The Cask of Amontillado
I hated Roger Nevermore. I despised him with every ounce of hate that I had, and even some ounces I didn’t know I had, but found buried somewhere with my grandmother’s old wedding dress from her third marriage, and (strangely enough) an old pimento cheese sandwich.
I didn’t hate Roger because he was black. I’m not a racist. I believe that Black Lives do Matter, and I don’t trust the police. I marched on Washington once. Okay, I was a day late, so it was just me marching up and down the avenue carrying a sign reading WE WILL NOT LET THIS STAND, so I looked kind of stupid, but it’s the thought that counts, right? So, no, I am no bigot. I did not hate him because he was black. I hated him because he was also part Chinese.
I’m joking. He was not part Chinese, so therefore I couldn’t hate him for that, either. I hated him because he was an annoying pest.
I’ll never forget when we first met. He showed up at my doorstep, saying he had just moved in to the neighborhood. I didn’t recall there being any real estate signs up on any property around the area in quite some time. Whatever, though. Okay. You wanna play that game, mister? It’s fine with me. I won’t play that game, because I’m not a game player, but you? Play all the games you want. I’ll play Jenga. By myself. But that’s another story.
He asked me if I would join him in drinking some Amontillado. Truth be told, I prefer Rémy Martin, but I will never refuse a nice after-dinner drink. So I invited him in. I could tell by his stumble that he had already had his fair share, so how much more could he drink, really? Imagine my surprise when he wheeled in a dolly with a full cask! That’s a keg, more or less, for you beer drinkers. Why on earth would you bring a cask along when there are only two people drinking? What did he expect? That I would have a thirst like no other? Or was he planning on overstaying his welcome?
“What is your game, sir?” I asked him brusquely.
“My…game?” he asked. “Why, I’m a Jenga man.”
“No, what I mean to say is, what is your scheme?”
“Scheme?” he asked. “What are you…”
“Why did you bring so much wine?” I interrupted. “And what’s the deal with your eye?”
“Oh,” he said. “Uhum…. well, to answer your first question, I’m not sure.”
“And, so, why are you here again?”
“Why, to share a drink with my new neighbor of course.”
“Yes, yes, stop trying to distract me. Now what was I asking about earlier? Let’s see. Ah yes, your eye.”
“My eye?” he quiggled.
“Your eye. What in the dickens is wrong with your eye?”
He sat down on my sofa before I could throw a towel under him. Not that he was particularly dirty-I just have this thing, you see. I have obsessions and compulsions and, well, that’s neither here nor there. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the eye.
“Funny story. See, once upon a time there were three bears.”
“Heard it,” I said.
“All right, well, I don’t like to talk about it, because it’s quite embarrassing. You see, I have an uncle…”
And from there his story continued, winding over hill and dale, rambling like a lost donkey. On and on he went about his uncle and something about vindaloo. I don’t know when his eye appeared in the actual story, or if it ever did, and when over an hour had passed and his story was showing no sign of slowing down, that’s when I decided that it would be best to kill him and hide his body in the wall.
It wasn’t his story that was bothering me, really. And it wasn’t the fact that he had finished the cask of Amontillado and I had barely finished my first glass. It was his eye. And also the jester’s outfit he had somehow slipped into when I wasn’t looking. I’m not sure how or when it happened. I mean, it’s not like he had my undivided attention during the story; but still, to get fully dressed in a jester’s getup, complete with jingle bells, without me noticing? Was my sense of reality slipping? Was I going completely mad?
No. I don’t think I was. I think there was something about this particular fellow that was a bit mystical. Yes. That was it. There was nothing inherently wrong with my brain, rather, some energy he was emitting was affecting my thought patterns.
I was thinking of ways I could kill him. Suddenly, it came to me.
“You know, Roger, I am so glad you brought this Amontillado here with you. How did you come to know how much I adore it? And if you know that, then of course you must also know that I have an entire pipe of it squirreled away in a vault.”
A pipe is a container that is roughly the size of a swimming pool, for you swimmers.
“An entire pipe, you say?”
“That must have set you back a pretty penny,” he quiffed.
“It wasn’t cheap,” I said. “Then again, it was about one tenth of the price that something with such exquisite drink-ability should be.”
“You don’t say.”
“I do say. And now that I’ve tried yours, which tastes absolutely nothing like what’s in my pipe, I’m thinking I got ripped off.”
“Oh, well, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I will teet it.”
“I would be happy to taste it for you, and confirm whether or not it is, in fact, Amontillado.”
“No, no. Not necessary. I can get my friend Fat Tony to do it. You are much too busy jestering.”
“Fat Tony cannot tell Amontillado from Pabst Blue Ribbon,” he queefed.
“HA! He sure can eat, though.”
“Haha! I agree,” he agreed.
“Don’t you have a jester’s engagement to get to?” I asked.
His eye floated around in its socket like a painted grape in a fishbowl. It was at that moment that I realized I had no idea who he was looking at.
“Jester’s engagement?” he asked. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Your outfit, it’s…” No sooner had those words left my mouth than I noticed he was back in regular attire. Still had the hat, though.
“Never mind,” I said. “Let’s go. It’s just around the back.”
We went outside and around to the back of my estate, and entered the vault, which, for some odd reason, also housed all my relatives’ bones.
“Chip! chip! chip! Chip-chip! Chip-chip! chip!” he coughed. It was just about the strangest cough I’d ever heard. The only one stranger was this guy I knew who used to say couch couch. But that’s a whole different story.
