Waiting on Wisdom

Scott Lott sold all kinds of boats over the years. Along the way, he’d ran into some trouble with a few thieves. In the past, he’d conceded that he wasn’t seeing the boats again but when he told Glew about his latest loss, we ran the thief down and returned Scott’s inventory to him.

A month later, I got home and took a shower after a long day of roofing and sat in my rocker where I dozed.

Knock.

Knock.

Knock.

I stirred.

Knock.

Knock.

“All right, damn it,” I said.

I stepped out and looked at the tree line across the road where a pink sun blazed forth. Yes, sir. Thank you to whatever woke me up. This is the best time for staring over that way. I blinked a few times. A truck sat in my driveway. A boat sat on a trailer behind it. Scott popped up beside my porch rail. . “What’s up, rough and ready?”

“Not much, slick and sissy,” I said.

Scott pointed to the boat. “What do you think of that little number?”

I whistled. “Just get it?”

“Nope,” he said. “Had it a while. To tell you the truth, I’m tired of it. How about you take it?”

I held up a hand. “Ain’t got the funds at the moment.”

He spread his hands out. “After you guys getting me back my other boats, you think I’d make you pay for this?”

I swallowed. “Well, I mean…Glew told me about the job and all. He should get it before I do.”

“I agree,” he said. “Only, he didn’t want it.”

“What? Why not?”

Scott shrugged. “He told me to bring it over here. So…here.”

I smiled. “Dang, Scott. This is real nice. Thank you. Really.”

Scott shook my hand. He backed the boat off the driveway into the yard beside my shed. We got her unhooked. He got back in his truck. I said, “Stay a spell if you want. It’s a good day to watch the sun set.”

Scott shook his head. “Got to get back to it. Enjoy the boat.”

He drove to the end of the driveway. Then he backed up toward me. I stepped aside. He stopped a few feet from me and handed me a cigar. “This goes mighty good with sunset watching.”

I took the cigar and grinned.

He said, “I really should. I’ll have my wife make me some tea and I’ll take it easy one day next week. I’ll think of you when I do, George. How’s that sound?”

I placed the cigar between my teeth. “Like a million dollar idea, Scott.”

He took off down the road.

I set up my lawn chair and stared at the gray fourteen-foot Polar Kraft Jon boat with a forty-inch bottom, sitting on a sixteen-foot trailer. I toyed with the cigar between my lips. The setting sun floated back there, like an early moon looking to peak through and keep me company. I rolled the cigar around. A Coors would hit the spot right now.

“Hhmm.”

I placed the cigar on the porch rail and then walked inside. I grabbed my keys and then backed my truck up to the boat trailer. I hooked it up and then I rode on down the road a good piece, shifting my eyes between the road and the boat.

Hey.

Maybe I could have a little fun here.

I drove to a little cove in the northern section of town. Some of these places sat vacant. None of them looked lived in. Don’t expect folks to answer within minutes of you knocking and if you’re expecting Halloween decorations, you need to drive away. I like to call it a blind street. Theft lingered in the air like week old trash. So I backed the boat up into the driveway of a vacant house near the dead end and then unhitched it. I slapped a GPS tracker onto the boat and parked down the street.

Glew sent me a text message, asking me about my whereabouts. I told him. Twenty minutes later, he stepped out of his car all decked out in his white suit and fedora. The guy looked like Colonel Sanders’ rich grandson. When he climbed inside my truck, the Polo cologne found my nostrils. I rolled down my window. He said, “So what’s going on, stud? Meeting your date here?”

“Yeah,” I said.

He snickered. “Yeah, right, like you’d have a date on a Friday night. That’s what weird folks do. Right?”

I said, “I suppose you do, of course.”

He smiled wide. “This one. Oh, man. My greatest conquest.”

“I’m happy for you two.”

“No, stud. Look,” he said. He showed me her Facebook profile on his cell phone.

I said, “She’s-

He tapped my arm. “I know. And it’s not just that. She just passed her bar exam. And her dad is loaded and already bought her a new house for passing the test. And she’s very attracted to my work. And she’s not looking for a husband. Career woman. No interest in kids. I mean, there is nothing wrong with her. You may never see me again, man.”

“I don’t know.” I scratched my chin. “You might miss out on all the fun we have running around.”

“Pshaw,” he said. “Did you not hear me? This lady will keep me plenty busy. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Maybe she’ll let me fight crime one night a week and give you a thrill.”

“I’m honored.”

He chuckled. “Aw, don’t be jealous, stud. You’ll find a life one day. I’m headed out, though.”

He stepped out of the truck and walked around to my window. “I got to say, you’re on your own here. I can’t mess this date up. So unless you’re dying, don’t call. Okay?”

I peered in my rearview mirror at the boat. “Aw, I wouldn’t expect much, Glew. Go get her, buddy.”

“You bet, you son of a gun.”

He drove to the end of the street. Then he honked his horn twice and squealed his tires in the turn. I took a few slugs of coffee. Something landed on the power line up there. An owl?

A Jeep Wrangler rolled by at twenty miles an hour. The driver turned around in the dead end and passed back by the boat. Its tail lights disappeared in the growing darkness. I rubbed the back of my neck. I took another shot of coffee. The Jeep pulled back around and stopped behind the boat.

Here we go.

I ducked down, keeping a watch on my GPS device. Ten minutes later, the boat pulled away. I waited five minutes and then I got on the move.

The Jeep transported my boat twenty miles into the country to a property that had two acres of front yard with a white fence that stretched at least a couple of acres on back. Two men held the gate open while another one backed the boat through while a fourth man stood watching with his hands in his pockets. I slowed down. Then I shifted into neutral. The man with his hands in his pockets turned toward me. I killed the engine. One of the men at the gate pointed toward me. I rolled into the long paved driveway. The two holding the gate abandoned their position and ran toward me. The pockets man walked toward me but he pulled his hands out of his pockets. I waited. They jogged on. I turned the ignition but pulled back before it cranked. The men got closer. I banged on the steering wheel.

The two men slowed down but kept on toward me while Pockets walked on at the same pace. I shook my head and hit the steering wheel again. One of the men walked toward the passenger side of my truck while the other eased his way toward my window. I said, “Damn it all to hell, boys. I’m sorry for pulling over here, but she’s up and quit on me.”

The men looked at each other. Pockets walked onto the driveway. I nodded at him. He stared straight at me. I said, “I gotta call me a tow truck. One of you fellows have a phone?”

The two gate boys stared toward Pockets. He gave them one nod. The one near my window wore a buzz cut. He handed me his phone. “Thank you,” I said.

Buzz Cut said, “Not a problem.”

I tapped on the phone. Then I said, “You fellows mind if I step out? My back’s killing me.”

Pockets said, “Go ahead.”

I stepped out and then placed the phone to my ear.

“Yeah,” I said. “Yes, sir. I got a problem…”

Buzz Cut and his friend watched me. Pockets looked away but he glanced back a few times. The man in the jeep got out and walked toward us.

I said, “The problem? What’s my problem? Is that what you’re asking me?”

Buzz Cut and his friend inched toward me. Pockets took a step back while the other fellow quickened his pace toward us.

I said, “I got four assholes here who stole my boat.”

Buzz Cut and his friend rushed me. They pushed me against the truck and pulled their fists back. I lowered my face and then squeezed the button on my pepper spray can. They stumbled back. Buzz Cut fell down. The other guy leaned on my truck. Coughing and retching took over any other noise. The jeep guy ran toward me. Pockets said, “Stop!”

