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  • jonmendte

Occupation: Henchmen Issue 0 Peepholes

High above the 45-foot steel clothespin sculpture in Philadelphia is a soft whistle unheard by those below. Only the birds flying above the William Penn statue atop City Hall can hear the hum of what’s coming. Off in the distance a dark, almost missile-shaped object rockets through the air. While it tears through the clouds at blinding speeds it corners with serpentine grace, high enough that the sound doesn’t register with anyone below. If someone were to accidentally look up from their daily shuffle, they might mistake it for a bird or a plane if they notice it at all. With lowered eyes, they all remarkably bob and weave around Market Street as if choreographed, impressively oblivious.

Behind the detached mob loitering on the corner, staring down at their phones and feet, a bus pulls to a stop. The doors fall open with a tired squeal and a giant grungy pair of dirt and blood-speckled boots step down. The size 18 soles strike the cement as if gravity is worse within their laces. Followed by large, calloused hands reaching down to tie the right boot. The dirt and grime under each chipped fingernail is evidence of the kind of life this Goliath leads. Both wrists disappear into the cuffs of a navy blue workman's jacket that rivals the boots' appearance. Following a stitch up his imposing arm reveals a full, short, black matted beard. Connecting Sideburns and a faded black beanie frame the warm auburn grimace of James Gune. Though the name James is almost dead to him; nowadays he answers to ‘Jimmy.’

Behind Jimmy is a much smaller figure, whose equally dirty size 7s follow him off of the bus. Those worn-out rubber soles belong to Kathryn Miller. Merely 15 years old, she is thin and a little shorter than average. She appears almost deliberately unassuming in her black pants and slightly oversized, grey, zip-up hoodie. In reality, it's been a long time since she's had a choice in attire. Her hood is up, which shields her face and hides her short, brown, unwashed hair. As soon as the two start walking Miller begins to limp. Her upper lip pulls back in pain each time her right heel hits the sidewalk. Slipping her thumbs through extra holes she made in her sleeves, Miller stuffs both hands down to the bottom of her hoodie's pocket. Jimmy isn't without his own bruises and battered limbs; he just refuses to acknowledge them.

The pair have been walking in silence for the last 45 minutes, until Jimmy’s sigh of relief as they approach his apartment building. They anxiously hobble up the stoop to a rusty metal latticed door, which Jimmy flings out of the way. The metal grates on its hinges with a drawn-out screech. Behind it is a bright red wooden door, similar to those of a Lutheran church. While it might not look it, ironically enough, this is the only place where this disastrous duo can find any semblance of sanctuary. He begins to rummage around his pockets, looking for his keys, and winces. Jimmy looks down at his hand annoyed discovering his pinkie is dislocated. He takes a deep breath and grabs his crooked finger; the breadth of his hand swallowing his smallest digit. He breathes out, squeezes, and straightens the joint with a resounding pop. Jimmy finds his key, opens the door, and they enter.

The two walk into the sanctum of a once-defeated man who's recently found

a way back to his feet; which is just another way of saying a studio apartment that’s lite on amenities. A weight bench acts as the centerpiece of what now makes up Jimmy's world. There is also a queen-sized bed, an older bubble tv with a built-in VCR, and a couch that calls to them both. Jimmy and Miller both remove their outerwear without taking their eyes off that couch, craving its comfort, its cleanliness be damned. Miller tosses the jacket and hoodie onto the bed as they drop in unison like a trust fall with a close friend. Exhausted, Miller takes a breath and closes her eyes, savoring the moment. Suddenly her eyes widen, but then immediately squint as she turns to Jimmy, "I want it back by the way."

“Will you just… Are thirty more seconds of quiet just too much to ask from you?” Jimmy mumbles, too exhausted to open his eyes just yet.

“I’ll shut up for a full minute when you give it back.” Miller blurts out, growing increasingly annoyed.

“Give what back exactly?” Jimmy softly chuckles.

“My gun.” Miller exclaims.

