Saturday 26 June 2021

'The Devil You Know' by Audrey Burges

I am a considerate villain, and you let me in because I only use the finest pomades on my long mustache, which I twirl with practiced elegance and tapered fingers tipped with the smoothest of fingernails. You unbar the door because I only take my spiraled lollipops from the sweetest of infants, and I use words like “dastardly” and “ruffians” in sentences punctuated by laughter that trills in a melodious arc. I am not a rogue, simpering in silence while sinking calloused hands into a pocketbook. You open your wallet and your arms and yourself to me because my polished shoes and brass buttons and white pinstripes shine like the sun. I cast no shadow. I am transparent as a shopkeeper’s window. My business card is thick like rich cream and embossed with the words “up to no good.” You pin it to your refrigerator with a “MAMA NEEDS COFFEE” magnet beneath a child’s crude drawing of a cat. I poisoned the cat, and I know that you know it, because I wear my heart on my sleeve—it’s this silver cufflink, just here, as shiny as everything else about me. My car is the one on the curb outside, the one with the hood ornament shaped like an angel and a trunk full of puppies and kittens I stole from the Baby Animal Emporium. I know you have your choice of malefactors in this world, and though my reputation as a scoundrel no doubt precedes me, I do not take my invitations for granted. The field is thick with ne’er-do-wells who will wrong you without style or grace, but I do not lurk in dark corners or send ill-grammared messages through the veins of some anonymous computer. You welcome me for tea. I stir mine with a dagger.

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