Wally Glew slipped over the fence. When he got to the back door, he placed his gloved hand on the handle. He turned it. The door opened. “Ah,” he said. “Thanks, Fairfax.” He got inside and shut the door. After taking a stroll through the house, he took a seat beside the wall and set his club down. He picked at his sweater vest. “Oh, man.”
He groaned. The top button on his vest was gone. He just bought the thing too. He puffed his stomach out. Could it be? No way. He couldn’t gain weight if he tried. The vest was medium-sized. Maybe they were making them smaller these days. That had to be it. Every manufacturer makes them differently. All the buttons were there when he put it on this morning. Right?
He checked his phone. The Cowboys were ahead. He smiled and shut his eyes. The turkey weighed on his bowels. Maybe he was gaining weight. Or maybe one of his nieces pulled the button off when he wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s what happened. They were sneaky little devils. They did it…
Fairfax slipped his lock-picking tools back into his pocket. He took a tour through the house. Standard stuff. An easy target for sure. These folks sat at a relative’s house eating turkey and just leaving this place wide open. They even left their laptop sitting right there on the table for God’s sake. All just so they could sit around and eat and talk and get on each other’s nerves. Stuff to be thankful for. No thanks. Where’s the sense of adventure? No sense in idling away this holiday when he could be busting a thief in the chops.
Cathy had called twice earlier. He answered when she tried the third time. Same old invitation to visit with the family. Sure, she’d be fun but the others would mock him like always. Why did she keep trying? It’s like an unconscious thing. You just keep doing the same thing every year no matter what. Well, Cathy might force herself to do that but Fairfax didn’t have to. He hunkered down and waited for a thief to show up. To hell with tradition.
Clay closed the front door. He opened his car door and tossed the bag inside before his mom called after him. He turned. She said, “You going to see your girlfriend?”
He said, “Yeah, Mom.”
“Why don’t you tell her to come here?”
Phillip came up behind her. He squeezed her butt while looking at him. She responded with that goofy smile like she’d been caught at something. Clay said, “See you.”
He drove around with his bass thumping. Then he called up Rob. “Yeah?”
Clay kept the volume up on his music. Rob did the same to him when they spoke on the phone. They understood each other. Clay said, “Got something coming. Cool if I stay over?”
Rob said, “Bring the stuff. You down for the weekend? Got the crew coming.”
“Dope. I’m there.”
Rob said, “Bring your girl, too.”
“I’ll be like an hour. See you,” Clay said and hung up. He parked across the street from the house. He pulled the pick set from beneath his driver’s seat and then checked both ways. No traffic. No people. Just the goods. Waiting to be plucked like a turkey. Clay laughed to himself. Just like a turkey.
Fairfax answered his phone. “Yeah?”
“I have a situation here,” Glew said. “This guy is breaking in. He’s like three hundred pounds though.”
“All right,” Fairfax said. “Sounds like a good challenge for you.”
“For me? No, stud. This is at least a two-man job.”
“Can’t help you.”
“What?” Glew said. “Why not? What’s going…oh man. He’s almost in.”
Fairfax chuckled. “I’m on my way.”
Then he hung up.
Glew protected a house that sat a few houses down. He could make it in a couple of minutes at the most. The good thing about a three hundred pound opponent is that he probably doesn’t move with a lot of swiftness. So Fairfax had some time. Besides Glew should have to fight the giant off for a minute at least. The boy has a lot to learn.
Fairfax walked to the back door.
He ducked down. Someone approached the door. Fairfax hunkered behind the dining table. The guy stood taller than himself and maybe taller than Glew but he had the same skinny build as Glew. Some skinny guys can knock your head off, though. He picked at the door lock. Thank God Fairfax had thought and locked it back. He got into position. His phone buzzed. He put it on silent.
Clay returned the pick tools to his pocket. He slipped his gloves on and opened the door. Standard dining room. Wow. That thing on the floor. Clay picked it up. This isn’t a vase. It’s too heavy. Damn.
It’s an urn!
He shook his head. So Mommy and Daddy and Junior and Sis all eat at the table while Grandpappy’s dust sits over here in the corner. Clay patted the urn and set it down. “Cruel ass world.”
Clay walked toward the living room.
Someone grabbed him by the collar.
The person shoved him into the wall. Clay tried to shove back. The person drilled him in the gut with a punch. Clay fell to the floor. A flashlight beam took over his vision. So he closed his eyes. He gasped. “Hey…listen…whoever you are…we can work something…something…out…”
The flashlight beam vanished.
Clay opened his eyes.
The dining room light came on.
Clay closed his eyes. “Hold on. You’re going to get us busted, man. Listen-
“Oh my God,” the voice said.
