Crook Takes Pawn Part 19

Greg phoned Ben the following day. They chatted amiably enough. Greg had a proposal for selling some of Ben's computers at the pawn shop. They agreed to a lunch tomorrow to go over the fine details. Then Greg revealed the real reason for his call.
"I spoke to Donny," Greg said through his tiny flip phone,"He was looking for work, and I told him I had spoken to you."
There is a pause on Ben's end. Greg continues despite Ben's hesitance.
"Hell, just last night, he fixed my laptop that was on the fritz." Greg states emphatically,"He seems to really know his stuff."
Ben clears his throat over their somewhat fuzzy connection. Greg had been meaning to upgrade his phone.
"Listen Greg" Ben says, through a burst of static,"I know Donny has the proper knowledge. I trained him myself. I know Donny is a hard worker, and I'd like to hire him"
Greg braces for the "but" that is surely coming.
"But" Ben relays sadly,"he was involved in that car accident. He was laid up for a while, which wasn't an issue. I told him he always had a job waiting for him when he returned."
Greg eased back into his desk chair, anticipating a dismal story.
"when Donny came back," Ben says forlornly, "He seemed like a different person. He was real agitated, and the littlest things seemed to set him off. He left early that first day, bursting out the door. The next day he was a no-call no show. And the day after that, then the next day. Finally, after a week absence, Donny came back."
Greg was piecing it all together now. Donny must have had gone on an Oxy drug binge after leaving the hospital. When his supply ran out, his frenzied mind must've decided to go back to work to earn more cash for his habit.
"I've never seen him act like that before," Ben confides,"He was rummaging through his desk, talking to himself, acting really weird. He wouldn't talk to anyone, or say where he'd been. I wanted to talk to him privately, so I went into his office and closed the door. He didn't want to address where he had spent the last week. I asked him what was wrong, maybe a dozen different ways, but he would have none of it."
 Greg was unsettled. The devastation of drug addiction was no longer a vague concept. Donny put a name and face to the infirmity.
"He was quiet, like he always was" Ben says, reflecting on that day,"He came back to work to find a jar of coins he had saved up whenever he broke a dollar and got change back."
Greg sighed deeply. Donny always acted true to form. He never was violent, or confrontational. He was like a nervous mouse, twitchy and tiny.
"Donny took his company computer with him too." Ben says,"I asked him not to, but he said his own money bought it. You see Greg, we had this employee buy-up incentive. My company would provide him a top of the line model, at wholesale price, without any retail markup."
Greg nods conceiving of this brilliant concept. Perhaps he could persuade Greg into a mutually beneficial arrangment.
"Donny took the computer and was gone." Ben says flatly,"I didn't hear a single word from him until about 6 months later, and it was obvious he was living on the street. I've seen him off and on for the last 5 years. It's a small world, you know? And everyone eats at the same time, lunch or dinner. And it's simply a matter of being there at the right time. I run into Donny often now."
There was silence over the phone, except for the hiss of the poor connection on Greg's end.
 Ben said,"he left me no choice. i felt awful about it, but I had to terminate his job position. I also denied his unemployment, but I don't even think he applied for it. There wasn't any contest hearing over the phone or anything like that. Maybe he felt guilty."
Greg's hopes are all shot to shit. It appears Greg's good intentions were flawed due to information he was not privy to. Since he's come this far, Greg might as well clue Ben in as to what was Donny's motives were. But would that be overstepping his boundaries?
"Did Donny ever tell you why he acted the way he did?" Greg asks warily.
"I tried to pry it out of him on occasion," Ben says,"But he refused to budge, and never told me anything."
    Greg debates how much of the truth he should disclose. With a deep breath, Greg unravels the mystery of Donny's odd actions and behavior. He reveals all: the drugs, the homelessness, the withdrawal, everything. Greg also puts strong emphasis on Donny's current sobriety, and willingness to change. Greg said he would vouch for Donny, which actually sounded foolish. Ben obviously knew Donny much better than Greg did.
Ben mused over everything he was told. Greg could hear Ben's hums of contemplation over the tiny headset of the phone.
"I have to tell you," Ben said in a tired voice,"I've offered Donny his job back numerous times, but he's always turned down my offers."
