‘Two Out of Work Stuntmen’ by Rob Hill

soft cartel may 2018

Two out-of-work stuntmen sat downing pints in the dim interior of Bladderstone’s Bar and Grill.

“No one does car chases on television anymore,” the Driver complained. “Now it’s all this reality show bullcocky.”

“I’ve flown helicopters for twenty-five years and now the only gigs I can land are transporting crates of hair products for makeup artists,” muttered the Pilot, reaching for a bowl of salted pretzels.

“Ain’t fair.”

“Nope. Ain’t.”

They stared sullenly into their respective drinks.

Jethro Luggit, slurping nonchalantly on a vodka tonic a few barstools away, couldn’t help but overhear their predicament and said so.

“How would you two oldtimers like to help me pull a bank heist? It’d be a cinch for two old pros like you. Can’t offer you a benefit plan, but there’s plenty of vacation time.”

“We’re not crooks,” said the Driver.

“Me and my partner Winger will handle the crooked part. You two just help us with the getaway.”

“Dunno,” mused the Pilot. “What’s in it for us?”

“A pissload of cash.”

“What if we get caught?”

“No worries. We’ll say I hijacked your car and forced you to drive us at gunpoint.”

“I don’t like guns.”

“Won’t even know it’s there.”

The Driver gestured for the Pilot to join him over by the skeeball machine so they could confer in private. They agreed they needed the money, and their bar tab needed paying. Jethro agreed to settle their tab on the spot and the trio headed back to Jethro’s bungalow behind a sprocket factory to talk business.

“When do we meet this partner of yours?” asked the Driver.

“Kind of a complication there. He’s in jail right now so we’ll have to bust him out first.”

“Hey now,” the Pilot protested, rising from his chair in alarm. “What are you trying to pull here?”

“Don’t worry, it’s just a bamboo jail on a tiny island off the coast. It’s guarded by a few natives armed with old blowguns. It’ll be a pip to knock over. I’d’ve handled it myself already but I’m just recovering from a gall bladder infection.”

Jethro’s nubile sister entered from a back room and brought them each a beer. As she retreated softly on bare feet, the stuntmen took turns admiring her caboose.

“She’s not part of the deal,” Jethro hastened. “Show some respect.”

The stuntmen apologized.

Jethro said he was going to turn in for the night and invited the stuntmen to stay the night in his living room. They flipped a bottletop for who got the couch. The loser (the Pilot) slept in the wicker chair, knees drawn up to his chin.

In the morning they headed down to the beach where they boarded a seaplane which Jethro claimed wasn’t stolen. The Pilot had no trouble coaxing it into the air and within no time they were in sight of a small kidneyshaped island. It was sparsely treed and its dusty terrain was the color of wet lasagna. As the Pilot brought the plane in for a graceful landing in a cove very near the jail, a small dart from a blowgun pierced the visor of his cap.

“Um.”

“Don’t worry,” assured Jethro, gripping a shovel. “I’ll dispatch the guard.”

He leapt out of the plane and charged the beach. The guard was too preoccupied reloading his blowgun to notice the business end of the shovel descending on his melon. Seconds later he was stretched out in the dirt with a nasty lump over his ear.

“What about the others?” wondered the Driver.

“They should be around here somewhere. Might wanna keep your heads low for the time being.”

They heard a whoosh. Jethro glanced down and noticed a black dart protruding from his wrist.

“That hurt?” asked the Pilot.

“Yes, somewhat. I suggest we find cover.”

Not that there was much of a selection. They had to make due with a small sandbar hardly big enough for one of them. They crowded behind it in a tight formation. The jail was maddeningly close by but they couldn’t approach it without risking exposure. A gaunt face appeared between the bamboo slats of the jail wall. Eyed them quizzically.

“That you, Jethro?” it called over.

“Hey there, Winger. We’ve come to break you out.”

“So I gathered. What’s the plan?”

“Well, we’re a bit pinned down at the moment. Anything you can do?”

Winger spit out something green. “Nothing really from my end. Don’t you have a pistol or something?”

“Yeah, but I’m not eager to shoot anyone with it.”

“They don’t know that.”

“Good point.”

