He said I could have whatever I wanted for my last meal. I asked for his wife’s pink taco on a tray. Told him I might need extra napkins, too. And something to wash her down with, maybe a tall glass of cherry cola.
Instead, Chuck brought me fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a bottle of milk. His goofy smile told me I was about to eat food seasoned with a combination of tobacco juice and snot. He’s a sadistic tool but I kinda admire his evil, he owns it, doesn’t hide from it. I tear into the crunchy breast, never taking my eyes off his, both of us enjoying the moment. I’m swallowing part of him. He’s staring right through me.
“Tick tock,” he says, moving his hand like a pendulum. “Almost time.”
“Tick tock? You’re a clever one. How long it take you to come up with that, a month?”
“We’ll see if that mouth of yours runs when you’re sucking gas, Ronnie. The killer gets killed, how ironic.”
I’m shocked he threw a word like ironic at me. Before I can sling something back, he walks away, his keys jingling like a deranged funeral march.
I’m here because of a propane tank. A fucking propane tank. A new kid at the factory left an empty one on the back of a forklift, leaving me to haul back a fresh one. I told him if it happens again, I’ll clock his pretty face with a wrench. He called me an old-timer, told me to chill out. It ain’t the end of the world. Then he rolled his eyes and shook his head all dismissive like. Same way my dad did when I asked for lunch money. Same way mom did when I wanted something besides whipped cream for dinner. Same way everybody in that shithole did when I talked about anything. I decided to chill out by busting his skull with that wrench I warned him about. Then the wrench found the foreman’s head, and Henry’s, the cocky tool and die guy who cleared more than any of us and made sure we knew it. A wrench doesn’t care about dollar signs. Two dead and one who’ll never write his name again before I was tackled by some heroic press operators.
It’s stuck in my head now: tick tock tick tock tick tock. Chuck is a purebred mother fucker. He’s back at my cage, grinning like an addict cashing out at the plasma center.
“The preacher is on his way,” he says.
“Fuck that. Tell him to go wash the warden’s feet or nail himself to a telephone pole.”
His smile is a dull blade. “You’ve had plenty of convicts inside you, wouldn’t hurt to let some God in too. Might soothe your dead soul before the rest of you is dead,” he says, glancing at his watch. “Speaking of, you’re ten minutes away from the gurney. Best get your repenting done, buttercup. Tick tock.”
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to chew his face off or have a beer with him. He’s been a stone-cold dick since day one. All dick all the time. But he’s the realest fucker in here, ain’t even close. Gotta respect a man for being so damn devoted. “No preacher, no more shit from you. Just give me the gas,” I say. “Fill me with poison. I’m not sweating it.”
He finally leads me down the hall of tears. His massive hand is guiding me by the elbow. I stay hard on the outside, but I’m fucking scared. I want to scream but can’t. I want Chuck to slow his roll but I know he won’t.
“Tick tock,” he says a final time. “Tick tock, killer.”
I should’ve talked to that preacher, but I stayed stupid until the end. I can almost see my dad in his beat-up recliner, eyes wild as brush fire, shaking his head all dismissive like.