Clay rubbed his eyes and peered up at the figure. He must have been shorter but he looked like Clay’s Dad. Ten feet tall right now. And broader than his dad. Thick through the chest and shoulders. A beard that was trimmed but not too much. A great hair-to-face ratio. The man said, “Clay.”
He wiped his eyes again. “Yeah? You’re…um…oh shit. You mowed our yard last summer.”
The man pulled a chair over to Clay and killed the dining room light. He said, “Sit down, you idiot.”
Clay sat in the chair and rubbed his stomach. Damn, he’d never been hit like that. He said, “Um, Joe? Joe Dulcolax?”
The man sat against the wall and turned on the flashlight again. It lit up a patch of the floor. This nearly had a campfire feel. The man said, “George Fairfax.”
“Oh, I was close.”
“Yeah,” Fairfax said. “Close to flushing your life down the toilet. What in the hell are you doing in here?”
“I know what you’re doing. For God’s sake, why?”
Fairfax’s phone buzzed. He read a message and then stood up. “All right. We ain’t got time for a heart to heart. But we will later. Now get your ass out of here and I mean, you don’t ever come back. You understand?”
Clay nodded and walked to the back door. Fairfax killed the flashlight and stopped behind him. “Go now.”
Clay walked out. Fairfax walked by him. “Get moving, son.”
Clay said, “Yeah. Sorry.”
Fairfax turned onto the next street.
Clay bit his lip.
Glew stood behind the front door. The big oaf left it open and now rummaged through the master bedroom. Glew had his club in hand. He tiptoed through the living room.
The oaf thumped, thumped, thumped, down the hall.
Glew hid by the fireplace. He sucked in a long breath. Let it out nice and slow. Easy, now. He imagined Fairfax’s voice calming him down. The oaf carried a jewelry box through the living room. Glew clunked the oaf on the shoulder with the club.
The oaf turned and faced him. Glew said, “All right. Drop it.”
The oaf smiled. One tooth showed. He said, “No.”
Glew drew the club back. The oaf grabbed him by the throat and pressed him into the wall. Glew dropped his club and kicked the oaf’s shins. The oaf laughed and shoved him down the wall into the fireplace bricks. He squeezed Glew’s neck. It would burst. Blood would fly everywhere. Glew had eaten his last Thanksgiving turkey. Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, Dad. Goodbye, Sis. I tried.
Fairfax plowed into the oaf. The oaf let Glew go. Fairfax unloaded with a hundred punches, clonking the oaf over and over and buckling his tree trunk legs. Glew coughed and patted the floor for the club. The oaf chucked Fairfax into the wall. Fairfax bounced off the wall and rolled across the floor. Glew found the club. He braced himself to stand.
The oaf grabbed the jewelry box and thumped to the front door.
Something clanged against the oaf’s head. He collapsed to the floor. Glew forced himself to his feet. A guy walked through the front door. Glew wiped his eyes. Fairfax rose and said, “Damn it, kid! I told you to hit the road!”
The “kid” held an aluminum bat. He glanced at Glew. Fairfax snatched the bat but the kid pushed against him. “No! No, you don’t! This is MY bat!!”
The kid said, “My Dad gave this me on my birthday. You don’t take MY BAT!”
Fairfax held his hands up. “Fine. Shut the damn door.”
The kid closed the door. Fairfax turned on his flashlight and shone the beam on the oaf. The giant slept. A glob of drool clung to his bottom lip. Ugh. No sign of blood. Fairfax looked at Glew. “I’ll pull the truck around.”
Fairfax walked toward the back. Glew said, “Hey. Who is this guy?”
Fairfax stopped. “Glew, meet Clay. Clay, Wally Glew.”
“No. Who is he?”
“We ain’t got time.”
Fairfax got out through the back. Clay held the bat like he was at home plate. “It’s cool, man. I mean no harm.”
“Do me a favor,” Glew said. “Lower that weapon.”
Clay looked down at himself. “Oh, right. Sorry about that.”
The oaf snorted in his sleep.
“Fairfax mowed my Dad’s yard a couple of times. I never thought I’d see him…I mean, what are you guys doing?”
Fairfax’s exhaust rumbled outside. Glew wiped his nose. “Open the door. And grab his legs.”
Clay set the bat down. “Sure, Glew.”
Fairfax rushed inside. He nudged Clay. “Grab a leg.”
Clay grabbed a leg.
Fairfax grabbed another.
Glew grabbed the shoulders.
Fairfax shook his head.
Glew said, “Right.”
