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Happy To Help
About the Author: Carl Robinette is a writer of fiction, poetry and journalism. His short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly Magazine and more.

There’s something my dad always says—If everyone cared more about being helpful and less about being happy, we’d all be a lot happier. But I guess some people think they can be the happiest on Earth and they make themselves miserable trying get there. Or maybe a person’s levels of happiness and helpfulness come down to brain chemistry—it doesn’t really matter. I’m just saying it’s good to be helpful. And that’s exactly what I was trying to do.

I had just left from visiting my dad on his houseboat. I was walking out to my car when I saw one of Dad’s neighbors who I knew. He was standing next to a giant olive-green car, some vinyl top land yacht from fifty years ago.

Ray Gage was jiggling the door handle and saying something like, “I mean it. I’ll wait until you run out of air, kid. I don’t care.”

There was a towheaded little kid inside the car with a gappy grin and a thousand-yard stare. I said hi to Gage.

“Huh?,” he said. “Oh hey, Daisy.”

I asked him what was up.

Gage told me the “little jackelope” had locked himself in the car with the keys.

I said, “This is your car?” and laughed.

Gage told me to get bent, the car was a classic. Then he flipped the kid his middle finger through the car window. The kid laughed. It was just another gorgeous quiet day down by the marina. Squalling seagulls, whispering palms, wispy clouds, the whole deal.

“Who is that kid anyway?” I asked Gage.

The kid was licking the window and giving us the stank eye.

Gage said, “My lady friend’s son.”

“Lady friend?” I said.

He shrugged and goes, “I’m going to kill this kid.”

I told him how the kid probably just wanted attention and to let me see if I could talk to him. Kids are always more comfortable with women anyway. Ray said the kid’s name was Carter. I hunched down and looked at him through the glass.

I told the kid something like, “Hi Carter. What’s up, we’re just hanging out, ok? No big deal. Just two cool buds and stuff. Nobody’s mad at you. So what do you say you come out of there and we’ll all go get some ice cream together?”

After a short staring contest, the kid opened the door a crack. He waved me closer like he wanted to whisper a secret. But when I got down eye-to-eye with him, the little hell-spawn spit in my face. Then he told me to eat shit, slammed the door shut and locked it again.

Gage handed me a clean hanky. Ray Gage was a back-pocket-hanky kind of guy. I wiped my face and tried handing the used cloth back to him and he told me to trash it.

I said, “That little kid is a huge asshole.”

“Yup,” Gage nodded.

I wanted to know if Gage thought I’d catch a disease from the kid’s spit.

He said, “Probably. I’m surprised that loogie wasn’t made of sulfuric acid. Burn right through your skull.”

I wanted to know how Gage got stuck watching the kid.

He said, “I don’t know. Manipulation. I think his mom might be smarter than me.”

The kid was honking the horn now, just laying on it and cackling at us.

I used to carry brass knuckles in my purse before some off-duty cops confiscated them at some crappy concert I went to. They said they could’ve arrested me for carrying them. After that I started carrying one of those collapsible batons instead. I call it my whip bat and I whipped it out right then and there, took two strides and smashed out the back driver’s side window of Ray’s car. Then I unlocked the doors and hauled the little kid out. I stood him up and stuffed the phlegm-soaked hanky into the tiny pocket of his pants.

I pointed the whip bat at the kid and said, “I’m getting ice cream without you now.”

Gage was pissed about his window. He goes, “What the hell?”

I told him his lady friend should pay for it. It was her kid’s fault anyway. I saved the kid. He could have suffocated.

All Gage said was, “My window, Daisy.”

I figured, you can’t argue with results. After all, Gage did get his keys back.

He didn’t see my point.

I helped him sweep up the glass and tape up the window with a garbage bag. I gave Gage some money. He said it wasn’t enough to cover the repair. It probably wasn’t, but it was all the cash I had on me. So then I said something really stupid.

This story appears in our NOV 2021 Issue
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