Assasin.ly: Because it’s not cheating if you’re a widow
Mallory: Hello. I guess Grandma can hear recorded audio because she keeps asking me who Ben is. At least, she’s sending me the word “Ben” in the middle of a bunch of emojis. Some of these texts are kind of upsetting in a gendered way, like a baby and a wedding dress, and others are just confusing, like a Christmas tree and a bunch of lobsters. I don’t know what kind of existential crisis you’re trying to induce this time, Grandma, but this one won’t end in me crashing your car for the insurance money.
Let’s cover the invasive, unimportant questions first, and find someone to translate the cryptic seafood symbols later. Is Ben my boyfriend? Will we be giving her mediocre great grandchildren soon? Is he coming for Christmas and bringing lobster? No, Grandma, and I promise that mediocre would be wishful thinking. Since you’re old and my chief investor, I’ll give you a pass on making assumptions about our sexualities, even though I came out to you 18 times in the past 4 years. That’s right--every Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and sometimes Administrative Professionals’ day. It’s a hard thing to tell you, and it’s even harder that you don’t remember.
Fortunately, this conversation where I answer emoji-based questions about my relationship status isn’t even a detour. I have to disclose all my personnel files to the public. Some companies are terrified of this level of transparency, but I think it’s our chance to shine, and to let everyone know how and why we hire the best people. Some of these people already have huge fan pages, like that guy who trained from the age of 10 to become a Naruto-style ninja. He has a leaf symbol burned into his forehead. The headband he got from Hot Topic stuck to his head and he didn’t take it off for 2 years. His tan lines are incredible. He can actually travel by jumping from tree to tree. He has the citations to prove it. He fell on a lot of people. Too bad Manhattan doesn’t have very many trees. I guess all his victims would have to be in Central Park.
Ben isn’t that cool. Sorry, I mean, he’s just uncool in the conventional sense, but now the nerds are cool, right? So, why would I hire Ben as my executive assistant-slash-landlord? Let’s see...
I can vouch for Ben. And not just because I’m sitting in his mom’s basement right now. I’ve known him since elementary school. At least, that’s what he told me. I’m not accountable since I spent most of elementary school in a drunken rage. Sure, maybe he likes ferrets a little more than most people are comfortable with, but he’s a good dude. He’s better than those guys who are into feet. He’s not into feet. Right, Ben?
He spends a lot of time talking and thinking about things no one is interested in. I think that’s hard for him, but probably harder for the people around him. We went out for coffee this morning and all he wanted to talk about was aquarium maintenance. Not even real aquarium maintenance. Fishbowl maintenance I literally said can we change the subject fourteen times. I’m an assertive lady and not scared of making bold moves in conversation. He talked about algae and whether his goldfish Toots was dead or just sleeping for 90 minutes. That’s 45 times longer than Toots’ memory.
Ben: When I was little, I read Matilda. I felt this recognition. This camaraderie. Not because I had the same, um, parental experience. My dad wasn’t as cool as Danny DeVito--I assume. I was never intimidated by chocolate cake. It wasn’t even that I liked to read as a kid. I just thought I could probably move chalk with my mind. They never use the P word, but you know that’s what she is. Psychic.
It took a while, but I can move things with my thoughts. Like a really tiny bit. I usually need help from a breeze, but once there’s a good wind and if the object is light enough, no one can stop me!
Becoming a psychic just seemed so attainable for me. I got a 1000 on my SAT. I can do anything I put my mind to.
Mallory: There are real psychics. But Ben isn’t one. Whenever I pass a psychic on the street, they yell You’ll be alone forever and your mom shouldn’t have invested in Beanie Babies, why did you let her. I was 9, Jesus. They usually go back inside, or give me a wide berth, and refuse to take my money, which I see as a reverent offering. I just give off really strong vibes to psychics, like my fate is made of iron. Or it’s toxic to them. They tell me that my star sign disowned me. I was disowned by cancer. Can you imagine being disowned by cancer? I hope that means I’m immune.
Never once has Ben mentioned Beanie Babies or my eternal loneliness. And he knows that all twelve cats I’ve gotten from the Humane Society have escaped through the vents, drainpipes, or, in 3 cases, an empty pizza box brought down to the recycling room.
Ben: Fine, I am technically a psychic. I worked at it for years and years, but it turns out I’m not the kind I wanted to be. I can see and speak to dead people. It was soul-crushing when I realized it.
I was hanging out in a graveyard, like I usually do, trying to move flowers, rocks, and American flags with my mind. I realized that graveyards aren’t usually filled with people gliding around and asking you questions. I’m a New Yorker--I ignore people when they try to talk to me, especially if they’re on hoverboards. Those things can explode, and if someone fell off I’d have to call an ambulance and talk to someone on the phone. And this is a graveyard, show some respect! Here I thought these people were treating it like some skate park to do 19-th century cosplay, or Brooklyners having an ironic steampunk festival, and...yes, some of them were, but most of them were in fact dead. I’d cultivated the wrong type of psychic ability.
