The "THERAPIST" Issue


Bastard After Dark

     by Richard O'Brien

On the first day of class, Reggie Mickelson told his college composition students about his background prior to becoming an adjunct professor. He told them about how, like them, he began his education at a community college after he had served as a Ranger in the United States Army.  After that he went to talk about transferring to a four-year university, mentioning the trepidation he had experienced regarding that move.

Mickelson left out a good portion of his life, the darker part which he shared with no one. In those days things had been different. Armed with a bachelor of arts when he was twenty-six years old, Mickelson soon grew weary of the countless interviews he went on for various proofreader jobs advertised by the small publishing houses in the city where he had grown up. Then one day, as he was leaving one of those interviews, he met a man in a building lobby who turned out to be his savior.

The man who changed Mickelson's life was a gangster named Jimmy 'The Fig' Bertolucci, the last of a dying breed. Mickelson remained The Fig's employ, doing odd jobs and becoming proficient at his new profession which mostly had to do with making enemies of the gangster disappear. He worked mostly at night. The dark suited his purpose, offering the luxury of shadows and moonless nights to get the job done. In his spare time Mickelson wrote poems and short stories, had a few of them published, and kept his literary life a secret.

When Jimmy the Fig was gunned down in a nightclub, along with eight of his closest confidants, Mickelson was nearly thirty-five years old. The message The Fig's assassination sent was clear: seek life elsewhere. Mickelson needed to find new work, but the want ads had no listings for a fixer like him. So, he applied to a university half-way across the country that offered an MFA in Creative Writing, and never looked back.

"After I finished my MFA in Creative Writing," Mickelson told the class now, "I began to teach."

He reviewed the requirements of the course, informed the students of the textbooks they would need for the class, and let them go ten minutes before the class was scheduled to end.

"If anyone has any questions," he told the class, "I can hang around and do my best to answer them."

Only one student took him up on his offer. His name was Stinson, or Winston, or something like that. Mickelson was never good with names; faces, however, were another story.

"You mentioned your graduate degree in creative writing," the student said. "What can you do with a degree like that? I mean, how is that practical?"

Mickelson asked the student to take a walk with him. Winston or Stinson or whatever his name was agreed. As they entered a grove just outside the building where class was held, Mickelson was still talking a mile a minute about the many doors which his graduate degree had opened. Stinson or Winston wasn't having it. He did his best to shoot holes through Mickelson's pitch. Soon, they were deep into the woods. There was no one else around.

Ten minutes later, Mickelson emerged from the woods alone, having left Stinson or Winston's corpse stuffed beneath the exposed roots of an ancient oak tree beside a brook. He covered the exposed roots with fallen branches and dead leaves. Mickelson knew that had to have to come back later and bury the condescending little bastard after dark.