little time bomb
(This is the story I read yesterday on the Webbweaver program. Posting it today so you can get my voice out of your head and replace it with your own. The title was taken from a Billy Bragg song and it explains the last line of the story.)
Nap Lapkin sat back on his stool at the blackjack table and weighed his options. In front of him lay two cards, a king and a seven. The dealer, a small man with greasy black hair and the eyes of a bunny, was showing an eight. It would be inaccurate to say that Nap counted cards but it would just as inaccurate to say that he wasn’t aware that there was a good chance that the next card out of the deck was a low one.
The problem with putting his money where that particular mouth was making itself at home was the fact that he was already taking the casino to the cleaners. Ironic given that he was at an Asian casino. As he spoke fluent Asian, he knew the pit bosses huddled behind the table were already suspicious of the generous amount of luck that fortune had already parked at his feet and doubling down on a hard seventeen might just be the act that had the gathering security members attempting to remove him from said Asian casino and him making them regret that decision.
He slowly pushed forward the requisite amount of chips to indicate his intention to double down on a hard seventeen.
He needed both the cash and the workout.
The dealer drew a card from the deck and turned it over.
Nap began to slowly roll his neck to and fro in anticipation for what was sure to follow.
Suddenly there was a ruckus unrelated to the ruckus he was sure to follow the dealer giving himself a queen.
While panic might be overstating it, you didn’t need to understand Asian to see that the crowd was definitely upset about something as it began to surge past the table games and into the attached food court.
Being familiar with ruckus-related surging, Nap immediately scooped up his chips and headed against the stream and right into the heart of the ruckus.
Perhaps I failed to mention that in the center of this Asian casino was a large glass and stone enclosure that contained an enormous saltwater crocodile. To be fair, the story had just started and it seemed superfluous to the drama unfolding at Nap’s blackjack table. Had I interrupted with an elaborate description of a Crocodylus porosus habitat in the middle of his card-playing quandary, you would have been wondering about my qualifications to continue the story and might have abandoned the whole thing outright.
Be that as it may, the entire casino was built around a giant pen that held, among several other reptilian inhabitants, a twenty foot long Indo-Pacific crocodile. As Nap approached the area it was obvious that the source of aforementioned ruckus was residing inside the also, although not as recently mentioned, aforementioned.
Somebody had cut off the four legs of the crocodile and the animal was having some difficulty in adjusting to its new-found snake status. Women were screaming at the sight of it thrashing around and nobody seemed to have any enthusiasm for jumping in the pen and aiding the poor creature.
You would think that at an Asian casino, a place where people not only routinely lose large amounts of money but also take it upon themselves to kneel down and cut out their own stomachs when things are going against them, the last thing you’d see decorating the walls would be a set of razor-sharp katana swords, but there they sat. Or hung, whichever. Nap made quick work of freeing them from their display case and then hurled himself into the center of the until-recently-charming aquatic croc pen.
Of course, once he had driven the katana through the skull of the suffering beast, all the casino personnel suddenly rediscovered their courage and started to jump down into the enclosure to examine the unfortunate animal and request that Nap put down the sharp pointy objects that he seemed to enjoy wielding so much.
After deciding that he would be unable to dust for any prints, he did just that. He made sure that the four croc feet were nowhere to be found and then made his way out of the casino. Casino security attempted to detain him but that didn’t go so well for casino security. As I said, Nap left the casino.
He knew what the missing reptilian feet meant. It was an invitation of sorts, meant for him, and the last thing he wanted was to disappoint the Australian mercenary nicknamed The Triple Goon.
He climbed into his rented Asian car and made his way to the nearest zoo.
Nap Lapkin knew a trap when he saw one and this was definitely one, but he enjoyed zoos and he knew for certain that he wasn’t going to die in one. He was going to die in a haunted house. When he was much younger, a fortune teller had told him so and while he put no stock into gypsies and tarot cards, there was something about this bit of prognostication that somehow felt right.