Jeep lunged at me with a kick as if he were kicking down a door. I sidestepped his attack. He bounced off the truck. I smashed him in the jaw. The impact sent him sprawling into the yard.

Pockets held up his hands. “Hold on, now. You can take the boat back.”

“Yeah?” I said.

He nodded while his eyes darted back and forth between me and his fallen men.

I said, “All right, then.”

I tossed Buzz Cut’s cell phone to Pockets. Then I climbed into my truck and backed it up to the gate. I secured the trailer hitch to the ball on my bumper. I drove to the driveway where Jeep and his friend remained on the ground. Pockets watched me. I waved.

Buzz Cut popped up at my window from behind a bush. I aimed my pepper spray at him. He pointed a pistol at my face. I stopped the truck.

Buzz Cut said, “That’s our damn boat. You’re leaving it.”

Pockets said, “Don’t do that, son!”

Buzz Cut kept his pistol aimed at me. “It’s our boat. You leave it.”

“Actually, it’s not,” I said. I stared at Buzz Cut. He wiped sweat from his brow and switched the pistol to his other hand. “But,” I said, “you do have the gun. Unhook it and I’ll go.”

Buzz Cut grinned at Pockets. “Unhook it.”

Pockets unhooked my boat.

Buzz Cut stared at me. “Just don’t come back around here. We don’t stand for thieves out this way.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I drove down the road.

I turned around a mile up the road and parked the truck. After ten minutes, I cranked it back up and took off back toward the thieves’ house. When the place came into view, all four men stood in the front yard while the boat remained in the driveway. They toasted beer cans together. I bounded through the ditch and then cut across the yard toward them. The group scattered like a flock of birds do when a cat leaps at them. Even Pockets dove for cover. I spun around in the driveway. I stomped the accelerator and left a track of rubber on the concrete. Then I parked and stepped out with my own .32 revolver in my hand.

When I walked toward the yard, Buzz Cut patted the ground for his weapon. I fired the .32 into the night air.

Pop!

Jeep and the other man hunkered down. Pockets stood with his hands slightly raised. Buzz Cut placed his forehead to the ground. I kept the revolver aimed at him. “This is my damn boat. Does everybody understand that?”

No one moved.

I shot into the air again.

Pop!

“Does everybody understand that?”

Pockets said, “Yes! Yes! We do!”

The others raised their hands and nodded.

I climbed into the truck and pulled it back up to the boat. Pockets hooked me up before I could get out of my truck. I got back inside and left the boat thieves back in my rear view mirror.

When I got back home, I backed the boat into the shed. Then I returned the .32 revolver to my little hidey hole in my backyard, tucked safely beneath a patch of grass. No more than a minute walked by before Glew called me. “Where you at?”

“The house,” I said.

“All right,” he said. “I’ll stop by.”

Glew hung up before I could respond. I popped my neck and walked inside where I grabbed a Coors. I returned to my front porch and sat in my chair, drinking and resting my eyes. I nearly nodded off before Glew barreled down my driveway with AC/DC blaring through his windows. I wiped my eyes. He walked onto my porch and leaned back on the porch rail. I looked at him.

“Stood up,” he said. “I met her through a friend. The friend talked me up after I’d made a good impression. I mean, you know that I know what I’m doing when it comes to the ladies and yet, she stood me up.”

I said, “Well-

“I sat in that restaurant for an hour and a half, Fairfax. Ninety-three minutes of wondering. Just waiting. I mean, I felt like you I guess. Damn it. I can’t believe it. Me? Stood up? I love them and leave them. The finest women around and she’s going to stand me up?”

“Glew-

“No, man. I mean, she wasn’t even that hot, really. I called her after I left. Nothing. No excuses. She didn’t even try. I mean…I can’t believe it.”

I propped my leg on my knee and waited. After stewing a while, he said, “You ever been stood up?”

I waited.

“Of course not. You’d have to actually get a date first. Right?”

I waited a while longer.

He chuckled. “Hell, maybe you’re right. Just sit and wait for some bad guys. Anybody show up, anyway?”

I removed the body cam from my chest and hooked it up to his phone. I played the tape of my boat adventure. He said, “Are you kidding me? I could have backed you up out there. Those guys. Man!”

I smiled and unhooked the cam and gave the phone back to him. He said, “Wow, man. I should have hung out with you tonight.”

“Nothing wrong with trying to find you a lady friend, Glew.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t know. I find them. I get tired of them. I leave them. It’s all a big cycle. You…you actually get things done.”

“We get things done,” I said. “I haven’t been acting alone this whole time. You’re fine and you’ll do well.”

“But aren’t you disappointed in me? I mean, I feel like I let you down.”

I said, “Nah, bud. You’ll ride with me on the next one.”

He swallowed.

“Won’t you?” I said.

He nodded. “You bet I will.”

“Glad to hear it.”

He stood and stretched. “Well, I guess I’ll be going.”

The car came down my driveway blaring AC/DC. The oldies station must be putting on a tribute tonight. Glew said, “What the? Who is…”

The lady stepped out of the car with a smile. She waved to me and bounced her way up onto the porch. She brushed by Glew and kissed me on the mouth. I kissed her back and squeezed her thigh. She said, “Oooo.” She turned to Glew. Then she looked at me. “And who is this handsome fellow?”

I looked at Glew and smiled. “Wally Glew, meet Roberta.”

She hugged Glew. He stared at me, stunned.

I said, “Roberta here had a date a couple weeks ago at that bar out on the highway.”

Roberta said, “That’s right. The rat I was supposed to meet stood me up. And then in walked this stud. And let me tell, you, I’m so happy that rat didn’t show up. Because me and this gentleman have shared a lot…I mean a LOT of things since then.”

I smiled.

She patted my cheek. “Speaking of which, I’ll be in your bedroom, baby. See you in a few?”

I squeezed her thigh again. She walked inside. Glew turned to me. “My whole universe is shattering.”

I stood. “That’s what I can’t figure.”

“What?”

“That woman,” I said. “She didn’t show up. And you come out here and complain to me? Where’s your spirit? When one doesn’t show up, you find another one. I thought every man knew that? Are you telling me you didn’t try to hit on any other woman in the place?”

Glew looked away. “No. I…I didn’t.”

“You get in too big of a hurry, Glew. Just take some time and stare at the sky. Take it all in and hold one thought in your head for a while. Slow it all down, buddy.”

He rubbed his forehead. Then he frowned at me. I grinned. He shook his head and pulled out his phone and started texting.

“I got to get inside.”

“Hey,” he said.

“Yeah?”

“You gonna be prowling tomorrow night?”

“Maybe,” I said. “It’s usually best to respond to those who want you around first.”

He said, “I think you’re right.”

Roberta’s voice echoed through the house. “There’s no TV in here, Mr. Fairfax. I need my entertainment!”

I said, “Welp. I gotta go. See you buddy!”

I walked inside and shut the door. Glew walked off my porch. I tore off my shirt and headed toward the bedroom. Roberta lay on my bed wearing next to nothing. I said, “Damn, woman.”

Bump.

I held up a “wait a second” finger at Roberta and returned to the front door. Glew took a seat on my front porch and lit a cigar. He tossed his phone off the porch and stared off in the distance. I smiled. The old boy gets smarter all the time.

Pass It On

I bit a good chunk out of my cheeseburger while Glew slurped his milkshake. He focused on it to the point that I thought his head might bust right there in the diner. We sat at a booth near the back. A few other folks took up more booths while eight or nine folks occupied most of the bar chairs. I washed my burger down with coffee. “Don’t strain, Glew.”

