By Tara Laskowski
They really did you in Mr. Angelo, didn’t they, just when you thought it was going to be ok and the quarter of a million dollars they offered to transfer to you via a square white briefcase would be your ticket out of here, new face or old. And the rotten part is that no one will ever recognize you for who you are, outside or in, or that you did it all for Lorraine, who thinks you’re still abroad somewhere doing secret work for the government.
You went for it all, two excruciating years of extensive pilot training, voice lessons, film clip analysis, multiple, painful plastic surgery operations. They stuck needles in your cheeks and piled ice packs on your swollen neck until it grew numb and hard and blue. You became him, some Bond girl’s brother, all for the elaborate ruse hatched by some guy you never even met — a guy with a cat, for God’s sakes. You always hated cats. They made your hands itch and your throat close up. No amount of plastic surgery can change that.
You flew the plane and stole the atomic bombs like they asked you, and landed that plane gorgeously on the water right next to their luxury cruise liner—so precisely your own sister would be proud if she knew. You remembered as kids flying remote control planes, watching them dot the sky like birds, double crossing each other’s paths again and again. As you unlocked the plane’s wheels and thumped them on the ocean floor, you thought of your sister’s laugh and it made you sad.
If it makes you feel better, days after the henchmen sabotaged your seatbelt, cut your oxygen mask and left you at the bottom of the ocean to drown, they, too, died in painful ways—spears through the heart, torn apart by sharks. This is the price you pay working for evil.
It’s a shame. All that work for that ungraceful, undignified end. You’ve read the O’Henry tales of irony and might’ve even heard stories of the British government releasing Nazis back to Germany with lies on their tongues. We’ve glorified the villains and incorporated them into our language and lore — Benedict Arnold, Judas, Tokyo Rose. But for you, nothing. No term or song, no grand explanation or chance to escape. Just a stillness after the panic ceases, a gentle rocking on the bottom of the ocean, and those dreams, the flickering film strips of what might’ve been.
Tara Laskowski is the author of Bystanders (Santa Fe Writers Project) and Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. She has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010, and is a columnist and reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books.