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Happy Jack

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Hello. I can see that my grin confuses you. Well, let me tell you the story about why I’m so happy. My name’s Jack. At least, I call myself Jack. I can’t remember what my parents named me. I grew up in some large, grimy city. As a child I lived with my parents in a squalid apartment full of mold and cockroaches.

I spent most of my time outside in the alley playing with boxes and stray cats. I recall very little about where I lived except for the gap behind my bed - that’s where I hid when mommy and daddy were screaming and hitting each other. I don’t remember it as a pleasant life, but it was okay. Then one day mommy walked into the kitchen and pulled out a shotgun, shooting daddy in the face. Then, staring at me, she put the barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger…

I ran from the room with blood-stained clothes, fleeing out onto the dirty city streets and running until my legs collapsed beneath me. I crawled into a dark alley and curled up behind a dumpster. The next few days were very horrible; I sat in the box, slowly starving to death as thousands of beautiful people strolled by. It was very painful. Finally, the colors began to blur and the pain started to fade as I slipped below the surface of a dark ocean, the light slowly fading into the greenish water. But before I disappeared into its soothing depths, someone grabbed me and pulled me back to the streets of the city. I saw a wrinkled old face, bright blue eyes, and my mind floated into oblivion…

Madame Morkavi was her name, I think. She carried me gently back to her trailer and nursed life back into me. For ten years she fed me and taught me how to live on the streets; how to steal, how to pickpocket, how to intimidate, even how to kill. I became very good at it. She ran a fortune telling business during the daytime, and I would hide behind my bed as exotic strangers sat around a smoky table watching Morkavi point her wrinkled fingers at her wrinkled cards. But at night, she would come into my room and lure me out for a night of adventure in the city…

I lived for the night. Holding a bag and a flashlight, I would sneak behind her as we broke into houses and buildings. We would creep back out with our sacks bulging with money and plunder. Sometimes the places we went made me very nervous, but Madame Morkavi told me we would never get caught; she said her gypsy magic opened doors and told her where people hid their valuables. Once, she was wrong. One night, in a car garage, a very big man crept up behind us and grabbed Madame Morkavi and began punching her. I found a tire iron and bashed his head in until grey bits flew through the air. That was the first time I ever killed someone. Madame Morkavi said we’d been caught because the man was an evil satanist who blocked her enchantments…

Then, in the middle of winter, Madame Morkavi caught an illness and slowly faded from life. I was the only one by her bed when she died. With rattling breaths, she told me to come closer. In a whisper she told me to make a wish, to wish anything I wanted and that it would come true. I thought for a moment, and finally answered that I wished to have everything that I ever needed. She placed her hand on my forehead, and with her last breath mumbled a cryptic spell. Her eyes closed…

Again I was homeless, wandering the streets. But this time, I knew how to survive. For ten more years I begged and stole to endure. Sometimes I killed. A strange force seemed to protect me; every time I was starving a truck carrying food would crash, every time I was freezing a building would burn, every time I was attacked my knife would find an artery. Madame Morkavi had truly blessed me with a gift. I was content in the knowledge that I would always survive. But not happy. Something still seemed missing, a hole in my heart that was full of sorrow…

My epiphany occurred one summer evening as I was walking through an unexplored neighborhood. As I rounded the corner I saw a red house unlike all of the others. It wasn’t really the house itself that astonished me, but what was inside. Behind a large window, in the warm light of their living room, a handsome man and a gorgeous woman were laughing and kissing. They were so full of joy. The face of the woman brought back memories of my mother from a long time ago, when she used to smile and hold me. I suddenly realized what had been missing from my entire life. A family. I wanted a family. No, I needed a family…

Madame Morkavi’s dying words came back to me and with confidence I approached the door of the couple, deciding they would become my new parents. I knocked on the door then stood smiling, sure that they would open it with welcoming arms, ushering me into the lovely house as their son. But when the beautiful woman opened the door, she gasped and disappeared. The tall man came out of the house and began to yell at me. He drew a gun from his pocket and pointed it in my face. I ran away and they slammed the door behind me…

I cried, confused and alone. Why had Morkavi’s charm failed? Why had I been refused the last thing I needed to be happy? I sobbed in a ditch as the sun disappeared behind the red house. But as the moon rose behind me I remembered another night, long ago, when Madame Morkavi’s magic had before been rendered useless. They were devil worshipers! Yes! Yes, that explained why they had not hugged me, welcoming me into their house. Madame Markovi’s magic would never work on them. It was sad that the first people I had loved turned out to be evil, but I knew what I had to do…

I crouched in the ditch watching the house until late into the night. I saw them walk up the stairs. The woman flossed her teeth in the bathroom. They kissed again. Then they went to the bedroom. From my hiding place, I saw the last light in the house blink off. I waited a few hours, and then crept forward in the night. I circled the house, rattling the doors and trying to lift the windows. I thought I was locked out, but in the shifting moonlight I saw a tiny basement window stuck open. Blessing Madame Morkavi, I crawled through the window into the dingy cellar. I made my way upstairs into the elegant house, stopping briefly in the kitchen. They had pictures hung along the hallway of the two of them together. I bitterly imagined how much happier they would be if I was in those pictures with them. But it was too late now…

They were sleeping, wrapped together in the bed sheets, as I opened the door. I crept past the silver light that flowed through the window and spilled across their heads. The man began to stir. Quickly, I jumped on him and plunged a steak knife into his eye with such force I cleaved through his skull. The woman woke and let out a shrill scream. I grabbed a pillow and held it against her face as she struggled to escape. Finally, she relaxed. The satanists were dead; Madame Morkavi’s spell was safe…

I had fun that night. I wandered the house, watching the TV, eating out of the fridge, even cleaning the steak knife and putting it back in the kitchen like a normal person. Late into the night I put on their clothes and pretended I was a businessman, rushing through the house late for a meeting, or a housewife, busily tidying the tables and dusting the windows. Finally, I grew tired and walked back up to bed. Settling in between the bodies, I pulled the bloodied covers across my chest. Wrapping my arm around the woman, I drifted off to sleep… The next morning I couldn’t stop smiling. Putting on my old clothes I regretfully left the house, walking - no, skipping - back down the street. I had filled the void in my heart. I was happy. From then on I lived happily in the alleyways, marveling at the wonder of the sun and the earth, staring at the bright colors of the people who strode by my home. Except on the nights I get lonely…

Then, I wander down a random neighborhood, sneaking up to windows and gazing at the people living inside. I move from house to house until I find a family I like. Straightening my shirt, I knock on the door, smiling. Most people slam the door in my face. In that case, I wait until they’re all asleep and I… well, you know what I do…

So, if you ever hear a knock on your door late at night, you should answer it. I’m a really neat guy. I bet we could have some fun together. Or maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of me in the darkness, staring at you through your window. Grinning. I promise I’ll wave hello. Can you see me? I can see you.

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