Can you feel the deep, painful irony of being able to speak to the dead but not being able to make people dead? Sure, I could cash in and become a TV psychic, or stay on retainer with some rich family and use my powers to ask dead grandpa or Andrew Carnegie for financial advice--Andrew Carnegie, incidentally, hangs out around Carnegie Hall. He really loves Midtown--or use the dead’s testimony to prove art isn’t stolen, but that’s not my dream. I want to be an assassin.
The problem with dead people is that they’re just as annoying as they were when they were alive. Everyone thinks you get all enlightened when you cross over. Being able to watch the people you used to be close to actually makes you pettier. It gives you more choices to judge. You see all the different reasons people spend way too much time in the bathroom--constipation, toilet shopping, using Pepto Bismol as salad dressing, eating a bag of uncooked Parker House rolls--and you just lose all compassion. You can’t make any more bad decisions when you’re dead, so of course you’d assume you wouldn’t add frozen SPAM chunks to your acai smoothie. Even when previous evidence suggests otherwise, Aunt Helen.
My grandma, who passed away 8 years ago, is always going on about her estate sale that was actually just the credit card companies sending an repo gentleman to recoup some of their “investment.” According to her, the day we put all her Christmas snowmen in a dumpster was the day we took a dump on Christmas and her heart. She thinks she’s being clever and won’t stop saying it until I laugh.
She’s upset that we responsibly recycled her collection of classic Sprite bottles. Coke bottles were too expensive and “vulgar.” She says we could have at least brought them to Central Park and thrown them at the rocks one by one while shouting her name and looking sad. She made fun of my grandfather for having a stroke. She said he looked undignified and she told him all along he should have smoked Virginia Slims like she did. Those were the only cigarettes that wouldn’t give you a stroke. Ladies don’t have strokes.
Great Grandpa’s financial advice? He says he’ll connect you to some moonshiners he knows -- they’re dead, too. Dead Uncle Larry can connect you to one of those guys who brings his camcorder to the movie theater.
I was planning to live this life of tragic, anticipatory remorse for all the people I’d killed untraceably. I’d say to Mallory, why, why am I allowed to play God? Why do I wield this power? And she’d say, tears misting her eyes, you’re the only one responsible enough. And I’d know it was true.
I’d watch movies and read books, like PsyDog, or Cop Dog 2: Psychic BowWow. To try and understand myself. But in reality, the only person who’d be able to understand me is me. I know--profound. Still rivers run deep--especially rivers that live in the basement.
Mallory: I keep Ben around because he’s even sadder than me. And all my equipment is in his mom’s basement. And he’s surprisingly good at admin stuff. I’m more of a big ideas girl. Also, all my cats left me and I’m lonely. I know it’s not personal but it hurts.
One night, my roommates kicked me out saying they didn’t even know me anymore, and that I was morally and ethically bankrupt. I was actually financially bankrupt, so this wasn’t ideal. I stood my ground and said they were just intimidated by a strong woman.
I stayed with Ben for a couple of nights. He let me sleep on the carpeted part of his floor. Well, it’s either carpet or a place where multicolor moss has grown and melded with the floor. The light never really gets bright enough down here for me to tell. I put down a Trader Joe’s bag and an old refrigerator door. It was fine. Well, it wasn’t fine. He has sleep apnea. At first I thought the house was being demolished above us. My life was a shambles, so I made peace with being buried alive pretty quickly.
Apnea can be kind of soothing in an erratic way, like that sound you hear when getting an MRI. Almost like a Rorschach test for the ears. 8-10 hours of an oral Rorschach test in total darkness. What do you hear? I bet it’s different for everyone. I hear a car crashing into an avalanche and all my cats screaming for me, telling me that I’m the problem. Hmm.
Like Haley Joel Osment, Ben sees dead people. He prefers to ignore them, says they’re stagnant. It comes with the territory of studying to become a registered psychic. Most dead people don’t know what Bluetooth headphones are. They just think he’s an idiot wearing earmuffs in his house. Dead people judge others, like, real hard for what they do in private behind closed doors. They look so close. Get up near your privates and point and jeer and criticize. That’s why Ben is celibate. Partially why.
Dead people are critics with no potential to create new work. I’m sure they don’t like strong women like me. That’s why, when I ask Ben why he paused and what they’re saying, he says don’t worry about it. They’re probably critical of my bold, somewhat divisive choices. And maybe that I’m wearing jeans buttoned with a safety pin.
Ben: It’s actually the same three ghosts showing me a mole or a lump and asking me if they should be concerned. I say it looks fine. Maybe it’ll turn into some kind of ghost cancer someday. I know that’s not how they died because they tell me all about their deaths like it’s their wedding day. They maybe embellish a little: Barack Obama, sitting president, drove to Holmdel, New Jersey to thank someone for their service? As an animal control officer? Frank swears on his life, but what’s that worth?
