If you liked life you’re gonna love death.

Janez Grm

I park near the church.
They built it in the middle of nowhere, so I’m surprised by its size. Ela said that up in the hills large churches are usually pilgrimage sites. We were sitting by the river, drinking. I had a beer, she had a coke and some cherries on the side. She put a whole cherry into her mouth and formed the stem into a loop.
She’s got skills, like her dad.
Then she quickly finished her coke and I haven’t seen her since. It’s been six months. I wonder how taller she is now, teenage girls grow so fast.
Like these pines surrounding the church.
Pines and church in front of me, hills and vineyards behind me. I open the window and breathe in the air. I can’t sense the aroma of the white grapes very well. My nostrils are partly stopped because of the prosthetic nose. I look in the mirror and check the fake nose, the fake eyebrows, the fake teeth. If i stumble upon someone in the woods, they can say to the cops they saw a man with a crooked nose, speaking in Italian. I’ve worked in Slovenia before. In these parts they understand German pretty well, not Italian though.
I get out of the car with Trieste plates. In the inner pocket of my jacket I can feel the loaded tool. I check the watch. I’ve been driving around several days now, observing the target at jogging. It’ll be on its location in 12 to 10 minutes.
People are creatures of habit. That comes very handy in my line of work. The client told me about the habits of the current target. I don’t ask clients about the motives for choosing the target, I don’t ask about their connections. But in this case the connection wasn’t hard to spot: the client and the target have the same last name.
Father is the client, son is the target.
I don’t ask why. And I don’t ask how much. I say how much. Half of the money before the cleaning, half after the cleaning. That’s why I demand the client’s last name. If they try to avoid payment, I can extort them after the cleaning. No sense in cleaning the client up for punishment. The dead don’t pay their debts. This is my main income. What I sell on the road is mainly for the cover. I haven’t been exposed yet. I’m fluent in seven languages. Someone mistook me for a linguist once. I suppose I could teach at the university. But I would get five times less money.
Now I need even more. For Ela. She wants to travel Germany. She’s interested in art history. Mainly baroque. I think this church belongs in the baroque period. I walk up to it, I still have 10 to 8 minutes. Maybe there are postcards or booklets inside, Ela would want them.
I go to the entrance. It’s locked.
I turn to the woods, when from behind the corner a fat man with a white collar shows up. A priest. He asks if I want to take a look inside. I tell him I don’t understand in perfect Italian.
He repeats in broken Italian what he just said in his eastern Slovene dialect.
I mustn’t arouse any suspicion. I say yes. I still have nine to seven minutes.
There are no booklets. Walls are covered with frescos. He points to a female figure and says it represents the allegory of life. The woman has a fat face, fat belly, fat ass. She reminds me of Ela’s mother. She was a miserable broad. I was still young back then, I had sex with whoever liked my cheap cocain. Fortunately I don’t see her mother in Ela.
Though I feel she has my eyes.
I stare at the allegory of life, the collared man takes that as my apprecation of the fresco. He points at another fresco and smiles: “If you liked life, you’re gonna love death.” There’s a fresco of the allegory of death. It’s a skeleton in rags, with rotting pieces of flesh. Its ugly, dirty. The allegory isn’t really fair. Nearing death may be ugly and messy. But death itself is clean. It makes a clean cut. No more fucking about, no more hope. No more questions: Am I good enough for her? Where will I be in ten years? Does my father love me? Death is the only possible answer. It swipes away all the bullshit.
I’m staring. I thank him and say goodbye. He’s locking the door, I dissapear into the woods.
The target will be on location in 4 to 3 minutes.
I’ll get to the path through the pines. Target will be running along the path, which winds around the hill. I can’t aim from below, the sun is peeking from behind the hill, so I cross the path and climb up the hillside. I lean on the wide pinetree, which provides a good cover. I’ve got the sun behind my back. I ascend easily. I’m in good shape. If we were to climb german castle hills, I could keep up with Ela. She screamed something about me being responsible for her mom’s suicide, but I know that’s not true.
I put on my gloves.
That woman didn’t tell me about our daughter. Ela found out about me only after she killed herself.
I take the tool out of the pocket.
If we went travelling together she would realize I’m not a bastard. God only knows what that whore was telling her about me.
I hear quick steps. That’ll be the target.
I move my leg for better balance. My nostrils are still stopped up. That’s why I can’t smell the shit that I step into.
I slip.
I let go of the tool.
I slip down the hillside, the trees are scraping me.
I hear heavy breathing. The target is on its location. Unfortunately I’m on the location as well. It asks if it can help me. I’m quiet, I’m looking for the tool. It asks me what’s wrong with my nose. I can feel it moved. The eyebrows moved as well. The target is following my eyes. We both see the tool. It’s lying beside the path. The target is as strong and fast as I am. Yet it is younger. It picks up the tool and points it at me.
It’s strong, fast, young. It is also careless and scared, the tool is shaking. I kick it from its hands, the tool flies down the hillside. The kick is followed by a punch in the face. It knocks the target down. It’s rolling on the floor, holding its bleeding nose. It starts to yell.
Time to improvise. Beside the path grows a young pine tree, two feet in size.
What did Ela do with the stem?
I pull out the little tree, roots and all. Resin and needles don’t bother me due to my gloves. I kneel above the target and place the tree behind its neck. It moves its hands for selfdefense. I start to twist the young trunk around its neck. Like daughter, like father. It grabs my neck and starts choking me. We’re so close, I can see the colour of its eyes.
I wonder if it got them from dad.
Its young with strong hands. But it didn’t promise its daughter a trip through Europe. And it didn’t swear to never leave her alone again.
I make a noose around its neck. I squeeze it so hard my palms hurt.
The yelling stops. It is done. Target is cleaned up.
I loosen the little tree. I move the cleaned up target’s legs on the path, with the head pointing towards the woods. This way they can easily spot it, and if someone runs over it, the face would not be damaged. They must identify it easily.
I descend the hillside. The tool is shining in the brushes. I pick it up, I go back the way I came. I run pass the church. I sit in the car. I cose the door.
I calm down. I start to breathe slowly.
I turn the key. I drive off. I start to remove the nose, the eyebrows, the teeth. The job is done. The target is cleaned up. Death is clean, smooth. The end of everything. But not for me. Not yet. I must contact the client, to let it know about its son. It’s time for the rest of the payment. I need it. Ela really wants to go on that trip.
The things we do for our children.

