by S. Menduke
Earl Banks walked methodically along of the side of the
house. He wore dark-blue work pants and a white, lightweight
short sleeve shirt. It was the same outfit he had worn everyday,
except Sunday, for the past three decades. His graying hair was
still in abundance unlike most men his age. He kept his in check
with a jar of some kind of goop and a comb that he stored in
his work truck. His hairstyle, much like his work attire had not
changed much over the years. He parted it to the side and worked
the insufferable cowlick at the front into a sort-of pompadour.
Earl was not the type of man that liked change. His life was
his life- no more-no less. He never had any desire to travel the
world or change careers. Exterminating had always provided a
good living for him, for his family. It was usually quiet work,
unless of course you had a chatty homeowner. He enjoyed the
It was only ten am, but the Florida sun was already turning
the heat up. Cicadas were singing all around him By noon it
would be unbearable and by two it would feel as though someone
had placed him in a microwave. He slowly spritzed the bottom
edge of the house’s wall with chemicals from the steel canister
he held. Every so often he’d squeeze the trigger at the top of
the long wand that delivered death to a variety of unsuspecting
Despite the heat this was his favorite part of the job,
doing the sweep around the outside. These nice little suburban
neighborhoods were so quiet during the weekdays. He liked to
listen to the sounds of birds and insects outside. He supposed
it might seem odd to some that he enjoyed the sounds of insects,
since he spent the majority of his time killing them, but he did
just the same.
He did take pleasure in ridding homes of pests. Roaches,
ants, beetles, even rats, it was good, honest work. People
needed his services and that felt good to Earl. Most of his
clients were suburbanites in houses like this one. Developments
that were loaded to the brim with exactly the same house.
Structures who could only be set apart by a different hue of
beige paint and landscape choices. Fan palms chosen for the
center of the front yard in lieu of a cluster of coconut palms,
Crotons lined beneath the front window rather than Ixora and so
on. A lot of people hated these cookie cutters that started
springing up in the 1980’s, but not Earl. He liked the sameness
of the houses. It gave him comfort. Everything was neat and
orderly. Even their garbage bins matched per new city code.
He had some commercial clients on his roster. as well. A few
warehouses near the tracks in the seedier section of town. He
also had two restaurants and a mail store in a strip mall.. Earl
loved strip malls too. .Those three businesses were good
accounts because they were a one-stop-shop, same day, bing-bangboom.
A real saver on gas, which always made him happy
especially with today’s prices being so steep.
Yes, Earl thought as he finished up the house’s perimeter,
it is good work and after today’s next job, it will be
retirement city. He chuckled to himself. Earl Banks-retired. It
didn’t seem like a word that went with his name. Like serving
eggs with clams or cheeseburgers and salad. It was not a good
fit, but it was going to have to be.
He packed his canister away in the bed of his pick-up truck
and grabbed his clipboard off the front seat. He knocked lightly
on the homeowner’s door.
“All through,” he said with a smile when Mrs. White
She returned his smile with one of her own and signed his
“Thanks Earl. I’ll see you next month.”
“Nope, you won’t see me, I’m packing it in after today,” he
They exchanged a few pleasantries and Earl waved at her as he
On to the final job, he thought. He checked his watch, it
was 3 pm. Right on schedule. He headed west on the boulevard
towards the park to a large section of woods that rose up just
past the soccer fields. Different groups of teens would hang out
in there, on the weekends or during the week when they were
ditching school. They sat out there smoking wacky-tobacky and
acting the fool as if they were the first ones in history to be
rebellious. They thought they were different and unique, but
Earl had seen group after group every few years. The hair and
clothes would change,but they were as the same as the suburban
cookie cutters they lived in. Sometimes to kill time between
appointments he would sit at the picnic tables at the park with
a soda and a snack and then take a stroll through the woods,
just listening to the sounds nature provided.
It was on one of those days, just after 3 p.m., which was
about an hour after the local schools let out, that he spotted
the green-eyed monster for the first time. He thought it might
have been a fluke; just one of those weird chance-encounters
that after a while you’re not even sure if it happened at all.
But, then after several more trips into those woods, after 3
p.m. during the week, he knew it was no fluke. It had never seen
him. But he had seen it all right. Seen it doing what it was
surely born to do-day after day. And today was the day he would
rid the world of this menace.
He walked slowly and diligently, listening for the telltale
sounds. Twigs and dry leaves cracked beneath his work boots as
he searched for it.
He cocked his head like a hunter. Big prey today. Bigger than
the biggest rat he ever saw.
He heard it and stopped dead. He wanted to be sure he was
right before he went on. He needed to sneak up behind it or he
might lose his nerve. If it saw him… If he had to look into
those green eyes… He shuddered at the thought of it.
He crept closer.
Quiet. Careful. Almost there now.
Henry T Wallace, age 10, was too busy playing to hear Earl Banks
behind him. Henry’s green eyes sparkled with delight as he
pulled patches of the kittens skin from its body with his
favorite pair of pliers, the ones with the bright orange grips.
He giggled and rocked back and forth as the tortured animal
gasped and mewed for mercy. Henry T Wallace never heard the
first shot that Earl Banks fired at the back of his head. And he
certainly didn’t hear the second shot that Earl Banks fired into
the center his own.
Photo by Scott Slavin