Unfinished Business—A Negotiation

By Sage Kalmus

“Welcome back.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“Little jet-lagged?”
“Shell-shocked, maybe.”
“That’ll pass.”
“I know. I always forget how much I love it here.”
“Thank goodness, right? If we didn’t, we’d never leave.”
“That’s for sure.”
“So, don’t keep me in suspense. How was it this time?”
“Wow, what can I say?”
“I know what you mean.”
“It was an adventure. I’ll give you that.”
“Overall a good ride?”
“I guess you could say that. Overall.”
“Nice. I’m happy for you then.”
“Yeah, well. I’m glad it’s over too. At times I thought it would never end.”
“And yet…”
“How was yours?”
“Not so good, actually.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be. It happens. Can’t plan for everything.”
“You said it.”
“Besides, I had it coming.”
“That’s a good attitude.”
“It’s why we do it, right?”
“Is that why?”
“Always a kidder.”
“Least so far.”
“Yeah, that’s actually what I wanted to talk about.”
“My keen sense of humor?”
“Not quite.”
“Hold on, you’ve been waiting here for me?”
“Why so surprised?”
“Just flattered, I guess. Haven’t been waiting long, I hope.”
“What’s long?”
“Good point.”
“I’ve kept busy, you know how it is.”
“That I do. So, what’s up?”
“I was wondering if I might convince you to go back.”
“I just got here.”
“Yeah, but have you given any thought to how long you might stay this time?”
“Like I said…”
“Well, thinking about it now…”
“Now? Well, now I’d think who said anything about going back?”
“You did.”
“Just now. I figured that’s what you meant by ‘so far.’ What, are you planning on staying here forever?”
“Yeah, okay. You got me. I mean, of course. What else am I going to do?”
“But what’s the rush?”
“I got this…unfinished business.”
“Who doesn’t?”
“Right, but everyone I need to help me take care of it is here now. They’re all between trips and each of them has a personal reason to come aboard.”
“Unfinished business with you?”
“Some, I’m sure. For my part, I’ve just got one slot left to fill, but it’s a critical one, and as far as I’m concerned you’re the only one to fill it.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because I still need somebody to break my heart.”
“Oh boy. Yeah, I can see why you want me to do it.”
“And it’ll work out perfectly with that thing you’ve still got going on.”
“Heard about that, have you?”
“Who hasn’t?”
“Hazard of the trade.”
“You realize I haven’t seen you in a lifetime.”
“Three lifetimes! Even worse.”
“I know. Missed you too.”
“And now you want me to go back so I can scar you?”
“I don’t know anyone I’d rather do it.”
“Was that facetious?”
“No, I’m serious. I get it. I’m touched. If the roles were reversed I’d want you to be the one to do it too.”
“The roles were reversed.”
“Don’t remind me. Times past, huh?”
“Seems like just this morning.”
“Yeah, it would.”
“See? It takes care of that thing between us too.”
“I didn’t know we needed to take care of that.”
“We don’t. I mean, I thought you’d have wanted to.”
“You know I’m not like that.”
“Like what?”
“Tit for tat.”
“Maybe in this one instance you’ll make an exception.”
“For you? Yeah, of course. Anything. But this? And what am I going to do with the rest of my time?”
“Our thing won’t take long.”
“I figured.”
“If it makes any difference, she’ll be there.”
“If it makes any difference? I’ll say! Why didn’t you tell me that first?”
“It would have been manipulative.”
“But it could have saved you all this trouble.”
“No trouble.”
“Who’s she going to be?”
“My mother.”
“Your mother?”
“Why do you say it like that?”
“Who am I going to be? Not your father, I hope.”
“Been there, done that.”
“That’s what I’m saying. So who?”
“It’s complicated.”
“You’re the younger man she steals from me.”
“Ouch! Wait. How’s that going to work? We’ve already driven the gay thing into the ground.”
“But that would mean…”
“Keep going.”
“Really? I thought you didn’t do that.”
“Not yet. But that’s part of the point, isn’t it?”
“I suppose. Wow, I’m inclined to go just to see what you look like.”
“If that’s what it takes.”
“Always thought you’d make a wonderful woman.”
“Thank you.”
“Just figured you had some aversion to it.”
“Maybe. But that only makes it more inevitable, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t think there’s such a thing.”
“As what?”
“More inevitable.”
“Fine, inevitable then.”
“It was a little imbalanced.”
“You see? It serves a purpose.”
“So this is your unfinished business?”
“Not quite.”
“You sure you’re not doing this to punish yourself for me?”
“No! I mean, yes. I’m sure.”
“‘Cause we’ll have some unfinished business between us then, if that’s your game.”
“I wouldn’t put that on you. And I’m no masochist.”
“You’re making me wonder.”
“It’s a catalyst.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere. A catalyst for what?”
“For me to kill you.”
“What’d I ever do to you?”
“Least I know why you said it won’t take long.”
“Nineteen years tops, I figure.”
“But haven’t you had enough of that plotline? Or don’t you remember the Middle Ages?”
“That’s different.”
“Oh? How?”
“I’ve been in plenty of wars. Done it to death, you might say.”
“Good one.”
“It’s all so I can get put away.”
“You haven’t done that yet?”
“Not like this. It’ll be solitary.”
“For a single crime of passion?”
“Oh. And she’s okay with this?”
“Excited, actually. Says it’ll be fun.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Don’t you see? I’ll be alone with myself for the first time ever.”
“Oh buddy.”
“Don’t look so sad. It’s an adventure, like you said.”
“Isolation. Some adventure.”
“It builds character.”
“This is what you want?”
“I need to see if I can overcome it. Maintain sanity, forgive myself when no one else will, find joy in the most joyless of places…”
“The usual, in other words.”
“Damn good way of getting there, don’t you think?”
“If you can pull it off.”
“Even if I don’t, at least I’ll know how it feels.”
“Unfinished business.”
“Now you’re getting it.”
“A worthy proposition, I’ll admit.”
“So you’re in?”
“Not so fast. How do you plan to do it?”
“To what?”
“Off me.”
“I don’t know. I thought maybe a knife.”
“I’m so tired of knives.”
“Fine, a gun.”
“What, then? You tell me.”
“Hm…how about drowning?”
“Why not? I hear it’s one of the most peaceful ways to go.”
“It is. I can’t believe you’ve never done it.”
“Haven’t gotten around to it. There’s so much to try.”
“You think?”
“So what do you say?”
“You would pick a hard one like that. How am I supposed to arrange a good murder by drowning?”
“It doesn’t have to be good. You’re not trying to get away.”
“Good point.”
“Then you accept?”
“You drive a hard bargain.”
“You place a tall order.”
“So…see you there?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
“I love you.”
“Tell me that on the other side.”
“You mean out there in it? Or back here after?”
“It’s a deal.”
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