Glew grabbed the other leg and Fairfax grabbed the shoulders. They heaved the oaf off the floor. God. What a sack of garbage. Glew could see his own breath. Fairfax smiled but gritted down and kept on carrying the big man. Jay held his end. Glew placed the big man’s boot on the tailgate. Then he darted around to Fairfax’s side and got up under the oaf and shoved. Fairfax groaned. Clay yelped. Glew kept quiet. The oaf’s head bumped against the tailgate. Clay let off. Glew held on and kept pushing at the shoulders. His face grew tight. Fairfax took a breath. Was Glew working alone here? Fairfax shoved alongside Glew. Clay joined in. They heaved the mammoth into the truck. Fairfax shut the tailgate. He laughed and pointed at Glew. “You’re about to bust a spring.”
Glew sat on the ground and fought for breath.
Clay said, “You going to make it, Glew?”
Glew flashed a look at Fairfax and then left.
Clay held his bat up. “Where’s Glew going?”
Fairfax looked at him. Geez. What had it been? A year maybe? He said, “Boy, what in the hell brought you here?”
Fairfax studied him.
Clay looked at the ground. “Stuff happened.”
“Yeah, man. Stuff.”
Fairfax scratched his jaw. “Does your dad know about your new hobby?”
“Go to hell,” Clay said. “He’s gone.”
Fairfax spread his hands. “He took off?”
“He’s dead. Okay, smart guy? Three months now. They told him he had a tumor. A month later, they put him in ICU and he never came out. Okay?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Yeah, well people always spout off and they don’t know shit. Besides you’re here in the thick of things. Why are you trying to give me a speech? Huh? Don’t you have a family? I bet you have a Dad. Huh?”
Fairfax said, “Sort of.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Fairfax pointed to the truck cab. “Get in.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
Fairfax climbed inside and started the engine. Clay got into the passenger side. Fairfax drove onto the street.
Clay said, “What if he wakes up?”
Fairfax pulled to the curb of the next street. He got out and pulled a long rope from behind his seat. “Whoa,” Clay said. “What are you going to do with him?”
Fairfax climbed into the bed and tied a handcuff knot around the oaf’s wrists and ankles. Then he stepped down and wiped his hands. He got back into his truck.
“Listen, son,” he said. “I hate to hear about your dad. He was a good guy as far as I knew him.”
“He was a great man,” Clay said. “And then Mom starts seeing Phillip. Phillip the accountant. Son of a bitch acts like I don’t exist. He gets all on her right in front of me and she lets him. Shit. Dad never did nothing like that. He didn’t like Phillip either. I heard them talk about it and here she goes and gets right with him. What a bitch.”
Fairfax looked around. Police cruisers rolled through here sometimes. He needed to get. Glew was already waiting. He said, “You’ve been dealt a shit hand. But you see, the world don’t care about any of that. You got to get yourself together.”
“Every so-called adult says that.”
“It’s true,” Fairfax said. “You’re lucky I caught you. The police would have hauled you in. Is that what you want? End up in jail? What would your dad think of that?”
“Yeah. Sure. Same old speech.”
Fairfax started the truck and drove over to Clay’s car. He said, “This is you. Right?”
Clay gave him a sideways look. “Yeah.”
“Oh,” Fairfax said. “You’re robbing a house and I’m the creep for guessing at which car you drive. That’s some logic right there.”
Clay said, “Look-
“I’m not your dad. I’m not your step-dad. I’m not much of an adult either. But I’m telling you this. I’ve got some cargo I got to unload and I don’t have time for this. So you’re going to straighten your ass up and stop doing this shit or you’ll go the same way this fellow is going. And next time, I will take you down. You understand me?”
Fairfax cut the engine. He walked around and opened Clay’s door. Clay grabbed his bat. Fairfax dragged him out by his collar. Clay swung the bat. Fairfax ducked and punched him in the shoulder. Clay sank to the ground. “Ahhhh….damn, man. I think you busted my blood vessel or something.”
Fairfax propped him against his car bumper. “Now. Go home.”
Clay whispered something.
Fairfax kicked his foot. “What?”
Clay said, “Yeah. I’m headed home. I swear.”
Fairfax drove away.
Clay got up and rubbed his shoulder. He picked up his bat and twisted it. The dents and scratches had piled up but he’d earned them. Dad must have pitched that ball to him a hundred times.
Still, Dad was gone.
He walked back down the block with his bat and picked the lock on the house. He entered and picked up the jewelry box on the sofa. Rob and the crew would welcome him. When he got to the front door, those words came back to him.
“The world don’t care about any of that.”
Clay licked his lips. Then he hunkered down and called his girlfriend. She made small talk. He said, “Listen, what do you think of Rob?”
“Your friend Rob?” she said.
“I wouldn’t call him my friend.”
She said, “Good. He’s not. He calls me and texts me all the time. I’ve told him you and I are together. I would have told you but I don’t know. You seem like you look up to him like he’s your role model or something. Rob can do no wrong.”
