Adam inhaled the cigarette slowly before sitting onto the park bench beside Wallace. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ he asked.
Wallace shook his head.
‘There’s something wrong.’ Adam continued. ‘It’s always something wrong when you’re quiet.’
Wallace made a weak smile as he stared off into the empty sky. Adam was right, there was something wrong, but not what he thought.
To Wallace’s dismay, he had stumbled onto a bit of knowledge, important knowledge that answered the questions that thinkers throughout time though and wrote about. Questions such as: What’s the meaning of life? Why are we born? Is there a God? , and many other inquiries into the mysteries of human existence. Wallace knew the answers. They were inside of his head dancing, bumping, and crashing into what he had known. And what he had now was now worthless.
‘I Know what’s brothering you.’ Adam said. ‘It’s about Norm. You didn’t want to kill him, did you?’
Wallace looked over to Adam. ‘Why wouldn’t I want to kill Norm?’ He said. ‘That’s what we do, that’s what we get paid to do. We kill for money, or have you forgot?’
‘I haven’t forgot shit.’
Wallace gave a weak smile before returning to his stare into the sky.
‘I’m just saying, I know you and Norm were real cool.’ Adam said. ‘He was your celly for what . . . 3, 4 years locked in a box for the majority of a day. Plus you told me before that he was cool. I know if I was you I’d be a little fucked up about killing him.’
‘Why would that had fucked you up?’ Wallace asked before abandoning his stare into the sky. ‘It’s in our nature to do what we do. We have no control over what he wants us to do. Shit, the name of the damn book is ‘Shooters’.
Adam shook his head. ‘I should of known that was coming. Listen, we already know we’re just characters in a novel. The readers know that too. So stay in character and don’t think so damn deep all the time, because now the author will have to start the chapter over.’
‘You already knew?’ Wallace said as his eyes returned up to the sky.
‘I didn’t know.
‘What you mean, you didn’t know?’ Adam said. ‘Everybody knows. Every single character in every book knew that they are only characters created out of the imagination of a writer. So my advice to you is to suck it up and let the author finish the book.’ He leaned back into the bench, interlocking his fingers, resting his hands on his lap. ‘Besides, I would like to live out my life even though brief and pointless except for the entertainment of the readers. You never know maybe when the book is over you and Jessica might get married or something.’
‘I already know what’s going to happen.’
Adam studied Wallace’s profile for jest. As usual Wallace’s face was stone with its perpetual deadpan. ‘How do you know what’s going to happen?’
Wallace smiled weakly and said ‘Cause I’m the protagonist.’
‘Yeah, I’m the protagonist.’ Wallace continued. ‘The book is about my coming of age. I think it’s a comedy and a tragedy.’
‘Your acting like you read the book or something.’
Wallace ignored him. ‘Right after we kill Norm I start wondering about life and shit. That’s what this chapter here, chapter five, is about. While you’re asking me what’s wrong, I’m suppose to be in deep thought about my life.’
‘It’s no way you could of read the book. It’s impossible for a character of a book to have read it. It’s not logical.’ Adam paused. ‘Okay, let’s say you did read the book, which I don’t believe you did, wouldn’t that make life more meaningless? If everyone knew how his or her life turned out and knew all the mysteries of it, wouldn’t it take away a lot from living life?’
Wallace ignored him again. ‘I’m going to have what they call an existential crisis or situation, which is some philosophy shit. There’s supposed to be three stages in life: aesthetic, ethical, and religious. The crisis is when you’re stuck between two of the three stages. Right now I’m stuck between the aesthetic stage; where you live for the moment and for every opportunity of enjoyment, a slave to desires, and the ethical stage; where you become serious and make moral choices. I’m not sure what the religious stage is about cause that’s never explained in the book.’ He paused and turned with a weak smile to Adam. ‘I bet you can’t guess who tells me that philosophy shit, a few chapters away?’
‘Old man Mackie from the bar. He’s supposed to had studied philosophy when he was young. How lame is that. He’s an old dirty drunk from the worst hood in the city and he so happened to have studied philosophy.’
’I don’t believe you.’ Adam said.
‘ What that Mackie knows philosophy?’
‘No.’ Adam replied. ‘I don’t believe that you read the book and all shit you talking; you’re making it up. Old man Mackie is about as smart as a jelly donut and you’re telling me he explains philosophy to you. You’re right, that is lame. And you’re acting lame. So, relax and let the author finish the fucking book.’
‘I read the book.’ Wallace said, before making another weak smile as he looked up to the sky.
‘How the hell could you have done that?’
‘Easy, I went to the bookstore.’
Adam shook his head and then said, ‘ I know what it is.’
‘What is it?’
‘The author must have writer’s block when he sat down to write this chapter. And, I guess since he had work done on this novel already so he figured he could reread whatever he wrote and then just started writing. And this is what came out.’
‘What came out?’
‘This.’ Adam said. ‘You claiming you read the book.’
‘How did you get to that conclusion?’
‘I don’t know, but it has to be right.’
Wallace chuckled lightly and then asked, ‘Why?’
‘Because, I wouldn’t have said it.’ Adam replied. ‘The author is the one who creates our words, right? So by the simple fact that I even said what I said, makes it right.’
The two killers; spawns of despair, poverty, fatherless homes, the forgotten and blamed, the ignorant and apathetic from the disenfranchised underbelly of the African-descendent American community, were dressed similar in fitted baseball caps, white T-shirts over gray thermal shirts, black fitted jeans, and black sneakers, stared quietly at each other until Wallace stood and walked to his car, that was parked at the curb. When he returned, he tossed a book into Adam’s lap.
Adam lit another cigarette before asking, ‘What’s this?’ as he picked up the paperback. The front of the book was all black with ‘Shooters’ in white block letters across its top and Christopher Reel in the same lettering at the bottom. ‘Well, this don’t mean shit.’ He said after studying the cover for a moment.
