had a job to do. So he turned into number five.

Cutting out soda pop wasn't such a bad thing. I still get plenty of caffeine from coffee, and I've also got powders and pills to keep me going when I need a boost. Plus, forcing myself to avoid the temptation of sweet fizzy drinks means I don't hang out around so many teenagers anymore. That's good. Number five was another underage girl, and that was a fucking chore. Never again. It's so much easier when I can get them drunk first.

Planning helps. I figured that out pretty quickly. You have to think on your feet in this line of work. I mean, no plan can account for everything, but it helps to have a few options in mind when you start the job. Know your exits, keep a cover story in mind, stuff like that. You don't actually need much preparation. If you don't act too strange, people will fill in most details for themselves. No need to explain if nobody asks.

Yeah, the smell still bugs me. Mostly because I don't know what it is. I mean, I know the smell of blood. I know sweat and tears and piss and shit and even brains, but it's not any one of those. Maybe it's a combination. Or maybe it's, I don't know, something else. Something particular to the work.

I hate this fucking job. But somebody's got to do it.


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