A is for Arson
A room. Nondescript. The door, an ordinary door, opens and a man wearing a bowling shirt and a pair of khakis steps through. He flicks a switch, causing the lights to power on, then examines the room before stepping into the center. Following him is a woman in a white dress and matching heels. He clicks his tongue before speaking.
What is this?
A blank space. A new beginning.
Waffles turns to her, raising an eyebrow.
A moment. A memory. Something simple shared between two people - but is it so simple that it could not be real? Once we are gone, these words, this time? It will all be gone. In enough time, that same fate finds us all. Give enough time to the grave - everything we were and everything wanted? Gone. It makes you wonder - what are we to the wheels of time? A bump, a pebble, or a gentle breeze. Are we even real?
A summary? A detective decided to wrestle and found her way to the ring. Sanity didn’t follow and chaos walked in her wake. Broken bones and bitter beings. We watched. We waited. Now, we watch again.
Waffles clicks his tongue once more, considering her words before shaking his head.
Expositional…and a bit extra.
Ariel looks to her feet. She turns back to her companion, smile on her face.
Four walls, a ceiling, and a floor to stand on. One door, a way in or a way out, depending on your frame of mind.
When Waffles starts to reply, Ariel points at him, mimicking his tone.
WAFFLES AND ARIEL:
His face frumps causing her to laugh. The mirth fades quickly to silence and then the weight sets in.
So what is this?
Waffles crosses his arm across his chest, nodding her way. He is resigned as he speaks.
Fade to black.
Your life could change for the better, or the worse, in less time. A passing glance turning into a lifelong love, a red light run turning into a lifetime of pain. A mistake - a blink of an eye - and your entire life can go away. That’s all it takes.
That’s all the time you need to say you care - the time it takes to make things matter: to make things wrong, to make things right. A lifetime of memories - or a lifetime of shame - can be made in less time.
“One second and it will all be mine,” the high pitched voice says, the pair of golden eyes locked on the screen in front of her. The glow from the laptop accentuates the long, tattooed smile and scars that make up her face as she stares, unblinking, at the counter that ticks down on the screen.
She sits cross-legged on the floor, wearing a pair of Cat Dog pajama bottoms and a spaghetti-stained tank top. Tattoos and scars line her arms - most carnival related - complete with a large smiley face that sits dead center of her throat. Pastel pink hair cascades down her shoulders, covering part of her jester-themed face.
The red diamond on her left cheek lowers as the smile on her face begins to fall. Jacky watches the screen flash, informing her that the item she was bidding on has closed - and she is not the winner. Her hand clenches the mouse, knuckles turning white. Her jaw sets; Jacky’s eyes narrow briefly before exploding to their full fury, her pupils tiny dots in the sea of gold.
“Rogerrr!” She roars, taking hold of the laptop, flinging it against the wall where it erupts in a shower of plastic and metal. The television, playing a rerun of SpongeBob SquarePants, splinters around her foot which subsequently becomes lodged inside the shattered frame. While trying to pull her foot free, the still plugged in wire causes it to catch and her to tumble to the ground. She shifts onto one hip, pulling the oversized magnum from her waistband. “Roger!!”
Like a trapped animal, Jacky thrashes along the floor, her bare foot stamping at the television holding her ankle. She takes hold of the stand beside it, pulling the lamps down on top of her. The squirining clown fires a bullet from amongst the pile, before finally getting her foot loose. Stumbling free, she takes aim and unloads on the offending object until the gun clicks. Squeezing the trigger once more to be sure, she shouts out again. “Roger?!?”
The lamp, flickering on the floor, finds a similar fate as she throws it against the wall behind her, the debris raining down on the three men seated on the couch. Even before the porcelain powder coated it, the couch - and the rest of the furniture that filled the small double-wide trailers living room - had seen better days.
“Ye…yes Miss Pierrot?” stammers a wiry man sitting in the middle, wearing nothing but a pair of red overalls. He sets the now useless remote down. To either side, he is flanked by two hulking men. They’ve been passing a bong between them, but it is currently frozen in place. Across from them, Jaclyn’s doll - made up of a rabbit corpse with stuffed animal parts stapled on as others fall off - sits facing the roof in a worn blue recliner.
“Did you win?” the larger of the two asks before the pistol ricochets off his nose. His large paws cover his face.
“No, Thumper, I didn’t win. I need you to use your computer skills or whatever and find an address,” she says to Roger. He looks over to the pile of rubble that was once a computer, too terrified to mention that it belonged to him. “Find it and bring it back to me. Do whatever it takes and this time, don’t screw things up.”
Stepping over the television, she turns to go towards the small hallway heading towards the rooms. The goon rubbing his nose calls after her. “What’re we after, Jacky?”
The clown stops, picking up the corpse-doll, looking into its mismatched button eyes. A smile slips itself into the corner of her cheeks.
Johnny Love raises his eyebrows, tilting the large white Stetson back on his head, before squinting his eyes at the massive blaze. Sirens wail and a horn blasts as another fire truck pulls into the small cul-de-sac, joining the fight. It’s an average suburban neighborhood, just outside of Miami and with little else to do, most of the neighbors have come out to watch.
Johnny is a taller man, what most would call handsome. A five o’clock shadow cast itself across his face as often as he found himself casting himself across a bar around the same time. A large belt buckle accompanies the star buckled beside it, indicating he is a US Marshall. The woman with bronze skin and a tight, black ponytail flips through the papers in the folder she cradles against her arm.
“A stretch Armstrong doll to be specific.”
He sips from the styrofoam gas station coffee, watching as the second hose is hooked up to the newest truck. The captain leaps from the back, shouting orders.
“Must be some heck of a doll. The homeowner?”
“They were able to get him out, they took him down to the ER to run some tests.”