‘Read the back.’ Wallace said.
Adam flipped the book over. The back was designed like the front; black with white letters. Below the title read:
Remarkable . . . A crime novel for the ages – USA Today
Terrifically entertaining . . . I’ll read it again . . . Wallace Jones . . . one of the finest literary characters in the modern novel – Philadelphia Daily News
Beneath those lines was a brief summary of the book. Adam read the first line:
We follow Wallace Jones, a hired gun, and his partner Adam Green into a whirlwind of sex, murder, and betrayal.
Adam tossed the book onto the bench and then said ‘That don’t mean shit, either. I’m sticking to my writer’s block theory.’
‘Did you read what it said?’ Wallace asked.
‘You see what they said about me?’ Wallace said, as he sat back onto the bench. ‘One of the finest and well-constructed literary characters in the modern novel, good shit, right?’ He looked up into the sky. ‘See, I told you that I was the protagonist. I know you’re upset about being my sidekick.’
‘It don’t say anything about me being a sidekick.’ Adam said. ‘It said partner.’ He shrugged. ‘But I wouldn’t have any reason to be upset if I were a sidekick. There are some legendary second fiddles out there like . . .um . . . Robin from Batman and . . . um . . . oh, Condoleezza Rice from . . .’
‘You know I die, right?’ Wallace cut in.
‘I’m sticking to my theory.’ Adam said. ‘The author has writer’s block and is writing anything and will stop sooner or later and read it and laugh at it. Then he will get rid of it and start over. Let’s get real about this, no one knows how their life turns out.’
A silence sat between the two killers.
Adam couldn’t believe that this was a chapter, a normal chapter of the book. It didn’t follow the logic of a plotline. It was all very absurd. So, Adam was going to stick to his theory, but he had to ask ‘Do I die?’ out of pure curiosity.
Wallace shook his head. Another brief silence came and was broken when he said ‘I don’t want to die.’ He found himself fighting back tears. It didn’t take long to realize that it was pointless to cry and a little funny. He had to fight back laughter.
‘That’s the inevitable.’ Adam said. ‘There’s no way to stop it.’
Wallace gave up his dual battle and allowed a tear to run down his cheek as he chuckled lightly. He stood and then said ‘Well, I think I could stop the inevitable.’
‘Yeah right.’ Adam said. ‘How’s that?’
‘I’m going to make this novel into a short story.’
‘How and better yet, why? Don’t you like what those critics said about the book and you?’
‘Sure, but I don’t want to die. Especially not the way that I do at the end.’ Wallace said. ‘So I figured, since you’re the one that murders me and runs off with Jessica and the money that we steal from some major nigga with money, that I should kill you. I already killed Jessica. She’s in the trunk with a hole in the back of the head, right now.’
‘What are you talking about? I’ve been with you since we left Jessica at your house a few days ago. It’s no way you could of shot her and put her in the truck without me knowing. You’re not making no fucking sense at all now. The author must be high or something.’
‘I killed her, I’m sure.’
Wallace shrugged before pulling out his gun. ‘I don’t know.’ He said. ‘But I must had to if I said it, right? Isn’t that like something you said a couple or so pages back?’
‘Don’t get crazy now.’ Adam said. ‘I would nervy kill you. We go back to childhood. I got love for you like a brother. That’s how I know this chapter is some writer’s block bullshit that the author is allowing to come out of his mind for the hell of it before he deletes it.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Like I said, the author is making me say what I’m saying, so it has to be true.’
‘Okay, I hear you.’ Wallace said as he smiled weakly and then rose and extended the gun, with its barrel less than an inch away from touch Adam’s face. ‘But the author is making me say what I’m saying too. So what I’m saying has to be true as well, right?’
‘It’s a paradox.’ Wallace continued, catching eye contact with Adam. ‘Listen homie, don’t take this personal, I’m not going to kill you because of your betrayal, shit to be honest that book says that you never liked me and that you have been fucking Jessica since I met her. I can’t even call that betrayal, because you were never loyal to me to begin with. The author made me blind to your shit. But none of that matters to me, all I
want is to become a great character that lives at the end. That’s all I want. So my plan here is to make this into a short story. To be honest with you, the book isn’t that good. This chapter right here, Chapter 5, that we just, I’d say with a bit of irony, improvised, is better than the whole novel.
‘No one remembers short stories or their characters.’ Adam said.
‘Sure they do. How about Walter Mitty or Benjamin Buttons.’ Wallace replied.
Adam didn’t respond. He dropped his eyes off of Wallace’s face to the quiet hole of the pistol’s barrel. He wanted to push it away, stand, draw his own gun out, and then shoot Wallace between his eyes. It’s true that he never liked him. Actually Adam hated him. He hated everyone, well, except Jessica. He loved her. He loved everything about her, from her personality to the way that she took it in the ass and cooked a good meal. At first he would hang around Wallace because he knew how to make a fast dollar, but for the last four years it had been all about Jessica. Now Adam hoped that the book that Wallace had read is the novel that the author will eventually write. What more could he ask for? He will run off with Jessica and money. Everything would be cool sailing. But only if the author would trash this bullshit and start this chapter over and then finishes the novel.
‘Well, Adam.’ Wallace said. ‘It’s been fun but it’s been time to end this shit. No one likes a drawn out story. Besides, it’s not like you can do anything about it. It’s inevitable.’
Wallace pulled the trigger once. Adam’s head jerked back and then forward; his chin dropped onto his chest. Wallace tucked the gun into the waistline of his jeans and then sat onto the bench. He looked at Adam’s face bloody face before looking up into the night sky. Slowly he eased into a laughter that grew and grew until the end of the story.