“YOUR gun? No. First of all, it's not your gun.” Miller tries to interrupt, but Jimmy keeps going. “Secondly, do you know the name of the street we were just on? No? It was Rockland. Do you know how I know that? I was able to read it… THROUGH a man's palm today because of you. Saw every letter but the D.” Jimmy clarifies.

“So, hypothetically, it’s possible it was Rocklane?” Miller counters.

“That's not the point. I’m not saying I didn't appreciate it, truly, BUT I think it's fair to say you peep-holed enough hands for one day." Jimmy tilts his head away from Miller, desperate to just pass out.

“Fun fact, it’s not your gun either Reading Rainbow.” Miller contemptuously whispers under her breath.

A frantic vibration erupts from Jimmy’s left frontside pocket. Still hesitant to open his eyes, Jimmy grabs his phone and cracks an eyelid to glance at the screen. He squints to focus past the bluish glow and growls in frustration.

“What’d it say?” Miller asks.

Jimmy painstakingly reads aloud, "I need my all-stars to get their asses back to the Junkyard. We have an opportunity at the PNC Bank on JFK by Love Park. We can't pass on this. More deets when you get here. Hurry up."

Jimmy sighs, slowly opening his eyes, and looks at Miller. “Seriously, I know he's short on people but we just got off a job, and now it’s like he wants us to work a double. After what we just went through?! Come on... THIS, this is criminal."

Miller, unimpressed with Jimmy's inadvertent pun, rolls her eyes and scoffs, “You want to file a complaint with HR big guy? Maybe get a couple of extra vacation days? This is what we signed up for, remember? Easy money, great growth opportunities,” She gestures to the two of them, “the friendships." Miller pauses to address her bigger issue. "I still want my gun back."

"You’re right. I get it, but… really? We can’t even get 20 minutes of peace? To heal even?” He gestures to their current condition. “Is everyone else serving 10 to 20 or something? And please knock it off with the gun already. I’m annoyed as it is and it’s not gonna happen."

"This is all temporary, remember?" Miller reasons.

Knowing he doesn't exactly have a choice, Jimmy clenches his teeth and growls, whispering "Damn it." With just enough breath to tunnel the words out.

Miller gets up from the couch, "I'll get my hoodie…" And without turning back around yells, "…while you get my gun."

Jimmy forces himself off the couch to follow; still hiding the sharp pains that radiate from several of his joints and organs. "What did I just say? Stop asking.” He yells while picking up a picture frame from the side table. The memory it holds soothes the pain for a moment. Staring at a photo of what was once his family at the Grand Canyon, Jimmy momentarily remembers what it meant to be happy. Not the occasional and quick rushes of dopamine that make his current reality bearable, but truly happy. He starts to smile before being blindsided by the jacket Miller tossed his way without looking.

“I didn’t ask.” She taunts while Jimmy pulls the jacket from his head.

“For the last time no. We don't need it.” Jimmy repeats. “It isn’t yours anyway, so stop."

Miller looks over at Jimmy with pure contempt. “Were you planning on giving it back? And since I used it to save YOUR trampled ass, I figure I’ve earned it. Besides, finders keepers, losers get shot a few times.” She zips up her hoodie. “I could have left it. Left it back on Rocklane where your folded frame was getting worked over by more feet than a peloton.“

Jimmy cuts her off, “See, this is why I’m saying no. Insults aside, I don't scare easily. You gave me goosebumps back there.” Jimmy ever so slightly shudders.

“So what?” Miller blurts out. “Some kid could have found it.” She continues as she walks over to the door and holds it open.

“Some kid DID find it. You! That’s the problem” Jimmy replies

“First of all, I didn’t FIND it. Second of all, you're welcome. And third, not like me. I mean Like a KID kid.” Miller corrects.

“Bring it up again and it’s going down the first sewer grate we walk past.” Jimmy threatens as he begins to put on his coat.

“That’s dumb. Like I wouldn’t just go down and get it… are you coming?” she asks impatiently.

"This better change things… I’m serious." Jimmy says walking through the door.

"It will…" Miller says as the door swings shut. "It has too.”


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