(I’ve never written fan fiction or mash-ups before, and I doubt I will again. But I couldn’t resist trying to combine one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation, with one of my favorite books of the past few years, Frank Bill’s Crimes In Southern Indiana.)
In the cloudy, gravel-gray dusk, Ron Swanson crept past the motel parking lot in his dark red Buick Park Avenue and rolled to a stop. He snatched the .12-gauge double-barrel from the passenger seat, flung open the driver’s door, marched toward the only room with piss-yellow lamplight seeping through the curtains. Didn’t bother to close the car door or even take the keys. No one was around for miles, and besides, he didn’t plan on staying long.
He knew this was serious business. Tom could be dramatic and fragile, sure, but Ron had heard much more than the usual Tom Haverford whining when the little man called him 30 minutes ago in a shrieking panic. Ron heard something he’d never heard in Tom’s voice before: genuine, blood-chilling terror. Ron didn’t even ask what landed Tom in this kettle of shit. He assumed it had to be the fault of Jean-Ralphio, that slimy skid-mark of a human being. Probably stiffed some gap-toothed mullet-head dealer on a bag of whatever drug he was into this week.
Ron stood before the motel room door and pointed his shotgun at chest-level. He saw a sturdy November breeze rattle the door’s flimsy knob, and figured he could just kick the door open, save a shell. So that’s what he did.
He heard Tom and Jean-Ralphio screech like startled parakeets. The busted-open door revealed a scab-faced corn shock of a young man– still a kid, really– in a camouflage vest. The kid didn’t have time to raise his .40-caliber Glock before Ron unloaded, and chomped an apple-sized chunk out of the poor bastard’s shoulder.
Tom and Jean-Ralphio started sputtering what sounded like words of sweaty gratitude, but Ron tuned them out for now. He stood over his prey, watched the blood slither out of his shoulder-wound over what appeared to be a pre-existing blood stain in the motel’s moldy carpet. The kid was too shocked to utter more than sad whimpers. Ron doubted the kid still had the muscles and tendons required to aim and fire his weapon, but just to be safe, he grabbed the Glock from his flaccid hand.
Surely the kid would bleed to death while the night was still young. Yet Ron couldn’t let that happen. He saw the kid just like it was one of the hundreds of other thoughtless animals he’d killed out of necessity in his life. This particular animal didn’t deserve mercy, a quick end to his misery. But Ron decided to give it to the kid anyway. He’d use the Glock, to make less of a mess. Not like anyone at this half-abandoned motel of the damned would notice.
As he squeezed the trigger, he saw Leslie Knope’s face. All-American Leslie, the most honorable person who’d ever served the citizens of Pawnee, Indiana. Ron could never share Leslie’s love of government, but damn it, he respected her. He even loved her, like a daughter or a baby sister. And in that moment he saw the look he knew Leslie would wear if she ever heard what he’d just done. It was a look of anguish so horrible he couldn’t bear to imagine it for more than the time it took for the Glock’s bullet to slam itself through the kid’s skull and bury itself in the floor.
Ron turned to Tom and Jean-Ralphio, clutching each other on the bed like shivering fetuses in a frozen womb. He looked at Tom until Tom looked back, and he said, “Leslie will never know about this.”
Jean-Ralphio spoke first. “Don’t even trip, Ronny B. Goode. You know I ain’t no snitch!”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Ron. “Because I know that you know that if you ever said a word about this, I would have no qualms about ripping your lower jaw off of your skull with my bare hands. Tom, however, I kind of like.”
“Come on, Swan Lake!” said Tom. “Do you really need to tell me not to tell Leslie about this?”
“I know you wouldn’t mean to,” Ron said. “But I also know that sometimes, against your better judgment, you can’t help but open your silly little mouth. Now I need you to take a minute and think, actually think about what the consequences would be if you happened to spill these particular beans. And I need to make sure that every last nerve in that brain of yours understands this, so that you never speak of this. Not even by accident. Not even if you talk in your sleep. Because if Leslie found out, I wouldn’t hurt you. No, something much worse would happen: We’d lose her respect.”
Tom closed his eyes and thought, really thought about what Ron said. Meanwhile Ron imagined the Lagavulin he’d drink as soon as this was all over. How sweet that burn would feel as it coated his throat, lined his gut. And he hoped it might once again soothe the pain of living in a world that so often made men do such terrible things. Things that would shatter a woman like Leslie Knope.
When Tom finished thinking, he looked at Ron with the eyes of a brand new man. He said, “Leslie will never know about this,” and Ron trusted it was the truth.
“All right then,” said Ron. “Now I just need to be sure of one last thing.” He looked at Jean-Ralphio. “Am I correct in assuming that all this was somehow the result of your boundless ineptitude?”
“OK hear me out, Ron Bon Jovi,” said Jean-Ralphio. “That dude said I owed him ‘3 large,’ and I always thought ‘large’ meant ‘dozen,’ so-”
Ron pounded his fist between Jean-Ralphio’s crooked eyebrows, felt the top of his nose turn to peanut brittle. Jean-Ralphio moaned through the blood quickly flooding his nostrils. “That’s all I needed to know,” said Ron. “Now let’s stuff this tweaker in my trunk and take a ride out to my cabin. Jean-Ralphio, you’ll be digging the hole. And if you don’t stop moaning, I’ll make you dig two.”