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It’s Never Too Late to be Who You Might Have Been

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He’s sitting in the laundromat with his magazine open in front of him and has almost convinced himself that he doesn’t remember what day it is. But he does, of course. He had dragged the table three feet closer to the door before sitting down; he had spent a solid minute making sure his position was exactly right. Luck is the residue of design. Today is the day, the day he’s going to make everything right. He isn’t going to fuck it up this time.

He tries to sit casually but twitches in the cheap laundromat chair. His eyes skim the pages without actually seeing the words while all his attention is on the tick tick tick of the clock on the wall. Does he show up at one exactly, or was it a few minutes after? tick tick ti

He jumps when the door actually opens, clattering on its hinges as John bursts in with his gun already drawn.

John.

Emotion washes over him like a flood, and he blurts out the first stupid thing that comes into his head.

“You do look good, heh. Wow.”

“You’re . . . the Fizzle Bomber?” John says, and he remembers that, the feeling of his world going topsy-turvy for the umpteenth time. Why had he ever thought this was the moment for jokes? So he bites his tongue at the ugly nickname and nods.

John stares at him. “You killed all those people.”

It’s so, so tempting to deny it; the desire boils up inside him but, dammit, where had that ever gotten him? Dangling at the end of the chain like a dead end, is where. Instead of the litany of prevented disasters he knows ends with a bullet in his chest, he clears his throat and says what he knows John needs to hear.

“I know. And listen to me, for one minute, okay? I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

He nods hastily. “I am. I’m you, remember? We aren’t heartless.”

“You – then why did you do it?” John asks.

This is it. The moment of truth. He clambers to his feet and shuffles around the table, tries not to show his disappointment on his face when John backs away from him when he gets closer.

“Because I had to – no, let me talk,” he says, holding a hand up against John’s attempted interruption. “It all makes sense. I spent my whole career chasing the Fizzle Bomber only to walk into this Wash N’ Dry and find out it’s been me the whole damn time. So what do you think I did? Huh?”

The hand holding John’s gun, now limp at his side, twitches. “You killed him.”

“Exactly!” He slaps his thigh with his good hand. “Because I didn’t understand! But don’t you see – we need the Fizzle Bomber. Without the Fizzle Bomber, we don’t exist.”

John is aghast. “We’re not worth the lives of six thousand people! You could’ve . . . broken the chain. Stopped it all.”

“No, that’s what I’m trying to say.” He takes a few steps closer. “I couldn’t break the chain. If I didn’t kill those people, I’d never get to see you again. But we can.”

John still looks confused and uncertain, but there’s a kernel of understanding behind his eyes. It’s working.

He struggles down to the laundromat floor and kneels a few feet in front of John. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I couldn’t live the rest of my life without seeing you again. But now we don’t have to, do you understand? If you stay here with me, there never has to be a Fizzle Bomber ever again. We can live out our lives together and let the chain die with us. Will you do that, with me?”

For a moment the question hangs in the air unanswered, but then there’s an ugly clunk as John’s revolver hits the linoleum floor and a moment later it’s John’s knees that follow. John just kneels there in front of him for a moment before reaching out one hand and cupping his face.

“I missed you so much,” John says.

He smiles his crooked, broken-toothed smile and lets out a giddy laugh. “I missed you, too.”