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The Killers

The Killers

Ernest Hemingway

Hard-bitten Woman: Henry's Lunch Room was never busy that time of day. Nick Adams was in, talking to George, but no-one else, not yet. On the wall behind the counter was a clock, usually wrong, but that bothered no-one. Outside the window the street-light came on. It was getting dark. A street-car passed by. No other traffic. It was that kind of town. Then the door opened and two men came in. They sat down at the counter and read the menu.

Al:I'll have a roast pork tenderloin with apple sauce and mashed potatoes.

George: Well, that ain't ready yet.

Al: What the hell do you put it on the card for?

George: That's the dinner. You can get that at six o'clock.

Al: So, what time is it now?

George: Five.

Max: (Mild, but with threat) Your clock says twenty minutes past five.

George: That clock's twenty minutes fast.

Al: Ah, to hell with the clock. What have you got to eat?

George: (Expansive) Well, I can give you any kind of sandwiches. You can have ham

and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver and bacon and steak.

Al: Give me chicken croquettes with green peas and cream sauce and mashed potatoes.

George: (Stubborn) That's the dinner.

Max: Everything we want's the dinner, huh? That's the way you work it?

George: I can give you ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver.

Al: (Interrupts) I'll take ham and eggs.

Max: Give me bacon and eggs.

George: (Brisk) One ham and eggs, one bacon and eggs! (Hatch slides open) Got that, Sam? One ham and eggs, one bacon and eggs! (Hatch closes)

Al: (Slight pause) You got anything to drink?

George: Silver beer, pevo, ginger ale.....

Al: I mean you got anything to drink?

George: Well, just those things I said.

Max: (Pause) This is a hot town. What do they call it?

George: Summit.

Al: Summit. Max, you ever hear of it?

Max: No. I never heard of it, Al.

Al: What do you do here nights?

Max: (Pause) They eat the dinner. They all come here to the diner and they eat the big dinner.

George: That's right.

Al: (Threat) So you think that's right.

George: Sure.

Al: (Threat) You're a pretty bright boy, aren't you?

George: (Uneasy) Sure.

Max: Well, you're not. Is he, Al?

Al: He's dumb. Hey. You by the counter! What's your name?

Nick: (Eager to please) Adams. Nick Adams.

Al: (Disgust) Another bright boy. Ain't he a bright boy, Max?

Max: The town's full of bright boys.

Woman: The man called Al wore a derby hat. His face was small and white and he had tight lips. The other man was about the same size as Al. Their faces were different but they were dressed like twins. Both wore black overcoats too tight for them, with a bulge where they carried their guns. George put the two platters, one of ham and eggs, the other of bacon and eggs, on the counter in front of them, and he set down two side-dishes of fried potatoes. Both men ate with their gloves on. George watched them - until Max noticed him.

Max: (Aggressive) What are you looking at?

George: Nothing.

Max: The hell you were. You were looking at me.

Al: Maybe the boy meant it for a joke, Max.

George: (Forces a laugh) Yeah.....Yeah...

Max: (Aggressive) You don't have to laugh, bright boy. You don't have to laugh at all, see?

George: (Stutters) Yeah .... all right .....

Max: So he thinks it's all right. He thinks it's all right, Al. That's a good one.

Al: Ah, he's a thinker. (Eats) What's the bright boy's name down the counter?

Max: Hey, bright boy! You go join your boy friend on the other side of the counter.

Nick: What's the idea?

Max: There isn't any idea. Just go.

Al: You better go around, bright boy.

Nick: O.K.

George: What's the idea?

Al: None of your damn business. Who's out in the kitchen?

George: Sam.

Al: What do you mean, Sam?

George: The black guy who cooks.

Al: Tell him to come in here.

George: (Insisting) What's the idea?

Al: Tell him to come in here.

George: (Protests) Where do you think you are?

Max: We know damn well where we are. Do we look silly?

Al: Max, what the hell do you argue with the kid for? Listen, bright boy. Tell that nigger to come out here.

George: What are you going to do to him?

Al: Use your head, bright boy. What would we do to a nigger?

George: (Opens the hatch) Sam, come in here a minute.

Sam: What is it?

(Swing door opens and shuts)

OK, what is it?

Al: All right, nigger. You stand right there.

Sam: Yes, sir.

Al: You - what did you say your name was?

Nick: Nick .... sir.

Al: All right, now I'm going to the kitchen with Nick and the nigger. You heard me, back to the kitchen, nigger. And you - you go with him.

Sam: Yes, sir.