Glew kept slurping. Our waitress brought the check. I reached for it but Glew beat me to it. I said, “Come on, now. You’ve got the last ten.”

Glew let go of the straw and took a breath. “Well, you know how it is. Given your clothes, you’re not worried about appearances. But when you’re a ladies man like myself, you have to show them a little something and every lady loves a man who will pick up a check.”

I rubbed my chin. “You keep going and you’re going to be writing child support checks…ladies man.”

Glew swallowed. “Why do you say that? Did somebody tell you something?”

I took another bite of the cheeseburger and shrugged. “I don’t like to gossip…”

He studied me for a moment. Then he removed his credit card from his wallet and placed it on the check. I said, “But…”

“But? But what? What are you talking about, George?”

I chuckled. “George? You must be worried. Ain’t nothing wrong with a child. You can pass on your fine lineage of skirt-chasing.”

“Come on, man. You don’t just open up that door and…oh…”

The young lady scooted her chair up to our booth. She sat down as if she were a nurse trying her best not to disturb her sleeping patients. I almost her to be holding reading material. Her hands were empty but they shook. She stared at her lap. I said, “Um…ma’am…”

The waitress came by and got the check along with Glew’s credit card. The girl kept her eyes down. I found myself playing along until the waitress dropped the check off and carried a tea pitcher toward another booth. I said, “So, um…what can we do for you, ma’am?”

She mumbled something. Glew said, “How’s that, miss?”

The girl looked at me. I stared into her eyes. She glanced over at Glew and then back at me. Her bottom lip trembled. “Okay. You…you two guys…I…somebody said that you guys could…”

We waited for her to continue. After a solid minute, I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what-

She leaned forward, keeping her voice low but loud enough for me to hear. “Joe’s Storage.”

I looked at Glew who snapped his fingers. “Just down the road a ways. Right?”

The girl nodded. After looking Glew over a while, she turned back to me. “My boyfriend has been selling power drills out of a unit there. He got them from Roy’s Hardware.”

I pointed at her. “I know that place. So you’re saying he-

She nodded. “The number to his unit is 63. Here’s the key.”

She slid a key across the table next to my hand. “Just set him right.”

I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to…ma’am?”

She walked out of the diner. I looked over at Glew. “What do you think?”

Glew said, “That’s the power of reputation. Let’s go.”

I said, “This ain’t good, man. The next thing we know, some blue boys might get after us.”

Glew stood and smoothed his shirt out. “Maybe. Come on. We’ll check it out.”

I shook my head. “I don’t feel too good about this. I mean, who was she? How does she know? Who told?”

Glew wiped a crumb off my shirt. “Take it easy, stud. When you help people, others talk. It happens. We’ll just check it out.”

I shrugged. “When they lock us up, you get bottom bunk.”

We headed for the door.

He said, “Fine. Now, what did you hear about me and child support?”

I turned back to him. “Well, it’s probably nothing.”

“Oh, come on. Probably nothing? What does that mean?”

I drove us over to Joe’s Storage. We idled through the rows. The units were about eight feet long apiece. Long rows of blue metal doors. I figured they were filled up with old junk and maybe a few decent pieces of furniture. We found number 63. I examined the key. Glew said, “Well, we could check it out. There’s no tail or anything.”

I scratched my cheek. “I don’t know, man.”

Glew said, “It’s up to you.”

I said, “Let’s sleep on it.”

I dropped Glew off and took my time getting home. I stayed up, mulling the idea over. The police didn’t scare me in this matter. I couldn’t picture them being bent out of shape over us roughing up a thief. I’m sure rumors had floated around about us but we hadn’t caused chaos in the streets by any means. Any people we straightened out would not be going to the police. So, I couldn’t picture any trouble from them, although you never know.

But who was this girl? And who told her about us? Was this a set-up? Did we already have a run-in with the boyfriend? She didn’t give us much. We could just walk away. Still, I knew Roy, owner of Roy’s Hardware. Roy and his wife were pleasant people who always met me with a smile. I could definitely beat this boyfriend down for robbing them. So I called up Glew the next night. He picked me up and we rode back over. We took a car Glew usually keeps parked at his parents’ house. It’s an older model that he only brings out for such jobs now and then. I mean, after all, the storage place could have cameras.

Street lights lit up Joe’s storage. We parked in front of unit 63 which unfortunately could be seen from the road. Of course, how often do passing cars pay attention? We zipped up our hooded sweatshirts, threw our hoods over our heads and stepped out of the car. I inserted the key the girl gave me into the lock and turned.

I looked behind us. No cars or people approached. I stood and surveyed the area. Glew said, “Wow. For real?”

I hunkered down and tried the lock again-nothing. I scratched my head. Glew said, “Maybe she got confused?”

We could drive off. But then, Roy and his wife had lost some tools. They didn’t deserve to suffer because this girl gave us the wrong key. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my picking tools. Glew kept watch while I worked the lock. Glew said, “We’ve got a visitor, stud.”

I let go of the lock and untied my boot. After peering across my shoulder at the car stopped at the entrance, I shrugged. “If it’s him, he’s made us and he’ll do something.”

Glew said, “Right.”

The car pulled by our row and onto another. I got back on the lock until it opened. Then I lifted the unit door. Glew shined his flashlight inside. “Do what?”

Shelves lined the walls, all covered up with power drills. At least twenty more sat in the center of the room on the floor. Glew said, “Wow.”

I said, “Let’s get to it, then.”

Glew popped the trunk lid and opened the back passenger door of the car. I grabbed the biggest stack I could off the floor and placed them in the back seat. We passed each other, loading up what must have been fifty power drills. After ten minutes, the backseat sat full to the brim as did the trunk. Then the white car roared up to our bumper. I shut the passenger door and trunk.

The boyfriend stood six feet five inches tall, wearing a white T-shirt and white jeans. He sprung from the driver’s side and raced around to his own trunk where he removed a wooden bat and brandished it in the air. A passenger stepped out. The man wore gray at his temples but he looked like an older, thicker version of the first man. He didn’t carry any weapons but he filled out his brown shirt with a lot of muscle.

White Shirt bolted at me with the bat, taking a wild swing. I took a quick step to my left and ducked under the attack. From there, I tackled White Shirt hard enough so that he fell back into Brown Shirt. Brown Shirt did not budge. The both of us bounced off him. Brown Shirt gripped my neck with hands that could wrap around a tree trunk. My head tightened like it would pop.

Fizzzziiitt.

Glew’s pepper spray hit Brown Shirt in the face. He eased up on my neck just enough. I wiggled free of his grip and laid into his square jaw with a left hook. Brown Shirt’s head moved but my hand thumped from the impact. White Shirt sprang up and jumped at Glew who sprayed the pepper spray at him but missed, dropping the can. I dodged a slap from Brown Shirt and retaliated with a right-handed punch smack on his nose. Brown Shirt paused, blinking his eyes. I grabbed the pepper spray off the pavement and gave him a second dose. Brown Shirt stumbled back, rubbing his face and sneezing.

When I turned to Glew, he and White Shirt wrestled on the pavement. I grabbed White Shirt’s ankle and pulled him off of Glew. White Shirt spun his body around and grabbed my…well…private area.

“Aaahhh!!!”

I dropped down onto my knees and shoved White Shirt’s bald dome into the pavement until he let go. Then I pressed down more, hoping for a pop. Glew pulled me off of him. When I stood up, I kicked White Shirt in the jaw. Brown Shirt grabbed me from behind. Glew pulled out his club and caught the bigger man in the temple. He let me go and stumbled back until he leaned on the car. Glew jumped into the driver’s side of his car. I hobbled to the passenger side and slid in. We took off.

