Tomorrow Doesn’t Exist

Johnny Shaw


The stupidest thing that smart people do is to tell a stupid person that they should be smarter. Do they think there’s a switch they can flip? How is the person going to answer, “Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll just be smarter now.”

Every year in December, I watch the only Christmas movie worth half a shit: Die Hard. The best part: it’s about a dumb guy defeating a smart guy. And a European, so double win. The look on Hans Gruber’s face as he’s falling from Nakitomi Plaza is–well, very similar to the look on your face right now. It’s like you’re watching a caveman do a card trick. Like you can’t understand what’s happening to you.

The problem with someone like you is that you’re confident you’re smart. And you probably are, but most stupid people think they’re smart, too. It’s the luxury of the ignorant. Me, there’s no doubt. I’m dumb and I know it. It’s my superpower.

I know I don’t know what I know and I know I don’t know what I don’t know, but I also don’t care what I know. Or what I don’t know. You know?

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve gotten my hand stuck in a jar or one of my fingers stuck in a bottle. And not just my finger, if you know what I mean. On a cold, lonely night, a bottle with the right curves seems fully capable of love. But to be honest, it feels like a glass robot. I wouldn’t recommend it. After the third time, I decided it wasn’t for me.

I wouldn’t ever want to be smart like you. All that thinking. It doesn’t make you decent. It has nothing to do with decency. It doesn’t mean a thing. When you’re smart, you have no excuses, because you should always know better. I don’t need a reason for doing any idiotic thing. Stupid is my reason. It’s the perfect defense.

When the judge says, “Why were you naked in the middle of that watermelon patch singing YMCA to those gophers?” there isn’t a good answer. All I could say was “I don’t know. I couldn’t remember the words to Dancing Queen.”

Have you ever tried to run gasoline through a garden sprinkler? It doesn’t make a flame fountain, like you’d think. It just explodes and before you know it everyone’s yelling and your dog is on fire.

I shot my car yesterday because it wouldn’t start. I wasn’t even that mad, but I couldn’t let the bastard get away with it. Now that was lucky for you. It meant there were more holes for you to breathe through when I put you in the trunk.

The look on your face. That Hans Gruber falling look. You didn’t expect to see me when you walked out of your big office building. You thought you were safe because you’re smart and you have money and most people think that’s power.

A man in a suit. A man with a briefcase. A man who knows lawyers and bankers and businessmen. A man who thinks signed papers mean something. A man who thinks money is important.

A smart guy like you, you must be analyzing the events that led up to this moment. You obviously had your eye on my farm for awhile. Maybe for the land or the water rights, but you didn’t make me an offer. That would have been the decent thing to do.

Instead you waited for me to miss a payment and somehow had my equipment repossessed. You didn’t anticipate the decency of my neighbors who loaned me their tractor. When my boy got hurt, it put me behind. I can’t prove you had anything to do with that, but this isn’t exactly a courtroom.

Then you sent a man with a piece of paper that said my land was no longer my land. A default on a lien or something. A fight with paper is a fight I can’t win. I hadn’t ever met you. I didn’t know you. When I asked to meet with you face to face, you ignored me. When I showed up at your office the first time, you had me arrested.

Do you remember your jokes? Do you remember calling me stupid? Do you remember laughing with those lawyers when the verdict was read?

When I got out of jail ninety days later, my wife–well, you know about that. Someone must have told you. I miss her. Even a strong woman weakens under that kind of pressure. I blame myself. And I blame you.

You thought it was over, but I’m too dumb to know I’ve been beat. I told you. It’s my superpower.

You expect people to have reasons for doing things. Logic. A plan. Some kind of strategy. I don’t know nothing about any of that. I don’t know why I do half the shit I do. You see the system that you know, the rules that you can control. That means nothing here. This is simpler. We ain’t even playing the same game. While you’re playing chess, six moves ahead of me, I’m cheating at tic-tac-toe.

And that, my smart friend, is how you find yourself standing in an old septic tank in ten inches of shit and piss, soaked in gasoline, and begging for mercy. In this moment, there are no judges. No lawyers. No police. No rules. And definitely no mercy. Just a dumbass with nothing left to lose. Because you took it all away.

I can’t take everything away from you. I don’t know how. But I surely know how to take you away from everything.

Is this the decent thing to do? I don’t know. I’m stupid, remember?

You should’ve been dumber. You would’ve been happier. We could’ve gotten drunk, stolen some fireworks, and made a night of it. Now there isn’t time. Today is everything. It’s all you’ve got. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Not for you. For me–well, somebody has to fill in this hole with dirt.

Now where did I put my lighter?


Johnny Shaw is the author of six novels, including the Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series and the Anthony Award-winning adventure novel BIG MARIA, set in the southwestern desert regions of the United States. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Shotgun Honey, Blood & Tacos, and numerous anthologies. Johnny’s most recent novel THE UPPER HAND is the story of a family of thieves and their plan to rob a televangelist. Johnny and his wife currently live nomadically traveling throughout Europe.

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