“Terrible thing, people thinking they have to let them go. What a waste.”
Will looked up, startled by the new voice in the room. He had been so consumed by his sadness, preoccupied by the events at hand, that he hadn’t noticed the other occupant of the waiting room. A man sat in a chair in the corner, half hidden by a glossy magazine. His hair was white and wild, long enough to graze his shoulder blades and wide enough to make him look like he had just licked the inside of an electrical socket. His eyes were terrible, twitchy, with one pointing left and one pointing straight ahead, both milky white with seasoned cataracts. The man had a mild palsy in one hand, a hand that was curled and arthritic. His skin was wrinkled and weathered, a sickly shade of white and grey and blue. His lips were dry and cracked, caked with the crust of age, snacks, and mild dehydration. His clothes were disheveled and eccentric, red denim leggings paired with an untucked paisley shirt and bejeweled suspenders.
“Don’t you agree?” the geriatric mess asked Will.
“I’m sorry?” Will said, still mesmerized by the mess of a man before him.
“Your dog there,” the man said, pointing at Bailey. “Tis a shame you feel the need to let her go, don’t you think?”
Will nodded, not really picking up what this lunatic was throwing down. A twinge of anger nagged at Will’s brain. Was this man insinuating that Will was making the wrong choice? That it wasn’t time to let go yet? Making the wrong decision was Will’s worst nightmare. A cacophony of guilt flooded over him, brought forth by this tottering old fucker.
“Oh now, don’t look so ruffled, son,” the man said, eyes twitching this way and that. “I don’t mean to suggest you shouldn’t be doing this. If she’s suffering, she needs to go; that’s your duty as her best friend, and one of a responsible pet owner. I’m merely suggesting you need not say goodbye. Not yet. Maybe not ever.”
Will rubbed his head, simultaneously scratching Bailey’s tummy.
“I’m sorry, are you with someone?” Will asked. “Do you have a pet here?”
“How incredibly dense of me,” the man said, extending his hand for a shake. “Ferris. Ferris Salazar. Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Will Sampson,” Will said, not extending his hand.
“And who is this lovely creature?” Ferris asked, motioning at Bailey.
“Bailey,” Will said.
“Well I’m pleased to meet you too, Bailey,” Ferris said. “Sorry we met so late, but better late than not at all.” Ferris didn‘t make a move to touch Bailey. He likely sensed that Will’s bristles were up and he was ready to pounce like a spider monkey, especially if his soon-to-be departed fur baby was threatened in any way.
“Where will she go?” Ferris asked, directing his one less terrible eye towards Will.
“Excuse me?” Will asked.
“When she’s done,” Ferris said. “Once the poison has entered her veins and stilled her heart. Once her last breath escapes her lungs, and she is going, going, gone.”
“I think I want to be left alone right now,” Will said.
“I think you do, too. But not completely alone. I think you want her with you still. Am I correct?”
“Of course, but-“
“Well here,” Ferris said. “Something to consider, to toy with in your grieving mind. They will ask you, and you will ponder, and you will decide. Then you will question your decision. Cremation or burial, burial or cremation? Keep her ashes with you, near you, or give her body back to the earth, bury her, let her go. By herself, or in a mass grave with others whose people were forced into letting go.”
All Will could do was shake his head.
“Just consider that there are more options, more than these cash sniffers would lead you to believe. I’m not in it for money, Will Sampson. No, not about the coin, no siree. Not for me. I am well off, Will Sampson. I don’t need your nickels and dimes, your hard earned green in exchange for happiness. I’m not a nuclear asshole like that, like the rest of the world. My profit is yours, at the expense of no one. Just for my pleasure, my exploration.”
Will couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“What in the bloody fuck are you talking about?” Will said.
Ferris Salazar stood, leaning heavily on a cane crafted from bone and gold, one leg mangled and seized. He looked lopsided, one side of his body appearing longer than the other. He reached up and pulled a Sherlockian hat off a coat hook on the wall, and rolled it onto his head with the flair of Fred Astaire.
“Just consider me, and what I’ve said,” Ferris said, “When the choice is presented to you, don’t chance a second guess. You will forever wonder. Just head south, to where the river meets the highway. There your answers be.”
Ferris reached in his pocket, and took out a silver business card holder engraved with a picture of a skull. He opened it, and took out a card, flicking in into Will’s lap. Before Will had the chance to throw it back in his face, Ferris whirled around on the heels of his red leather, knee high boots, and loped out the door, dragging one leg behind him as he left. Will watched out the window as the man crossed the street, laughing and chatting with himself, occasionally swinging at the air with his good arm on his elongated side. Will, not believing what he had just seen and heard, looked over at the receptionist. She just looked out at Ferris, rolled her eyes, and shook her head.
“He pops in once and a while,” she said. “We leave him alone for the most part, unless he really starts harassing people. He’s probably homeless, obviously mentally ill. He seems to like it here. Sorry, Mr. Sampson.”
“No harm done,” Will said.
He looked down at Bailey, who was now snoozing in his lap, then picked the recently flung business card off his chest. It was a simple card, eggshell white with black lettering and a picture of a red skull. It provided little information but extensive intrigue.
That was it. No number, no address, no description.
Released December 2015
Excerpt From Pal Tailor
In a single morning, Will Sampson’s life is tossed in a blender. He has his dog put down, his job takes a turn for the ugly, and his marriage crumbles. When he tries to outrun his problems, he stumbles upon a little community called Villeneaux, where he finds peace, tranquility, and the warmth of friendship and love. He also finds Ferris Salazar, a man who dubs himself Pal Tailor. He appears to be an eccentric lunatic, but makes an offer that Will is too morbidly curious to refuse.
As Will settles into his new life, strange things start happening around Villeneaux. People and animals are struck down by a bizarre illness, one that causes horrific physiological and psychological symptoms. Will, along with a troop of friends, are quick to point the finger at Villeneaux’s pariah, Ferris Salazar. But what is Pal Tailor up to? What is his end game? Is he a chaotic savage, or a misunderstood genius?
You decide. Come and meet Pal Tailor, if you dare.