Even in death, Mitt remained calm and collected. Stoic even. It was never his way to panic or to blame people. Were I him I’d’ve blamed my wife, my folks, my teachers--anybody to take the heat. But Mitt, always the wise half of the duo, knew excuses were like pancreases. Pancreases riddled with buck shot and hemorrhaging that precious life-giving liquid known as blood. Blood that spilled onto the artichokes, those spiny green treasures he’d fought so hard to obtain. Obtained in that fertile coastal plain--once a playground, now a sun-drenched tomb.
I tried my best to apply pressure to the wounds, but any effort to stop the bleeding was in vain. For a split second I even considered saying something to effect of, “sorry, Mitt. My efforts to stop your bleeding are in vein.” Mitt didn’t appreciate puns even when he wasn’t about to meet his maker, so I spared him. We just sat there, listening to the rapidly approaching baying of Sylvain’s Rottweilers.
Why had Sylvain double-crossed us? I ran through the last two months in my head, but couldn’t recall insulting his honor at any point. But he’d ambushed us just the same, and as we sat holed-up in that tool shed, I was baffled at how an innocent everyday agri-heist had gone so awry. All Mitt and I wanted was to sate our love of both artichokes and stealing things. Plus pre-harvest ‘chokes fetched a pretty penny on the black market. But it was never about the money. We almost always broke even.
But there we were. In over our heads. In a way, I envied Mitt. He could die doing what he loved. Who knew what type of grisly, undignified end Sylvain and his men had in store for me? My train of thought was suddenly derailed by a loud raspy moan. I was quick to comfort Mitt, cradling his soil-flecked head in my arms.
“I don’t think I have much longer,” he said.
“It’s ok, pal. You’ll be marinating the big artichoke heart in the sky soon,” I replied.
“Hehe. Don’t know about that old friend,” he gasped. “I lived a life of stealin’ and fightin’ and drinkin’. I’ll be lucky to end up in hell!”
“From what I hear, hell’s a big vat of drawn butter.”
Mitt managed a weak smile, eyes glassy. The dogs were closing in. I could hear the shouts of men as well. Mitt was dead. But his demise would not be in vein. I took up his lucky artichoke bat, and poised myself for combat. I'd be joining my partner soon, but not without a fight.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
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