Missing Man

 If I have a pack at home there is no way I can control my urge to light one up although I
have quit smoking years ago. Only avid smokers understand this nuisance urge and the
ensued guilty pleasure. My strategy to combat this urge is simply not to buy a pack but to
beg for one as needed. As lousy and as pathetic this approach may seem, it works, last time I
purchased a pack of cigarette was three months ago. Losing self respect in the process is the
trade-off I settled for.

 To resist my craving if I have pack at home I hide more than half of the pack in the most
unusual places hoping to forget where they were when I needed one.  To make the
discovery of the treasure more difficult, sometimes I twirl in place long enough to get dizzy
then I fling the cigarettes. Many land in the most inconspicuous corners of the room virtually
impossible to recover.  And in time of desperate need I go into search and discovery mode
and ransack the house for an hour cursing myself under my breath until I find one. I self
induce dizziness so I can set up a solitary game of hide and seek to provide a harmful
pleasure after an agonizing search in near future.

  Purchasing a pack of cigarette always comes after an intense internal debate. Last week
after poking around my apartment for half hour I ultimately lost the argument and ten
minutes later I found myself in the car parked in front of the 7-Eleven and two minutes later
I was in line.  Three people were ahead of me with only one attendant on duty that
afternoon. The qualm continued as I watched the first customer in front of the counter
paying for two bars of candy and a lottery ticket. The next paid for twenty dollars worth of
gas on pump four. The customer ahead of me stepped closer to the counter and asked for a
pack of Marlboro light, the brand I smoke. As the customer concluded his transaction, in the
nick of time I changed my mind and walked out of the store after him.

 “Do you mind selling me two of your cigarettes?” I asked the man holding a dollar bill up in
the air.

 “Well, yeah why not.” The man responded after a pause.

 “I don’t want to buy a pack.”        

 “I hear you.” He chuckled while removing the cellophane wrapper.

 “You’re my savior,” I said.

  This was not the first time I engaged in such unusual transactions, I found it to be a tad
more dignified than bumming a cigarette.  One out of five people whom I pitched this deal,
refused to accept the money and offered me one for gratis, he was not one of them.   
 “Thanks you so much, I was this close to cave in.” My index finger touched my thumb
before his eyes.

 I sat in the car feeling proud of myself for not giving in to temptation and drove away. Now
I had two killer reasons to celebrate life. I drove to a nearby park to light the first one and
puff away moments of leisure embraced by the serenity of nature.  I sat on a bench in the
deserted park gazing at vivacious leaves raining down from the denuding trees. In a minute
a cigarette was lit and I was contemplating the mystery of life in vertigo of burning tobacco.

 As I was scanning across the shivering trees listening to the sound of flowing water in the
creek I noticed an object on the bench about thirty yards away. First I thought it was an
envelope of sort probably filled with empty cups of soda and hamburger wrappers so I
ignored the insignificant object at distance but the nagging curiosity got the better of me
and the moment I finished smoking I walked to see what it was, a stylish beige corduroy
jacket with light brown quilted lining, the very type I really wanted and never got around to
purchase.

 On several occasions I’d seen similar jackets in trendy stores in the mall and as tempted as I
was to buy one, the high sticker price always convinced me otherwise.  And now my favorite
jacket could be mine at no cost, an unexpected gift I could not pass. I held it up in the air
before my eyes to see if it was the right size, it didn’t seem to be. I decided to try it on but to
do that I had to take off my zipper-less jacket and that‘s was not something I would dare to
do in a cold windy autumn day outdoor. I put the jacket back on the bench and hastily gazed
around and saw no witness.  Quickly I grabbed the jacket and ran off to my car feeling guilty
in doing so. What if someone was watching? What if the owner showed up and caught me
walking off with his jacket. Like a shoplifter I sprinted off with the merchandise under my
arm.  I was hyperventilating when I sat in the car wondering if the respiratory complication
was caused by smoking or by the immoral possession.

 I pulled out of the parking in hurry and fled the scene back to my apartment. The moment I
got in eagerly I took off my jacket and tried the newly found one and as much as it looked
good on me it was one size too small.

 God damn it, I shrieked as I was pacing back and forth. What do I do know?  
  Desperately I searched all four pockets hoping to find money or something valuable to at
least make this affair worthwhile; nothing.

