The Assassin and the Jobs Bill of 2012

Ken Poyner


The organ grinder on the beach is making deeper impressions in the sand with his heels than with his toes.  It is a testament to a proper walking technique.  With that sort of balance, he will get a couple of miles before his hamstrings go out.

He will not be so lucky with his arm.  It is not as easy as it looks to turn the handle on his murderously musical contraption.  Watch carefully next time you see an organ grinder on the corner:  they are always taking little breaks.  They melodiously spin for a while and then hitch.

The monkey is climbing from the man’s one shoulder to the other.  It is a miracle he does not knock the man’s hat off.  His travels are discreet:  move here, stop; move there, stop.  He is a ball of ruffled locomotion, and in each move he seems to have a thought of getting precisely there, of reaching a place.  And only after reaching the place does he cross his empty muscle fibers and begin again for the next place.

The man I suspect has been walking a long time.  He seems to have the rhythm.  A circus parade would follow him if they could find him; caribou have migrated for less.

Now, I don’t think it all that funny that an organ grinder would be walking the beach, making his street corner music, his monkey quivering like aluminum tent poles when that tent has been cast in a thunderstorm.  No.  We pay people to do all sorts of things.  Perhaps if what they did made sense in the flat of a transgressed Universe, we would not have to pay them.

You are paying me to write this.

I sight along the Euclidean curve of my rifle barrel as the organ grinder lumbers, performing his mechanically repetitive tunes, into my range: as unprotected as a drunk at a carnival.  What I do next is both a moral and an economic decision.  I already have your money for writing this.  But whether you pay me even more depends on how I curl the small fingers of our argument.  Oh, do not worry about skill.  He is as painted as a wounded duck at a debutante’s coming out party.  I could not miss.  But I am dishwater clear in understanding that the closer he gets, the more it is a moral decision; the farther away he is, the more it is an economic one.

The monkey stands on the top of the man’s head and sniffs the air as though to suck out of it the reason for his constant movement, some connection between his incessant actions and his blue puff of a future.  But his life is as one dimensional as the lick of the ocean against this beach, a background of bad music, ownership by a man himself on a work plan, himself a target for redevelopment:  a list of endeavors that leads at last to feeding and a pale azure comfort that passes, in the dim backwaters of timed monkey evolution, for progress.

Sad, tethered primate, with nothing in its coffee swirl of a brain except the hope that the next moment will be enlarged with a happiness like that found in lame ducks in flight.  He stretches taut the ridiculous underbelly of his circumstances, reaching above the man’s head as though to claim air he thinks has not yet been spoken for.

I am a reasonable man.  The air about me is not spoken for.  I could compromise.

But I write about a man, myself, writing about a man, myself, about to assassinate an organ grinder.  It is a job.  For me, for the organ grinder, for the monkey.  And that makes the whole of it come to sense.

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Ken Poyner often serves as unlikely eye-candy at his wife’s powerlifting meets.  His latest collection of brief fictions, Constant Animals, can be located through links on his website,, at Amazon and at impressionable bookstores. He has had recent work in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, Cream City Review and splattered about the web (just ask any search engine).