I Thought I Was Someone Else #5 - The Help

Published on 29 April 2024 at 18:45

The night of the Shriner’s convention finally came. I was so excited for my chance to meet my hero that I was in a daze for days. Nothing that my wife could do or say could affect me now. She was on borrowed time. She was flailing, that was all. Flailing like a person drowning, getting her last few strokes in before it all ended.


When we got to the convention, however, it immediately turned from a dream into a nightmare. Soon as his speech started, I felt a sharp pang of bitter disappointment. The Allen T. Watts I admired was rough, viscously eloquent, he was a take-no-prisoners type of guy. This Allen T. Watts, the one that stood behind a maple podium and addressed a crowd of idiots in weird little hats, however, was anything but those qualities.


He wasn’t rough or tough or hard-boiled. He wasn’t intimidating or even the slightest bit menacing, no sneer or scowl crossed his lips. In fact, there was no trace of the man I had seen on screen at all. This Allen T. Watts, by all accounts, seemed mild mannered and pleasant. This Allen T. Watts, he talked about charity and giving and art and children and raising braided ficus plants.


I was stunned. I was appalled. My wife saw my disappointment and smiled. She reveled in it. Yet as the lecture neared the end, I began to understand what he was saying, what he was doing. I understood him, after all, in ways that nobody else did. I could get inside his head just as easily as he lived in mine.


When the speech concluded and the dinner was done, Clarissa spent the entire drive home telling me what a dope and a fool I was to expect the man to be just like he was in the pictures. She laughed and told me how excited she was to tell everyone about this at our next dinner. Her eyes were lit up like two beacons, the depth of my apparent humiliation seemed to bring her to life.


That was fine. I knew better. And soon, all of this, like her life, was going to end. When we got home I waited until Clarissa drank enough martinis to take down a horse, and then I snuck out of the house as silent as a ghost. I took a ride over to the Van Winkle Motel Suites, where I was sure that Allen T. Watts would be staying. It was the snazziest place in town. I procured his room number at the front desk and, one short elevator ride later, I found myself knocking on the door to room 408B.


A muffled word came to me from the other side of the door: “Yes?”


It was him. I knew it.


“Uhm..Allen T. Watts? This is Federal Express,” I said, lying but unsure why. He told me to come in and I stepped through the doorway, out of the dark of the hallway and into his bright room, his world, his presence. He looked at me and beamed.


“Federal Express, eh? Well they sure make you guys dress to the nines around here, huh?”


Momentarily confused, I glanced down and realized that I was still dressed from earlier, wearing my nicest suit. My cheeks flushed with embarrassment as I realized my tiny and entirely unnecessary lie about being from FedEx was immediately exposed by my attire.


“I-I-I’m sorry to have lied about that,” I stammered out nervously, barely able to meet his gaze. “I j-just didn’t n-n-know how else to meet you and -”


A warm chuckle sounded and a friendly hand clapped me on my shoulder, cutting off my pathetic explanation mid-sentence.


“Not a problem, pal,” Allen T. Watts said to me, putting a little bit of his movie mobster accent on. “What’s a little subterfuge between chums, eh? What do you need? A picture? Autograph? You need somebody whacked?”


His laughter boomed, the shake of his head causing flecks of white gunk to fall to the carpet of his dressing room. It was then I noticed for the first time that he had shaving cream on the left side of his face. “Well as you can probably see, you caught me in the middle of shaving,” he said, settling back into his regular speaking voice. “So if you don’t mind watching me finish, why don’t you come on in and tell me what’s on your mind?”


Allen T. Watts smoothly turned on his heels and spun away from me, headed back into the recesses of the room, presumably towards a mirror. I stepped inside and quietly shut the door behind me. I followed the sound of running water and I found my idol standing at the sink, looking into the mirror and deftly moving his razor up and across his cheek. I mentally took note of the way that he shaved, the way that he tapped the razor twice on the edge of the sink to clear it of any clumps before he dipped it under the water and continued. The way his eyes never wavered from what he did. I knew that the next time I shaved and rehearsed lines in my own mirror, that I would nail the impression completely.


“Come on now, don’t be shy. I know you can’t be here for this thrilling performance,” he said, eyes still looking forward, still watching his own reflected hand move. I cleared my throat and stood up straighter. This was it. This was my time now. My time to learn. To gain. To plot. If I was going to kill that awful woman, it all started with my pitch, right here right now.


“Uh, you see Mr. Watts, I have a problem.” I paused. He kept shaving. The snicking sound of whiskers being whisked away flowed in a steady rhythm. “I’ve seen all of your movies, every single one. I’ve been following your career ever since I first saw Kingpin Chronicles and you blew me away.”


I paused again. He continued to shave, stoically watching his hand in the reflective glass. I gulped and forced myself to finish. “So that’s why I feel like you can help me, maybe tell me what to do. I feel like I understand you in a kind of way, you know? And you seem like the type of guy that can help me.”