Woman: The man called Al followed Nick and Sam into the kitchen. The door shut after them but Al propped the serving hatch open with a catsup bottle so he could see into the lunch room.

Al: Listen bright boy. Stand a little further along the bar. O.K. ..... O.K. ...... And you move a little to the left, Max.

Woman: He was like a photographer arranging for a group picture, only all he wanted was to see the door to the street. Max sat with his back to the door, facing George, but his eyes never moved from the mirror that ran along the back of the counter.

Max: Talk to me, bright boy. What do you think's going to happen?

George: (Afraid) I wouldn't say.

Max: (Calls out) Hey, Al. Bright boy says he wouldn't say what he thinks it's all about.

Al: (From kitchen) Why don't you tell him?

Max: I'll tell you. We're going to kill a Swede. You know a big Swede named Ole Anderson?

George: Yes.

Max: He comes in to eat every night, don't he?

George: Sometimes he comes in here.

Max: He comes here at six o'clock, don't he?

George: Well, if he comes.

Max: We know all that, bright boy. (Pause) Talk about something else. Ever go to the movies? George: Once in a while.

Max: You ought to go to the movies more. The movies are fine for a bright boy like you.

George: What are you going to kill Ole Anderson for? What did he ever do to you?

Max: He never had a chance to do anything to us. He never even seen us, did he, Al?

Al: He's only going to see us once.

Max: Once. That's all it takes.

George: What are you going to kill him for then, if he's never even seen you?

Max: (Pleasantly) We're killing him for a friend. Just to oblige a friend, bright boy.

Al: Shut up, Max. You talk too goddam much.

Max: I got to keep bright boy amused -don't I, bright boy?

Al: You talk too damn much. The nigger and my bright boy in the kitchen here are amused by themselves. I got them tied up like a couple of girl friends in a convent.

Max: I suppose you were in a convent?

Al: You never know.

Max: A kosher convent. That's where you were. Listen, bright boy. If anybody comes in, you tell them the cook is off - do you get that?

George: All right. (Pause) What are you going to do with us afterwards?

Max: That'll depend. That's one of those things you never know. Not at the time.

Woman: It was a quarter past six. George stood behind the counter, waiting. Max looked in the mirror all the time he was talking, while the other man Al stayed in the kitchen. (Door opens. Tinkle of bell) The door from the street opened. A streetcar motorman came in - a regular customer.

Motorman: Hello, George. Can I get supper?

George: Sam's gone out. He'll be back in about half-an-hour.

Motorman: I'd better go up the street then.

Max: That was nice, bright boy. You're a regular little gentleman.

Al: He knew I'd blow his head off.

Max: No, it ain't that. Bright boy is nice. He's a nice boy. I like him.

Woman: Twenty minutes past six. Twenty-five minutes past six. Half-past six. Two other people came to the lunch room, but they left again. Once George had to make a ham-and-egg sandwich in the kitchen. He saw Al sitting on a stool, his derby hat tipped back on his head, and the muzzle of a sawed-off shotgun resting on the ledge by the hatch. Nick and Sam were tied up back to back in the corner, each with a towel tied in his mouth. Then - six fifty-five.

George: He's not coming. Your friend Ole Anderson isn't going to come.

Max: We'll give him ten minutes.

Woman: Max watched the mirror and the clock. The hands now marked seven o'clock ..... then five minutes past seven.

Max: Come on, Al. We'd better go. He's not coming.

Al: Better give him five minutes.

Max: O.K. Five minutes. (Door opens with bell)

George: (Quick off mark) No dinner tonight.

Man: (At door) What d'ya mean no dinner?

George: The cook's sick.

Man: Then why the hell don't you get another cook? Aren't you running a lunch counter? (Slams door)

Max: Bright boy can do everything. Come on, Al. Let's go.

AI: What about these two and the nigger?

Max: They're all right.

Al: You think so? I don't like it. It's sloppy. You talk too much.

Max: Oh, what the hell, we got to keep amused, haven't we?

Al: You still talk too much. (Pause) O.K. - so long, bright boy. You got a lot of luck. (Door opens with tinkling bell)

Max: (From door) That's the truth. You ought to play the races, bright boy.

Woman: George watched them through the window. They passed under the arc lamp and crossed the street. In their tight overcoats and derby hats they looked like a vaudeville team. George went back into the kitchen to untie Nick and the cook.

Sam: (Coughing) I don't want. . . . . .I don’t want any more of that.

George: Hold still a minute.

Sam: They all gone?

George: Yeah, they're gone now. They sure did tie you up tight.

Nick: Yeah, but what the hell!

