John was in no mood for Molly’s questionable service. His dirty old coffee mug was empty and it needed filling.
“Moll!” said John, “Get your ass over here and fill this damned mug!”
While Molly did not immediately react to John’s order, she heard his rough and hoarse voice over the cafe’s radio. It was the kind of gruff voice that could cut through any tune- even Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, but she was used to his attitude. Men of his age were always whining about something, Molly thought. Today the old man’s wretched voice was cutting off Jimmi Hendrix’s fast-paced and wailing electric guitar… and she liked the tune.
“John,” she responded from behind the bar, “Quit your yammering and be patient! Coffee ain’t yet ready yet. You want it watery?”
John looked up with his pale hazy blue eyes. The old hag was really giving him some attitude and he wouldn’t tolerate it today. After all, it’s been a month since his last fix and John always needed his fix to feel right in the head and to quell the never ending voice.
“You got five more minutes and then there goes your tip!” he said, thinking that perhaps Molly would make a fine specimen. She wasn’t that old, yet, and she still hair a full head of hair and a full set of teeth…
“Kill her, John- what the hell are you waiting for? That bitch deserves your artistry” the distant and deep, almost God-like voice croaked from within his skull. John shrugged his shoulders and flicked open the paper. His inner voice, as he called it, sometimes acted or thought irrationally. He was a planner, and Molly was not yet part of his master blueprint.
Minutes later and without a word or playful smile, Molly came over and filled his coffee mug right up to the top. John hated sugar and cream- he liked his coffee steaming hot and black.
After taking a deep sip of the piping hot sludge, John decided that Molly would keep her teeth after all. If Molly was gone, who would make his coffee?
Molly returned behind the bar and cranked up the radio. Jimmi was masterfully soloing; his vintage guitar was bending and screeching along Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.
Outside the small Sandpiper Cafe, John Smalling went a short distance down Main Street and towards Central Park. It was mid-morning and the town’s foot traffic was low with the occasional senior drifting to and fro between Joe’s Supermarket and Peggy’s Candle Alcove. Like his pungent coffee moments earlier, it was piping hot outside and he thought that the afternoon was sure to be a scorcher. John rolled up the sleeves of his buttoned up plaid shirt, and decided he would act sooner than later.
While John hated being outside during the summer months, he had a purpose: he needed a fix and he needed it bad. His inner voice was growing almost unbearable… and he had the shakes. He needed a good dose of capital M.
Crossing onto the pathway of Central Park, he headed towards a wooden bench near the forested portion of the park and took a seat in the shade. A large maple branch hung overhead, and in the early-afternoon sun John’s bleak and round face was covered by a thin tint of darkness.
Unfolding a copy of the black and white Cantley Herald, John started to read the small sports section of the paper. Well, he made it appear that he was reading the sports section of the paper. To any passerby, John would be any typical overweight elderly man with a newspaper and a pair of reading glasses. But he was watching and listening. Soon some unfortunate bunny would come hopping by. He licked his lips greedily. His palms were sweaty. He was stronger than he looked. Then his inner voice once again croaked:
“Come on Johnny, what are you waiting for? Why are you waiting so long? Why are you waiting so long? Why are you, Johnny, waiting so fucking long?!”
He shrugged off the voice and the shakes; which began first in his legs and then worked their way up to his large hands. He would first need to find a specimen before he could act. Did his inner voice not know that they needed to be careful? Planning was essential. He would not, could not, get caught. Shut up! Shut up damn you! I am watching!, John replied.
He was not yet sure if this second voice was his one of his own.
An hour passed, and growing impatient and sticky with sweat, John was about to head back down to his small home on Argyle Avenue and put a frozen pizza into the oven- until he heard the faint footfalls of a runner approaching from Main Street. He ran his right hand through his remaining grey hair, now slick and oily with sweat. He wished the voice would go away- he acted because it told him to act.
He reached into the right pocket of his blue jeans and felt the worn wooden handle of his fishing knife. John began to drool like some mangy mutt, and he wiped the corners of his mouth with the edge of his fist. He hoped this bunny would make a fine specimen. He would make sure that her skull was a bright white. Her hair would be polished and shiny. Perhaps he would dye it platinum blonde. Yes, that’s it, he thought, she would become his one and only platinum bunny.
“Johnny, old buddy- why are you waiting so long? If you miss this one, go find yourself a trophy down Main Street. It’s well worth the risk, old buddy.”
At a slow pace, the female runner passed near and John raised the newspaper up to cover his face.
Just as she passed his bench, John rose from his seated position, newspaper grasped tightly in his right hand, and called out in a weak and scratchy voice that seemed to waver on the wind:
“Excuse me mam! I lost my glasses and I can’t see a damned thing! Can you please, my dear, help an old fella out?”
The runner, an older woman with a pink hat, whom John faintly recognized from the distance but couldn’t place, turned and began to head over towards the park bench. She smiled.
“Not a problem!” the woman bellowed as she came closer.
John reached into his right pocket and drew out the sharp blade, now concealed by the newspaper. Looking back towards Main Street, not a car swept by.
Looming over John’s small home on Argyle Avenue, a full moon revealed an immaculately tidy landscaped backyard with a veil of soft moonlight. Next to a large maple planted by his great grandfather at the far end of the yard, an old wooden shovel was lodged into a large pile of fresh earth packed against the side of the tree’s great trunk. Out of one of the basement windows, a soft light contrasted with the evening’s darkness and reflected off of the metallic window well.
Placed sporadically around the concrete floor of his basement’s laundry room, forty large candles cast a tangerine glow against the room’s whitewashed walls. It was all part of the ritual, and all the effort was worth the labour.
“Hurry up, Johnny. She ain’t yet up on your mantle… she ain’t yet a trophy, Johnny”
The voice continued to taunt as John’s shadow danced on the old stone wall. He sat in his office chair sculpting away by candlelight.
His demons were almost gone.
Staring down at his creation, John thought that the bunny was now almost complete. It would soon sit on his mantle with the others, just above the fireplace.
The skull was white and pale.
John was stapling the removed scalp back to the top of the head, and the now vibrant platinum blonde hair curled over pale bony cheekbones. He had his prize, and her useless body was buried out back near the old oak tree.
John rammed the last staple into the top of the skull and raised it high above his head. The skull’s dark abscesses and crevices stared down and him. It was perfect, he thought, it was damn perfect!
Crossing over to his den, John placed the skull on the wooden mantle hanging over the stone fireplace. It joined three other skulls, each with a different hair colour: red, brown, black, and now platinum blonde.
Stepping back towards his old musty couch, John grabbed a scotch and sat staring up and admiring his work. The voice was gone; he had true silence.
Although he thought the completed work was almost genius, he felt that the kill was a little bittersweet. Now that old Molly Parker was on his mantle, who would make him a nice strong cup of joe?
He knew that he would find another. The world was full of Molly Parker’s.
Then, cutting through the silence of his den, a familiar deep and echoed voice muttered:
“Who’s next, Johnny?”
Matthew D. Laing writes out of Canada’s winter wonderland. He has had poems published with Three Drops from a Cauldron, Bewildering Stories, and The Literary Yard, and a short story published by the Corvus Review.