Thump.

I checked the side mirror before we turned the corner. White Shirt rolled around on the pavement, screaming and holding his arm. Glew said, “What did we hit?”

My groin throbbed. I winced. “Good job, Glew.”

“Now, that’s something I don’t hear everyday. To Roy’s?”

“To Roy’s.”

Glew drove a little higher than the speed limit until I warned him to slow down. With fifty stolen power drills in the car with us, I didn’t see any intelligence in getting pulled over. Glew did as instructed. A half an hour later, we pulled up to Roy’s Hardware. The place sat empty and dark. Glew sighed. “Should we come back tomorrow?”

I took a deep breath. “Pull around to the back.”

Glew said, “Aw, man. I have a date later.”

Holding onto my groin, I gave Glew a look.

He said, “Come on, man. I need to work on my lineage…even if your chances for a lineage just went down.” He glanced at my lap and grinned. I shook my head. “Roy and his wife are good people. We have to do this.”

He threw up his hands in surrender and drove around to the back. We got out and piled the boxes of power drills up against the back wall of the store. Glew told me that he didn’t see any cop cars drive by. I didn’t bother to look. Once we got them all out there, Glew drove us to a motel across the street where we had a clear view of the drills. Glew said, “You know, I could have her swing by and then we go to her house and she has me back in an hour.”

I said, “Go ahead.”

Glew dialed some numbers on his phone. I kept watch over the boxes, denying myself any looks at my watch. There would be plenty of temptations for the next nine hours to do so but we didn’t steal these just to see them go right back. White Shirt and Brown Shirt could return and reclaim Roy’s property anytime.

Glew shut his phone. I looked at him. He said, “You know, that girl. The one who told us about the job. I never saw her before.”

“You mean there’s a woman within a thousand miles that you’ve never seen?”

He said, “Right? And yet, she came to us to tell us about this. She knows what we do. That means other people know now. Does that scare you a little?”

I shifted in my seat. “It was bound to happen I reckon.”

He said, “What about enemies though? She could tell those two things we fought back there. She could tell them our names. Where we live and all.”

I shrugged. “We handled them back there. We can handle them again.”

“Yeah, but one against two?”

I said, “That’s life.”

He opened his phone. Then he shut it again.

“What do you mean?”

I rubbed my nose. “Every one of us is supposed to fight more than one thing every day. We got family obligations and work obligations and friend things and recreation things. We’re hit from all sides. Bills don’t stop needing to be paid. Girlfriends don’t stop worrying or complaining. Bosses don’t stop demanding. It’s life, Glew. We’ve all got numerous attackers day in and night out.”

“So you’re saying we’ll be okay?”

I said, “I’m saying how it is. We will be okay until we ain’t and then, if we have anything left, we’ll pick up and be okay until we ain’t again. We’re going to do that over and over until it’s over. Hell, let them come after us. I’m going to take their balls next time.”

Glew let out a chuckle. Then he fell into a laugh. “I love your spirit, stud! Yes, sir. To hell with her. I’ll camp out with you. We have something going here.”

“Damn right, hoss.”

The sun inched its way from the heavens, its rays lighting up Roy’s Hardware store’s black and red sign. Roy himself and his wife pulled up to the back at seven o’clock on the dot. When they spotted the drills, they examined them and talked for a while, wondering how such a thing could happen. They looked around the lot and eventually in our direction. Glew scrunched down in his seat, but I just watched. Roy took hold of his wife and hugged her. They must have embraced for five full minutes, wiping each other’s tears away.

I said, “Just like them, Glew.”

Glew rose and looked at them. I said, “Things were not all right for them a few days ago. Now they are again.”

Glew wiped his eyes. “It’s a real sight to see.”

I said, “I’ll drive home.”

Glew yawned. “You sure?”

I hobbled around to the driver’s side. Glew slid over. I drove us across the street to Roy’s Hardware and pulled around back. Glew said, “Hang on, now. What are you doing?”

I pulled up a few feet from Roy who turned toward me with a couple of drill boxes in his hands. I said, “Howdy.”

Roy focused on us. “Hello? George?”

I nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Roy’s mouth dropped open. I drove us away. Glew said, “You think that was a good idea?”

I said, “Yes, sir. We’re passing on a lineage.”

“To who?”

I said, “To the world.”

A Rewarding Career

I cranked the spark plug wrench on the weed eater while Glew’s phone played on speaker. I stopped and rubbed my shoulder. That catch might not ever go away. I cranked the wrench.

Ritch.

Ritch.

Ritch.

Glew said, “Easy with the wrench.”

I feinted a jab toward Glew who backed up with his ear pointed toward his cell phone which lied face up on my work bench. I set the weed eater on the floor and pumped the fuel bubble a few times. Then I grabbed the cord. Glew said, “Fairfax, please.”

He cranked up the volume on his phone. He’d placed a bug in the back of a dive bar that fed right into an app on his phone. We listened.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. When we walked in, I thought that dude was going to tip over and crack like a china plate.

Second Voice: Man, I know. I know. But you have to take advantage. I’ve been telling you that.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. We gotta take a week off and live it up now.

Second Voice: Nah. We should sell it, man.

First Voice: Not me, player. That Chippendale’s wide open. We can hit him again when we get low. What’s he gonna do?

I looked at Glew and mouthed the word ‘Chippendale’. Glew nodded and held his finger to his mouth.

Second Voice: Gotta play it smart, man. We can’t know that. And ain’t no way I’m hitting him any time soon. You know how it’s done.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. Let’s get to it. So we can get off and do our thing. The green dragon gonna take us places!

Glew lowered the volume. “Damn, man. I hope this isn’t true.”

I said, “Who’s ‘Chippendale’?”

Glew picked up his phone. “I’ll show you.”

I tried the weed eater a few times. I’d replaced the old gas with new and cleaned the carburetor and now I’d replaced the spark plug. The old girl still wouldn’t come to life. I huffed a few times and then I accompanied Glew for a country ride. Glew didn’t say much for a while, dabbing at his temples and puffing a thin cigar. “’Chippendale’ may and I stress that it may-

I said, “Right.”

Glew blew a smoke ring through the window. “It may be my buddy ‘Chipper’. I went to school with him. Really poor kid but he was smart. His real name is Chase Powell, but he had these buck teeth and everyone called him ‘Chipper’ like a chipmunk. He really didn’t mind, but you know, I felt for him.”

I said, “You would.”

Glew waved a hand. “I know, Fairfax. Bullies are good. They toughen kids up and yada yada.”

I smiled. “All right. So he was a smart kid. Now he’s a dealer?”

“Just pot. He works at some place out north on their computers. He’s a nerd who lives by himself and likes to smoke a little weed. It’s legal so many places now. Tennessee just needs to catch up.”

I tilted my head back. “Civilization is so convenient…until they attack something you happen to like. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about, right? Chipper’s your dealer?”

Glew turned up a Bob Marley song. I chuckled. Glew swayed with the rhythm and puffed that cigar like he was in slow motion. What all did he have packed into that cigar?

We arrived at Chase ‘Chipper’ Powell’s place. It was a quaint little blue house in the sticks. Kind of like something you might see in an old Claude Monet painting. Shrubs covered the windows nicely and the front lawn could definitely use a trim. Who knows? Maybe I could put the old weed eater to use once we got this done. After all this marijuana talk, “weed eater” gave me a different image in my head besides a lawn tool.

