about the author

John Searcy’s fiction has previously appeared in First Intensity, the Beloit Fiction Journal, and Vandal. In 2013, he received an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, where he was a recipient of the Arthur Lynn Andrews Prize for Fiction. He now lives and works in Los Angeles.

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The Sorrows of Death-Klaw 

John Searcy

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Death-Klaw! What a guy! Ain’t nobody like the Death-Klaw. He gets things done that guy, no joke. He flies to a place, that place gets sorted out. We love that guy. Death-Klaw. We use him for everything.

One time, this lady in Omaha, she was giving us grief. Owed us upward of 50k and did not seem inclined to pay it. We tried all the standard methods—hassling her via phone, via Facebook, via email. No good. She iced us. Blocked our number, bounced our messages. So we called up our pal Death-Klaw, said, “Yo, Death-Klaw, there’s this lady in Omaha.” He was already on it. Like he could read our minds, that Death-Klaw. Hopped on a flight. Sorted that lady right out. Got our money within a day. Within a day. Keep in mind, this was an individual we’d been hassling for months, nearly a year. But that’s Death-Klaw for you. That’s how the guy operates. He does something, that something gets done.

There was this other time, this politician. I don’t want to name names, but you’d recognize it if I said it. Your kids have heard of him. Your grandkids. There was a period, his face was everywhere. So he owed us a favor, this politician, and he was not coming through on it. It was a complicated favor. We wanted certain laws passed. Certain regulations relaxed, let’s say. We’d held up our end, and this asshole, this buttface, who was on the cover of Time magazine, he was absolutely not coming through. So you can guess who we called. Death-Klaw hops on a plane, gives the buttface a talking-to, and guess what? Next week, a special session of Congress is convened to address our pet issue. Sails through both houses, gets the John Hancock of the president. Can you believe it? My buddy Death-Klaw!

Not that Death-Klaw’s perfect. I mean, he’s human, like the rest of us. This one time, after a job, I run into him at a bar. At a T.G.I. Friday’s. I’m like, “Holy smokes, is that Death-Klaw?” He’s huddled up at the bar, sipping on a Tutti-Frutti Cooler, and he’s got kind of a bum look on his face. I think morose is the word I’d be inclined to use here. Like something’s bugging him, eating at him. Like he can’t get his mind off it. So I take a seat next to him, I’m like, “Death-Klaw, you OK?” And he gives me a look that says, “Buddy, you don’t know.” And he was right—how could I know? How could a guy like me fathom the internal mysteries of Death-Klaw? I wouldn’t know where to begin with that. But my point is, the guy has some depth.

Another funny thing about Death-Klaw. He dated my sister for a while. I say dated. But you know, they hung out for a bit. There was a period they were getting very familiar. And it was a bit weird, you know? I mean, don’t get me wrong—I’m all about Death-Klaw. He’s the best. He’s the greatest. You need something taken care of, he’s the guy to take care of it. But still, I’m used to knowing Death-Klaw in a professional capacity, so it’s a little weird to hear about him from my sister. I call her up, she’s like, “I have to admit, things are a little rocky with Death-Klaw. He’s kind of closed-off, you know? Not emotionally available.” And I want to say, “Sis, this is Death-Klaw! What exactly are you expecting here? He’s not known for his delicacy of feeling.” But the heart wants what the heart wants, so I try to go easy on her, give her some standard advice—don’t pressure him, give him space. And guess what! Next time I talk to her, the situation’s done a 180. Death-Klaw’s an open book, suddenly. Feelings and shit gushing out of him, like you turned on a spigot. And she’s like, “I don’t know if I can handle it. He’s being very needy right now.” And I’m like, Death-Klaw, needy? Those two concepts don’t go together in my mind. It’s like if you told me water was being dry, or sugar was being salty. But my point is, it’s hard to know people sometimes. You think you know Death-Klaw, and there’s this whole other side of him—and maybe nobody ever saw it except my sister.

But when he’s on, Death-Klaw’s on. You got some fuck in Toronto trying to step on your business? Call in the Death-Klaw, baby. You got a sheik in Dubai starts wanting a cut of something? Well, that sheik’s getting a visit, I can guarantee that. He’ll be sleeping in his private jet, seven miles over the ocean, there comes a tapping on the fuselage. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Fuckin’ Death-Klaw!

There’s honestly only one time I ever heard of Death-Klaw fucking up a job. And even then, it wasn’t totally his fault. We were sending him down to Guatemala to deal with this general. I don’t want to name names, but he was a pretty big general. He was on the verge of launching a coup, and let’s just say that our current arrangement with the Guatemalan government made this coup inadvisable. I mean, you build a house up, you don’t want some fuck tearing it down! So as you expect, we send in the Death-Klaw. He flies the fuck down there. He gets busy with it, doing his thing. Only he takes his sweet time about it. Usually, you send in Death-Klaw, the situation is taken care of—I’m talking twenty-four, forty-eight hours max. But this time, a week goes by, two weeks, and nothing has changed. This hothead general is still down there, planning his coup. So we’re like, “Where the fuck is Death-Klaw? Is he screwing us on this?” We try to make some calls, but the nature of Death-Klaw’s work makes him difficult to get a hold of, so we’re just sitting there, twisting in the wind.

And then finally, finally, the thing gets taken care of. The general is outta there. Or I should say, he quietly disappears. And when Death-Klaw gets back, we call him in to a kind of debriefing session. I mean, we don’t go too hard on him, because he did get the job done, but at the same time we’re curious about the delay. So there’s Death-Klaw, in our office, drinking a Sprite from our soda machine, with a look on his face like, “What the fuck am I doing here?” And we’re like, “Hey, Death-Klaw, we’re not trying to second-guess you, but we couldn’t help but notice, the timing on this job was not exactly record-breaking.” And Death-Klaw sits there, drinks his Sprite, looking at us like we’re assholes, and you know what he says to us? He says, “I was given the wrong name.” And we’re like, what do you mean—the wrong name? What name are you talking about? And he hands us a piece of paper, and it’s a paper we gave him when we assigned him the job, we recognize the handwriting, and do you know what? The guy was right! Someone added an extra c to the general’s name. And that completely threw him off. Delayed the whole thing by two weeks. Can you believe that? An extra c. He’s precise, I’ll give him that. I mean, you’d think, with a little common sense...but you know, whatever. Water under the bridge, as they say. He’s still our best guy. The top dog, no question. But we’ve joked about it ever since then. We’ll laugh behind his back, when we call him up for a job. You didn’t add an extra c, did you? You guys look that up in Webster’s? You got to double-check your spelling with old Death-Klaw.

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