Hope You’re Having Yourself an Especially Grand Time
(originally published in Discount Noir)
Hank Tilson welcomed the man with the angry eyes to MegloMart. When this man stared at the rattlesnake in hell tattoo on the inside of Hank’s right forearm and then told Hank to have an especially grand time himself, it gave Hank the shivers. Partly it was the way this man’s expression changed when he saw Hank’s tattoo, and partly it was the sound of this man’s voice. But it was also those words.
Now I hope you’re having yourself an especially grand time…
Those words were familiar to Hank, and lurked somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind. He couldn’t quite pull out where those words were from, but he knew they meant something special, just like he couldn’t quite pull out from his memory why this man seemed so damn familiar. It was two months ago when Hank took this job as a MegloMart greeter. Three weeks ago this man showed up for the first time and instantly started giving Hank the dead eye. Everyday afterwards this man would show up to glare angrily at Hank and stare at his right arm. Hank had broken his arm four months earlier and had a cast covering his tattoo. It wasn’t until last night that he had the cast removed. This was the first time this man had seen his tattoo.
Hank realized then where he knew this man from. It was over twenty years ago, but as he thought more about this man he could see the resemblance and he remembered it all. Back then the man would’ve been thirty, Hank would’ve been close to the same age. At that time Hank was a full-blown meth addict and he supported his habit by stealing whatever he could, sometimes beating up and mugging the elderly, sometimes through home invasions. This was where Hank had first seen this man: during one of his home invasions. Hank was pretty sure this wasn’t in Muncie, Indiana where this MegloMart was. He was pretty sure also it wasn’t in Indiana, but he couldn’t remember where it had taken place.
That night Hank was just going to rob them. He had gloves and a mask on, and he had no intention early on of doing what he did. But the man’s wife was such a tiny pretty little thing, and it pissed Hank off realizing that he’d never have a tiny pretty little thing of his own, at least not of their free will. So he changed his plans. He had brought a .38 revolver with him, and he used that to force the wife to tie up her husband, and then he did terrible things to her as he made the husband watch. After he was through with her, he choked her to death. Then he told the husband that he hoped he was having himself an especially grand time. He should’ve killed the husband also, but in his meanness he wanted this man alive and remembering what happened to his pretty little thing. This wasn’t the only murder Hank ever committed, but when he eventually got arrested it was for check kiting, and not for any of the beatings or home invasions or murders that he did. He ended up serving seven years at the Shawnee Correctional Center, and when he got out he supported himself with low-level cons and odd jobs.
His heart started palpitating wildly in his chest over the thought that that man had recognized him. But he had a mask on that day, and back then he was as thin as a weed, and by the time he had left Shawnee his body had thickened and changed. These damn MegloMart uniforms with the short sleeves and vests! If he were allowed to wear a long sleeve shirt, the man never would’ve seen his tattoo. But still, how could this man be sure from just one tattoo? Hank wanted to flee, but if he did the man would certainly be sure then.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder. Hank turned and saw the man whose pretty little thing from long ago he had tortured and butchered.
“Aren’t you going to ask if I found everything I was looking for?” the man said.
Hank was sweating badly now. He nodded, croaked out, “Sure.”
“Yep, sure did.” The man took a hunting knife out of his bag and showed it to Hank. “I was told it could cut through bone as easy as paper.”
With that the man plunged the knife into Hank’s chest. At first everything went black. Then Hank could see again, although it was hazy with flames everywhere. Standing in front of him was a dour looking demon who gave Hank a forced tired smile and welcomed him to hell.