I followed Glew up to the front door. He rang the doorbell. No one answered. I peered through the shrub covering the front window as best I could but I saw no movement. Glew rang the doorbell again but nothing happened. I eased around the side of the house until I reached the back porch. Shrubs and vines concealed the back wall of the house, leaving a sliver of blue exposed. A sandal stuck out past a vine. Glew walked up to me. I pointed toward the sandal. Glew took off his hat and walked around. I followed.

The sandal shot back. Glew threw up his hands. “Hey. Whoa! Take it easy now, Chipper. It’s me, Wally.”

Chipper rubbernecked around a shrub at me. His auburn hair was trimmed very short. His face looked like a boy’s-incapable of facial hair. A pair of sunglasses with green rims covered his eyes. He stared straight at me like a cornered cat. I scratched my beard. “How you doing?”

Chipper said, “Not…um…just not…not so good…not cool, man. Not cool.”

Glew said, “Take it easy, Chipper. I was just out in the area and decided to stop by is all. It’s been a while.”

I stepped around for a better look. Chipper wore a long sleeve pullover. He pulled his sleeve down in a hurry but I spotted a bandage. Chipper kept his eyes on me. Glew said, “How’s it been going?”

Chipper rubbed the back of his neck. “Not so…not good, man. What do you want here?”

Glew said, “I don’t know. Maybe a little snack?”

Chipper pointed at me. “I don’t like this guy.”

Glew said, “Chipper. Come on, man. This is George. He’s my friend. You know a friend of mine is a friend of yours.”

Chipper looked off and lit a cigarette. I turned away from them, peering out over his backyard and then up at the sky. Glew made small talk. After ten minutes or so, Chipper said, “Hey, man.”

I turned back toward him. He held his hand out. I shook it and he gave me some kind of shake that required five moves. I went with it as best I could. Chipper looked at Glew while pointing at me. “This man right here needs a snack. Mellow him out a little.”

Chipper fell into a laugh that took off slow and sped up. Glew pointed at him and winked at me. We entered Chipper’s humble abode. Glew handed him some cash. Chipper studied me over. Glew patted his shoulder. “He’s cool.”

Chipper went to a back room, followed by Glew. Chipper came back out carrying a dragon-shaped bong. Glew said, “Oh wow, man. Don’t you have two of these?”

Chipper didn’t answer. They sat and enjoyed some smoky intoxication while I tapped my fingers on the arms of the plush chair I sat in. His house contained no beaded curtains or posters of Bob Marley and I didn’t see any Jimmy Buffet or Willie Nelson music although he did own quite a few old records. With their business conducted, Chipper thanked us and walked us out. With his sunglasses off, the sunlight revealed a small bruise developing under his eye. When we got back into Glew’s car, he said, “No doubt about it.”

We drove over to the dive bar. After an hour at the bar, I had counted two waitresses, one bartender and three fellows in the kitchen. Our voices on that recorder had to be two of those kitchen fellows. The bartender sounded like a grizzly bear with cold.

So we returned to his car and waited it out. When one of the fellows in the kitchen left, we walked over to him, putting on a drunk act and asking for directions to a motel. The guy told us everything he could. His squeaky voice did not match the voices on the recording. So we thanked him and retreated to a spot behind the dumpster in back.

We waited for over an hour. I moved my shoulder around, working out a cramp. “Damn.”

Glew said, “Why so stressed, stud? You should have toked with us…man.”

I shook my head and massaged my shoulder until it loosened up a little. The back door opened. I ducked down.

The other two kitchen workers headed for a white Camry. I pulled on my black ski mask. Glew followed suit. We stepped around the dumpster with only twenty feet between us and the thieves.

The back door opened again. One of the waitresses ran toward the kitchen guys. She jumped into the bigger one’s arms. They shared a long barrage of kisses while the other one played on his phone. We ducked back down. I removed my mask. Glew did the same. The two guys talked for a while. Without a doubt, these were our guys. However, they climbed into the Camry along with the girl and fired it up.

Glew stayed hunkered down and ran to his car in the next parking lot. I followed behind him, not looking at the kitchen guys. By the time we got into his car, the white Camry turned out of the lot.

Glew cut off a truck pulling in on his way out. The driver laid on the horn and yelled a string of cuss words at us. Glew lit a cigar and drove a comfortable distance behind the Camry. We traveled a few miles down the highway until the Camry pulled into an apartment complex on the north side of town. The shorter of the kitchen guys got out and walked up the stairs. I slid out of Glew’s car and headed on up. Glew followed the Camry back out onto the street.

I took my steps with a gentle motion. The kitchen guy reached the second story and walked to the first room on the right. I made it to the door. The kitchen guy held the door open, staring at me. There was no need in pretending anymore. I threw a jab at his face, figuring he’d step back. I actually caught him with it though, and then shoved my way inside. He drew back to hit me but I shoved him into the wall behind him. He pushed back with the strength of a mouse. So I gave him a big shot in his gut which dropped him to the carpet. I turned and closed the front door. A set of keys dangled from the lock. So I snatched them up and slid them into my pocket.

I dragged him to the living room and shoved him down onto the sofa. “Where’s the duct tape?”

He leaned over, holding onto his stomach. I grabbed his black hair and leaned his head back. “Duct tape?”

With his mouth ajar, he pointed toward the kitchen. I let him go and backed to the kitchen. Searching through the drawers with my hands, I prodded along until I felt a roll of duct tape that was nearly used up. I turned my eyes to it for a split-second. The kitchen guy rushed to the front door.

I bolted across the living room and grabbed his shoulder before he could get out. He wrestled away from me. So I dove onto his back. He went down just outside the door. He yelled, “Help! Somebody-

I dragged him back inside by his belt and then placed my knee into his back. From there, I took the duct tape and wrapped his wrists. My shoulder ached when I wrapped his mouth. I placed him on the sofa and pulled on the tape roll. It was empty. So I peered around the room. The guy said something underneath the tape. I grinned. “Naw, naw. You got rabbit in your blood, son.”

I found a lamp in the corner and unplugged it and wrapped his ankles with the cord. “I don’t blame you. If anyone tied me up, I wouldn’t think of anything but getting free. However, I wouldn’t take what isn’t mine either.”

Not anymore at least.

“So just point to the stash you took off of Chipper earlier today.”

He looked at me like I spoke Chinese.

“Don’t make a jerk out of me. Just motion with your head toward which room it’s in and I’ll get on out of your way.”

He didn’t change his expression. I sighed. “Okay. I’ll just tear the place apart then.”

Despite his mumbling and yelling beneath the tape, I entered the first bedroom down the hall where I found a pipe and a bong and a Bob Marley poster. Still, though, I found no stash.

When I came out, he yelled at me through the tape with large eyes. I took a few steps toward him. He nodded as if I were bringing him water after a trek through the Sahara. I turned and walked to the back bedroom anyway.

Inside, I found a queen-sized bed with his picture beside it. Another picture hung on the wall of him standing beside an older lady. A closer look revealed an undeniable resemblance. This was his mother’s bedroom. I chuckled. Ah, but he could have placed it in here. So I rummaged through her chest drawers and her closet and underneath her bed. I don’t see any need to tell everything I found in those places but I didn’t find any weed stash there either.

When I came back out, he beat his head against the sofa and stomped the floor, still staring at me with bulging eyes. I walked over and removed the tape.

Shrrriipp.

“Ah! Damn, man. That’s my mom’s room.”

I said, “Yeah. Now tell me where it is.”

