1. The Ill-Tempered Caviller. They don't call him that for nothing. He's a hotheaded motherfucker, a nasty sonofabitch. And he knows it.
2. Trouble is his middle name. Ill-Tempered is his first name. Caviller is his last name. Everywhere he goes he makes trouble. He's always getting into fights. He can't get along with anyone. He can't help it. But he hates the way he is. He really does hate the way he is. But he can't help it. Someday you're going to kill someone, the Ill-Tempered Caviller tells himself.
3. The Ill-Tempered Caviller argues with the old ladies in his building, he argues with the guys at work. He argues with the cop on the beat, the candy store owner, cab drivers, bus drivers, subway conductors. He argues with anybody and everybody, regardless of race, color or creed.
4. Something or other happens that leads some guy to call the Ill-Tempered Caviller a nasty sonofabitch. The Caviller is about to sock the guy in the jaw, but then decides the punk's not worth it. Instead he says, I have certain unalienable rights, one of them being the right to be myself. He pauses for a few seconds. Then he socks the guy in the jaw.
5. The Ill-Tempered Caviller gets his electric bill. He decides it's too high. So he makes a call to the electric company. A woman answers the phone. For five minutes he screams at her and calls her names, the nicest one being stupid slut. The woman breaks down and cries. The Caviller hangs up on her, slams the phone real hard. Then he calls the phone company and does the same thing. Even though he hasn't yet received his phone bill.
6. The high-echelon Nazis were lovers of great art and the Ill-Tempered Caviller loves Mozart. He goes to a concert where they're doing Mozart's Piano Concerto in C Major, K. 467. During the andante, some joker in front of the Caviller starts coughing. The Caviller leans forward and whispers in the guy's ear, stop coughing. From the tone of his voice it is clear that he means business. But the guy can't help himself, and he coughs several more times throughout the piece. During the intermission the Caviller follows the guy to the men's room, where he roughs him up a bit, just enough to teach him a lesson. Next time you feel like coughing, the Caviller tells the guy, go to hear some Tchaikowsky.
7. An old lady comes up to the Ill-Tempered Caviller and asks him to help her cross the street. I can't, I'm in a rush, he says. I'm afraid to cross alone, the old lady says, and adds, it'll only take a second. OK, but you'll have to keep up with me, the Caviller says. He grabs her by the hand and starts to make a mad dash across the street, dragging the old lady behind him. Stop, stop, she screams, you're hurting me. So the Caviller lets go of her, abandons her in the middle of the street, and continues on alone.
8. The Ill-Tempered Caviller decides to run for office. He runs as an independent. On the campaign trail the Caviller eats hot dogs and kisses babies. One of the babies drools on him. The Ill-Tempered Caviller spits back.
9. The Ill-Tempered Caviller calls up a radio talk show. He makes a point. The talk show host agrees with him. So the Caviller makes an about-face and takes the other side. The talk show host calls him contentious. The Caviller calls the talk show host an asshole. When he hears himself back on the seven-second delay, the word asshole is replaced by a boop. The Caviller calls the talk show host a chickenshit faggot for booping him. The talk show host hangs up on him. On the radio the Caviller hears an extended boop followed by a click.
10. The Ill-Tempered Caviller is pissed. Nobody hangs up on the Ill-Tempered Caviller and gets away with it. He's flushed with anger, convulsed with rage. He feels like a pressure cooker about to explode. He decides to take a drive to blow off some steam.
11. The Ill-Tempered Caviller gets into a car accident. The driver of the other car is also ill-tempered. Not surprisingly, they get into a fight. Fisticuffs. The Caviller pins the other guy to the side of his car, the other guy's car, that is, and lets out with a barrage of savage blows to the guy's face. The guy's head goes through the window. Shattered glass. The guy's unconscious. Probably dead. The Caviller gets back into his car and speeds away.
12. There are no secrets, no mysteries, the Ill-Tempered Caviller tells himself.
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This is an early piece, when I was finding my style for serial short prose. The tone and form were partly inspired by the short fiction of my friend Kenneth Bernard, and the character is somewhat based on Bogart's character in the Nicholas Ray film "In a Lonely Place." It was published in 1983 in the anthology Diana's Third Almanac, edited by Tom Ahern.