One of the second story windows shatters, a small burst of flame shooting out as if a warning to the crew below before rescinding back into its lair. Some of the people in the crowd shout out and others cast as the officers on scene urge them to move back.
“Witnesses?” he asks.
“One neighbor,” she says, pointing across the street from the inferno at a one-story house, pink with white shutters. In the lawn, an elderly woman stands talking to a pair of uniformed men. “Says she saw him arguing with a man in red suspenders about an hour before the house lit up. She never saw them go inside.”
Considering her words for a moment, Johnny stops watching the scene and turns to his partner. “You said a red pair of overalls?”
She nods, flipping over her paperwork once more.
“Yes sir. Red overalls - she said he was balding, and not in a good way, her words not mine.” Her hazel eyes peer up at his hat, causing him to pull it lower as she continues, “But interestingly enough, he did have a tuft of orange hair in the front.”
“I can’t imagine that it would be hard to run someone like that down,” he says.
“He’s not, we already have an ID,” she says, shifting the folder so she can shuffle through the papers. After pulling a few wrong 8x10s, she finally hands it over. He looks at the paper and then back to her
“Anyone ever point out that he looks kinda like that cartoon bunny?” Johnny asks.
“Yes, Roger. His real name is Roger McKlinsky.”
There is a crash from the building causing the men standing around the base to move back, just as the roof collapses. Johnny takes that as his cue to head towards his cruiser, walking with an almost bow legged saunter.
“Well, as much as I am inclined to pursue this man on account of his sense of fashion, maybe I’m failing to see how this is Marshall purview.”
“Well,” Gutierrez says, scrambling to folder the files as she chases behind him. “It’s not exactly him I thought you might want to look into. It's his boss.”
She pushes another photo into his hand. He takes one final step before stopping, the color draining from his face. Smiling back at him from the mugshot is the clown-faced Creep herself - one eye swollen shut and a busted lip..
“Your old friend.”
“Jaclyn Pierrot,” Johnny whispers, just as the building behind him collapses.
“What do you think when you hear my name?”
The scene opens up to show an old double wide trailer painted in all cyan, including the cinder blocks lifting it off the ground. Corners of the paint have been chipped off, revealing the rust slowly eating away at the frame. Surrounded by low hanging cyprus, with buttonwoods leading down a gravel trail, the small abode is almost perfectly obscured from the road.
Jaclyn Pierrot sits on the edge of the concrete steps that have been shoved against their worn trailer, too wide to be the original set. Her long barrel .44 magnum, The Aristocrat, dangles from her hand, swaying as she bounces her foot. The door opens beside her and Thumper steps out, stopping to hold it open for an extra moment before lumbering past. An old, iron hammer is held in one of his massive paws. Jacky’s golden eyes watch him until he moves out of the frame.
“I’ve painted a perfect picture of who I am through each of my actions, and still, some fail to see. I’ve sung this song like a siren before and yet, like so many others, you’ve probably failed to listen. And so, so many times, I’ve shined a spotlight on my hopes and dreams, and yet so many of you are still in the dark.” Almost absentmindedly, she rotates the cylinder with her free hand before settling the revolver on her knee. “Who we are, what we want, and what we want to be mean little to this world when what we say is often but a whisper amongst the symphony of sorrows we are forced to suffer each day. We are labeled not by our own intent, but our own reactions. Are we ever free then from the labels laid upon us when we are at our lowest?”
Jacky hangs her head, shaking it slightly, her cotton candy pink pigtails swaying freely. After a pause, the clown looks up, the smile beginning to spread across her lips.
“Loser!” Jacky laughs, before raising a middle finger. “A four letter word with one more just stuck in the middle, staring you down. Letting you know what maybe you already knew, or privately feared: despite being a pint-sized pissant, you’ve failed to muscle your way into even a win, and so I should be looking down my nose before tipping up my chin. But if you’ll allow me the moment, I will show you that even someone with as small a scope as you can still make your mark.”
Winking to the camera, she leans forwards, almost bouncing down the steps. The sound of a nail being pounded into something wooden can be heard as the camera follows the barefoot clown into the yard.
“Now before I continue, I want to say I am sorry that I don’t want to follow in your footsteps of failure. However, they say those who can't do, teach - and so I'm here to help you learn. I’m going to show you what it means to rip apart those labels, shed those shackles, and see yourself as something brand new.”
Jaclyn stops, turning to the camera just as Thumper finishes pounding at its trunk. She spreads her arms wide, stepping aside with a swirl for flourish to reveal the stretch Armstrong doll, nailed to a dogwood tree. Its limbs are stretched to their limit, hands extended, feet tacked together. She beams into the camera.
“Though you may be beaten, don't look at it like a loss - look at these moments between us as lessons. In this world where strength means so little, and the only one true way to the top is to realize a simple truth: violence is a virtue. And these?” she says, lifting her fists - each one with the letters 'H-O-N-K' tattooed into the knuckles, “These are my parables of pain.”
Jacky steps around the tree, admiring her henchmen’s handiwork, before coming to a stop in front of it once more.
“Let me reintroduce myself to the world. Let your cries be the first of the choir and allow your screams to lead you to sing. Let my hands hold the hymnal of your hopelessness and your fall? It will help me shed my sins and when people speak my name then will no longer do it with those little grins - not after they witness my testimony of terror. This is my rebirth - my reincarnation as not a villain, but of a woman of virtue.”
Jaclyn Pierrot spreads her arms wide, basking in her own glory.
“And you? Well,” she smirks, tugging the hammer of the pistol back with her thumb, leveling it towards the frame. “What do you call a joke without a punchline?”
Jaclyn Pierrot pulls the trigger, the muzzle flashing to life. The report of the gun is the last noise heard before the image goes blank and only one thing remains.