Clay set the jewelry box down. “God damn it.”
He put the phone on his leg. Rob didn’t talk to him in high school. He only got friendly after his dad died. She introduced them for God’s sake. The world really didn’t care about his problems. Rob wouldn’t be his dad. Neither would Phillip. Neither would Fairfax but Fairfax didn’t bullshit him either. He placed the phone back to his ear. “Baby?”
“Yeah?” she said. “You okay?”
“Can you meet me tomorrow? I know you can’t tonight.”
“I can meet you tonight. How about the Waffle House? You want to meet me there?”
Clay stood. “Sounds great, baby. I love you.”
“Aw, baby. I love you too. I’m on my way.”
He hung up and left the house. When he got to his car, Fairfax sprang up from the other side. Clay jumped. “Whoa, now!”
Fairfax grabbed him by the collar. “What did you get?”
“Nothing. I picked up the jewelry box but I put it back.”
Fairfax shined the flashlight in his eyes. “You sure about that?”
Clay squinted. “Yeah, man. I’m sure.”
“All right. Keep your ass in line.”
Fairfax walked away.
Clay said, “Is that big dude okay?”
“He’s in a ditch. Awake. And feeling very sorry for himself.”
“Kind of like me. Huh?”
“Nah. You ain’t got a pop-knot the size of a boiled egg on your head.”
Clay laughed. He said, “Hey. Hold on.”
Fairfax turned back to him.
Clay reached inside his car and then handed a him plastic bag. Fairfax examined it. Clay said, “It’s just leftovers. Some turkey and dressing. Happy Thanksgiving, Fairfax.”
Fairfax’s mouth hung open.
Clay said, “Okay. I have a date. See you.”
Clay drove away, leaving Fairfax staring at his gift.
Glew set the button down on his dining table. Then he removed his sweater vest and placed it beside the button. He threaded his needle. His doorbell rang. Glew answered the door. Fairfax stood there with a bag in his hand. Glew said, “Stud. What’s up?”
“Just wanted to stop by. Ain’t that what folks do on Thanksgiving? Stop by and sit and talk and shit?”
Glew pointed at him and resumed his seat at the table. “That they do.”
Fairfax removed a plate from the cabinet and then dumped the bag’s contents onto it. Turkey and dressing with a helping of English peas.
He grabbed a fork and set his plate on the dining table. He watched Glew. “What you got there?”
Glew pulled the needle through. “Just mending. My nieces ripped the button off.”
“Didn’t they do the same thing last year?”
“Um…I don’t think so.”
Fairfax took a bite of turkey.
“Where did you get that?”
Fairfax swallowed. “It’s not bad.”
Glew finished up the top button and tied it off. He held it up. “Like new. Right?”
Glew put on the sweater vest. He fastened every button with care. Then he sat straight in his chair. “There we go.”
Fairfax said, “You’re quite the seamstress.”
“You’ll make a fine wife.”
Glew said, “Okay. Keep going.”
“You think you could put a darn in my sock, miss?”
“What a Thanksgiving. Huh?”
“We protected two houses. Now those folks’ll get home and they’ll have all their stuff. Of course, the house you were in will look a bit off. I did go in and set the jewelry box back.”
“What about Clay? He wasn’t still hanging around?”
Fairfax swallowed. “Nah, he was gone.”
“Seems like he’s lost.”
“He’ll be all right.”
Glew put his feet up on an empty chair and placed his hands behind his head. “That’s good. You know, it was okay eating with my folks today but I don’t know. I never relax over there. I relax most after one of these jobs. The adrenaline rush gets me keyed up but then I just float on down, man.”
Glew said, “Good lord.”
Fairfax wiped his mouth and set the napkin on his empty plate. He leaned back and placed his feet in the other chair. “I hear you, partner.”
Glew sunk lower in his chair.
Fairfax said, “Say, maybe we could do this every year. Like a late night Thanksgiving.”
“You mean a tradition?”
“Hell no. Just like a meeting.”
“Sounds good. Need to get some women here for next year’s…meeting.”
Glew pictured it. A couple of women surrounding him and admiring his flat stomach. Fairfax eating his turkey with his own woman maybe. He opened his eyes. Fairfax slept. He looked a little like the big oaf sleeping on the floor back in that house. What was it like to be a big heavy-breathing mammoth? Glew didn’t want to know. It was best to keep his trim figure. Ah, a nap sounded good. Glew narrowed his eyes.
Something boinked Fairfax in the chin.
Fairfax said, “What the hell?”
He rubbed his chin. Then he inspected his chest. He picked up something and showed it to Glew. “Ain’t this your button?”