Greg is confounded to hear this.
"What?!?!" Greg says in disbelief,"how can he turn down money? That could be his ticket to a place to live, and food, maybe even a car"
"I don't understand it either," Ben says, sharing in Greg's frustration,"But I finally understand that old hokey saying: 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.'
I can only offer to help, I can't force Donny to work for me."
Ben clears his throat very audibly. It appears as though Ben is getting choked up by this conversation. It is unpleasant, but both men want what is best for Donny, who is a good man.
Greg would not invest anything that he didn't think would pan out. Greg really couldn't afford to, but he had tried to help Donny back on his feet because it seemed Donny could develop.  There was something about Donny that made you think there was a way out for the kid. Donny could work hard, and he could be driven. Greg was determined to give the poor sonova bitch every opportunity he could get within reach.
"But I take it as a good sign when I see him at the fast food joints," Ben says decisively,"It means he's spending money on eating, and not on dope."
Greg grunts his agreement into the phone. It's fascinating to study the pathology of a human being. Was Greg becoming an armchair psychologist?
"I understand you've been helping him some," Ben says, his voice wavering through a fresh wave of interference,"I appreciate you doing that, manThat's why I bought that TV from you."
"How is that TV by the way?" Greg asks politely.
Greg checks the signal bars on his phone. As he leans forward, the signal improves somewhat. There were dead zones inside his store, and Greg sometimes felt he was playing a game of Hot or Cold, walking around for reception.
Greg did so as he spoke to Ben. Greg didn't want to lose this call. He was enthralled by what he was hearing. Everything was clicking. Greg leaned this way and that, until the signal was stronger.
"Are you still there?" Ben asked, confused.
"Yeah, it's my shitty reception." Greg confesses,"I was asking about that TV."
"Oh, it's good" Ben says contentedly,"I hook my office computer to it, so I can surf the internet on a big screen. It's awesome!!"
Greg chuckles, amused by Ben's enthusiasm.
"Yup, I'm a nerd" Ben says in a funny self-depricating way,"But listen, me and my wife are about to eat, so we should meet up tomorrow, to talk like we said, ok?"
"Fantastic," Greg says enthusiastically,"I look forward to it."
The two men exchange their goodbyes and hang up.
It is the end of the day for Greg. It was a busy day for sales, with Valentines Day coming up. His sparse showroom needed to be addressed tomorrow. He would begin sorting through that mountain of boxes in back. It was priority number one, and he might even be willing to close the shop all day tomorrow in order to complete this task. Or, perhaps he could hire a certain person who carried a strong work ethic. A person down on their luck, someone who was not a big Bears fan.
    The thought of Donny conjures up the image of the weed roach he had saved from their van trip. Right on. Greg could partake in a little bit of herb, after a hard day of wheeling and dealing. Greg eagerly singed the roach, with a pair of alligator clips taken from his dizzying array of knick knacks, and power tools.
    It was a lil one, but Greg had rolled a fatty when he smoked with Donny. The diameter of the roach was wide, and Greg got sufficiently buzzed. The effect was especially potent when considering Greg hadn't smoked much at all these past few days. Drugs weren't needed when one had a burgeoning business to attend to. Jeez, Greg hadn't even popped a single Oxy for numerous days.
    The slack-jawed grin is quickly stricken from Greg's face. A sobering thought just surfaced. Oh no
    Greg snaps up from his chair with a start. He vaults up the stairs. The wooden staircase groans, as if to complain about it's discomfort. Greg had dutifully checked his money and possessions when Donny stayed the night. But there was one thing he neglected to inventory.
Please God, noNoGreg jerks open the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet. He sees his own worried reflection in the glass, then he's staring at several bottles of medication and grooming tools. His eyes cascade down the rows of shelves. Where is it?!?! ThereGlaring orange, like his own thoughts throwing out colors of warning.
    Greg had half a bottle of Oxy left when last he took a dose. The heavy feeling in his gut is confirmed by the weight of the bottle. Greg shakes the container, which feels featherlight in his hand. A thin rattle emanates from the medicine canister. Greg twists the tiny white cap atop the cylinder of pseudo opiate, pharmaceutical grade, legalized death.
There were only three pills within...

Uploaded 01/12/2012
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