A Truly Wonderful Monster

by | Jun 8, 2021 | Fiction, Issue Twenty One

I’m running my little real estate scam in Casey Key around 2005 or so when I find Stephen King’s wallet on the sidewalk. Inside there’s no cash just his Maine driver’s license with his big dumb face on it and a couple credit cards. Canceled already probably. There’s a cop on crossing guard duty in front of the middle school and I tell him what I found.

I guess I can take it to the station, the cop says.

You guess, I say.

I’m not that kind of cop, he says.

What kind of cop are you, I ask and he sighs and goes back to waving at the cars to stop and waving at the kids to cross.

What do you think he’s doing here, I ask him and the cop goes, Who and I’m like, Stephen King and he goes, Who’s that and I’m like, that’s this guy’s wallet and the cop goes, Never heard of him so I start listing all the movies they made from his books. The clown one, the dog one, the pet one. Cop goes, Oh yeah.

He’s a big deal, I say to the cop and he nods.

I’m just not getting the reaction I want so I walk the few blocks to the Tiki Hut which is not a tiki hut but sort of a diner and where I sit at the counter and wait for someone I can tell about Stephen King’s wallet. The guy sitting next to me is reading the paper and I nudge his elbow and say, You’re not going to believe this. Believe what, he says and puts his paper down. He’s frowning but you can tell it’s just the way his face is. He’s got tiny black eyes behind round little glasses and colorless hair.

Holy shit, I say. You’re Stephen King.

Guilty, he says and smiles. I give him the wallet and tell him about the cop. Stephen King says he must’ve dropped it getting out of the car. Didn’t even realize it was gone. He’s getting a kick out of me because I can be quite the character when I want to be and I want to be because I’m getting an idea. This is called foundation work.

I ask him what he’s doing down here and he says he’s doing research for a book. He asks me what I’m doing down here and I tell him about my little real estate scam. This is called roping the mark.

I tell him how I walk around the hoity toity parts looking for empty houses for sale and then I take pictures and put them on the craigslists and then I ask him if he knows about craigslists and he does. I make rental listings for bugnuts crazy fucked up low prices and I tell some story about how I’m a rich ass business person and this is my house that I keep on the market because of the taxes or whatever and I need someone to stay in the property while I do international business. Charge $25 to run a background check. He asks me how much I make and I say, Enough to dill my pickle.

I ask him what his book is going to be about and he says it’s about a guy who gets possessed by a demon and it turns him into a really good painter because when he’s possessed by the demon she makes him paint these crazy paintings. I can tell he wants me to say it’s a good idea so I put my hand on his shoulder and say, You’re a wild man, Steve.

Turns into a thing, us at the Tiki Hut in the mornings. He thinks I’m local color, laughs at my stories. He tells me how the book is going and I report my scams. This is called the build up.

One morning he asks me my favorite book of his. Wants to sign a copy for me since he’s headed back to Maine the next week. I try to make it look like I’m having trouble picking my favorite because they’re all my favorite but really I’m blanking. His feelings look hurt when I say the clown one.

It, he says.

It what, I say. And then, Oh right.

At this point, I’ve memorized the first twelve digits of the credit card he’s been using to pay for coffee. Four digits at a time, four digits per week. The plan is to buy gift cards over the internet and find a fence to buy them off me. Couple thousand, easy. This is called the pay day.

So you’re not a fan, Stephen King says.

No, I just can’t pick one, I say.

No, it’s okay, he says. Actually, it’s kind of nice. He gets out his wallet. Means all this time you’ve been enjoying my company. Puts his card down on the counter to pay for our coffees but I take it and give it back to him, my eyes lingering on the card just a microsecond longer than normal. He doesn’t notice.

Let me get this, I say.

We’re shaking hands outside the Tiki Hut, squinting in the sun. In a week I’ll cut out of town with my scammings on the way to another shitty little place where I’ll do the same thing to someone else. There won’t be anything special about them, just like there’s nothing special about this fucking asshole.

He asks me about my next scam and I say there is no next scam, that it’s all the same one, the same scam for everyone forever.

He smiles at this. He says, You have the makings of a truly wonderful monster.

We shake hands one more time. I think, Motherfucker, you don’t know the half of it.

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