The Water Tower

By Tony Sweatland

Whipping post by the Allman Brothers Band was on when I started the old restored Ford from the sixties. Perfect song for a getaway. It’d be even better if someone was chasing me, but nobody drove out this far, this early, unless they lived out here. Worst case scenario for me is some insomniac busy body getting suspicious about a vehicle they don’t recognize. Even then, if they called the cops, it’d take em’ twenty minutes to get here. I’ll be long gone by then. And this little Podunk town will remember me.

I’d been working on it for weeks, in that three-hour window between shifts, that hardly anyone knew about. I told Jerry I had to be out at four every day, so I could get home in time to get my brother up for school. But Ben drives. He’s only fourteen, but he drives. I bought him a 94’ S10, and he loves it.

My shift at the hardware store didn’t start until seven. So, every morning from four to seven was mine. I spent six months practicing on big pieces of cardboard from work.

The idea came to me watching Jerry lock up one day. He went through all the procedures and checked all his little meters and gauges and walked out the front door.

He never once checked the door to the yard.

It could’ve been a fluke. He might’ve just forgot. So, I watched him a few more times. He still never checked the yard. He only went out there for weekly checks on Fridays, and even then, he just walked around the base and eyeballed everything.

I knew then that I had a golden opportunity to literally leave a mark on this town. I took my time, and planned it out. Buying that truck for Ben was the game changer. I really did take him to school before that.

I got everything I needed at the hardware store. I didn’t steal anything. I just didn’t make it known what I was buying. And it was part of my job to get rid of the cardboard anyway. No one ever knew, or suspected a thing.

Still, everyone will know it was me, but they won’t be able to prove it. There’s no video evidence because I’m on the water tower security footage for work all the time, doing whatever menial task Jerry’s barking at me. I avoided the cameras at the hardware by running the transaction discreetly while I was on the till and taking the supplies out the back. I paid in cash, so there’s no paper trail. I kind of have an alibi, for most of the year anyway, thanks to Ben. They got nothing but speculation. Come try me.

I’ll call Ben before he leaves for school and give him a heads up. I’m sure he’ll like it. And no one will bother to ask him about it. Even if they did, he would never roll on me. He knows better.

Jerry sucks. That’s why it’s happening on his watch. I want him to be embarrassed. He shouldn’t have been such a wang to people. Like he was so special to be around. Everyone look at me, I run the water department. If he hadn’t been such a wang to Anne in particular, I might not have spent so much time making him look stupid. But he had to push it, he had to keep pressing her.

Now everyone was gonna know.

Mr. Cantor didn’t like Jerry either. He knew I only worked there for the reference and the money. It’ll look good when I start looking for entry-level gigs and want to tout my experience.

If not for that, I would’ve quit a year ago and stayed with Mr. Cantor.

I’m starting college in the fall, studying political science and economics. I want to run for office someday. Try and do some good, in my own little corner of the world. But before that, I want to put Jerry Wutherford in this place. I can’t think of anyone around here who would object. Ashland Heights is a small town of about nine hundred people, and most of them know Jerry.

The first thing anyone sees when driving into Ashland Heights is the water tower. It’s a giant metal ball with four legs and a steel platform that goes all the way around. It towers over the surrounding trees and the little outpost building in front of it. It has the words, ASHLAND HEIGHTS across the front in big block letters.

Half a mile north of that is a billboard, owned by the county, which serves as the welcome sign. The only way to get there is a two-track that starts in the fenced-in yard of the water tower. My finest work yet is on that billboard. A giant welcome sign that reads, “You are now entering Assland. Take it all in.”

The backdrop is the real masterpiece. It used to show a hilltop view of the water tower nestled in the ridges and tree lines of Ashland Heights. Now the water tower was a short phallic cartoon character that looked a lot like Jerry Wutherford. It was detailed. It was clearly wearing a water department button up and a little green hat that looked pretty similar to the camo hat Jerry wore every single day.

I’m genuinely proud of it. This must be how Da Vinci felt when he finished the Mona Lisa.

My going away gift to my home town. They’ll cover it up right away, but there’ll be pictures that’ll live on the internet forever. And it’ll remain practically anonymous even though everyone knows who did it.

You are now leaving Assland. Silent, but deadly.


Bio: Tony Sweatland is a writer from Saginaw, Michigan.

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