Susan Tepper is the author of 10 published books of fiction and poetry. Her most current is a chapbook of poems titled 9X9 coming out shortly from Cervena Barva Press. She has been nominated nineteen times for the Pushcart Prize, once for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction and many times for Best of the Net. Her current project is an Off-Broadway play about art and life. http://www.susantepper.com
They’ve instructed me to wait at the farthest end of the dock where it juts out unevenly due to the last hurricane. The section known as The Point. It veers into a point because of missing boards torn up by the winds. Red signs post DANGER!
They’ve instructed me to wear black clothing, black sneakers, a black hoodie. And, rubber gloves. To wear the hoodie with the hood up, covering my head, and my face as much as possible. I was also told to wear the gloves. Something big is going down.
I don’t carry a weapon. Only because they won’t allow it. I would feel better with some metal. Well, good luck to that. My instructions are clear: to be on the lookout for a small craft at 10:30 p.m. Instructions by text. The last text said You will meet a woman coming off the boat. First it was a craft, then it was a boat. Then it was Don’t be late but don’t be early either.
It’s fucking freezing on this dock. Nobody comes here. It’s not scenic. The water smells like burnt shit.
My instructions are to escort the woman coming off the boat (change in text from craft) to Point B. I will be told by a man accompanying the woman the location of Point B. We will travel in my car which is parked close by. Beneath the elevated train trestle as instructed. Populated by homeless junkies.
Naturally I have a certain curiosity about the woman. This is out of my normal job scope. Usually I leave packages in various locations, such as the base of a light post. People don’t realize the commerce going on in the bases of the light posts in this city. I’ve been instructed to have no thoughts about the packages I insert. And, in this case, about the woman.
Despite the instructions, I’m very curious about this woman. This is live goods. Not a package. This might be an organ removal situation.
Finally I hear sounds coming from the water. So black there isn’t a ripple. I was instructed not to expect lights. The boat is travelling with no lights. It must be exciting. Suppose they crash The Point. Or maybe the lights were on then turned off as they came in closer. My mind is racing. Despite my instructions not to think about it.
The boat is close enough to make out its shape. Its outline. A small craft or should I say small boat. I smell the gas. I’m feeling excited. I know this is against all the rules. I try to tamp down my excitement by tamping one foot on the dock. When it creaks, and boards shift underfoot, I stop. For all I know this section where I stand may be compromised, too.
The small boat pulls close to The Point. I wonder how this is done without lights. The engine goes totally quiet. Someone tosses me a line. As instructed. I wind it three times around a piling. Then nothing happens.
No woman exits the boat with a man. Maybe the man will come out first to make sure of things. A few more minutes go by. Then a man’s form steps onto the dock. I wave my arm so he’ll see me. A shot fires. I fall to the dock. Blood is coming out of my mouth and I start choking.