Little Circus Rider
Short story (extract)
So we are employed, then. Back in the saddle. Piri likes his irony as much as the next man. Seems I was the natural choice, being irony-proof by virtue of my job description. At least, that’s what I thought until this job came up.
Strictly speaking, he handed it to me gratis. But it wasn’t as if I was free to let it drop.
One thing was for sure: if I was going to make it count, I needed my little circus rider. My good luck charm. Without her, nothing goes right. A figurine is what Nan called it before I swiped it off her. China thing. There she goes, riding the circus ring, little china nose up in the air, snobby as you like, pony just a shape under her pointy ballet shoes. Every job I’ve done, my little circus girl’s been right alongside, riding those bullets like the trooper she is, galloping them home. Laugh all you like but we’ve all got susperstitions. Yes, you too. I’ve tried doing a hit without her. Hopeless. My worst two jobs are thumb-tacked to my brain. Number one: canal-side, easy target - a child could’ve hit him. Yet five seconds later he’s limping away on shattered shins across the lock-gates, definitely non-dead and not much discouraged either. Number two: moving target so trickier, but still. Bullet ricochets off the biker’s helmet and shatters the offie window, glass everywhere while he gives me the finger and veers off on the Suzuki with just one of his nine lives gone.
You can get away with a balls-up like that once in a decade; two in a month and word gets round. You’re not sacked as such but the calls stop coming in. You get desperate, rent to pay, you take calls from time-wasters: divorced guys who want you to take a pop at their ex’s new bloke. Or the ex, even. They get a chubby at the thought of it but always back out at the last moment. One guy cancelled half an hour before I was due to do the job. By text, no less. I’d missed a dentist’s appointment for it and my jaw was throbbing. I’d a good mind to turn off my mobile and pop the girl anyway, just to show him. I mean, I get fifty per cent cancellation, seventy-five on the day, but it’s the principle of the thing.
Then again, that’s what you get for being second-rate: third-rate punters. And all because you aimed when your good luck charm wasn’t safe in your pocket, helping you ride the job home. Home being whatever variety of dead the client’s paid out for.
So it’s been a year of botched jobs, then crap jobs, then no jobs. Six months, nine months, and it’s spring again. Daffs, the lot. Then, out of the blue, Piri rings.
Piri’s the one the proper jobs come through. When he calls this time, you couldn’t stop me grinning. He’s got this thing, he says, this little thing, just for me.
So I was off the naughty step then.
We met at the usual place. He arrived just in time: I thought I was going to have to pay for my Scotch. Looked older, but then people always do. He crouched a bit through the lounge bar doorway - too tall for most places, poor bastard. His tweed suit loose on him and too heavy for May. He didn’t seem to care.
Normally he gives me the low-down, straight and simple, not like some I could mention. Then we start the drinking and don’t stop. Today went different.
I’m tired, Piri says, like it means something else. It’s a conversation he wants then. I give it a go, shunt it back across the table.
Holiday tired? Retirement tired?
No, tireder than that.
Take a break, I go. Croatia. Red Sea’s nice.
He fumbles with his key ring, a nervous tic I remember from every job I ever did for him. His own charm hangs from it, a plastic chimney sweep. Somehow I don’t like this. I’m talking more than I do normally.
Or stay home, I go. Fuck the work. Mow the lawn. Clean the pond.
I wait. He looks up. Green eyes, rimmed with red.
I have another solution, he says […]
© tessa sheridan