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The Performer

by

Tony Vallecillo



I'm waiting in the darkened back room.

I can see the short corridor leading to .IT. The light. The televisionstudio.

I'm not nervous, but excited.

I can hear the audience buzz and I know it's packed. Certainly not with any friends, since I don't have any, or family members - let me amend that, there might be a couple, out of sheer curiosity - but with thrill and sensation seekers. But I know they include at least half a dozen talent agents. And that's all I care about, because I know after tonight they'll be fighting over me, and I need one to get to the golden places I want to go.

Also I know Pedro Milano is there. Somehow he'll have found a way to get a front row seat.

I think that's why I'm not nervous.

Pedro has a way of making sure everything comes out all right.

It had all begun several years earlier on a warm, sunny day. I'd gotten off BART and trudged home very much feeling like the drone I was. Eight hours of clerical work in a stock brokerage firm. Doing my part to keep America rich and healthy and growing. Meaning of course I was helping the rich get richer while they threw me scraps and told me I was damn lucky they were so generous.

For perhaps the millionth time I thought about the five automatic weapons buried deep in back of my closet. I knew they could be sold for a mint yet I continued to keep them. Obviously they were something precious to me.

Several boxes containing them were found by me and Ferdie Renos in an empty lot about a year earlier. Ferdie opened one box and then we took 'em all, though they were heavy, and ran. There were ten weapons each so it was an even split.

I never asked Ferdie what he did with his, but saw him driving around in a purple low rider hot rod a couple months later, so it wasn't hard to guess.

Why did I keep 'em? That's a good question. It was certainly a risk. My mom always bustled around and it wasn't too far a stretch to imagine her finding them. She'd have a few questions and I sure wouldn't have ready answers.

But at least to myself I knew why I kept them. I don't think I could ever be accused by anyone of being overly imaginative. But that's because no one knows me. Me, I think myself to be pretty damn imaginative. I think God knows this too.

You see, in terms of those guns I had a vision. I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. I guess it could be called a "political statement." To go to my stock brokerage firm completely armed and just start blasting. It'd be my way of saying to hell with this trans-national corporate system that degrades everything and everybody, including itself. I knew that the System 's military control - the cops - would be there right away. Those goons thinking they were the "good guys" would kill me. I'd make the evening news as a wacko and have about two minutes worth of fame. That's thirteen below what Andy Warhol promised, but I don't think even 'ol Andy foresaw anything as insane as we got now.

I knew it was never quite a pipe dream. For something in me wanted to explode and days like today of pure drudgery, which just drained my soul, were just adding fuel to the fire. Throw in the ravaged faces of most everyone on BART and I knew how futile it all was.

But when? When? I was urging myself to give a date, just for laughs. Of course I wouldn't do anything, I'd continue to be the drone. So I chose three weeks from that date. And as soon as I did that I noticed my body felt calm for the first time in months.

A guy in a white suit suddenly began walking next to me. I glanced over and could almost feel the slickness and oiliness emanating from him. He was dark brown with a pointy face and hair combed back that'd been soaked in grease.

"I'm Pedro Milano," he said.

I didn't say anything, just kept walking.

"I know about the automatic weapons," he continued.

I still kept walking, but slowed down a bit. He matched me step for step.

"What'd you think?" he laughed. "That they came for nowhere? They had to come from somewhere. And they came from me. When I found them gone I was pissed. It was a transfer zone and I figured three minutes would be enough for them to be safe. Shit, am I na´ve. In this neighborhood with cholos like you and that Renos asshole around? I learned my lesson.

"It took a long time, man. But I'm patient. Finally Ferdie Renos seem to have too much cash that came from nowhere. It didn't seem to be drug money. He'd take these really long trips in that rod of his. So I followed one time. Guess what? He goes to the border. I do some investigating and find my weapons floating around there.

"By the way, you seen Ferdie lately?" he asked.

I finally stopped. The guy wanted my attention and he had it.

"No," I replied.

"That's cause I kidnapped him and tortured him for all the info. Your name came up fairly early. I knew I'd have business with you."

My heart beat as calmly as ever, which surprised me. I should've been shitting in my pants. But somehow I sensed an opportunity and it intrigued me.

"Thing was," Milano continued, "you sure as hell weren't spending extra cash for expensive goodies. So I had to confirm you still had them. I broke in and sure enough they were in your closet. You hadn't done a damn thing with them, just sitting there."

He smiled. "So, I've been waiting to see what you'd do. It's been two months and I'm tired of waiting. So I'm asking - you gonna use them?"

"Yeah," I said.

"For what?"

"I just decided this moment that in three weeks I'm gonna bring 'em to work and kill everyone there."

"That so. Why?"

"Political statement."

Milano laughed. "Shit, that's good. That's real good."

"You gonna let me?"

"Hell yes. It's my contribution to society."

I smiled for the first time.

"Jose, what's in those boxes? They look heavy."

The receptionist at the front desk asked me this. It was three weeks later.

"Special project they want me to do," I grunted.

I brought the two boxes to my desk. I quickly put everything together.

And then I began.

It was 9:39a.m.

Ten hours later the tear gas finally knocked me out. It was quicker than I expected because I fully planned on killing myself, but now couldn't.

They keep me in a white room.

I never say a thing.

I live completely in my mind.

Someone paid for me to have the best legal team in the country defend me. So I didn't get the death penalty. Or even prison. Instead I get psychiatric care.

I think Pedro Milano really likes me.

After only three years I was able to prove my sanity and they had to let me go. No one liked it, especially the fucking Mass Media, who for sure do far worse than anything I did. Even my mother didn't like it. She thinks me crazy as a loon.

But they had to let me out, scot-free. No parole, no nothing.

I was simply free.

Of course everyone avoided me.

The only person who ever visited me was Pedro. He comes to my room once a week.

I filed a claim saying the tear gas effected my lungs so much I couldn't work. The government had to give me a disability pension.

They hated doing that, but it's my legal right and I love screwing them.

I got the letter in the mail from a big publishing firm with an interesting offer.

That's what planted the seed.

Shortly thereafter, Pedro was in my room and said, "I can see it in your face. You've thought of something."

"You won't believe it."

"Try me."

"I want to do stand up comedy. Make corny ass jokes, say what's really going on. No one'll take me seriously, I'll be a clown that's part of the spectacle. But they'll listen."

He couldn't stop laughing. "You know of course, you'll be a big hit. They'll be knocking down the doors to get in."

"I know."

Pedro of course arranged it. My patron.

So here I stand, ready to go on.

The announcer says: "Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever on stage to do stand up. His claim to fame is he killed thirty-six people at work, but hey! haven't we all felt the same way? Let's give him a big round of applause- Jose Fortuna!!!"

I'm heading down the corridor towards the light.

The applause is deafening.

The End





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Vallecillo is a writer and lives in San Francisco. He is a lifelong movie fanatic with particular affinity to film noirs such as "Out of the Past" and "Sweet Smell of Success". He has just completed his first novel, a private eye thriller entitled "Kathi", and is actively seeking a publisher.


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