The Shortest Farewells Are the Best
by Chuck Rosenthal and Gail Wronsky


Where are they—out digging a grave?

How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle. Guys like him don’t get that way overnight, do they? There’s a speed limit in this state. I guess I’m in love with you. Looks like we’re closed for the rest of the afternoon.


I don’t care what your secrets are

You’re not connected with the automobile club, are you? You’re too slick for your own good. I killed him for money, for a woman. Their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption. I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. What I didn’t know was that she had plans of her own. I sent her a telegram begging her to come home. I don’t get your game here. Who do you think I shot? What’s the matter? Aren’t you going to kiss me?


Everybody has something to conceal

Down there you work on one track and live on another. My sleep is so near waking that it’s hardly worth the name. You’ve got a dead man lying at your feet—how did it happen? By the way, what stiff did you get that suit off? You’re not very tall, are you. What does the law say about this kind of murder? Suppose I have to rap you over the knuckles? I’d feel better about it if you’d have a drink with me. But the man with the gun won’t let me. How much do you remember about last night?


He killed and he deserved to be killed

Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains. I haven’t lived a good life—I’ve been bad. I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble. I like to see people drink. It was an accident. He pulled the gun. You shudder at the touch of my hands as if they were the hands of death. You could lose teeth talking like that. Do you think it’s safe to leave me alone in this delirious state of mind? Now get out of here before I throw my desk at you.


You’re made to order for the rap

Stop talking about Saturday night. Try telling me the facts. We never arrest a man just for knowing where the body was. I like cheap perfume. It don’t last long but it hits harder. It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie! And I knew what he was going to do. For every move, he threw a shadow. I don’t think dancing is such a good idea. Just what is it you’re afraid of? I’ve got two boys outside in the car. Be a good girl and give me another minute. It’s only blackmail, baby, when you’re dumb enough to get caught. They won’t be looking for a brunette.


Pretty song—too bad it was the background to murder.

In the heat of action men are likely to forget where their passions take them. They’re not the first pair of women’s shoes I’ve found in front of that couch. That’s what I’m paid for, not finding dead bodies. One thing I can’t stand is a guy trying to put something over on me. Give me a drink. I could use it. Now lock that gun in the suitcase and throw the key away. Saving your kisses for your husband? I’m in love with the back of your neck. I’ve always been a liar. The trouble with you is you can’t take it.


Death always comes as sort of an accident

I like smart women, they’ve got cat in them. How come you’re holding out on me, baby? With that kind of figure you could get any man in the place. I brought you something from Tokyo. Still want to marry me? What’s the matter—think I live under a rock or something? Don’t tell me he’s under the sofa too. I don’t know anything about women. Suppose you tell me about it from the very beginning.


He’s done things to me I can’t even talk about

He was mean when he was drunk. It isn’t so easy for a girl—drifting around from one job to another. Most women are unhappy. They just pretend they aren’t. I was lonely. I couldn’t stand my loneliness. It was I you intended to kill, wasn’t it? The funny part is it made a great deal of difference. You never knew me. You never bothered to figure me out. Like you said, we better call it quits. You killed my husband, Sam. You couldn’t plant enough flowers around here to kill the stench. What was your wife like?


You never fooled me with your song and dance

You didn’t kill him. You tried and you didn’t. It’s business, same as any other business, except instead of price cutting it’s throat cutting. Nothing comes to you, nothing except death. Sounds like a nice ordinary life, doesn’t it? Listen, stop, stop minding other people’s business if you want to stay alive. Do you know what business I’m in? I’m from homicide. I came about a murder. There’s lipstick on that cup. The trouble with you, baby, is you have no imagination.


It’s always too late

What am I gonna do, take back that knife I put in that guy? The truth is, I’m in a jam. I’m ruined. My whole life. I’m drunk and I got no job. I have a terrible, terrible confession to make. Murder can be a chain, one link leading to another until it encircles your neck. The only type of killing that’s safe is when a stranger kills a stranger—no motive—nothing to link the victim to the executioner. I don’t want to get my name in the newspaper. Do you? Everybody makes mistakes, the wrong job, the wrong marriage. Prisons are bulging with prisoners who wonder how they got there. You knew what was goin on, so don’t go gettin holy on me.


You don’t look to me like a man used to whistling

What’s the use of trying to tell you anything. If I had any sense I’d walk out on you. You don’t know how tough it was in there. It didn’t bother you when I was in your arms. I told you not to call me here. One word from me and you’re out of business. I expect you to use your brains. You saw the cigarette burns on her body.


She was just a flashy blonde putting on an act

Do you suppose she could have killed him? When the dice roll, you’ve gotta take what comes. You’ve got to shower and get some cocktails ready. I suppose you could call this a confession when you hear it. If you’ve got another suit, don’t bother to unpack.


