I’m the best. That’s why they call me.
I knock. Ed opens the lid and ushers me inside. This is the second time I’ve paid him a visit.
“Thank you so much for coming out on a Sunday.” Ed says it like I’m doing him a favor.
“Thank me by paying me when the job is done.” It’s meaningless, but I say it anyway.
“You are one rude octopus,” he says.
“I’m not an octopus, you hippo,” I reply. “I’m a squid. Now show me what you’ve got.”
He takes me to the refrigerator.
“I keep hearing them in there. Every morning I find empty bottles and open snack wrappers strewn all around. Yesterday, I found a tiny dirty magazine out there, still open to the centerfold.”
The fridge is empty, but I hear it, too—tiny voices slurring and swearing. I was afraid of that.
I grab his droopy hippopotamus ear and drag his head down. The sound is louder there.
“What are you doing?” he screams.
It takes a minute, but I find the seam. Then I unzip his head. Five tiny little green-clad men are in there, laughing and kicking his tiny hippopotamus brain around like the terrible guests they are.
I slowly zip the head back up. Better safe than slimed.
“What was that, Joe?” Ed looks worried now. He damn well should be.
“Do you have whisky?”
“Pour a shot.”
He does, spilling some on the counter with his clumsy hippopotamus hands.
I take the glass and smell it. It doesn’t burn any less now than it did when I used to swim in the stuff. I don’t miss the restaurant. Not even a little.
“You know, you are the spitting image of your—”
“Don’t mention my lazy brother, Ed. Do that and the deal is off.”
He wisely shuts up.
I place the dripping whiskey shot in the fridge and close the door.
“Now, do not open this door.”
“For how long?” he asks, already afraid of the answer.
It is exactly what he doesn’t want to hear, but that is not my problem.
“I’ll take my payment now.”
He pulls out his oversized hippopotamus wallet and flips through, finding an arm. Then he digs in his pockets and locates a leg.
It takes a little shoving, but I fit them in my coin purse with the others.
“What happens now, Joe?”
“If you’re lucky, nothing. Bury the fridge in your cellar with the others, but keep it closed.”
“And if I don’t?” He wants to open it more than he wants to tap dance, and that’s a lot.
“Then one day somebody else will call me to exterminate a big, dumb hippopotamus wearing an ill-fitted green leotard. Is that what you want?”
His eyes cut away from mine.
“Do yourself a favor, Ed. Find yourself a nice girl or a tree and settle down. Have some babies or maybe some soup.”
Ed smiles. He closes his eyes and purrs like hippopotami often do.
I hit him across the head with a mackerel. He falls, dead.
I step back out of the shoebox. My client is there with all fourteen pairs of hands clasped in anticipation.
“Is it over?”
I nod, handing her the arm and leg.
She hands me a shrimp.
“This is too much,” I say.
“You are the best. I definitely received my invertebrate’s worth.”
I toss the monstrous thing on the back of my bicycle. It’s nice to be appreciated. I try to leave before she kills the mood.
“You know,” she says, “you look just like your brother.”
Great. I look just like my lazy, good-for-nothing, sleeps for eons in other people’s basements, cult of followers having brother. She not only killed the mood, she ran it over, helped it up, then dropped a grand piano on its cold, moldy corpse. If she weren’t a customer, I’d squirt ink in her eye.
“I leave you with a piece of friendly advice, Countess: Don’t open that fridge.”