Kit Reed’s serialized story, Kickenders, continues with part two today. You can go back and read part one here.
We regrouped at Mel’s.
A little wine does wonders. Melanie says, “I bet Senski would do it if we had the money.”
“If we knew what Senski does.”
“Whatever he does, it works. I heard if you put down ten K, Senski solves all problems!”
“Like we have that kind of jack. Like it works.”
“Don’t be so negative, Sarah. Remember, ‘I am very good at what I do.’ It’s true! Really. All we have to do is get the…”
“Jack.” Then I hit rock bottom. “And we’re raising that—how?”
Just like that, she comes back with: “Jumpfunders!” Clever witch.
Still it makes me uneasy, don’t know how, can’t say exactly why; an old story pops into my head and digs in its claws, hanging upside down like a bat. You know, “The Monkey’s Paw?” In the end you get what you want, it’s just not what you meant when you said you wanted it. “Like, we’re crowd-sourcing funding for a… hit man?”
Mel says, “As if! We could go to jail for that. Ask the wrong person in some bar and they go all 911 on you. Trust me, Senski is the positive solution.”
“Try that on jumpfunders.com and see what you get. WE WANT MONEY FOR A GUY. It totally won’t wash, so forget it.”
She looks ready to hit me. “We already have a guy.”
“That we don’t know what he does.” Even saying it makes me despondent.
“My point.” “I’ll think of something, just give me time.”
“I’ve already thought of something!”
We’re like puppies trapped in a gerbil wheel. Five more minutes and we’ll start to fight. “OK, OK.”
But Melanie sags. “But who wants to fund somebody that they don’t know what he does?”
“Idea, idea!” Late as it is, nasty as my mouth tastes right now, I have to grin. “We’re crowd-sourcing a movie called EUPHEMISM!”
“Oh,” says Melanie, who is most impressed. “My. God.”
Picture two exhausted thirty-somethings doing a happy dance in Mel’s living room. Gawd we designed a great movie, sure to raise a few bucks and maybe, just maybe, attract an actual producer, although that was my private dream, for it is I who sat down to write:
JANE and GAYLE, two friends on a road trip, are tricked into taking along genial TIFFANY from the office. They don’t like her all that much, but she’s cheerful, and offers to pay for dinners and first rate motels. TIFFANY is too big for those print dresses, but she loves those flower prints, heavy jewelry and heavy perfume; at the beginning of the trip TIFFANY’s all happy riding along in the back seat, making jokes and having little accidents, e.g. falling off her platform shoes, comic relief until they stop at secluded Overmount Overlook. JANE and GAYLE put quarters into the 360 binoculars at the edge. JANE swivels to see: TIFFANY unzipping the print dress, the fat suit, to eveal DUANE, lithe and sinister in his black unitard—transvestite, transgendred, who knows? Only time will tell. DUANE has blood in his eyes. Or something worse.
Well, you can imagine the rest. OUR PROJECT TAKES OFF!
I think it was the cat-and-mouse rollercoaster ride when they all get back in the car, intent on violent sex plus nonspecific violence(DUANE), or escape (JANE and GAYLE). Partly it was friends pledging tens and twenties, partly it was strangers happy to gamble a few bucks just to see a movie about trans whatever-it-is, not even close to our goal which was Senski’s ten thousand, but, hey. The thermometer climbed up to the thousand dollar mark the first night!
Then the project caught fire.
A thousand ten, forty, sixty dollars on Thursday and then, wham, Zot. On Friday, a MYSTERY BACKER pledged the rest. Overnight, the red on the thermometer hit the top. Somebody had kicked in nine thousand! Interesting. In addition to funding pledged, our mystery backer had a cashier’s check, made out to Mel and me, FedExed to my house.
Senski’s price, on the button.
That’s not a patch on the hundreds that came in to Jumpfunders later, so the thermometer went up like Krakatoa, and that was only the beginning. Guys, hey, guys, a real producer pledged big money, along with Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, who have feelers out to Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as we speak, so you’ll get your movie as soon they sign up Lars Von Trier or John Woo to direct, depending on who pledges the most, and they can begin casting. Turns out our producer wants to go out to the studios with a package and pick up the balance, but that comes later.
Mel placed a blind ad on Craig’s List the day the cashier’s check came, and surprise, the next day, bingo, voila, Senski sets a meet and names the place.
That night we pull on sweats and hoodies and go to Millie’s Roadside Dine and Dance at 11:45 p.m. exactly—Senski set the time. He’s at the dimly lit far end of the bar; we’re sure that’s him—tall, shrouded in a black trench coat, I think; could be a cape. The place is so dark that you can’t even see what you’re drinking, but there he is, in a slouch hat that totally hides his face, although I think Mr. Senski has a strong jaw and an even stronger face. I whisper, “There!”
Mel sidles closer, “Are you him?”
As if he’ll acknowledge. Handsome, I think, but who knows? He cuts to the chase. “I know what you want.”
Mel says, “We have this problem.”
For a second I see a points of light in the shadow of that felt brim—the eyes. Glinting. A flash of white teeth. “And you want me to get rid of it.”
Forgive me, Mel. I blurt, “As long as you don’t hurt him!”
“Shut up, Sarah.” Mel is like steel.
He says, “You want him off your backs and out of that office.”
Anxiety makes me stupid. “Without us getting life?”
“Or the chair?”
The shadows shift: Senski wheels to go. He doesn’t have to say, I am very good at what I do.
Is that really me pleading, “Wait!” It’s that magnetic field.
He turns back. It isn’t just the slouch hat, or those eyes, visible even in shadow. Like that, Mel hands off the money. Cash, neatly bundled. He takes it and wheels, striding away.
“Wait,” Mel says. As if that will keep him here.
“Later. Done deal.”
“When? And how?”
“You don’t need to know.”
Drawn and scared because I am, I go all business on him, like that will slow him down. “How do we know you’ll make good?”
“You’ll get what you want,” he says, slipping the bundled bills into his messenger bag. Over his shoulder he adds, “Whether or not you want it.”
Then he’s gone. He just is.
Leaving me gnawing my knuckles, conflicted. Is Senski the devil and we look the same, but he put our souls inside that messenger bag along with the bills? “Well.”
Mel grins, sort of. “I guess that’s it.”
“Unless it isn’t.”
It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen the next day or the next one, either. We kept watching the office door for signs; we kept checking back at Jumpfunders; the mercury was still at the top, cashier’s check notwithstanding, so our benefactor didn’t de-pledge. And the big money that made the thermometer explode into the ether and jump-funded our imaginary movie so it’s actually heading for a theater near you?
That comes later.
Then there’s the $10K cashier’s check. The meeting with Senski. Maybe our mysterious benefactor is just that. Someone with no interest in funding made-up movies. Somebody who knows what we really need that ten thousand for.
Kit Reed’s next novel, Where (Tor), will appear in the summer of 2015. Her most recent books are The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories (Wesleyan University Press), a Shirley Jackson nominee, and Son of Destruction (Severn House). Recent novels include The Baby Merchant, Enclave, and Thinner Than Thou, winner of a YALA Alex Award, all from Tor. A Guggenheim fellow and an early recipient of an international literary grant from the Abraham Woursell Foundation, she is Resident Writer at Wesleyan University.Find her on Twitter at @TheRealKitReed.