Če vam je všeč življenje, kako vam bo šele smrt!

Janez Grm

 

Parkiram blizu cerkve.
Stoji nekje Bogu za hrbtom, zato me čudi njena velikost. Ela je rekla, da so velike cerkve v hribih pogosto cilj romarskih poti. Takrat sva sedela na pijači ob reki. Pil sem pivo, ona pa kokakolo in zraven zobala češnje. V usta je vtaknila celo češnjo in z jezikom zavila pecelj v zanko.
Spretna je, kot njen oče.
Potem je na hitro izpila kokakolo in od takrat je nisem videl. Pol leta nazaj je bilo. Sprašujem se, koliko je zrasla od takrat, najstnice hitro poganjajo.
Kot tile borovci okrog cerkve.
Pred mano cerkev in borovci, za mano griči z vinogradi. Odprem okno in vdihnem zrak. Slabo zaznavam aromo belega grozdja. Zaradi umetnega nosa imam delno zamašene nosnice. V ogledalu preverim umetni nos, umetne obrvi, umetne zobe. Če v gozdu naletim na koga, bo lahko pozneje policiji povedal, da je videl moškega z ukrivljenim nosom, ki je govoril v Italijanščini. Že nekajkrat sem bil na delu v Sloveniji. Vem, da na tem koncu nemško še kar razumejo, italijansko ne.
Stopim iz avta s tržaško registracijo. V notranjem žepu jakne čutim napolnjeno orodje. Preverim uro. Več dni se že peljem naokrog in opazujem tarčo pri džoganju. Na lokaciji bo čez 12 do 10 minut.
Ljudje smo bitja navade. Pri mojem delu to pride zelo prav. Navade trenutne tarče mi je zaupala stranka. Strank ne sprašujem po motivih za izbiro tarče, ne sprašujem po njihovem odnosu. A v tem primeru ni bilo težko odkriti povezave: stranka in tarča si delita priimek.
Oče je stranka, sin je tarča.
Ne vprašam, zakaj. In ne vprašam, koliko. Povem, koliko. Polovico vsote pred čiščenjem, polovico po njem. Zato zahtevam strankin priimek. Če se skuša izogniti plačilu, jo lahko naknadno izsiljujem. Nima smisla za kazen počistiti stranko. Mrtvi ne odplačujejo dolgov. To je moj glavni dohodek. Tisto, kar prodajam, je predvsem zaradi krinke. Za enkrat me še niso razkrili. Obvladam sedem jezikov. Nekoč so me zamenjali z lingvistom. Verjetno bi lahko učil na univerzi. Ampak plačan bi bil petkrat manj.
Tokrat zahtevam večje plačilo. Zaradi Ele. Rada bi šla potovat po Nemčiji. Zgodovina umetnosti jo zanima. Predvsem barok. Mislim, da je tale cerkev baročna. Stopim do nje, imam še 10 do 8 minut. Mogoče so notri kake razglednice ali brošure, Elo bi zanimale.
Stopim do vhoda. Zaklenjen je.
Hočem že zaviti v gozd, ko izza vogala pokuka debeluh z belim ovratnikom. Duhovnik. Vpraša, če si želim ogledati notranjost. V čisti Italijanščini rečem, da ga ne razumem. V polomljeni Italijanščini ponovi, kar je prej rekel v vzhodni Slovenščini.
Ne smem zbuditi sumov. Pristanem. Imam še 9 do 7 minut.
Brošur ni. Na stenah so še kar dobro ohranjene poslikave. Pokaže na ženski lik in reče, da gre za alegorijo življenja. Ženska je okrogla v obraz, okrogla v trebuh, okrogla v rit. Na Elino mamo spominja. Bila je res bedna deklina. Takrat sem bil še mlad, seksal sem vse, kar je padlo na moj ceneni kokain. Na srečo v Eli ne vidim njene mame.
Zdi pa se mi, da ima moje oči.
Strmim v alegorijo življenja, kar ovratničar interpretira kot naklonjenost do slike. Pokaže na neko drugo sliko in se nasmehne: »Če vam je všeč življenje, kako vam bo šele smrt!« Naslikana je alegorija smrti. To je okostnjak v capah, z gnijočimi kosi mesa. Grd je, umazan. Alegorija ni čisto pravična. Bližanje smrti zna biti grdo in umazano. A sama smrt je čista. Gladko odreže. Ni več pizdarij, ni več upov. Ni več vprašanj: sem dovolj dober zanjo? Kako bom živel čez deset let? Me ima foter rad? Smrt je edini mogoči odgovor. Gladko počisti z vsem sranjem.