 I sat down on the porch and smoked the second cigarette wondering what to do next. I
could throw the jacket away but it didn’t seem the right thing to do, it was too nice to end
up in trash. I thought of keeping it and sell it in a garage sale but I never had enough items
worth the hassle of putting up signs in the streets and sitting in the garage the entire day to
get rid of a few junks besides how much could I get for the damn thing, five, ten bucks?

  I cursed myself for about ten minutes for not knowing what to do next.  I could not go to
sleep tonight with the jacket in my apartment, I had to take care of it one way or another so
I finally decided to go back to the park and put the item where I’d found it hoping the owner
would come back and retrieve it. Damn my luck. Why did you bring it home? Self
deprecation always triggers my craving for smoking.  

 With a heavy heart I drove back to the park and before I stepped out of the car I scouted
the area making sure no one was present. The park was as empty as I left it twenty minutes
ago. I grabbed the jacket and climbed the steep mound blanketed in beige dead grass and
as I reached the top where the bench was I saw a man starring at me with a stack of paper
in his hand taking notes. I walked closer to the bench avoiding his gaze not knowing how to
react to his ominous presence and gently put the jacket back on the bench.

 “You took my jacket.”  He lashed out at me pointing to the jacket on the bench.

 “No. I didn’t take it, my nephew did by mistake. I just brought it back.” I was flustered
under his inquisitive gaze.

 “You brought it back because it was not the right fit.” He was measuring me.

 “As… as I said my nephew grabbed it by mistake half hour ago and when we got home he
realized it was not his. So I brought it back hoping its owner would come back and get it.”

  “Don’t you know this belongs to a missing person? He was wearing this jacket last he was
seen. This is his jacket.” He scribbled on his papers.  

 “I just found this jacket half hour ago, I told you.” I held my hands up in the air.  

 “Didn’t you just say it was your nephew who picked it up?” He pulled his cell phone out of
his shirt’s pocket.

  “Well…, I…, I didn’t expect…,” words were drooling out of my mouth.

 “Write here what happened to the missing man.” He was pointing at his papers.

 “What missing man? You just said you’re the owner and here is your damn jacket.”

 He extended his hand offering the papers to me.

 “Everything is documented here.” He shouted.

 “I told you the truth, not about my nephew but the rest is absolutely true, I swear.”

 “The only thing you told me about this jacket was who found it and that turned out to be a
lie.”   He pulled a pen out of his pocket and handed it to me.

  ”Here, make sure the information on this form is as complete as possible and sign it.”

  “Are you out of your mind, I will not fill out the damn form.”

 “Then I turn you in right now.”

 As he started dialing I picked up a broken branch and hit him on the wrist.

 “I didn’t do anything you son of a bitch.”

 He fell on the ground and his cell phone flew off his hand right into the stream of water. For
a moment I decided to get in my car and flee then I thought he could later identify my car or
even remember the license plate number so I ran away from the maniac into the wooded
area as fast as I could and he ran after me holding his injured hand under his left arm.  As I
was zigzagging through the trees and jumping over the bushes I turned back a few times
and shouted, “Leave me alone! I just found the jacket.”

 “Just sign the paper and make sure the information is accurate. As a matter of fact in light
of your recent assault you need to make a statement too,” he yelled back.

 “What assault?” I screamed.

 He waved his bloody hand in the air. ”This,” he shouted, “Explain your side of story. Write
from the moment you found the jacket and then how we met.   There are enough blank
pages.”

 “I’m not going to sign any confessions. I’m running because I don’t know what to do.  If I
see no other options, I will turn around and take you down. Do you understand that you
lunatic?”

 “By the way, your statement needs to be notarized.”

 “Don’t tempt me. God knows I have weak resistance to temptation.”

 “This entire affair must to be documented, sign the form and make the statement. You can
get it notarized tomorrow morning in the bank on the corner, no cost involved.  It only takes
a few minutes of your time.”

 “I will certainly not do that.”

 “Your fingerprints are all over the evidence.”

 My heart was pounding out of my chest. He was right. As bizarre as the story of the missing
man was, after what had happened so far, I had a lot of explaining to do if this incident was
reported. With my prior conviction, they would accuse me of stealing and assault to say the
least. I stopped and hunched over trying to catch a breath and turned back. He was about
twenty steps from me slouching with his bleeding hand raised in the air and pieces of paper
clutched in the other.

 “I told you I had nothing to do with the missing man. You are not missing God damn it. And
I didn’t steal your jacket. Please leave me alone, please.”