“Dude, what are you talking about a stash? I smoke a little weed sometimes. Yeah, but I haven’t ever stolen anything. I swear, man. You got the wrong house, dude. I swear.”

I replaced the tape over his mouth. He leaned back and rammed his head toward my head with all he had. I drew back in time and then I jabbed him in the jaw. He fell back and then shook his head, stomping the floor again.

I checked the last closet in the place and under the sink and a few other places. Glew sent me a text message, letting me know he’d returned with a smiley face icon beside the message. So I walked to the door and looked at the guy on the sofa. “We got you now. And leave your dealer alone. Just smoke a little weed like a nice boy. Because if I come back, I’ll take a lot more than the stash back.”

He still gave me the same scared eyes like he didn’t know what I talked about. I bolted down the stairs and climbed into Glew’s car. “So he had it. Huh?”

Glew swallowed. “It wasn’t up there?”

“Damn it. You got to be kidding me.”

Glew rubbed his nose. “He went to the girl’s place and followed her inside but he only stayed a minute. Then I followed him to his apartment a few miles down the street. I searched the whole place but I couldn’t find a thing. There was barely any food in there even and the kid denied everything.”

I said, “Mine did, too. Are you sure they did this?”

“Hey, you saw Chipper.”

I said, “And the bug you had on was the one in that bar? You’re sure?”

“You heard the voices. They match up.”

I said, “Let’s hear it again.”

Glew played the recording on his phone again. I shook my head and had him play it another time. I cracked my knuckles. “Okay, they rob Chipper. Then they have to stash it somewhere. In the bar you think? The dumpster maybe?”

Glew pulled out of his parking spot. “We’ll go check it out.”

A fifties green Ford Fairlane passed us. The woman driving glanced our way. I said, “Stop the car.”

Glew stopped. “What is it?”

“Green dragon. The one guy said that they’d get there with the green dragon.”

Glew snapped his fingers. “The dragon bong. They took the other one.”

I said, “Did you see it at the guy’s apartment?”

“Um…no. Was it in there?”

I shook my head. “The green dragon is that car. That’s the guy’s mom. I saw her picture in there.”

I pulled the guy’s keys from my pocket. There was one old Ford key on there. The woman was nearly in the apartment. I ran out of Glew’s car over to the Fairlane. I shoved the key in the trunk lock and turned. When the lid rose, the street light illuminated the plastic that encased the stash in the corner of the trunk. I grabbed it and then shut the lid and tossed the keys across the lot. When I reached Glew’s car, the woman raced down the steps. Glew made it to the exit but a string of five cars rolled by. The woman raced toward us. Only her eyes looked a hell of a lot scarier than her son’s did. “Damn you, Glew. Get moving.”

“And get hit?”

The woman beat her palms on the passenger window, yelling, “What did you do to my son? What kind of animals are you? I’ll get you! I will get you!”

The final car passed. Glew tore us on out of there. The lady yelled after us and pulled out her phone, trying to take down Glew’s license plate number. Glew said, “So they had green dragon take the stash to them. That’s actually pretty clever.”

“And incredibly wimpy. Getting your mama to take all the risk.”

Glew coughed. “Well, yeah. Man, look at it just lying there.”

I turned my eyes to the brick of weed between us. “I reckon Chipper’s going to be a happy man.”

Glew said, “Shit. Like we’re giving it back.”

I watched Glew. He peered at me out of the corner of his eye. “I can take my cut. Right?”

I grabbed the stash and held onto it. Glew said, “Ah geez, stud.”

We rode out to Chipper’s house. At midnight, his house looked like a hovel eaten up by black vegetation monsters. When we handed him the stash, his mouth dropped. I thought he might have been having some kind of spell. Then he jumped into the air over and over like he had an invisible pogo stick beneath those sandals. He bowed before us like we were gods. We tried to leave but he insisted on giving Glew a cut of the stash. While he separated the portion, Glew wouldn’t look at me. “Don’t say it.”

I said, “Uh-huh. How do you feel now? The job is the reward itself, Glew.”

“Well, geez, stud. We help a lot of folks. There’s no reason we can’t take a little something for ourselves.”

Then Chipper returned with Glew’s reward and insisted on giving me something. I turned him down on pot, a cool rug and a few old records but when he showed me his brand new weed eater, well, I gave in. Glew dropped me off and said, “Feels good to get a little reward. Right?”

I admired my new weed eater. “You know, it actually does.”

I enjoyed a good night’s rest. The next day, I woke up at the crack of noon and after breakfast, I took a look at the weeds protruding from the ground around my shop and smiled. “It’s about to be all over for you.”

I primed my new weed eater and massaged my shoulder for a moment. I gave it a crank. Then I gave it several more cranks but nothing happened. I sighed. “I knew it.”

Agitator Dog

Mrs. Emerson requested my handy man “expertise” one Monday afternoon. The agitator in her washing machine had gone out. So she called me up, hoping I could get to her right quick. I had a set of these things called “Agitator Dogs” lying around my shop. The “dogs” grip the teeth inside the washer agitator so that the garments move properly through the water during the agitation cycle. I arrived at three o’clock. She greeted me with a smile and apologized. “I’ve got a couple errands to run. Is that all right, young man?”

I nodded. “You go right on ahead. Um. Who’s out back?”

She waved a hand toward the backyard. “That’s my grandson Dale. Don’t pay him no mind. Him and his friend sit on the back porch and while away the afternoons. No good loafers.”

“All righty. See you soon.”

She drove her Lima bean-colored car away at twenty miles an hour at the most. A red Toyota Forerunner sat in the middle of the front yard. I walked through her kitchen to the laundry room. I peered through the window. Two teenage boys stood on the back porch. They took turns tossing rocks at the woods in the back while passing a silver flask between them. The friend called the scrawny kid in the red baseball cap Dale.

I unplugged the washer and removed the cap from the agitator. Then I worked the 7/16 bolt out with my socket wrench.

When I leaned back up, I looked through the window. A one-eyed beagle stood near the edge of the woods behind the house, barking at Dale and his friend. They giggled. I stepped to my right and looked closer at them. The friend filled a bowl with antifreeze while Dale called the old dog closer. I wiped my forehead. The beagle eased its way toward them. I slipped my wrench into my back pocket. Dale and the other boy knelt down. The beagle jogged to the back porch.

I whipped the back screen door open and marched onto the back porch and yelled, “Get out of here you danged mutt!”

I picked up a rock from their pile and tossed a handful toward the dog who scurried away. The friend flung the antifreeze out of the bowl. Dale stared at me.

I said, “A dog just like that mutt got a hold of my little sister one time. You can’t trust them.”

Dale and his friend looked at each other and giggled. I tossed a few more rocks and stomped off the porch toward the beagle who cowered and took off through the woods.

When I climbed back onto the porch, Dale said, “Did you get ’em on outta here?” in his toughest voice while his friend doubled over in silent laughter. I held a straight face. “You damn right I did. You boys be careful out here now. You never know what will crawl up.”

Dale said, “Hey!”

Then he got up in my face. His whiskey breath tainted my nostrils. He said, “You got it, partner.”

I headed back inside where I sent a text message to Glew, indicating that I needed him to come over to Mrs. Emerson’s house. Then I removed the agitator from the washer and pulled out the cam and took out the old agitator dogs. After inserting the new dogs, I replaced the cam and set the agitator back inside the washer. I took a look out back. The two boys wore wide grins while playing with their phones. So I started the washer for a test run and crept over to Mrs. Emerson’s pantry and poked around. After grabbing a bag of sugar, I took one more peek out back. They stared into those phones like zombies smacking their lips over a fresh brain.