George: There, that's it!

Nick: (Rubs wrists) Ouch!

George: You're all right, Nick?

Nick: Hurts a bit. I’ll be O.K.

George: They were going to kill Ole Anderson. They were going to shoot him when he came in to dinner.

Sam: I don't like it. I don't like any of it.

George: Nick, you better go and see him. Warn him.

Sam: You better stay way out of it. You better not have anything to do with it at all. Mixing up in all of this ain't going to get you anywhere. You stay out of it.

Nick: I'll go see him. George.

George: Well, don't if you don't want to.

Nick: I'll go see him. Where does he live?

Sam: Little boys always know what they want to do. (Clatter of frying pan on stove)

George: He lives up at Hirsch's rooming house. You know it.

Nick: (Quietly) Yeah. I'll go up there.

Sam: Always know what they want to do. (Streetcar passing on windy night)

Woman: Outside, the arc-light shone through the bare branches of a tree. Nick walked up the street beside the car tracks, then turned down a side-street. Three houses along was Hirsch's rooming house. He went up the steps and pushed the bell. After a few seconds the door opened.

(House door unbolted and opened)

Nick: Mrs Hirsch?

Woman: I'm Mrs Bell. Mrs Hirsch owns the place. I just look after it for her.

Nick: Is Ole Anderson here?

Woman: Do you want to see him?

Nick: Yes, if he's in.

Woman: He's been in his room all day. I guess he don't feel well. I'll take you up. He's on the first floor. I said to him, "Mr Anderson, you ought to go out and take a walk on a nice fall day like this." But he didn't feel like it.

Nick: He doesn't want to go out?

Woman: I'm sorry he doesn't feel well. He's an awfully nice man. He was in the ring, you know. A boxer. You'd never know except from the way his face is. He's gentle, is Mr Anderson. His room's at the end of the corridor. (Footsteps) This is it. (She knocks)

Ole: (From inside) Who is it?

Woman: It's somebody to see you, Mr Anderson.

Nick: It's Nick Adams.

Ole: Come in.

Woman: He opened the door and went in. Ole Anderson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on, and two pillows for his head. He was a big man. a heavyweight prize-fighter in his younger days, and the bed was too short for him.

Ole: (Grumpy) What is it?

Nick: I was up at Henry's Lunch Room. Two fellows came in. They tied me up, and the cook. Said they were going to kill you. They put us out in the kitchen. They were going to shoot you when you came in to supper. (Long pause: Ole says nothing) George thought I'd better come and tell you about it.

Ole: (Pause) There ain't anything I can do about it.

Nick: I can tell you what they were like.

Ole: I don't want to know what they were like. Thanks for coming to tell me about it.

Nick: That's all right. (Long pause) Don't you want me to go and see the police?

Ole: No. No, that wouldn't do any good.

Nick: Isn't there something I could do?

Ole: No. There ain't anything to do.

Nick: Maybe it was just a bluff.

Ole: It ain't just a bluff. The only thing is, I just can't make up my mind to go out. I been in here all day.

Nick: Couldn't you get out of town?

Ole: No. I'm through with all that running around. There ain't anything to do now.

Nick: Couldn't you ...... fix it up some way?

Ole: No. I got in wrong. There ain't anything to do. After a while I'll make up my mind to go out.

Nick: I better go back and see George.

Ole: So long. Thanks for coming around.

Woman: As he shut the door Nick saw Ole Anderson still lying on the bed with all his clothes on, still looking at the wall. He left the house and walked up the dark street to the corner under the arc-light, then along the car tracks to Henry's Lunch Room. George and Sam the cook were waiting for him.

George: Did you see Ole?

Nick: Yes. He's in his room. Won't go out.

Sam: Huh! I don't even listen to it. No, sir.

George: Well, did you tell him about it?

Nick: Sure. I told him. But he knows what it's all about. He knows.

George: What's he going to do?

Nick: Nothing.

George: They'll kill him.

Nick: I guess they will.

George: He must have got mixed up in something in Chicago.

Nick: I guess so.

George: Oh, it's a hell of a thing.

Nick: It's an awful thing. I wonder what he did.

George: Double-crossed somebody. That's what they kill them for.

Nick: I'm going to get out of this town.

George: Yes. That's a good thing to do.

Nick: I can't stand to think about him waiting in that room and knowing he's going to get it. It's too damned awful.

George: Well ..... You better not think about it.

Nick: No. I better not think about it.

Begrenset brukWritten by: Ernest Hemingway. Rightsholder: NRK
Last revised date 11/14/2016