OK, obviously you don’t believe me. You can’t help laughing. You tell me I’m not serious, I’m taking you for an idiot, a nitwit, I’m trying to put one over on you. Hey, did I ask you your opinion? Did I ask any questions?
Do I know what they say about me? Sure I do. I’m an old schmuck who never did a thing in his life and still doesn’t do anything. I’m a loser; at forty I’m rotting away in a two-room flat, I have a face that would scare the hell out of a vampire, I got a belly like a hot-air balloon, I never got married, I don’t have any kids, and I’m taking it easy while everybody else is breaking their ass.
So what d’you think? You think a moron can’t be a hit man, I must be talking bullshit. Me. I look like a loser, a goof-off. Maybe a guy with no principles, no morals, whatever, but a killer, come on, you're sure I’m putting you on big time.
I should tell you you're right? Well, no, you're totally wrong. In fact I have the reputation of being one of the best. It’s true that over the years I did perfect my art. You could even say I’m a master. Not a great master but someone who knows what he’s doing, with experience, someone you can trust. The secret of my success, if I can put it that way, is that I’m not greedy or sadistic. I don’t do it to rake in as much dough as possible, my price is more than reasonable and I don’t get a kick out of killing. I’m not like those morons who enjoy torturing the victim before whacking him. To each his own, and it’s none of my business but let’s say that for me, I get my kicks in a different way. I’m methodical, precise, organized, and I do a good, clean job. You might even say I do it out of love. I operate at night, in silence, and I grant a calm, serene death to my target. If that’s not love what is? He or she dies in their sleep, doesn’t have time to ask questions or have any regrets, think about their insurance, think about their lover or their mistress, or think about all the useless crap that can ruin a life. I intervene like the hand of God and I send them off to eternal peace.
What pushed me into this trade? Hey, you're beginning to get the jitters. What’s with you, turning red like that? You weren’t expecting that, right? When you saw me you told yourself, oh it’s that old guy, I’m gonna talk to him, I’m sure he wants to tell me about himself, I’m gonna do some listening, a little social work never does any harm and then, the boot. And what do you find out? Tell me what you’re finding out. I can’t hear you. Louder. You’re finding out I have the face of an asshole but a heart of stone. Right. Good. So you see appearances can be deceiving. Gotta watch out, see, scratch the surface a little and you might see the monster spring up before the dope.
When I was twenty, something happened to me all of sudden, like a hammer that smashed my spirit to pieces. OK I’m not gonna give you a lecture in social philosophy but let’s say that society offers you two paths, submission or revolt. When I say submission I’m talking about a guy like my dad. He was an honest man but what a cruddy life, years and years working like a dog to buy a little house, pay off the loan, raise the kids, dream of a promotion that another guy with political connections stole from under his nose—you know, a whole bunch of shitty problems and he finally dies at forty-five from a heart attack. You can’t be more pathetic than that. On his deathbed, he made me promise ki mo pou reste touzours, that I’d always stay on the straight and narrow. Really, Pop, what were you thinking? You think you're a role model? You call that a life? You think I want a career in the ass-licking sector? You never got into your head that while you were grinding away, playing Mister Respectable, poor-but-nice, Mister PhD-in-Bootlicking, other people were making it big, stealing, cheating and stuffing their pockets. Poor Pop, but all right you can’t live your life over again.
Did I want a better society? Hey, you crazy or what? You can’t change man, he is what he is, a wolf, a wild animal, a jackal, a hyena, whatever, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So what does it mean to revolt? It means subverting the system, using it without being used by it.
Do I feel remorse? Of course not. If I kill them they deserve it—people in fishy situations like that might as well have a sign on their skull with “Kill me” on it. Look, think of that old lady I eliminated recently, she didn’t deserve it? She was filthy rich but she wouldn't give anything to her kids and some of them were poor as hell. So they agreed to get rid of her. And guess who did the dirty job? Yours truly. The one and only. I admit the old asshole almost ruined my evening. I was just about to stick two bullets in her head when she woke up. And she began to beg. Non missié na pas touye moi. Mo pou donne cinq mille roupies. No sir, no kill me. Me can give five thousan roupies. And to think I was counting on giving her a beautiful death, no more pangs of greed. She started to holler, not a pretty sight. But OK I’m a professional and feelings go into the garbage can, so I shoved a rag in her mouth before I executed her. You got to know how to deal with the unexpected or you might lose control of the situation. And anything that’s out of the ordinary can wreck your reputation.
I have another memory, don’t know if you're interested? But really, that was so great, they asked me to knock off a young couple, very respectable, the gentleman was a teacher and the lady an accountant, a nice house in Sodnac and a pretty bungalow under construction in Palmar but they had one bad flaw, they liked to play the races, so much that they got into debt with people who don’t kid around, if you know what I mean. And one fine evening I found myself in their bedroom. They were a handsome couple and the woman was gorgeous. I walked over to her and stroked her hair for a long time. I even cried and a few tears flowed onto her forehead. I love to watch people sleep because that’s when you really find out who they are. And this woman had the face of an angel. First I stabbed the husband brutally and then, slowly, very slowly, I strangled the woman; it was lovely, even sublime, to see her beauty fade away and disappear forever. I still think of her face often.
What I do when I’m not working? Well I like to go to nightclubs. There’s a discotheque in Grand-Baie I particularly like. You mainly meet hookers, tourists, and a few young people there. But mostly I go there to dance. I let the music flood my body and I feel light, I whirl around, I see sparks dancing in my head. I feel so much pleasure I could come, and I can stay like that for hours on end. Sometimes I pick up a girl, one of those young birdbrains who think you have to show everything and say anything at all. I take her back home and we screw like crazy. The problem is when they want to hang on, you’d think they were Superglue, I get mad and I get rid of them.
No no, I don’t kill them. I’m not that stupid. I send them back home with a few wads of bills in their pockets. That’s enough to cool their ardor. For me, there’s nothing dumber than the bullshit of love, I love you, you love me, it’s nice for a while but afterwards it gets rancid, it gives off a smell of puke. I’d rather have a good hard come in the girl’s body and then adios.
My future? Well now there’s a word I hate. I chose to live in the moment but since you insist, why not. I’m planning on retiring soon. I still like my job just as much but you gotta know when to stop. And since I still have twenty years or so to live, I plan to commit suicide at sixty. Those illnesses—Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, God knows what other crap—hell no, not for me thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Same for depending on a bunch of retards in a nursing home or standing in line to get that horrible disability pension. Might as well get everything you can out of what you got. I have a nice little pile I keep in a safe and I plan to use it. And you can bet I’m gonna live la dolce vita, by the seaside, do the clubs every Friday and Saturday night and above all let myself be rocked by the gentle melody of the waves from dawn to midnight. Out of this world. Nirvana.
All right, I’m not gonna hang around any more. I got work waiting for me. Let me feel your forehead to see where you’re at. Hey, you're completely cold. Man, you're really a quick one.
OK, I’m outta here and since I’m polite, I’m gonna call the police and tell them there’s a stinking corpse in your house.
© Umar Timol. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by David Ball and Nicole Ball. All rights reserved.