I walked outside to the Forerunner and opened the gas tank and removed the cap. I slid my finger through the cover and poured in half the bag of sugar. Then I crumpled up the remaining contents and returned inside.

Dale stood beside the washer, staring at me. I held the sugar bag behind me. He said, “What you doing, partner?”

His friend stepped inside with the flask to his lips. After seeing me, he slipped it into his jean pocket and wiped his mouth. I looked back at Dale. “That mutt didn’t pop back up. Did he?”

Dale said, “He sure did. You want to come straighten him out?”

I walked toward the back door but Dale’s friend stepped into my path. Dale coughed. “What you got behind your back there?”

I tried to peer over the friend’s shoulder. Dale snatched the sugar bag from my hand and ducked into the center of the kitchen. His friend stayed in place, watching me with bloodshot eyes. I turned back to Dale. He flipped a pocket knife open. So I stepped away from his friend until I reached the dryer. Dale said, “What are you doing with Grandma’s sugar? Huh?”

The washer rumbled. My heart beat with each spin. I placed my hand on my hip with the wrench hanging out of my pocket. “That’s quite a knife you got there, Dale.”

Dale looked at his friend. Then he cut his eyes back toward me. “What were you doing with this sugar? Huh, sweet man?”

His friend chuckled and turned the flask back up to his lips. Dale pointed the knife’s tip at me. “Answer me, sweetie pie!”

I shrugged. “The fact is…”

Dale held the knife higher. “Yeah?”

I patted the washer. “Sugar can be a good test for agitation. I was going to start it up here and then pour in the sugar and watch it.”

His friend spewed whiskey onto the wall, followed by silent laughter. Dale tightened his lips. His friend cackled. Dale broke into a laugh as well. Then he closed the knife and walked over to me. “You know something…you are just the sweetest man. Stay sweet, cutie pie.”

They started out the back door. The front door eased open. I kept my hand near the wrench. Dale and his friend turned. A barrel-chested man stepped through, trailed by that one-eyed beagle. His salt-and-pepper beard covered his puffy jaws and his thick neck. He pointed at me but turned his eyes toward Dale. “Who the hell is this?”

Dale chuckled. “He’s just a sweet man. Grandma wanted him to fix the washer. How you doing, Art?”

Art stared at me. “I seen you pouring sugar into that Forerunner’s gas tank, you know.”

My throat tightened. Dale’s friend stepped toward me. “What?”

Dale blocked him with a frail arm. “Do what?” Dale looked at me. “Is that what you were doing, man?”

Dale brought his knife back out. Art kept staring at me. “You thought you was sly. Didn’t you, boy?”

Dale’s friend threw his cap on the floor. “Get him out back! Right now!”

Dale waved me toward the back door. Art pulled a pistol from his belt. He motioned me toward the back door. “Get on out there, boy. Go on.”

I held up my hands and followed Dale outside. His friend stood in the yard, waving me toward him. “Get your ass down here!”

I stopped. “This really isn’t necessary, fellows.”

The friend pointed to the ground. “Get down here! You’re going down! And then you’re sucking that sugar out of Dale’s gas tank!”

I looked at him. “You sure you want this?”

Art growled. “Get on down there. You owe him this.”

I chuckled. “I owe him a lot more than that.”

Art scratched his chin. “What does that mean?”

Dale said, “Ah, hell” and shoved me. Even with the whiskey in him, he didn’t get me off the porch. I stepped down into the yard.

Dale’s friend swung on me with a right hand that I saw coming from miles away. I sidestepped the shot and then stared at him. The friend threw a left which I dodged and then a right down low which I blocked. The beagle barked at us. I stepped this way and that with the boy throwing with everything he had. He grabbed my wrist but I stepped into him with my shoulder until he lost his balance and fell to the ground.

Dale jumped off the porch. “You stand there and take your beating like a man!”

Art smirked at me with a light glowing in his eyes. The friend stood and wiped his jeans. “That’s right. You did the deed. Now you got to pay.”

I said, “Speaking of deeds…Art, my good man. Why don’t you smell that black bowl over there?”

The friend’s eyes bulged. Dale wiped his mouth. Art said, “Do what? What for?”

I said, “Go on over and take a whiff.”

Dale walked over to the bowl and leaned down. Art intercepted though and eased him back. “What’s your rush, Dale?”

Dale looked back at his friend who placed his hands on his hips. Art sniffed the bowl. “Antifreeze?”

I pointed at his beagle. “That’s what these two fine young men were going to feed your dog there.”

Art grimaced at Dale. “Is that right?”

Dale’s friend charged at me. “Get him!”

I stepped to the side and kept my leg in place. The drunken fool tripped over it, bouncing his head off the ground. Dale started for me. Art grabbed him by his collar and shoved him into the back wall of the house, aiming his pistol at his jaw. “You was going to poison my dog, boy?”

Dale’s friend ran to the porch. “Please, mister. This guy’s lying. Let Dale go.”

Art dug the barrel into Dale’s cheek. Dale held his mouth open. A sob left his throat.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Someone knocked on the front door. I said, “I reckon we might want to see who’s there. Maybe another nosy neighbor called the law to us.”

Art leaned back and shoved Dale into a chair. Then he instructed the friend to sit on the porch. With the pistol trained on them, he said, “You. Go on up there and check it out. I’m studying up on what to do with these boys.”

I stepped onto the porch and wiped my boots off. I smiled at Dale and his friend who stared at me like two spoiled kids being shipped off to a military academy.

I answered the door. Glew tipped his Panama hat at me. “You rang, stud?”

I explained the situation to him. He rubbed his chin for a minute. I looked back at the screen door. No one watched us. Glew pointed into the air. “I’ve got it.”

We stepped onto the back porch where Art still held the pistol on the two boys. Before he could speak, I said, “This here is a friend of mine. We talked the situation over and we decided that there’s really only one solution to this problem.”

After explaining our idea to Art, the boys hung their heads. Art smiled and put his pistol into his belt. “I’d say that sounds just fine.”

I climbed into the Forerunner while Dale got into the driver’s seat. He placed the keys in the ignition. Then he placed his head into his hand. “Please, mister. This just ain’t right.”

“Aw, now. I think you know it is. It will cost you money and time and some memories. That’s what you were about to do to that poor pooch, too.”

Dale shook his head. “Listen. Let me pay you or something. I’ll pay you-”

I said, “No two ways about it, Dale. We pulled your asses out of the hot water. Art wanted to shoot you. You’re getting off easy.”

“But I worked for this ride. A whole summer. I worked every day.”

I shrugged. “That’s how it goes. Now start the engine.”

Dale shook his head. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
I said, “Let’s go.”

He shook his head and leaned on the steering wheel. “Please. You do it. Huh?”

“No. You.”

Glew honked his horn. Dale’s friend sat in the passenger side of his car. Art watched from his porch with a fresh wad of chewing tobacco in his jaw. Glew blew the horn again.

Dale started the engine. Several sobs later, he drove on through Mrs. Emerson’s yard out onto the road. I said, “There’s no telling when it will happen. You’ll go to start it and then it’ll just sieze up on you. Then you’ll take it to the shop and they’ll tell you that someone got you. Of course, had that poor dog drank that antifreeze, it wouldn’t have hit him right away either. It would probably take days or even a week of the poor creature howling from the stomach pains. This is how it goes, Dale. But you know, when all’s said and done, your grandma won’t know about this. Your parents won’t know the real truth of it. You’ll just be a victim. Oh sure. You might be out a car for a while but you’ll get another one. So, dry your pathetic tears. And I mean, dry them up now.”