Mallory: I don’t remember elementary school because there was a zoning error when my parents went to enroll me. It involved crossing three boroughs. They couldn’t fix it because it involved 3 separate districts, and the Board of Education couldn’t figure out the paperwork. We stayed in an iron cubicle with a paperwork specialist for 4 hours and she said the error had to stand because the forms contradicted each other. She kept crossing and uncrossing her eyes, pulling the paper farther and closer away like she was trying to see a magic eye. At one point she pulled out a thermometer and tried to balance it on her finger.
In the end, I had to take the BSQ 117 at 4:30 AM to get to school. That’s a rare bus that runs from Brooklyn to Staten Island and then somehow straight to Queens. It only runs every 3 hours and it’s not actually listed on any transit schedule. It’s mostly word of mouth, or, on page 7 of the local Russian newspaper next to ads for massage therapy. And it always showed up in a cloud of either fog or cigar smoke, whether it was a clear day or not.
There was a woman named Greta I saw every day. She always said she was going to the courthouse. I was never sure which courthouse, because she got on before me and got off after me somehow. Her clothes were stained in such a way that she could have been a beleaguered public defender, or someone with a trunk full of parking tickets and a perpetual boot on her car, going in to fight the system. I never asked. She never asked me about myself, even though I was a 7-year-old on a public bus alone crossing 3 boroughs before the sun came out. I guess the Barbie backpack with a pepper spray keychain was self-explanatory.
Greta always had something spicy in a paper bag to share with me. She’d take a slug, I’d take a slug. It takes a local bus 35 minutes to go a mile. We were in it for the long haul. Sometimes the bus driver would hand us a beer with a chipped cap and the label ripped off. After the first week, I learned to carry a bottle opener. Clipped it right next to my pepper spray.
New York One did a story about me. I didn’t know they were doing it, but I guess that’s why someone was pointing a video camera at me on my morning commute one day. I just thought it was a regular day--someone pretending that they’re putting together a documentary exposing exactly how many butts and thighs sweat onto those fabric bus seats every day. My pants were usually soaked from knee to hip. I was an early sweater. Anyway, the story was 72 seconds long and it was called “A Child Without a District.” It came after a story about a burst sewer drain in Gowanus that no one noticed for six years because the Gowanus is naturally sewage. My grandma taped it and said, “look at this kid. She’s so sad. Isn’t that sad? Doesn’t she go to your school?”
You know, my roommates had stickers made that said “Strong Women Don’t Murder People, Also, Please Stop Mixing Up the Recycling.” I said what about She-Ra, Molly Weasley, or Laura Bush? I want to have this dialogue about double standards. Strong men murdered people all over the pace. Ulysses S. Grant, Captain Picard, the Quaker Oats guy. No one’s boycotting their apps.
I’m an entrepreneur who failed out of business school, or never got into business school, just like Bill Gates and Albert Einstein. It’s a little bit romantic what I’m doing for women. Kinda makes me tear up a little.
Since I gave out those flyers, I’ve gotten a few emails. Most of them telling me what a horrible person I am. You gotta have thick skin....it’s just, some of them are so accurate. Yup, my dad did say that when he left, and, sure, I didn’t have any friends in middle school, and my grandpa did pick a sandwich over me. Oof, you gotta just move on and make your own way.
A lot of people made fun of my nose ring and my hair. Those are the perils of being a female CEO--you get picked apart for your appearance. I’m an individual and I can’t figure out how to take my nose ring out. I have other skills.
We have some weird requests coming through. Um, these are not supported. Someone is asking us to destroy evidence, steal a car for insurance money—is that you, Grandma?--pick up milk from the grocery store.
Let’s see...we got an inquiry asking Ben to help them find some keys. Hey, Ben!
Ben: Ghosts won’t help you find keys. They say “just walk through the door you nincompoop.” They think because they figured it out everyone else is stupid.
Mallory: We hate ghosts. Hmmm...
There are a couple of legitimate requests from people who managed to get through the paperwork. Oh, wow. There are a few of them. Ben just sent over a few more. We’re the lowest prices in town if you don’t factor in people standing on their stoops waving around machetes. Don’t go with them--that’s like going to the dollar store for your wedding. You deserve better. Obviously I can’t reveal details because if the targeted person finds out you filed assassination paperwork on them, the whole thing is off. By the way, sorry, Aunt Denise. I’m sorry to everyone in the family who ever wanted a pig in a blanket. Really. But, hey, you can try again in a few years, or just buy a lot of pigs in a blanket and see where that goes. We’re moving on--moving forward. And I’ve got some paperwork to do. Until next time!
Murderclean, now branching out to fancy houses. Who’s better at cleaning houses than people who haul away dead bodies? Don’t you want your house to be murderclean? Don’t you want your columns to be murderclean? Have the cleanest U-shaped driveway and stone lions in Bergen county. You got a marble fence to go with your aluminum siding. That’s weird, but let us clean that for you. Velvet couches--did you think those would be easy to clean? Does your enormous foyer staircase give you vertigo when you try to clean it? Let us floss your columns. Load-bearing columns! Columns that are higher than your roof. Get it Murderclean!
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