“Are you all right?” I asked him. “Are you up to the challenge? Because I can always call Fat Tony and…”
“Nonsense!” he said. “I’m fine. Lead the way.”
He seemed to be sobering up from the Amontillado. We couldn’t have that now, could we?
“Here,” I said, handing him a bottle of sake. “Suck on this.”
“Sake?” he asked.
“Arigato,” I said.
“Oregano,” he answered back, and took a swig.
“Good boy,” I said. “Let’s continue. It’s just a little farther.”
We walked past the buried remains of more dead relatives. HERE LIES POOR OLD UNCLE PETE. NO LONGER WILL WE SMELL HIS FEET. I was proud of that. My grandfather let me come up with the rhyme for Uncle Pete’s plaque when I was a child and I thought smelly feet and dried mucus were funny. Plus, it was fitting. They smelled much like that pimento sandwich I mentioned earlier.
We made another stop. I grabbed a bottle of Johnny Walker Magenta.
“Magenta?” he asked.
“But I thought that was only rumored to exist.”
“Yet here we are,” said I, pouring a tumbler for him.
“Aren’t you going to drink?”
“Not much of a whiskey drinker,” I said. “But you be my guest.” I kept pouring as I was speaking, making it a very generous double.
I was a liar. Whiskey was a favorite of mine, especially a fine scotch like this one. But I had to keep my wits about me.
“Drink up, buttercup,” I said.
He tilted his head back, making the bells on his hat squinkle, downing it in one draught, which made me hate him even more. This wasn’t Jack Daniels. You didn’t shoot a drink like this; you savored it.
“I drink,” he said, “to your Uncle Pete’s athlete’s foot.”
“And I to your long, long life.”
We kept walking. “My word, do these tunnels go on forrrever,” he slurred.
“We needed lots of room for burial. All my relatives are here. I come from a very distinguished family, you know.”
“What’s your coat of arms like?”
“A man decorating a Christmas tree in the nude while simultaneously getting his twig and berries caught in the door of a runaway stagecoach.”
“Doesn’t make much sense to me, either. Word has it my great-great-great grandfather was completely wasted when he came up with it.”
“And the motto?”
“Semper Ubi Sub Ubi.”
“Niiiizzzze,” he slumbled.
“Here,” I said, pouring him a glass of bluish-orange liqueur.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Squinch,” I answered.
“Isn’t that made from the fermented urine of a meerkat? Isn’t that redicklessly ‘spensive?”
“Not when you have your own meerkat farm,” I said.
“You mean, this is fffrom your family’s own grrroves? Exquisssite!”
He sipped the alcohol slowly, which infuriated me. This is the type of drink that one must shoot, not savor. He had everything backwards. Thank God I would kill him soon by walling him up in my family’s vault.
He turned the empty shot glass upside down and put it on his head.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“What I always do after a good drring. The brotherhood salute.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Wait a min. Yerr not a Mason?”
“Of course I’m a Mason,” I said. “Isn’t everyone nowadays?”
“Nnno,” he said. “Massons are verry secret clubs.”
“Then what’s this?” I asked, producing a trowel from behind my back.
His eyes lit up. Well, the one eye. The other one just kinda sat there dead.
“Isss that the sacrrred trowwel of Zeus?” he asked.
I hung my head. “Sadly, this is but a replica. But does this not prove that I am a Mason?”
“Mmmaybe,” he said. “Let’ss see how quick you can build a wall. I’ll race ya.”
This was it! My shining moment! I would finally rid myself of this pest once and for all! He had been disrupting my life for far too long! All right, granted, it was only a few hours, but still. A guy like that can really get on your nerves, you know?
“All right, sir,” I said, handing him a trowel. “Here you are.”
“No need,” he said. “Brought my own.”
“You travel with your trowel?”
“Always bring your own trowel,” he said. “Any Mason wwworth their wwwweight wuh know that.”
I was lying, of course. I was not a Mason. However, just as you didn’t need to belong to the Oddfellows Club to be an odd fellow, you didn’t need to be a Mason to know how to lay brick. And I was pretty damn good.
“Okay, you stand here, in this corner, and I’ll stand in front of you. First one to bury their opponent alive wins the game. Ready?”
And boy, did the trowels fly! The mud slinging this way, slunging that way, brick dust dusting up the air, brick after brick was being laid faster than you could count them. It appeared as though I had the lead. Some Mason he turned out to be. Ha!
What I didn’t notice, however, was the pattern in which he was laying them. Soon he had walled his way across the room, giving him the only access to the exits, and leaving me trapped.
“No!” I said. “No! No! No!” I pounded on the bricks. I kicked at the bricks. I threw all my weight into the bricks. But they would not fall.
“Later, loser!” he shouted, not slurring at all.
“But how did you… But…you were…so drunk.”
“Forgot to tell you about my high tolerance for alcohol. And low tolerance for bullshit. I knew about your little plan to take me down here and bury me alive. You’re not as sneaky as you think. Take ‘er easy.”
“Curse you!” I yelled.
“No!” he said, “I believe the curse is on you.”
So now here I lie, in a state of repose. Days, weeks, months later, who can tell with no sunlight down here? I suppose it hasn’t been months; I would not have been able to survive that long without water. But it has been much longer than I can stand. Feeling very light-headed. Shouldn’t be too long, now. The end can’t come soon enough.
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