A Shotgun and a Shovel

by Steve Passey

I should have gone to church I guess, but I just worked. I worked for my parents. One day a guy came in with a forged receipt. He claimed we were double-billing him. It was a good forgery, and we hand-wrote everything in those days, but my mom noted that the date was funny—he’d actually made it out for a Sunday. He’d taken an old receipt and altered the date. That’s all. We weren’t open Sundays. Not then, not ever. He shrugged and walked on out as if he’d tried to be reasonable and we just wouldn’t. When the fat fuck died a few years later, I clipped his obituary out of the local paper and wrote “Died From Being a Piece of Shit” on it and put it on the bulletin board in the staff room. Everyone knew the story.

I took over the business. I fired a guy who embezzled from us. He was having clients send payments to a mailing address he’d arranged for himself. I called him at home and left a message that we needed to talk—there were discrepancies. I never heard from him again. I had to fire him by mail. I went to the police. They asked me “How is this theft, and not incompetence?” I wondered what the detective meant. Was it the thief’s incompetence or mine? You feel bad when you get stolen from. You are ready to blame yourself. But the detective came around. The guy received a six-month sentence but no order for restitution. He got away with what amounted to lunch money. You know, whatever it is you have seen the courts have seen worse.

The day after this hit the paper his niece phoned me and spent an hour telling me how he’d stolen from other people too, mostly family. She said that at his father’s funeral he’d briefly reconciled with the family, but that they had caught him in his father’s garage sweeping car parts off of shelves into garbage cans and putting them in his truck. The old man had been a collector, as were the sons, and some of those parts were worth something and some of them were just the kinds of things collectors hoard hoping that someday they will be worth something. He swept them all wholesale into those trash cans as fast as he could while the others were in the house at the wake speaking softly and eating the funerary food the good neighbors brought. Someone saw or heard something and the wake moved into the garage. They caught him. His oldest brother beat him hard, real hard—he actually choked the parts-thief until the guy defecated in his pants while lying on the floor surrounded by old carburetors. His brother would have killed him had the others not pulled them apart. The thief got up and got into his truck in his shit-stained pants and drove away without a word. Didn’t threaten, didn’t plead. Just rolled the windows up and left.

She had other stories too. She said she couldn’t tell me all of them. There wasn’t enough time. They never ended.

Years later, years, I drove by him on the street. He was grey with cirrhosis and didn’t have long to live. He was wearing a bathrobe and pajama pants. He looked like hammered cow manure. I wondered what he looked like after his brother beat his larcenous ass, but I was sure cirrhosis looks worse than cuts and bruises. He waved at me and said, “Nice truck.” He didn’t even recognize me.

When he died, I read his obituary and wondered if his niece might clip it, write “Died From Being a Piece of Shit” on it and tack it on a wall, a fridge, or a corkboard somewhere. I won’t guarantee that she did. People are funny and often reconcile with the dead, or just forget them, happy enough not to have to deal with them again. They do whatever makes them feel good about themselves according to their tenets at the time, and times change. I imagine a funeral where there is mostly quiet, until someone thinks of something good that they can say about the deceased. They’ll speak it out loud and one or two people will nod, but most hold silent knowing what they know. Among the silent there is always one man who thought briefly of bringing a shotgun and a shovel to the affair, just to make sure the thieving son-of-a-bitch was really dead and buried and not just engaged in another ruse. Look for that guy. You can trust him.

Steve Passey is originally from Southern Alberta. He is currently working on on adapting of Dio-era Black Sabbath’s “Neon Knights” into a novella. He has no special rights or permissions to do so.
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