Song: “Your Lucky Day in Hell” by eels (you might know them as The Eels) from the Soundtrack to GROSSE POINT BLANK
“I don’t understand,” Nathan repeated for the third time, shaking his head from side to side, like a dog might after getting its nose stung.
“What’s to understand?” I asked. I tried to keep my tone in check, but I was very aware of the rising annoyance creeping into my voice. Better to embrace it after this, I thought. Sweet is not working.
He sighed heavily and ran his hands through his hair. He clicked his tongue against his teeth without rhythm, pondering, pondering, pondering.
I stopped walking and turned on him, my hands on my hips. “Well,” I huffed, letting him feel how tired I was of his foot dragging.
“It’s just...well, I kind of think you hate me,” he hesitatingly offered.
I shrugged in reply, letting the silence grow thick and heavy around us. I knew Nathan, or people like him at least, and I knew I didn’t need to talk him into anything. He’d do quite the job of that all on his own.
Sure enough, he quickly became uncomfortable with the silence and filled the air, “I sort of figured that’s why everyone else here treated me…like garbage. That you told them to or convinced them too.”
“If that were true, would I be offering this to you?”
It was true. And it was exactly why I was offering it to him.
“I…this place has been the worst for me, you get that, right, Vicki? I feel like the new kid in a small middle school. No one says hi to me, no one talks to me except to insult me or to tell me to stop doing something. I swear someone’s been breaking into the house at night, making just enough noise to wake me up and then getting away, somehow, without another sound.”
I confess I was a little impressed. I did not actually expect him to notice how much I had turned the neighborhood against him. I sort of assumed he was a dim bulb. Well, he certainly was. But evidently he was a dim bulb with a bit of insight into how people treated him.
To be fair though, this guy, Nathan Swabber, had brought it upon himself. Five years earlier, he had been a part of the team of accountants under the employ of the U.S. Government that had put together the case against my father for a myriad of financial crimes. The federal government won the case and my dad died in prison two years later.
To be clear, my father was a lowlife criminal wrapped in an expensive suit. If he didn’t have a head for numbers and a silver tongue he would’ve been sticking up liquor stores or stealing purses on subway platforms. He was a ne’er-do-well of the highest order. He deserved prison and more for his crimes and the world is a better place without him.
Nonetheless, he was my father and family is family. Plus, I’m pretty sure that illicit money paid for my time in college, my car, and my horse and I loved those things very much. I did not love the man, but I loved the stuff he gave me and that’s close enough, isn’t it?
Also, to be clear, I did not go looking for Nathan. He fell into my lap. Moved into my neighborhood, a new divorcee looking to start over. He basically served himself up to me on a Colonial surround by a half acre of Bermuda grass. It would be rude of me, disrespectful to the universe really, if I did not seize this opportunity to score a little payback. Especially because he still didn’t realize who I was or who my father was. The universe does not look upon stupidity kindly, I promise you that.
So I spread rumors about him in the neighborhood. Told people stories about his religious beliefs, his political beliefs, his opinions on the bodies of their daughters and wives…that sort of thing. All lies, of course. Or I think anyway. I suppose he could be a member of the Peoples Temple who still believed in the message, voted for Nader in EVERY election, and frequently expressed a desire to eat ground beef off of both Mrs. Clark and her 21-year old daughter Beatrice’s stomachs at the same time, but it seems unlikely. Not impossible, but fairly unlikely. Still Mr. Clark bought into, no problem.
Still I wanted Nathan hurt in a big way and quickly. I get bored and frustrated easily. So I came up with a new plan. A very nasty one. And the best part was, he’d be the one doing it to himself. So, really, I’d be basically blame free, criminally and morally. As my father taught me, you have to convince people they want to do the thing that’s destroying their lives. If you do that, when all is said and done, they’ll still be thanking you.
So smile I smiled my best smile, I cocked my head to the side, subtly, but not too subtly licked my lips—yes, I know it is a shameless move, but you know, men are pigs and all that—and reassured him.
“Nathan. Nathan, Nathan, Nathan. Stop worrying. Just accept, today’s your lucky day.”
He relaxed. I had him. He was giving me the keys to destroy his life and doing it with a smile.
The thing of it is…sometimes you’re the one being hustled and you don’t realize it. My father told me that one too. Maybe if he was still alive, he could’ve reminded me. That would’ve been helpful.