Her first awareness of him is a presence. Unseen. A stench. It comes around the corner before him, preceding his physical entrance in a sickening downdraft that washes over her and she recoils from the smell which is a combination of rank body odor and sewage and sulfurous stink of rotten food, and it assails her nostrils with the foulness of evil. Then seeing him she flinches again, fighting to regain her composure, resolutely, politely, trained to serve the public, a smile fixing itself to her mouth as he approaches the counter in this awful, stinking swirl of poisonous air.
He grunts out a monosyllabic name, not his real one, and she mumbles something as she hands him his order and checks the amount. It is exactly forty dollars to the penny. She tells him and he produces the money. He hands her the exact amount in filthy, sweat-soaked, crumpled bills that she can barely stand to touch. She thanks him, ringing the order on the cash register and vowing to wash her hands immediately. He swoops up the large sack of food in a giant paw and lumbers away, leaving behind the stinging, terrible odor and the paralyzing, heart-hammering fear of some imagined and unspeakable threat. To her he will always be "forty dollars worth of egg rolls."
He is the one they called CHAINGANG in Vietnam. He was the one who they said back in Marion had taken a human life for nearly every pound of his weight, and he weighed nearly five hundred pounds. He is death personified, demoniacal, unstoppable, bloodthirsty, and very, very real. He wrenches open the door of the stolen car and tosses the sack of food into the passenger seat as he crashes down behind the wheel, the springs groaning in protest. He thinks how easily he could have killed the aloof woman behind the counter in there. How pleasant it would have been to sink a sharp object into her throat, ripping down across the breasts and then the abdomen and then gutting her and taking the parts he liked the best. And the thought of this fills his head with a scarlet roar.
Copyright © 1987 by Rex Miller