Zastrmel sem se. Zahvalim se in se poslovim. Ko zaklepa vrata, izginem v gozd.
Tarča bo na lokaciji čez 4 do 3 minute.
Stezi se bom približal med borovci. Tarča bo tekla po stezi, ki se vije okrog hriba. Težko bi meril od spodaj, sonce se ravno dviga izza hriba, zato prečkam stezo in splezam po pobočju. Naslonim se na širok borovec, ki me zakriva. Sonce imam za hrbtom. Zlahka splezam navkreber. Dobro ohranjam kondicijo. Če bi šla lazit po nemških grajskih hribih, bi zlahka dohajal Elo. Sicer je nekaj vpila, da sem kriv za samomor njene mame, ampak ve, da nisem.
Nataknem si rokavice.
Tista ženska mi je zamolčala, da imava hčerko. Šele ko se je ubila, je Ela izvedela zame.
Iz žepa vzamem orodje.
Če bi šla skupaj na potovanje, bi videla, da nisem prasec. Bog ve, kaj vse ji je tista kurba pravila o meni.
Zaslišim hitre korake. To bo tarča.
Premaknem nogo za boljše ravnotežje. Nosnice imam še vedno zamašene. Zato ne zavoham dreka, na katerega stopim.
Spolzi mi.
Orodje mi pade iz rok.
Zdrsnem po pobočju, debla borovcev me odrgnejo.
Zaslišim sopihanje. Tarča je pritekla na lokacijo. Žal sem na tej lokaciji tudi jaz. Vpraša, če lahko kaj pomaga. Molčim in gledam za orodjem. Vpraša me, kaj je z mojim nosom. Čutim, da se je premaknil. Tudi obrvi so se premaknile. Tarča sledi mojemu pogledu. Oba zagledava orodje. Ob stezi leži. Tarča je močna in hitra kot jaz. Je pa tudi mlajša. Prvi pobere orodje in ga nameri vame.
Močan je, hiter je, mlad je. Je pa tudi nepozoren in prestrašen, orodje se mu trese. Brcnem mu ga iz rok, orodje odleti po pobočju navzdol. Moji brci sledi še udarec v obraz. Podere ga. Valja se po tleh in drži za krvavi nos. Prične kričati.
Čas je za improvizacijo. Ob stezi rase mlad borovec, pol metra v višino.
Kaj je že napravila Ela s pecljem?
Izrujem drevesce, s korenino vred. Zaradi rokavic me iglice in smola ne motijo. Počepnem nad tarčo in mu nastavim drevesce za tilnik. Premakne roke, da bi se branil. Takrat mu pričnem zavijati muževnato debelce okoli vratu. Kakršna hči, takšen oče. On poseže po mojem vratu in me skuša daviti. Tako blizu sva si, da lahko razločim barvo njegovih oči.
Vprašam se, če jih ima po očetu.
Mlad je, močne roke ima. Ampak on ni obljubil hčerki potovanja po Evropi. In ni ji prisegel, da je ne bo nikoli več pustil same.
Uspe mi napraviti zanko okrog vratu. Stiskam jo, da me zabolijo dlani.
Vpitje se neha. Opravljeno je. Tarča je počiščena.
Odvijem drevesce. Počiščeni tarči prestavim noge na stezo, glavo pa proti gozdu. Tako jo bodo zlahka opazili, če pa bi kdo po pomoti zapeljal čeznjo, ji ne bo poškodoval obraza. Zlahka jo morajo identificirati.
Spustim se po pobočju. Med podrastjo se sveti orodje. Poberem ga, vrnem se v smeri, iz katere sem prišel. Hitim mimo cerkve. Sedem v avto. Zaprem vrata.
Umirim se. Počasneje zadiham.
Obrnem ključ. Speljem. Pričnem si snemati nos, obrvi in zobe. Delo je opravljeno. Tarča je počiščena. Smrt je čista, gladka. Konec vsega. Ampak ne še zame. Poklicati moram stranko, da izve, da nima več sina. Čas je za preostalo plačilo. Potrebujem ga. Ela si močno želi iti na potovanje.
Česa vsega ne storimo za otroke.