a short story by Jerry Zinn
“I’m running around the house like I’ve got a knife hanging over me! Like at any time it could come down and split me in half! And when I’m not running, because I get tired of it, I can’t do it every second, I just sit. I’ve got the TV on, and half the time it’s infomercials, but I can’t change the channel. Then I think, maybe, if I stay still, everything’ll pass by. I’ll blend in with the furniture and just disappear. I know how it sounds, but that’s the only way I can deal with it. If you can even call that dealing with it.
“No, I know, I know; worrying doesn’t get me anywhere. Sure, but that’s easy to say, look I’ll say it again: worrying doesn’t get me anywhere. So what? The only people who can live without worrying are brain dead or OD’d on antidepressants. And I’ve tried that. But I’m not crazy, and if you think looking at a lethal dose of uppers half-dissolved in a toilet gets you over the worrying…
“They know! Because I know they do! It’s more than just a feeling, it burns my stomach! It keeps me from sleeping or even thinking about sleeping! I haven’t closed my eyes for more than five minutes since that night. And the reason I know they’re coming is because… I did it! You know that, I know that, and what? The FBI can’t put two and two together? With all those investigators and forensic people and whatever the hell else kinda people they have. Smart people. People with degrees in figuring things out!
“Everything went right. I did everything right! That’s where I went wrong. It was too perfect. It had to have been a set up. They knew I had to steal it, so they cleared a path. They’ve had me tailed and bugged since the beginning.
“Well, and if I stay in this house much longer, it won’t matter. They’ll be dragging me out of here in a coffin instead of handcuffs. I’m starting to think jail wouldn’t be so bad. No, no! See that’s what all this time is doing to me! Jail wouldn’t be so bad? I’m falling apart!
“Regret it? Like hell I do! I mean yeah. If I’d known this would happen to me I never would’ve… but I couldn’t let it go. I had to do it. You understand that, don’t you? Sure you do. It was something I had to do. It doesn’t matter is the point. I can’t change it. And if time travel was a thing, and if I had a genie, and so on till inifinity.
“I don’t have a lawyer! How could I have a lawyer? They’ll give me one of those crappy ones that’s free like a stale sugar cookie at the grocery store! At that point I might as well represent myself. At least I’ve heard of laws.
“Someone’s knocking at the door… Someone’s at my door. I don’t want to go! I can’t go! I’d rather live the rest of my life in this house. I’m fine with that. I know what I just said! But I changed my mind. I can’t go to jail! They’ll… they’ll… well you know what they’ll do to me!
“They knocked again. I have to answer it. Or what they break down the door? And it looks like I refused to let them in, and that means another 10 years in prison! It’s the Feds. Jesus it’s the Feds. I know it. What?”
“Hi. Are you Rich Solomon?
“Uh Mr. Solomon, I’m with Fed—“
“OK! Jesus Christ! You guys are playing games? Why don’t you just get it over with? I’ve lost my mind already! Does this look like a sane person? Do I look normal to you? No of course not! You’re torturing me with the waiting. And you’ve just been staked out behind the bushes? Listening to me having a conversation with myself? Waiting for me to surrender? So I can go to trial, which is open and shut. And that attorney you’re giving me is an absolute fraud. He’s on your payroll. You guys are all shaking hands and high fiving when they send me to that cell. He’s supposed to bargain for me.
“Let’s skip the nonsense. I’ll tell you straight up. I’m not afraid anymore. Yes. Yes. Yes! OK? I did it. I stole the painting, and I sold it. I had the buyer, but I don’t know who it was. That’s the way these things work. But you already know all that, and your… whatever act you got going on here like you don’t know to get me to say more, just come on already!”
“Mr. Solomon I—“
“What is this?”
“I just need your signature here…”
“My signature? And then what? I sign my rights away? I’m not a moron. I did steal that masterpiece even with all the fancy security. What’s all this say? And give it to me straight.”
“I’m not sure what’s going on, sir. But when you sign, I’ll give you your package…”
“Package? What package?”
“I’m not sure what’s in it.”
“Wait, hold on. You aren’t… with the Feds?”
“I’m with FedEx.”
“Yes. Package delivery.”
“Oh. Wow… I got you, didn’t I? Not a bad performance, huh? I’ve been taking improv, and I needed an audience. There you go. There’s my John Hancock.”
“I’ll just get that package for you.”
“Yeah, you do that! And we’ll laugh about this between us, right? Just our little inside joke. The FedEx guy and the crazy improv guy. You don’t need to tell anyone about this. I know it was entertaining, but for now I’m keeping my one-man show under wraps. You were sort of the test audience. I know what I need to tweak for next time. Thanks for your feedback. I know you didn’t really review it, but your face told me what I needed to know. More or less. They say the face tells the truth the words won’t. Or something like that.”
“Yeah… you have a good day, sir.”
“And you have a spectacular one, OK? Maybe you and I can do something different next time, I don’t know if you do improv or not, but that’s an option. We’ve done the paranoid art thief bit, which is sort of overdone I know. You can start us off on something else next time. OK? OK? Bye now.”