One Wednesday when Gillian was at work I consulted my friend and confidant Groot, an old high school chum who just happens to be a Navy SEAL and has murdered many men — in Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia — some of whom didn't even know they were in the same room with him. He can cleave an apple with a knife from twenty feet away; I've seen him do it. My favorite story is how he and his unit were flown to a mosque in a city north of Baghdad. Insurgents were headquartered inside; it was after midnight in the stygian heat of July. Groot told me the Navy has secret helicopters that make no sound; they can hover six feet above your hair and you'd never know they were there. (UFO technology, he told me, from Roswell. His imagination has a child's beauty.) So one of these choppers clipped in close over the mosque and Groot and his pals rappelled down to the rooftop, dropped themselves just below the ceiling wearing night-vision goggles. Then, with silent carbine assault rifles, they proceeded to shoot every insurgent while he slept. The whole thing sounded very Mohican to me.
Groot's parents still live in town; several times a year he returns home to visit them and that's when we get together to yak. After I called he came to our place, and as we perched at the kitchen table with perspiring glasses of iced tea, I told him my unkind Marvin dilemma while looking crossly at the cowboy hat I had cautioned him never to wear in daylight.
"Charlie," he said, "you aren't Josey Wales. Killing a man is not what it looks like on TV. At least not at first. Maybe I should just fly down there and have a talking-to with him. You know, make him see things our way."
"Groot," I said, "this Marvin Gluck is not the talking-to kind. Believe me. We've tried. I have letters and emails here that look as if they were scribbled by an eighth century psychopath with Manichean tendencies."
"Ahh, yes, I know the kind."
Looking through the sliding glass door into our meek backyard, I saw what work needed doing: Tom Sawyer the fence, hang a new clothesline, replace the cracked patio, all less viperous than planning homicide, which I was still uncertain whether or not I could carry out. But I had at least to seem firm, fed up and stalwart, lest Groot think me gutless and easily plodded upon, opinions I know he had held in the past when I was too yellow to defend myself: Back in high school, for instance, when a lacrosse-playing orangutan falsely accused me of attempting to look up his girlfriend's denim skirt at a keg party, never mind that her legs were barely mammalian. He smacked the spittle from my mouth and I was too frightened to fight back. When Groot saw this across the yard from his vodka vantage point, he charged over and chopped the goon across the throat, at which point said goon gagged himself red and nearly fainted from air loss. Other lacrosse-playing thugs attempted retribution but Groot slid out a chilling combat knife from somewhere inside his jacket. And then — I couldn't believe it — he licked the blade. Didn't talk. Just licked the blade. Those thugs halted and then dawdled away carrying their throat-crushed comrade. After that, we retreated to Vinny's Pizzeria and Groot gave me pointers on how to disable an assailant with bare knuckles or else garden tools if they're handy. We had been pals since kindergarten but never before had I felt that kind of love for him.