Allen T. Watts finished his cheek and tapped his razor clear with a double clink. He inspected his work in the mirror, turning ever so slightly from side to side. “Help with what, exactly? What type of problem do you have?”


I let out a breath and then took in another deep one before answering. “Marriage problems,” I admitted.


“You and every other married guy in the world,” he said in a joking manner.


I didn’t smile. “Well, the problem with my wife is that she’s still breathing.”


A silence filled the room. In the quiet, I heard the soft click of the ventilation system turning on. “I see,” Allen T. Watts said simply. With nothing left to shave, his eyes now looked at me in the mirror. Curious eyes stared at me, possibly even saw through me. To the real me, the one that I’ve been finding within myself. The one that he set free. I hoped he would help set me free now.


“Suppose, in a purely hypothetical way of course, that you were going to kill somebody. Someone in your home, someone in the same bed as you. How would you do it? How would you do it so you don’t get caught?”


Allen T. Watts turned to me. His eyes now saw the real me, not the backward one. He hesitated before speaking, as if choosing his next words carefully.


“That is a very...interesting hypothetical question,” he said slowly. “Now, I understand that I may play a bad guy on the big screen but in reality, well, as you saw earlier, I am a peace-loving, charitable man who raises ficuses. Do you really think that a man such as that is the answer you’re searchin’ for?”


I smiled and shook my head, showing him that I was onto his secret. “I get it Mr. Watts,” I told him, “you need to keep up the act for the public, your ‘front’ or whatever you call it. But I think we both know that the peaceful, inhibited persona doesn’t cut it. Not anymore. Not in this world.” Allen T. Watts watched me with quiet intensity. I knew that my words were ringing true in his ears. I pressed on.


“Yeah, that used to be me. Weak, afraid, ineffectual, pathetic. But not anymore. Not since I found you.” His ears seemed to perk up, he stood a bit more rigidly. “Your sureness in what you do, your ability to cope and inability to fear another living person, that’s what I saw. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to be someone else. Not just anyone else, but specifically you. To be Allen T. Watts, gangster extraordinaire.”


I paused to see how he was taking it in. He was still as a statue. I needed to finish before I lost my nerve. “ I wish I had your abilities. To take control, to stomp out opposition. To silence your enemies when they just won’t ever let up! I wanted to be able to take on my problem with your same ruthlessness and determination.” I inhaled deeply, then got it out:


“I bore my wife’s abuse for a long time. Longer than anyone can imagine. I wondered to myself, how would Allen T. Watts handle it? And that’s when it came to me, I knew it at once. You would kill her. Plain and simple.”


At that, Allen T. Watts held up a hand and started to protest, but I cut him off, pressing onward. “No, no it’s not what you think. I’m not here to ask you to do it for me, no, that wouldn’t be right. A real man, a man like Allen T. Watts, they take care of their own problems. I’m just here for advice. How would you do it, you know? I want to make sure my plan is good, and then I’ll do it myself. See? I even bought a gun to do it with.”


I quickly reached into the interior pocket of my suit jacket. I realized immediately that I shouldn’t have made such a bold sudden move but, pro that he was, Allen T. Watts didn’t even flinch. He never did. The man had no fear. With a bit of a Hollywood flourish I had been secretly working on, I pulled out the gun and waved it in front of his cool blue eyes.


“You bought that gun?” He asked the question calmly, coolly, with a hint of confidence that showed he already knew the answer. I internalized everything about the man that I could.


“I did,” I told him proudly. With a silent nod, he held out his hand, palm up, and I handed him the gun barrel first. After taking it from me and testing its weight in his hand, Allen T. Watts turned the gun this way and that, before expertly slipping it into his own suit jacket.


“Hey, what are you - ” Before I could even get the words out to question him, Allen T. Watts was already answering me.


“If you bought the gun, then you left yourself a paper trail, see? Cameras. Cashiers. An old lady crossing the street as you left the store. Anything can give you away. Rule number one: you never buy your own gun.” With a confident swagger, Allen T. Watts crossed his dressing room and pulled open a drawer, revealing a small locked box. A moment later, and he had a new gun in his hand, shiny. Heavy. It looked like the kind he used in his movies. It was perfect.


“Now, see this one here? I always keep this one with me when I’m on the road, just in case. You never know what kinda nutzos and fruitcakes you’re gonna run into.” He turned it over in his hand and beamed, before adjusting his grip and handing it to me, handle first. “You see? This one can never be traced back to you. Now, you should be able to take care of that old battle axe, no problemo.”


I was dumbfounded. This heavy thing in my hand, I couldn’t believe it was real. My plan to get help, it was actually working! This was amazing! Or so I believed.


“Now, I’ll help ya. But we gotta do things my way, see? It’s the only way this thing is gonna work. Capeesh? You with me?”


I nodded. When he stuck his hand out to shake, I grasped it with bold determination. “Thank you for your help, Mr. Watts,” I told him.


He smiled. His front incisor gleamed in the overhead light.


“You got it, pal. After all….what’s a little murder between friends?”




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