Mind Your Own Business

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“Oscar is late today. He is usually here by now… I wondered where he was this afternoon?” I thought to myself. Suddenly the door swung open and in stumbled Oscar. He looked a little more ragged than usual today, almost disheveled and certainly lacking any color… pale almost. Oscar took his place at the end of the bar, on his favorite stool next to the bathroom door and ordered his usual poison… a double Jack with a mountain dew chaser.

Weird, right?  I have been working as the daytime bartender here at the Crusty Dog for almost eight years and I have been serving Oscar drinks nearly every afternoon for seven of those years. I still don’t know what he does for a living though. When I ask, he tells me to mind my own business and then he goes back to talking about anything and everything under the sun. Current politics, Marxism and telepathy were his favorite discussion topics. To each his own, I figured. He tipped well enough.

Today he was different though, barely said a word as he pounded Jack doubles like a man possessed. Oscar remained pretty solemn the rest of the afternoon, mostly just watched the TV with an empty stare. He did manage to put down almost two-thirds of the bottle I had been pouring from, in the three hours that have past so far. It’s almost five o’clock. It concerned me that he was so silent today and consumed so much booze without any visible side effects. I decided to do something I had never done before today… I was going to follow Oscar when he left the bar. It should be easy enough, he should be plastered and at almost 65 years of age, I figured it should pretty easy to follow un-noticed. Plus, I know he walks everywhere, so he can’t live too far away.

As he got up to leave, I noticed he had reddish stains on his trousers and shoes. I have to find out what the heck this guy is up too when he’s not here boozing it up here. Curiosity is killing me. I’m glad it was raining outside, my umbrella will help disguise me as I follow him. We must of walked three city blocks when he stopped, looked around a moment, then went into his old, run-down apartment building on 43rd street. I cautiously followed behind him, trying to keep my distance so he wouldn’t catch on I was there. He went upstairs to the fourth floor and unlocked the door to apartment number 409 and went inside, closing the door behind him. I wasn’t sure what to do. I decided to just hang out down the hall by the stairwell, have a smoke and wait a bit to see if he came back out or see if I could overhear anything… for all I knew, he had a bitchy wife and just needed to escape for awhile.

About ten minutes later, Oscar came back out in a huff and started to walk down the stairs on the opposite side of the hallway, away from me, heading outside. I noticed when he left, the door didn’t close and latch when he pulled it shut. I looked out of the hall window and saw Oscar was already across the street, heading into the corner drugstore. This was my chance. I have to see what is on the inside and how he lives. Why were his pants and shoes splattered with red stains? What was that odor coming from his place? Was there anybody else inside? I peaked in through the crack in the door and saw nothing, it was too dark. I quietly inched my way into his apartment, looking around, all I saw was crazy paintings all over the walls and leaning up against the furniture. Oh my God…he was a painter! That wasn’t blood on his pants and shoes, it was red paint! How could I have been so suspicious of this odd, talkative, drunk old man?

Just then the door opened wide and Oscar was standing there. “What the hell are you doing here?” he shouted. “I’m sorry Oscar.  I was worried about you so I followed you home. Please forgive me. I thought your trousers were covered in blood” I humbly mumbled. “I didn’t know you were a painter? Why wouldn’t you ever talk about it?” I asked.

I then noticed a glitch in his facial expression and a twinkle shoot through his eye. “Only very special people get to see my painting process up close.” Oscar said calmly. “Come over into this next room and I’ll show you my techniques for creating the art you see. I’ve been doing it this way for many years. I have an unorthodox… creative process, you might say…” he whispered.

I didn’t feel the initial blow to my head from behind… it happened way too fast for me to comprehend what had just happened. The searing pain that followed was unbearable as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was strapped to a very old, stained oak table with worn, leather belts screwed into the legs. Listening to the constant hum of the box fan in the corner of the room was mesmerizing. All I could see was the back of the painting easel and a side table over-flowing with old plates of half eaten food and crushed beer cans.

I slowly realized Oscar was a painter. His medium was my blood. His inspiration was from the depths of hell. He slowly drained me with surgical razor blade cuts to my abdomen for almost two days before some woman in the upstairs apartment fell asleep smoking in bed and caught the building on fire. Thank God those firemen found me and told me what had happened. I was on the edge of death and totally thankful for them.

Oscar disappeared. I don’t know where he went or whatever happened to him. It’s been three years now and he is still a wanted man on the FBI’s most wanted list. The police found 14 severed left ears in his freezer chest. They told me he was a collector.  So far, 26 of his paintings have been found throughout the city in private collections and I have since learned to mind my own business.

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