Lucky girl—living a life of passion and violence

The living room was still stuffy from last night’s cigars. The drinks? Polynesian pearl-divers. And don’t spare the rum. I’m gonna drink mine and have a sip of yours, that’ll be something different for a change. When I found him he was dead. I didn’t know he was hurt bad. I didn’t know he was gonna die. I won’t be sent back to that dime-a-dance joint—not if I can help it. If you killed anyone I’d feel responsible. You shouldn’t fool around with a married woman. It’s not a matter of sex, it’s a matter of money. If you’ve been listening, just forget what you heard. Maybe someday I can do you a real favor.


She’s a young girl—you shouldn’t let her drink so much

I don’t like you. I don’t like the way you talk and I don’t like your friends. I wouldn’t give two cents for a dame without a temper. That’s what I wanted most, I guess, somebody decent. The whole thing’s wrong from the beginning. I just can’t believe it—you, a killer. I don’t know how much you love him. but even prison is better than death. At least you got a nice clean ambulance. It’s more than some of us get.


When we’re young we have dreams that never pan out

Keep asking for it and you’re gonna get it. Things are rough all over. Simmer down, you’ll live longer. If he dies, I’ll tell you one thing—I’ll kill you. Love. Who gets love? It’s all in the cards. I don’t like guns. It’s tough to kill somebody who’s not dependable. It would make our disappointment so much worse.


My friends call me Kitty

She talks to me just once, and like that, she’s dead. Do you look down on all women or just the ones you know? What do these look like, grapefruit? I’m not married. I have no designs on you. And one drink will do it. This is some conversation we’re having. Now I’m supposed to know what I’m talking about. Give him a drink. You heard me, give him a drink. I’m glad we’re getting close to something. It’s much better to have looks than brains, cuz most men I know can see better than they can think.


Johnny would never talk

I don’t care who loves who, I won’t play the sap for it. I had a feeling I could go for her. I like people to like me. Now when it’s quiet I get nervous. How about a little rum to get this up on its feet? Everybody has a first drink, don’t they? But they don’t have to become a lush. You don’t think I had anything to do with it. Now it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. I’m not such a bad guy, you know.


The angry poet

It was his story against mine, but of course I told my story better. I like dice and I like talking. I like women. And I don’t like cops. That’s right, I want more. Everybody thinks they live forever, that’s a laugh, but they don’t. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what it’s all about anymore. Look at him lying here; ain’t much now, is he? When barflies get killed, there’s any number of crummy reasons. You don’t remember firing the gun? Don’t brag about it. How about a pair of alligator shoes with my compliments.


What’s your story

I come from a family that does things. I seem to exist largely on heat, like a newborn spider. I was finally getting in with the real boys. You were in one of those moods that keep me awake all night. You can’t buck the system, Eddie. You’ll never get anywhere in this town not liking thieves. Look it up in the papers—she was murdered last night. Yeah—dead. It was the act of a sick man with an urge to destroy. Sometimes people are where they can’t talk—under six feet of dirt maybe. The rat fell out of his chair and we just left him there. I don’t know what I was doing in the same room with him. Tell that to your mother.


Men, with eyes like marbles, they watch

When it comes to picking the killer, you’ve picked the wrong guy. You figure I’ve got a gun so you can’t trust me. Try to look at me when you’re talking. You know, I almost killed her an hour ago. I should’ve. I got plans—see? There’s no room in em for you. Knock off the nuts and dumb stuff. You have a little trouble with perspective. Private lessons will fix that. The shortest farewells are the best. Do all your friends carry icepicks?


You look like a quiet afternoon at the Teahouse of the Rising Moon

Do you always go around leaving your fingerprints on a girl’s shoulder? Not that I mind particularly. You’ve got nice strong hands. And then she walked in out of the moonlight, smiling. And for months afterwards, corpses were found in the mangrove swamps.


You give me any trouble and I’ll fill you full of lead

You killed him—that ought to satisfy you. You’re no good for anyone but me. Yes, angel, they’re going to send you over. I don’t want any part of that cage. Let’s get out of this lobster trap and get some salt air. You’ve been a lot of places, haven’t you. Every time I look at the sky I think of all the places I’ve never been. I’m kind of sensitive myself. We weren’t meant to be happy. I haven’t had a good laugh since Johnny was murdered.


No guns, no cops, no trucks

Say, I like this—early nothing. Where have we met—in another guy’s dream? I remember he said goodbye. I think he was crying. I’m not used to having my head in the clouds. It was the walk of a dead man. We don’t talk about those kinds of things around here. Did you watch his face? Maybe this is the face that’ll haunt you. Maybe these are the eyes that’ll drive you crazy.

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