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Illustration by Russell Christian.

Jim Knipfel's books are available from Amazon.com:


Ruining It for Everybody, Jim Knipfel's 3rd memoir. An anti-spirituality spiritual manifesto.


The Buzzing, a novel about an aging and embittered journalist who stumbles onto what may be the story of a lifetime.


Quitting the Nairobi Trio, available in hardback or trade paperback.


Slackjaw, available in hardback or paperback. Also available, Blindfisch, the German translation.

You can also send email to Jim Knipfel

Copyright Jim Knipfel. All rights reserved.

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Slackjaw by Jim Knipfel

The Gatekeeper

 

It was typical. I sat down to put on my shoes before heading out to the bank to deposit some rare and desperately-needed checks, when outside my window I heard the rain begin to come down hard.

I can't tell you how often this has happened.

So I sat there a few minutes, waiting patiently. Rain falling that hard couldn't last long, I figured. And I was right. Five minutes later it petered out to a simple, light drizzle.

Here's where my logic decided to take a little breather. Since it rained that hard once, I figure, it's pretty much done for the day. So I went downstairs and headed off to the bank. Then it began to rain again, just as hard as before.

That happens an awful lot, too.

But I was in it now, outside and on my way, so I wasn't about to turn around and go back inside. It wasn't a long walk—8 or 9 blocks, maybe, but it was long enough when it was pouring out. At least it was early, which meant there weren't many jackasses with golf umbrellas to contend with. (I don't own an umbrella, and so remain almost utterly defenseless against people who do.)

As I approached the bank 10 minutes later, soaked to the bone, I remembered that, early as it was, they wouldn't be open yet. That was fine—I only wanted access to the machines. (I haven't dealt with a real human teller in 15 years—nothing but trouble there.) A quick swipe of an electronic card, and I'd be inside.

I began reaching for my wallet, but as I got closer to the doors, I saw a little kid—about 7 years old, I'd guess—standing inside.

Now, you'd think that, being inside the way he was, he'd be kind enough to open the door and let me in. You'd think that, wouldn't you? I sure did. So I put my wallet away and waited.

He just stood there.

I reached out and pulled on the handle, just to confirm for all the involved parties that the door was, indeed locked.

"Pull the other door!" he yelled through the glass. "Other one's open!"

I looked, though I knew better.

"There is no other door," I said. and pulled on the locked door again.

"The other door!"

I really, really hate children sometimes.

I sighed in the rain, reached into my damp pocket, grabbed my wallet, flipped it open, and began sliding my ATM card out.

That, of course, is when he gave the door handle a shove, opening it a crack for me.

"Thank you very kindly," I said, suppressing the urge to push him down as I passed.

"I let you in," he said. "Some people can't come in. I don't like them, they have to stay out there in the rain."

"Uh huh."

I headed over to a counter to fill out the necessary slip, but the little bastard followed me.

"I guard the door. It's raining out. I've made a lot of people stand out there in the rain."

Don't you have parents, I thought, or did they come to their senses and abandon you here?

Just then his father snapped, "Adario! Get over here and leave him alone!"

As luck would have it, at that moment another victim showed up at the front door. This time he popped the door right open.

"You have an umbrella, just like me!" he exclaimed.

"Yes I do!" It was an old woman's voice. One of those enthusiastic, God-fearing old women who wear wide-brimmed hats on Sundays and are always cheery to kids. I'm no fan of them either.

"You're a very polite young man," she said.

"My umbrella's got colors! I let you in!"

Fuck you.

"Adario! Get back over here by me!"

I heard little more from the mini cretin as I deposited my checks, sadly noted what they brought my account up to, then prepared to head back out into the rain. But as I approached the front door, I saw the little gatekeeper outside in the rain, tugging frantically at the handle. While I was going about my business, he'd apparently gotten cocky, and locked himself out. Imagine that.

Here was the dilemma, however: did I just stand there, taunting him, telling him to open "the other door"? Or did I show him how civilized people behaved?

No matter how tempting that first option was, I realized that if I did that his father and the kindly old woman would kick the shit out of me, then take my wallet. So the second, less fun option it was.

As he was standing mere inches from the door, I fought temptation again, and pushed it open lightly, just a crack, to show him it was open. He stepped aside, and I pushed it open enough to let myself out.

As I began stepping outside, however, he charged in past me, umbrella still open. Then he started screaming.

"You made me poke myself! I hurt myself, and it's ALL YOUR FAULT!" He then degenerated into a series of blubbering nonsense syllables.

My only concern at this point, again, was being set upon by the father and the old woman who would, of course, take his side. So instead of waiting around for the pummeling, I let go of the handle. The door slid shut on the kid, and I headed down the sidewalk toward the grocery store. The rain was still coming down hard, but I just didn't care.