 “Oh! I’m missing alright.” His haunting laughter echoed in the woods.

 I staggered toward him scanning the ground looking for a sturdy branch to put an end to
this charade.

 “You’re leaving me no choice,” I pleaded.

 I was now waving a huge club in my hand.

 “There is no turning back now, neither for you nor for me. Let’s put an end to this,” he
shrieked.  

 ” For the last time I’m warning you, please forget all about this, I don’t want to hurt you.”

 “Make the statement and tell the story as it happened, in your own words.”
 “What is with you and the paperwork?” I shouted as I stepped closer. I was now in the
striking distance.

 “Everything must be properly documented, every ...”

 I didn’t let him finish his sentence. He collapsed with the first blow to his head. His rasping
voice wallowed in his blood under my feet. His beloved forms and documents danced away
in the crisp autumn breeze. I was standing over his bleeding body watching his darling
papers fly away. The tall trees shed a vivacious shroud of leaves on the fallen bureaucrat and
I waded out of his morbid destiny to rescue myself from the misery he was about to inflict
upon me.

 I ran away holding my aching head between the two palms of my hands, staggered
through the shivering tress until I reached the banks of a silent pond. The face of the dark
hibernating water was tainted with large spots of algae and ornamented with countless
water lilies. A turtle submerged from water struggled to climb up a rock as a capricious frog
leaped on the flowers of swamp.  I sat down on a fallen branch. The sun had already set
below the horizon yet its crimson whisper was shining my crime on the twilight of the pond.

 An hour past and all I could hear was the songs of crickets woven in the bitter cold lullaby of
the autumn.  I circled the large pond in the night to avoid the crime scene and returned to
my car. The jacket was blown off the bench and stuck on the thorny bushes. I could not leave
the jacket where it was. As the missing man said it had my fingerprints all over and I could
not leave the body unattended in the woods.

 I opened the trunk and grabbed the emergency flashlight and walked uphill and took the
jacket off the bush. Darkness was bliss. I had to take care of everything tonight, the daylight
was my enemy. I rushed back into the woods and turned the flashlight on. The beam of light
meandered through trees, stumbled over broken branches and stumped crunchy leaves until
I stumbled over the body and fell, it was still warm.

 “What the hell did you want from me?” I pounded on the corpse sobbing, “What do I do
with you now? Tell me how to get rid of you. Do you want me to document your burial too?”
 The cadaver didn’t respond.

 I dragged his body to a ditch and dropped it in. I noticed a small cave under a huge fallen
tree trunk inside the trench. I jumped in the trench, sat down next to the body and with two
feet shoved the bastard inside the hole and covered him with his jacket. With my bare hands
I shoveled dirt on his body and covered the opening with branches, plenty of leaves and
twigs and climbed out of the trench.

 As I trudged behinds the flashlight, the light shone on a piece of paper on the ground. I was
so anxious to find out why this man was so infatuated with these damn papers. I leaned over
to pick up the paper and it escaped in the breeze. Hysterically I followed the page until the
piece of paper finally stopped next to the others. I picked up the pages and fled the cursed
woods. When I sat in my car I noticed my hands and my clothes were soaked in dirt and
blood. It was time to go home.

 I took an alternate route, drove in less crowded streets back home to avoid traffic and
people.  As soon as I walked in my apartment I threw myself in the couch and sobbed. I was
trembling, my thoughts were uncontrollably racing.  I had blood on my hand and I was
craving to smoke.  As appropriate as the timing was to go out and buy a pack, I could not do
so now, I was too transparent in public. Miserably I ransacked the apartment, smudged
blood and dirt everywhere until I found one inside the vase filled with silk flowers on the
shelf. I lit the cigarette and took a deep puff. After a few minutes I managed to pull myself
together and took the papers out of my pocket.

 The pages were numbered, the bottom of the page it read page 1 of 5. On top it read:  
“Missing Person Information”. The long form was meticulously filled out.

 “The missing person was last seen in a beige corduroy jacket with light brown quilted
lining.” The paper read.  The missing person’s name, address, age and physical
characteristics were all typed in the form. The physical description of the victim exactly
matched the man I’d killed in the park and today’s date was the day he was last seen.  

 “Write in your own words how it happened.” His voice was scraping my brain.  I grabbed a
pen and wrote the story of the missing man.  
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