Jethro fired off a couple rounds vaguely in the direction of the crouching blowgunner, who was concealed behind a lone pomegranate tree. Meanwhile, the stuntmen used the distraction to make a dash for the jail entrance, which they kicked in. Another guard was just emerging from the outhouse and, not yet aware of the situation, was caught with his pants down, so to speak. The Pilot socked him in the temple, then the Driver bound his wrists with the strap from the guard’s canteen.

They unlocked the cell door with a key they found attached to the guard’s belt. A disheveled Winger stepped out from the cell and gave each of them a hug, which made them feel awkward. Their generation had never been at ease with physical contact.

Returning outside they found the second guard sprawled unconscious. A wild shot from Jethro’s pistol had inadvertently dislodged a pomegranate from the branch above the guard’s head. As if intended, it fell right on target.

“I knew you hadn’t forgotten about me,” said Winger, greeting his old partner with a hug. “Say, there’s a dart sticking out of your hand.”

“Yep. Stings something fierce. Let’s hit the air.”

As the seaplane took off over glistening waters, introductions were made.

“Fascinating line of work,” remarked Winger. “Anything I’ve seen you in?”

The Driver reeled off some movie titles, but Winger shook his head at each one. He yanked the dart out of his partner’s wrist and bandaged the injury in gauze procured from the seaplane’s medicine chest.

“Good thing that’s not your shooting hand.”

“Doesn’t matter. My aim is crap.”

“What were you in for?” asked the Driver, just to make conversation.

Winger and Jethro exchanged glances.

“Kind of a touchy subject. Rather not say.”

They were nearly over the mainland. Frothy waves like bathtub scum soon became houses made of popsicle sticks.

“Can we stop at your bungalow first before we do this thing?” Winger requested. “I want to freshen up.”

Back at Jethro’s bungalow the stuntmen helped themselves to a round of beers while Winger took a long soothing shower. His first in quite a while.

“Where’s your sister?” the Pilot wondered, looking around.

“School. She’s studying to become a mortician.”

“Oh. That’s nice.”

Winger emerged from the bathroom, freshly shaven and drying his limp hair with a towel. “I think I broke your toilet.”

“You have to jiggle the handle.”

Jethro offered Winger a beer, but it was refused.

“My new faith doesn’t allow for introducing poisons into my body.”

“I respect that,” said Jethro.

They headed towards town in a sputtering jeep which Jethro claimed wasn’t stolen. After a quick spin around the block, the Driver felt perfectly at home behind the wheel.

“Look out for that old woman on stilts,” Winger cautioned.

“I see her.”

He guided the jeep into a brick alley behind the city bank.

“You two wait here while Winger and I go in,” said Jethro.

“Say, how you planning to pull this off anyway?”

“Hypnotism. Stay put.”

He and Winger peeked out of the alley to make sure no one was watching, then disappeared in the direction of the bank. While they waited the stuntmen amused themselves with a game of “I Spy,” which the Pilot won because of the two he had the better vision. In any case it was a rather barren alley and there wasn’t much to spy. The Driver tried to find a decent station on the jeep’s radio but couldn’t get very good reception. The best he could do was some kind of fuzzy mambo.

The heisters returned looking as inconspicuous as possible under the circumstances. They hastily piled into the jeep.

“Go!” Jethro barked.

The Driver peeled out of the alley and sped along the main street, which was called Second Street for reasons unknown. His left tire hit an embankment and the jeep lurched on two wheels for a short distance.

“Try not to attract attention,” Jethro suggested.

“Sorry,” said the Driver, reducing speed. “Professional habit.”

He made a few tricky maneuvers, just to throw off the scent in case anyone was tailing them. A few miles out of town he pulled down a neglected sideroad and concealed the jeep in an old dilapidated barn, as according to the plan.

“We really did it,” the Pilot exclaimed.

“How much did we rake in?” the Driver wanted to know.

“Nothing,” Winger responded. “The bank was closed.”

“Must be a holiday,” Jethro added sheepishly. “Guess I should have checked the calendar beforehand. This is entirely on me.”

“I robbed the gumball machine out front,” Winger spoke up cheerfully. He doled out an even share to each member of the team. “I like the grape ones best.”

The following evening the two out-of-work stuntmen sat downing pints in the dim interior of Bladderstone’s Bar and Grill.

“Ain’t fair.”

“Nope. Ain’t.”

Rob Hill lives in New York City. He occasionally posts rags and bones at hellospider.wordpress.com.

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