Keeping his hands away from what wasn’t his had always been a problem for Jackie O’Rourke.
Jackie worked for Boss Harrigan, a shady Boston pol who had managed to amass a fortune in ways best contemplated in silence. Jackie was good at silence, and quickly became part of Harrigan’s inner circle. Liking the Boss’s flashy style, Jackie took to wearing fancy diamond cufflinks and an expensive pinky ring.
Whatever the Boss had, Jackie wanted, too. That included Harrigan’s wife, a tall, raven-haired beauty with a frosty attitude.
One night at the Boss’s brick mansion, the old man was holding forth about a new construction project in South Boston.
“Now listen to me, boys. I arranged for the contract to go to the Flaherty group. They’ll work hard, nights if they have to, and they’ll finish the job quickly, no questions asked. They’ll make money and so will we. Even better, we’ll make some new friends; it’s always good to have friends in the construction business. Remember that.”
Jackie’s attention had wandered when Harrigan’s wife entered the room. She gave Jackie a look that raised, among other things, his temperature.
“Hey, Jackie! Am I boring you?” thundered the old man.
Jackie quickly returned his attention to the Boss. “No sir.”
Harrigan said nothing, but his shrewd blue eyes regarded Jackie with interest.
Jackie started feeling a pain in his gut. He tried ignoring it, but one morning he woke up feeling like someone had punched him in the stomach. That’s when the doc told him it was cancer. Reeling from the news, Jackie ended up in an unfamiliar part of town and walked into a small bar devoid of patrons. That suited Jackie fine; he didn’t feel like being social.
“Hit me hard,” he told the bartender, a dwarf who stood on a platform to serve drinks.
“You’ve got problems, brother,” the man said.
“I’m not here for tea and sympathy – just pour.”
The dwarf obliged, but then looked into Jackie’s eyes. “Maybe I can help.”
“Can you cure cancer?”
Jackie spoke roughly, wanting the man to leave him be. Instead, the dwarf smiled. “How bad do you want it?”
His face grim, Jackie smiled unpleasantly. “More than I want the cancer.”
“How’d you like to live forever? Disease, injury – nothing could kill you.”
“Pal, I got a tumor the docs can’t do anything about, but you’re gonna make me live forever, huh? Little man, you’re the limit!”
“Think about it: eternal life. Never grow old, never get sick…”
Jackie finished the shot and sat the glass down. “You’re nuts.”
“Maybe… maybe not.” The dwarf held out his hand. “Shake my hand, Jackie.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I said, shake my hand!” The dwarf gabbed Jackie’s hand and held tight. “You’ve just been given a gift. Use it wisely.”
Sudden heat coursed through Jackie’s body, and he took a step backward, closing his eyes. When he opened them, he saw the room was empty. The dwarf – and the booze – were gone.
Dazed, he wandered out into the street, still thinking about the dwarf. He never saw the truck coming…
“Hey, mister, you okay?”
Jackie looked up into the worried face of the truck driver.
“I thought you were a dead man! Your neck, it’s at a funny angle. Hey, mister! Don’t get up! Wait for the ambulance!”
Jackie wasn’t listening. He touched his neck with both hands, made a slight adjustment, and went on his way.
He remembered the dwarf and smiled.
“Baby… baby,” moaned Jackie into Mrs. Harrigan’s raven tresses. “Why’d you make Jackie wait so long?”
Smiling, she draped a silky thigh over his. “It was worth it, wasn’t it?”
“Baby, you know it.” Hot and hard, he was about to enter her when he heard the sounds of gunfire. Pain ripped into his back and buttocks and he collapsed atop the screaming woman.
Sliding toward oblivion, Jackie heard Harrigan say, “Get the body outta here. You know what to do… they’ll be pouring the concrete tonight…”
His mind foggy, Jackie slowly came to, aware that something wasn’t right.
His face… something was all over his face…
He struggled without success to move arms and legs. He tried to open his mouth, but something was clogging it.
And lots of it, packed tight.
The irony then stung him and he wanted to laugh; instead, tears leaked from his eyes.
Harrigan was right: it was good to have friends in the construction business.
As for Jackie, he had immortality.
Beneath concrete and six feet of dirt.
Word Count: 762
Photo: James Cagney, Movie Actor
Author’s Note: This story is written based on a challenge issued by ThainInVain to write a flash fiction based on the prompt ‘Infinite Jest.’ I certainly went over 500 words, but the story was inspired by the prompt, so I’m crediting ThainInVain for the inspiration. ThainInVain’s weekly challenge can be found here. Be part of the challenge!