Cletus Balzac thought and thought and thought. He had a couple of options. He could rob the house as soon as Bootsie got in her car to go see the Colonel at the hospital. The cops took the poor bastard there after he chopped up all the bushes in his front yard and threatened “God knows who else” all afternoon according to the police sergeant. Cletus knew the drill. The cops will take the Colonel to Boulder Community for their behavioral health program and then dust their hands off as they walk away like Bugs Bunny whenever he sets up Daffy for another round with Elmer Fudd. The staff on the unit would stabilize him and get him the hell out of there as soon as they possibly could and the cops don’t have to deal with any reports, arrests, court dates, testimonies, etc.
Cletus was aware from all the loud talk earlier that afternoon – how the Colonel spent a small fortune on photographs “art photography” and a white tent in which to sell them. He knew of art shows. He used to walk around trying to pick pockets and shoplift a little bit of the jewelry the artists had at those things from time to time. Some of the paintings and sculptures were cool even by his standards, but he had little use for them. Cletus always traveled light. He never knew when he would have to move quickly, but he knew it was always inevitable. He knew he couldn’t carry a painting around in his line of work.
Nonetheless, the opportunity has presented itself. Cletus was an expert at recognizing short-term opportunity presentations. He knew that photographers sell photos at art shows. Cletus knew he was of course not a photographer, aside from a few blackmail enterprises he endeavored a few years back. But he knew people would pay ridiculous prices for photographs at art shows. A few photos to start with and a white tent would put him on Easy Street. He could then make enough money to buy a digital camera and a printer. Before long, he knew printing those pictures would be like printing God damn money itself. He could take that money each night and parley it on the ponies or even the puppies to finish paving his life with pure gold. All thanks to the Colonel. Cletus closed his eyes and put his hand over his heart in a moment of respect for the Colonel.
Cletus remained in the shadows in the park across from the Colonel’s house. He was waiting for his old lady, Bootsie – to come out of the garage and head down to the hospital to see her husband. Cletus knew they will soon call her, if they had not already. Forms, insurance, sign here, sign that, any allergies?, blah, blah, blah. She’ll have to bring his meds down to the hospital so they can figure out where things went south. As soon as her Buick got out of sight, Cletus would break into the house and load up on the photographs, tent, and whatever else before opening the new chapter in his life.
What could possibly go wrong? The old geezer is in the hospital, his old lady is heading down to take care of him, and the goodies are ready and waiting for Cletus Balzac to cherrypick.
The garage door opened up. “Here we go.” mumbled Cletus from the darkness. Bootsie stepped outside while babbling on her cell.
“I just don’t care, I’ve had enough! You should see what he did to the yard!”, she screamed into the phone. “Yes, yes, come get me. I can’t take it anymore!” She began to wail and moan as she waved her free arm around.
Cletus knew what he was seeing. The old guy loses his mind and the old lady can’t take it any more. Happens all the time. If her friend arrives to comfort her, it would throw a wrench in his plans. He needed to get into the house and unload the goodies into his . . . Cletus realized he had to steal a car or something in order to steal from the Colonel and Bootsie.
“Dammit,” he thought, “I always forget the details!” He silently smacked his forehead with his palm a couple of times in the dark.
His plans needed to be tweaked a bit.
He could shoot her and take her to a dumpster at the foot of the mountain. The bears would get rid of her by midnight. Cletus chuckled to himself. Last week some guy let his poodle outside at about 11pm over by Boulder Creek at the base of the canyon. Little “Ruffie” didn’t come in when the guy called for him later. He went out in the yard and found Ruffie’s collar still attached to the chain. Black bears are in a feeding frenzy every autumn primarily for fat. Ruffie contributed to the cause much to his owner’s dismay. Cletus grinned, “What a dumbass.”
He settled down and thought things through a bit more. If I shoot her, I won’t have time to go through the house to get everything loaded into her car because of the noise. If I tie her up, there is a chance she might yell. Will there be enough room in her car for the tent, the photos, and her? Cletus rubbed his chin as he struggled through the details. His head began to hurt. Dinner was really running late today as well and his stomach was reminding him with a growl every couple minutes.
He listened to her on the phone some more. She was saying how she was going to send her brother down to the hospital tomorrow. She wasn’t going to go tonight or ever. Yes, he lives in Aurora and he won’t come out here until tomorrow. Yes, she wants whoever it is on the phone to come get her.
“Hmm.” Cletus kept watching and listening.
“I’ll pack a few things and wait for you in the driveway. Yes, my keys will be in the geranium planter waiting for my brother, just come get me out of here.”, Bootsie shouted into the phone.
Whoever she was talking to probably saved her life, thought Cletus. He stayed low in the park across the street and waited as she stomped back into the house.
Cletus dozed in the grass while waiting for Bootsie’s ride. He opened one eye when a set of headlights came up the street. He slid back a bit as the BMW turned into the driveway. The driver got out and embraced Bootsie when she strutted from the garage with her rollaway suitcase and enormous makeup bag. He was about half Bootsie’s age, even in the dark from across the street, thought Cletus.
“That’s nice of her nephew or son or whatever to come pick her up.”, he nodded. Everyone should have family.
He raised an eyebrow and exaggerated a frown while he watched them kiss passionately in the driveway after the young guy put the luggage in the back of the BMW.
“I’ll be Goddamned, and sent straight to hell.”, thought Cletus as he folded his arms and watched the tail lights disappear down the street. He looked around to make sure none of the neighbors were as nosey as he was before he sauntered over to his new golden opportunity.
“Details, Cletus, details.”, he repeated over and over as he made his way to the geranium planter. “Think, think, think.”
“Don’t judge.”, he thought as he flipped the keys up in the air and caught them with a little more attitude and swagger than was really necessary, but what the hell.