Short Fiction: The Vigilante

Through the dried spots of water and shaving cream on the bathroom mirror, an uninspiring reflection stared. Grey wisps clung feebly to a brow once adorned with flowing black locks, while the complexion and features, which years ago would have rivaled those of a Greek god, now bore more likeness to a Galapagos tortoise. How the eyes had sunk.

Rick and his reflection leaned in toward each other, peering. After a moment, they nodded determinedly then went their separate ways. In his bedroom, Rick dressed himself—black jeans, combat boots, grey t-shirt and a leather jacket. He opened the drawer of his bedside table, looked in and then paused. He sat on the edge of his single bed, and reached into the drawer to take out a small, framed photograph. He ran his fingers over the picture. “I’m sorry,” he said with a raspy voice. “I know you wouldn’t like this, but I gotta do it. I work all those years, and for what? Those bastards don’t give you nothin’. I’m not gonna take it anymore. They don’t even know my name. Well, they’ll know it after today.” Rick replaced the photograph, stood and took a switchblade knife from the drawer. Holding the weapon up in front of him, he flicked it open and examined the glinting five-inch blade. He closed it and shoved it into his jacket pocket. “Oh yes,” he grinned. “After today they’ll never forget my name.”

It was a bright, cold day in the city, and as busy as ever. Children on school holidays squealed, machinery chattered and roared where a work crew was concreting a new footpath, and outside Parliament House, reporters jostled for prime position, waiting for politicians to emerge. Allegations of government corruption had been flying thick and fast, but nothing would stick. The system was supposed to punish these crooks, but the crooks ran the system; everyone knew they’d get off scot-free. Rick stood across the street and watched, with one hand in his jacket pocket with the knife.

There was a sudden surge among the journalists and cameramen outside the Parliament building. Rick made his move and crossed the street. The first snake out of the den was the Finance Minister, and the reporters pounced. It was pandemonium—shouting, accusing, people shoving one another—even the work crew stopped to watch the drama. The minister tried to push his way through, but the crowd closed on him and seemed to swallow him up. It was impossible to tell who was who. Suddenly a violent scream pierced the air, and those immediately by the minister drew back in horror. There he lay on the ground.

The Minister for Finance had an ingrown toenail, so when a photographer stepped on his toe it caused him tremendous pain. He rolled back and forth, clutching his foot and whimpering. The reporters watched on hesitantly, not knowing whether to ask questions or call a doctor.

Meanwhile, Rick walked away down the street wearing a proud smile. As he passed a garbage bin he glanced about, then took the wet cement-encrusted knife from his pocket and threw it in the bin. When the work crew finally returned to the footpath, they saw carved in the quick-drying cement the words: RICK IS COOL.



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