Impulse Control


One minute before closing time his truck roars up, just as Frank’s swinging the gate closed at the Transfer Site. All the other maintenance guys have gone for the day. Here’s Craig Jones again bringing in a truckload of trash in cardboard boxes from the grocery story.

A cocky smile on Jones’ face. He slid out of the truck and stood there in a wide-legged stance as if he were a real working man. His Daddy had made life easy for him–until now, Frank heard. Junior here was working in the business and apparently hated it. Too bad. Job’s a job nowadays.

Craig’s wearing the gnat hats that are new this summer. The veil covers his face and folds down around his neck onto his chest. They’re too pussy for Frank.

“It’s closing time.”

“Well, see my Rolex here, says I got two minutes left.”

Frank watched while he clambered up into the bed of the pickup like an old lady and started heaving boxes out. Craig Jones didn’t know what it was like to live on minimum wage in a drafty old Airstream where Frank hopped around inside a mummy bag tied just under his shoulders and wore four sweaters to keep warm. The boxes piled up in a slithery heap in front of the bailer.

“Hey, that one’s full of rotten vegetables,” Frank said. “Empty that in the compactor.”

“Your job, not mine,” Jones grinned, sauntering back to the truck, whistling.

Frank grabbed him by the shoulder. He knew he shouldn’t touch the little pussy. He’d always had trouble with impulses–lighting the match under the pipe, taking the beer from the out-stretched hand, pilfering a pill or two from a medicine cabinet while he was on a job.

“Get off of me,” Jones complained, his voice going high.

Now he’d probably left a bruise on Jones’ shoulder and he’d run to the Sheriffs. Frank couldn’t afford that. He couldn’t risk his job either, by leaving  all this trash for the guy who came in the next day.

The only thing around was a plane flying high, high in the sky above the clouds from China Lake Naval Base.  Next to the compactor bin was a solid steel bar for poking items down. Frank yanked it out of the slot and brought it down hard on the back of Jones’ head.  Took pleasure hitting him again and again until he was good and dead. He pulled the keys from the man’s pocket along with the cash in his wallet. He threw the gnat hat that stank of Jones over his own head.

Two black plastic bin bags over the torso, another couple over the feet and a length of twine to make a nice bleed-proof package. Frank sacrificed an old length of carpet he’d intended to use to block drafts in his Airstream and bundled Jones into a neat roll. The guy didn’t weigh more than the trash barrels Frank heaved around all day.

He threw the steel lever into the control panel to start the compactor. The carpet crunched as it compressed into the huge steel container that would be picked up tomorrow. Did the guys at the County Transfer site check what was dumped at the landfill? Not any more than he did.

Maybe somebody would remember later they saw Jones driving away from the dump like usual wearing a gnat hat. Not likely anybody would see Frank take a turn in his truck and head out past the last houses in the town. A steep road led up the mountain to a 600 foot drop. Lots of things got pushed off there. Just like the dump. The snows would come soon and see the last of the pestering flies. By spring the truck would be covered with trash.

Frank did the short walk back to town in fifteen minutes, taking the network of paths that led down the mountain so that he came out on the far side of the Transfer Site and close to home. With any luck his AA sponsor would still be waiting for him.

They had good cookies at the Friday night meeting. Those AA women really knew how to bake.

~ fin ~

Mar Preston is extremely surprised and pleased that her story is appearing in the august company of writers at least 30 years younger. Noir is timeless, is it not? Mar is a mystery author living in a high mountain village in Central California. IMPULSE CONTROL might easily have happened here. Her usual fare is police procedurals set in Santa Monica,