The Lone Arranger
Copyright© 2016 by Tony Stevens
First off, don’t get the idea that I think I’m some sort of godlike personage. I’m not the least bit godlike on the personal level, and of that I remain well-aware.
My problem isn’t anything along those lines. It’s more like indecision, uncertainty, guilt, and angst. I don’t think God, or anybody else who purports to be godlike, would ever suffer from those kinds of disabilities.
But, okay, the reasons why I suffer from indecision, uncertainty (etc.) are closely related to the “God” thing.
Well, because a while back I discovered that I do, indeed, have some abilities that are anything but ordinary. They are, in a limited but very important way, godlike.
And that can be scary as hell, I’ll tell you.
So, okay, I’ll just spit it out and you can take it for what it’s worth. You’re going to be skeptical. I don’t care. Hell, I was skeptical myself when I first noticed this thing. Unfortunately, I’m skeptical no longer. It’s for real. Hence, the angst.
I’m proud, actually, that I’ve still got some mixed feelings about this. I think a lot of people would just enjoy the hell out of it, if they had this particular power. Well, I enjoy it, too. I wouldn’t try to kid you and say that I’d like to give up this ability I have, and just go back to being a normal, everyday person.
I enjoy it – perverse though that may be – but I also have been fretting over it plenty. I guess that’s natural enough.
You see, I can kill people. And I have.
That doesn’t exactly make me historically unique among humans, I know. Half our literature is taken up with stories, real or imagined, about people who have killed other people – sometimes by the carload.
The difference in my case is pretty significant, though. I can kill people without so much as laying eyes on them.
The way I first discovered this is simple. I killed a guy unintentionally. There was this guy whose name was in all the papers. He’d swindled hundreds of investors out of their money in a giant Ponzi scheme. It was a lot like that guy in New York, Bernie Madoff: the one who was in the news a few years back for running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
But one of the side effects of the Madoff scandal had been closer scrutiny, in financial markets worldwide, of other investment gurus who had enjoyed unusual success in the often-declining stock markets.
Sure enough, the authorities in Western Europe found a guy –- it was a small group of guys, actually –- who made Madoff seem like a jaywalker by comparison. The economic chaos that has been caused by this group’s enormous scam is expected to contribute mightily to the long-term decline of the world economy that is already well underway.
The small group of master criminals had been led by this one man -– Fernandino Giancana. His name sounded like a Mafia hood, but in fact he had been, for three decades, a highly respected Italian businessman. Giancana was active in financial circles all over Europe and eastward to the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Now he was in disgrace, and in jail, and his several colleagues in the conspiracy were all singing like Pavarotti in an effort to escape the consequences of their own illegalities -- while foisting as much of the blame as possible on Giancana.
My relationship to all of this was as abstract as was that of most everyday people in America and Europe. Which is to say, I had no relationship to it at all. My feeble investment portfolio was not, so far as I could determine, even indirectly affected by anything Giancana and his little band of brothers had done. I was no poorer (and certainly no richer) as a result of his far-reaching forays into white-collar criminality.
But, as in the case of Madoff earlier, I read the news accounts, tsk-tsked with the best of them, and hoped that “they” (meaning the administrators of the appropriate criminal justice system) would put this bastard away for good.
Casually--just in passing--I remember wishing that the old fucker would fall down a concrete stairwell at his southern Italian prison and, after a few hours of excruciating pain, die in agony. My wish, I knew, would do nothing to restore the hundreds of millions of Euros this bastard had extracted from his fellow citizens from Sicily to St. Petersburg. All the same, it would be an example of simple justice.
So the next morning, reading the on-line edition of the New York Times, what do I see but an article reporting that the notorious accused swindler, Fernandino Giancana, had died following a stairwell accident at his prison facility south of Naples.
He had perished, according to the report, in the prison infirmary several hours following the incident. Authorities were investigating the circumstances surrounding his fall, but no foul play was suspected.
Son of a gun!
Well, naturally that was the damnedest coincidence I had ever heard of. I hadn’t merely wished the S.O.B. a painful and unpleasant death, I had wished it mere minutes, evidently, before his real-world fall had occurred. And I had wished it in specific terms: fall down a stairwell, live in agony for a few hours, and then croak.
I wasn’t the superstitious type and I didn’t believe in supernatural powers or any such crapola. It wasn’t in my nature.
Coincidence. That’s all it had been.
Okay, so why not just test it out? If it was a real coincidence, a simple test would be enough to establish that fact once and for all. I’ll wish some other of the world’s ample supply of assholes a quick-and-dirty death. Then, tomorrow morning when his death doesn’t show up in the news, I’ll know that ol’ Fernandino’s sudden passing was a fluke and nothing more.
So, who did I think the world would able to do perfectly well without? Lots of people, actually, although in order to test my hypothesis, I’d have to do away with somebody whose demise would be newsworthy. The neighbor guy whose ugly little dog was permitted — no, encouraged — to shit on my front lawn every single morning wouldn’t do.
Maybe I should just wish the guy’s fucking dog would die. I’d sure as hell notice the absence of dog shit soon enough.
Nope. It had to be somebody whose death would make the New York Times.
So I thought about it some, and finally came up with a notorious Third World dictator whose incredible misdeeds had led to death, starvation and rape throughout his godforsaken African nation, and with no end in sight. That motherfucker’s death would certainly be breaking news on CNN and elsewhere.
So I wished him dead, but not just dead: I wished him tortured and slowly murdered in his palace by a small, all-female band of guerilla fighters who had taken over the palace and had overthrown his entire government overnight.
Probably, I knew, some other sadistic asshole would rise to take his place by next Wednesday, but in the meanwhile, the world would be short one ruthless tyrant.
So you see, I put a lot of thought into this one. Unlike Fernandino, I was really enjoying my homemade fantasy. I mean, I barely could remember this African dude’s goddamned name, and like most Americans, I had paid precious little attention to his depredations over the years. Sure, it was “awful” what was going on over there in Africa, but, hey, I didn’t know any of those people personally. I wasn’t certain exactly where in Africa this fucker’s country was, even.
It was enough that he was a known Bad Guy, and a good candidate for Experimental Long-Distance Remote Control Premeditated Murder.
So I wished him the worst and I went about my business, not giving the matter any more thought. I admit I did think about it when, ritualistically the following morning, I opened my New York Times Headlines email and checked out the teaser squibs.
There it was, Number Two online squib-of-the-day.
The whole shebang was reported: slow death in the Presidential Palace at the hands of a band of vengeance-seeking female patriots. The whole palace taken over by force, with many of the President’s collaborators and colleagues joining him in sudden death.
So, okay. It wasn’t a coincidence.
Now I realized how much of a good thing it was that I’m a retired old fart with time on my hands and no responsibilities back at the office. My mind was racing now, and I knew I wouldn’t have been worth a damn back at the office — if I had still occupied an office.
As it happens, I didn’t have an office but I had a god-like power. One such incident could have been a weird coincidence. Twice (with exotic specifications all matching my silly imagined scenarios) was obviously no coincidence at all.
Just call me “GJ.” (God, Junior.)