crook takes pawn part 39

And then, they were finished. Time had zoomed right out the window. 6 hours had elapsed like seconds.  Gus didn't take any further breaks. He worked like a madman, taking his fury out on the inanimate carpet. Gus had on an odd pair of green sunglasses he drudged up from his pocket. The shades were battered, with a piece of black electrical tape holding one bow together. Gus had been crying on their ride back. Donny had moved to the front as Gus opted to sit in back.  Greg could overhear the sobs from the front seat. At first he thought Gus was laughing. It is strange how joy and hurt are so closely related to each other. Greg mistook his shaking body for the convulsions of giggles. Greg had turned to be let in on the joke when he saw the teardrop slide down Gus' cheek. Gus threw on the shades to mask his tears. Greg turned his attention back towards the road, away from the heartbroken, aged man. Gus was the elder in the car, yet he had acted like a child with a tantrum today. What was he thinking? Perhaps he craved a confrontation, something to end his struggles, either in jail, or by a dirt nap. Again, Jessie's last endeavors were used for comparison.
    Greg didn't know what to say, figured the best thing to speak would be nothing at all. Just let the man get through the day, they would settle up and Greg doubted if he would hire Gus for another job. There was too much drama at that store. It was beyond discomfort, it was openly threatening.
    Greg did not crave violence or conflict. Jessie's shooting had been a spiked anomaly in an otherwise peaceful existence. Gus seemed to be unstable. Greg could sympathize with the stressors that push men to their breaking point, but Gus was already at rock bottom. Every piece of discord quickly added up to a melody of destruction for poor ol' Gus. Maybe Rebecca was right. Maybe Greg should climb a rung of the social ladder and distance himself from these wretched people.
    Donny stopped asking questions about the job as Gus took over the final steps. With uncanny precision, Gus marked and cut the carpet precisely as it needed to be to account for gaps where the shelves were placed. Muscle memory took over for Gus, who obviously had a lot on his mind at that moment.
    The delivery men were cordial, but did not stay long to chat. Evidently, word passed quickly in the store and they were aware of the earlier mess. One of the drivers did stop to say a few kind words to Gus. He asked Gus to take care of himself, to not be afraid to ask for help. He also relayed the fact that Jerry the owner had not thrown away the $50 bill. Jerry had grasped it between his two fingers, like it was a dead fish, and carried it to the bathroom at arms length, where he had rinsed it in the sink. This pried a smile loose from Gus, but it quickly died as the heavy front to the Pawn and payday clanged shut.
    Gus really was giving the Pawn and Payday the royal treatment. Greg had to admit, the floor looked amazing. Not only was it immaculate and sharp-looking, the old carpet proved to have had a noxious smell to it. As Gus had peeled away the previous carpet initially, Greg had caught whiff of decades worth of dirt, mildew and what appeared to be patches of mold. Gus had given the floor a quick washing with a mop provided by Greg. The entire building had a different aroma now. 
    Greg went into his office, cracked the safe and counted out $250. Greg realized Gus had made no estimates about charges for his service, so henceforth he would play it by ear, let Gus decide how much his work is worth.
    "Well, King," Greg starts, "I think you did a good job. This place looks a hundred times better. How much do I owe ya?"
    Gus hurriedly spat out a figure. "Just give me $200 and we'll call it even."
Greg nodded. Last evening, Greg had gotten 3 different estimates for the job, and the lowest amount quoted was $300. Greg hands him the entire $250.
    "Don't sell yourself too short there, King," Greg says with a pitying grin. Gus was too busy counting out the dough to notice the look. Greg hadn't switched them in for larger bills. It was mostly twenties and fives. Gus math proved accurate, and he held up the extra dollars: two Andrew Jacksons and a Hamilton.
    "This is $250." Gus corrects Greg, offering back the money.
Greg waves it off with his hand.
"Like I said, King," Greg smirks, "Don't sell yourself short. Keep the money."
Gus perks up to his old self. The change is instantaneous. He shakes his head in wonder.
"Donny was right about you," Gus says pleasantly, "You are a good man. A fucking hero, if you ask me. Savin' kids, and stuff. Thank you, Greg."
"Donny, let's just say that half of your debt is paid off," Greg says undramatically. Donny raises his eyebrows and shrugs. Who is he to argue?
    Gus does not pry into their financial arrangement, and that is fortunate. All men seem to be on an even keel this evening, thanks to Greg. Gus can rest easy, with a wad of money in his wallet. And Donny will sleep tonight under 4 walls and a roofAnd a TVAnd a mini dorm fridge, and lots of other things that Donny talked excitedly about.
    As for Greg, he had to take these gentlemen back to where they belonged, in order to get ready to go out with Rebecca. They piled into Greg's car, with Gus sipping from his drink cup he saved from earlier. Like Greg, Gus had loaded up on the free refills before he left. It was the cheap bastard complex that they both shared. Greg could sense the sudden drop in Gus' mood again as they approached the rust bucket Blazer.
"Home sweet home," Gus mutters without much conviction. Gus waves goodbye and exits the Toyota. Donny stares after Gus. the old man leans against the roof of the blazer. Most men Gus' age were basking in retirement, being watched after by their loved ones, and many grandkids. This was not so for Gus. He played the dignified part, but it was all a sham. Gus was in a bad way. He was one bad accident, or robbery away from losing what little he had scrapped together. Donny wondered if the poor guy even had a bank account.
"Just drop me off here, Greg," Donny says absently. As Greg rolls to a stop, Donny gets out and waves Greg off. Greg watches in the rearview as he pulls away. Donny walks up to Gus and puts an arm around his shoulder. Greg is paused at the red light watching as Donny offers Gus a smoke. Both men light up, and then the light turns green.

Part 40:
Uploaded 03/10/2012
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