The Poetic Journey of a Contract Hitman
By Surya Gemilang
It’s kind of strange because the person who needs my services this time is a teenage high school boy, not a government official, or someone like that, quite apart from how he finds out where I live, or where he gets the sort of dough he needs to pay me. And also the person I have to bump off isn’t an important person, not someone who if he get killed is going to seriously destabilize some country for example. Instead it’s an Indonesian language teacher who teaches my teenage customer’s class.
“Why do you want this guy bumped off?” I ask sharply, because I think this kid has turned up here not so serious. “Don’t tell me just because you got hung out to dry in the schoolyard, or because you got a bad exam score.”
“His crime was much worse, Mister Hitman,” says the high school kid, obviously with an expression that shows me clearly how badly he wants this guy bumped off. “He stole the poems I submitted for an assignment.”
“Hah? What do you mean?”
The teenage kid explains more or less like this. A month ago, the Indonesian language teacher told his students to write three poems to be submitted the following week. Like a good student, my young customer does the work and hands it up on time. Funny thing is, three weeks after he hands it up, he come across his three assignment poems published in the writing column of a national newspaper, in the name of the Indonesian language teacher!
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for my poems to be published in that newspaper…” he continues, his voice is getting, like, real emotional.
The day after the high school kid gives me the address of the Indonesian language teacher’s home, straight away I go to the address; not to bump him off, but first to check out the joint non-stop for a few days. As a professional hitman, of course, I have to figure out how to pop the teacher as neatly as possible, how to get away from the neighborhood where he lives without getting seen by nobody, anything I have to be careful of around the place, and things like that.
I conclude that knocking the Indonesian language teacher off is not going to be that hard, in fact, it’s going to be much, much easier than taking out some random mayor, minister, president, or such like.
My target is only a 40-year-old teacher who, aside from spending ordinary days at school, is always busy at his house correcting student papers, reading poetry books, and writing poetry until he starts to cry. This is serious. He doesn’t have any children or a wife. I think all he wants to do is “give” his life to poetry. And, also, the housing complex where he lives is very quiet.
“I’ve checked it out enough,” I explain to the high school kid when he arrives again at my house to nail down the way I work. “Tomorrow night he’s going to die horribly. And as a bonus, I’m going to take some of his poetry collections for you.”
“Thank you, Mister Hitman. But, if you don’t mind, as well as dying horribly, I also want him to die poetically.”
Even though I don’t completely get the phrase “die poetically” I reply, “Even though I ain’t no poet, the jobs I do are always more poetic than poetry.” I myself don’t really understand the phrase “more poetic than poetry”, but I say this on purpose just so it sounds poetical, and so it makes my young customer happy.
That night the Indonesian language teacher is writing poetry on his laptop, and I am standing behind him without him knowing it. I have equipped myself with a ball of nylon thread, instead of the silenced pistol I used to use. In fact the hit I am about to do will be a little harder, but that will just give it a feeling that is more poetic. And, just as the high school kid asked, as the Indonesian language teacher struggles to take his last breath, I am going to say the lines of the poem I’ve been memorizing since yesterday in his ear:
In a moment the last guest will arrive
who you will welcome joyfully:
You will open the door for him
a second after there’s a rough knock
then you’ll both exchange smiles
It was one of the poems written by the high school kid that he composed for his assignment — for some reason, I can’t remember the title — the poem that is expected to make the Indonesian language teacher realize immediately at the last moment, why he is being murdered.
I think this is going to be my stupidest job, and not so manly… But what the hell.
I step slowly closer to the teacher to snare his neck from behind when suddenly he turns around and spits right into my face. Damn! Like out of the blue, I’m so shocked that I freeze for a moment while I feel the saliva between my eyes, saliva cold like the ocean at night.
“Feel the spit that is filled with poetry,” the teacher says.
My heart is suddenly pounding so hard, like it’s going to explode. A sensation spreads quickly from my face to my whole body. I don’t know what the right word is for the sensation. What is clear, after the sensation stopped spreading, suddenly…
the hand of the wind smashes the windowpane
and crashes into my heart
the clock that beats calmly
grips my stomach
until the words expressing pain
erupt from every pore in my body
suddenly someone knocked on the door
at my back, with
an unusual tenderness:
him, the last guest
My whole body is so weak that I cannot do anything except lie on the floor, staring…
the ceiling laughs aloud
to see my withered body
from its mouth is visible
a shower of spears that soon arrive
I’ve almost been killed a couple of times while doing a job, but this time it feels very different. I don’t feel suffering, but instead, I enjoy it! Damn it!
Then the Indonesian teacher squats down beside me. He laughs, then says, “And now the last guest arrives who you welcome joyfully: death.”
The next morning, when the high school teenager finds a sheet of A4 paper on the ground at the front door of his house, he almost accidentally steps on it in his school shoes. For a moment he squints as he stares at the contents of the sheet of paper before bursting into tears. No. He’s not crying out of sadness. He is just so moved to see the hitman’s corpse wrapped up so poetically.
Surya Gemilang, The Poetic Journey of a Contract Hitman (Perjalanan Puitis Seorang Pembunuh Bayaran) was published in Koran Tempo daily newspaper on 7-8 March 2020. [Retrieved from https://lakonhidup.com/2019/10/13/menembak-ati-tujuh-orang]
Surya Gemilang was born in Denpasar, Bali, on March 21, 1998. His books include: Chasing Shooting Stars (Mengejar Bintang Jatuh) (a collection of short stories, 2015), How to Love Monsters (Cara Mencintai Monster) (a collection of poems, 2017), A Taste of Death (Mencicipi Kematian) (a collection of poems, 2018), and Looking for a Head for Mother (Mencari Kepala untuk Ibu) (a collection of short stories, 2019). His other writings can be found in more than 10 mixed anthologies and numerous media publications.
Featured image credit: Mother’s Prayer by Mark Chaves