If he was barreling towards a trap set by an international cutthroat in a haunted house there might be a little nervousness playing across his face but as his destination was a zoo he was casually fiddling with the radio in an unsuccessful attempt to include some 70s or 80s lyrics to this story, but as I can’t type Asian he was unable to find anything interesting enough to include.
Whenever Nap would escape from whatever juvenile detention center he was being held at in his youth, he would invariably end up at a zoo. He loved to watch the squirrels scamper in and out of the other animal’s cages. He would imagine the conversations the squirrels would be having with the various occupants. When there were no squirrels to watch, he’d find an empty exhibit and watch the people unsuccessfully try to locate some creature lurking just out of sight. He could watch people finding nothing for hours. The contempt he felt wasn’t so much for the individual people as humanity as a whole.
He remembers wanting to grow up to be half squirrel and half empty cage.
When he finally pulled up to the gates of the zoo it was dark and, to all outward appearances, empty. He was almost disappointed that it wasn’t crawling with snipers. After further examining his feelings about the lukewarm reception he realized he was insulted that whomever wanted him dead had not sprung for the overwhelming force package. Didn’t he deserve as much?
He knew where to start looking for The Triple Goon. After slipping through the fence he made his way to those little stands that hold park maps. He found where the zoo kept their kangaroos and then neatly folded the map back up and put it back where he found it.
As he strode towards his inevitable showdown with the assassin from Down Under, he reflected briefly on why he was so unavailable to the other sex. Why he was always an empty cage, never showing any women his squirrel. It was something written on a bathroom stall he was using while on his first mission for the agency. It read “You’ll never be able to fulfill the emotional needs of a woman who has the word ‘Harder’ written on the small of her back.” Somehow it rang true at the time and nothing he’d experienced with the fairer sex had ever proven otherwise.
He saw a large exhibit with a cartoon kangaroo standing in front of it and he made his way up a small hill to get a better look. Eventually his eyes adjusted to the dark and he began to see shapes moving over a downed tree in the center of the enclosure. One was larger than the others and it began to hop towards him. Without hesitation he drew his revolver and put three bullets directly into its pouch. Moments later a bloody figure began to crawl out.
Nap Lapkin was one of the few people on the planet that knew The Triple Goon was a midget.
He put another bullet through his disproportionately large cranium and then another through the head of the innocent but seriously wounded boomer.
Now some of you might be aware that boomer is a slang term for a male kangaroo and male kangaroos don’t have pouches, to which I would point out that you really need to get out more. If you’d prefer I could call it a kangaroo but how many times can the human eye read the word kangaroo without getting exhausted? I don’t know about you, but I find that word extremely tedious so forgive me for trying to shake things up a bit.
After Nap put a bullet though the head of the innocent yet seriously wounded kangaroo (happy?) he pulled out the midget corpse of The Triple Goon and carried it to the nearby saltwater crocodile exhibit and unceremoniously tossed it in. A minute later he saw the body get snatched up and dragged beneath the dark waters in a better-than-average display of karma at work.
As he made his way out of the zoo he wondered to himself how a midget was able to cut off all four legs of a twenty foot crocodile. It seemed impossible. It might have even driven him a little crazy thinking about it was it not for a squirrel that caught his eye and distracted him. Hopefully you’ll be so eager for some poignant squirrel metaphor to end this story that you also stop wondering how a midget could cut off all four legs of an enormous crocodile in the middle of a busy casino in plain sight of everyone because honestly I would have no way of explaining it.
Just like I have no way of explaining why I don’t find crocodile as cumbersome a word as kangaroo even though it has one more letter.
This particular squirrel was inhabiting a cage that had no other occupant due to some minor repairs it was undergoing. It could easily leave the cage at any time but seemed to feel at home there. Like it was somehow important enough to warrant a place in the zoo with all the other animals from around the globe.
It wanted to be there.
Nap Lapkin gave it a little nod before slipping out to continue the never-ending fight for freedom.