Dale wiped his face a number of times before we reached his house. He climbed out of the jeep and stumbled into his house, followed by his friend who looked back at us once and shook his head before disappearing inside. Glew drove me back, mostly in silence. I explained to Mrs. Emerson that the washer should be good as new. She paid me fifty dollars.

The last I heard, old Dale caught the bus to school which some would find embarrassing, considering he was a senior. Mrs. Emerson told me he stopped visiting her which didn’t appear to bother her. The boy may wind up in jail or he might fly right but that old beagle hound stays close to Art’s house nowadays. I make it a point to stop by once a week and drop him off a bag of doggy treats. I sit on the porch with them. Art chews his tobacco. I chew my beef jerky and the old beagle chews his treats. And we all think about who else we can agitate.

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The Green Storm

Shawn Tanner showed up to the party with his green hat on and without question, some illegal substances flooding his veins. After a year in the county lock-up, one could feel for the guy. After digging up how he put his girlfriend in the hospital for three weeks before going in, sympathy becomes a bit more difficult. Glew installed motion cameras in each of the four bedrooms of the party house. Shawn had to cut loose like an Irishman. After all, Saint Patrick’s Day brings that out in people. Everyone could be Irish for one night.

Glew sent me a text message that indicated Shawn chose to take his pleasure in the back bedroom upstairs. I already had the ladder set up leading to the back window. Call it the luck of the Irish. I climbed my way to the window and slid it open.

Between the punk rock music and the disco ball, Shawn didn’t notice me. He salivated over the girl who lay on the bed. His friend kept the door cracked, watching the hallway. His other friend undressed her. The girl slept with her head turned to one side and her arms spread out. Green ribbons held her wrists in place. The doorman smiled at Shawn but Shawn kept his eyes on the girl and his hand down his pants. The other friend slid the last of her clothes off and then bound her ankles to the other bed posts. I drew a breath, leaned back and then dove into the bedroom.

When I rolled to a standing position, the friend on the bed turned around in slow motion as if he saw a friendly ghost who he could engage in a deep conversation about life and death. I nailed him on the jaw with a right hand. He dropped to the floor in a heap.

The doorman lunged at me. I ducked his right handed shot and then drilled his gut with a left uppercut. He stumbled but grabbed onto me. So I tossed him into the wall. Shawn slipped out of the room like a man on parole leaving a crack den. The doorman jumped into me but I made light steps backward until he fell to his knees where I drilled him with a right hand to the chin. I shoved him into the closet. After pushing a recliner against the closet door, I bolted out of the room.

Glew held onto Shawn’s ankle who kicked at him. A trickle of blood oozed at Glew’s right nostril. He’d tried to take him down himself, poor guy. I ran toward them. Shawn peered back at me and then kicked Glew’s hand away and ran downstairs into a crowd of green hats. His own hat fell off, revealing his shaved head. I knelt beside Glew. “You all right?”

He leaned up and dabbed at his nose. “I’ll make it…I mean, yeah…I’ll make it, stud…”

“The girl’s tied up in there. Go set her free.”

I helped him to his feet. He patted my shoulder. “You got it.”

I ran downstairs. Shawn caught sight of me and bolted through the patio door. I followed him out there until we got to the center of the backyard. Shawn stopped and turned toward me. I stopped. He shouted, “Hey, guys! Hey, guys! Who wants to see a fight!?!”

A sea of green hats and clover shirts turned toward me. A few guys yelled, “Yeah!!”

Shawn cupped his hands over his mouth. “Who wants to see me fight this guy?”

Everyone cheered and raised their green solo cups into the air. I shook my head. Shawn said, “What? You backing down?”

I shrugged and stepped toward him with a pawing jab. Shawn circled me with leopard speed. When I turned, he caught me with a quick right. I threw a wild right in return but missed. I stepped toward him, tasting my own blood. Shawn ventured a left up high. I swung a right hand over the top and caught him but he fired back with his own straight right hand.

Bop!

The blow caught me in my eye. I reached out for his arms but he kicked my shin and then pivoted and kicked my calf. I stumbled. He dug a right uppercut into my gut. I grabbed his arm but he wrestled free of my grip. I shot a few jabs and then another right hand. Shawn backed his way out of range.

The beer-fueled crowd roared at us. One fellow there yelled for Shawn to kick my rear end. A heavy red beard protruded from his face. Glew pointed him out to me earlier. This fellow had one sister- the girl upstairs.

Shawn caught me with a quick jab. I retaliated with a right cross. He stumbled. So I drove a left hook into his gut. He doubled over. I kneed him in the face. Shawn fell back against the crowd. I stalked him but a few fellows got in between us. The red-bearded fellow pointed at me. “You stand your ass back. Who are you anyway?”

I stepped back. Glew emerged from the living room with the now clothed girl in his arms. He laid her in a lawn chair. Then he produced his phone from his pocket. He headed over to the crowd of cheering drinkers.

Shawn bolted toward me. I turned but he caught me in the gut.

Thunk!

We hit the ground. He scrambled on top of me and drove a right hand down, but I dodged it. He grabbed my wrists with the amphetamines pumping through him. I struggled back until I yelled into the night. Shawn let my wrists go and punched down at me with both fists. I blocked most of them with my hands but the flurry got faster. His knuckles connected with my temple and my forehead and then my jaw. I parried his shots but they got closer and closer. This pumped up fool just wouldn’t stop throwing. His heart would have to explode before he’d stop. My hands and forearms ached. I tasted my blood again.

Thump!

Jeans and boots surrounded me. I kept my hands up in front of my face. The group smothered me, stepping all around me. I tried to inhale. Someone stepped on my toe. Another tripped over me, spilling beer on my shirt. Another icy cold gush covered my face. A hand grabbed my wrist and yanked me through the crowd.

Glew dragged me over by the patio. I let my hands down. He patted my shoulder. I shook my head. The whole crowd kicked and struck poor old Shawn right there. He didn’t have enough amphetamines in him to fight them all. I’ve seen a pack of hyenas with less brutality. Glew’s camera feed went straight to his phone. So he had shown the brother what Shawn intended to do to his sister. Glew lit a cigar. “Maybe we should step in.”

I spat blood onto the patio. “Maybe we shouldn’t.”

Glew helped me to my feet. I followed him onto the patio where I patted the girl’s cheek. She made a slight groan, followed by a concentrated purse of her lips. She’d be searching her memory bank later on. She’d never know for sure. That would be the worst part of it. I can rest easy though, knowing that we kept her safe.

When we made it out of the house, the crowd all stormed upstairs. I reckon Shawn’s friends would be dealt with as well. “Maybe we should recruit a few of those fellows. Lighten our load.”

Glew puffed his cigar. “The funny thing is that they’ll all forget about us. They’ll be heroes in their own minds. Still, though, it’s pretty sweet.”

Shawn crawled his way through the fence out back to the front yard. Blood streaked from his eye. Mud covered his head along with beer I’m sure. He checked behind him once but then he crawled on ahead. Glew popped his trunk open. I wrapped Shawn’s mouth and wrists with duct tape.

The next day, the girl must have wondered a lot about what happened to her but she had her brother and friends who could let her know that a few strangers kept her safe. Shawn, on the other hand, woke up naked and tied to his own bed with his blood smeared on the sheets and a few sex toys lying nearby. I can’t be sure what he thought at the site of all that. But I do know that he left town the same day. Now I’ll drink a green beer to that on any day of the year.