Crook Takes Pawn Part 49

Donny had a phone inside his YMCA apartment Greg had entered the number in his contacts during a break in the carpet expedition. Greg called it when he returned from lunch. The phone rang for what seemed like forever. Greg is about to hang up when the receiver is picked up.
"Hello?" A strange voice answers. It is not Donny, but Greg recognizes the talker.
"Gus?" Greg asks, more than a little confused, "IsIs Donny there?"
"Yeah, he's in the bathroom right now," Gus explains, clearing his throat, "How are you doin' Greg?"
    "UhOk. I just got back from lunch with Rebecca."
"Oh..Who's Rebecca?" Gus asks.
    Greg rolls his eyes. What was going on here? Greg didn't want to get into details with someone he didn't even expect to talk to. Through the phone, Greg hears Donnie's apartment door shut. A scuttling sound as the plastic phone is handed over.
"Hello? Greg?" Donny asks.
"Donny? What the hell is going on?"
"Nothing. Gus stayed with me last night. he drove me over in his blazer and parked it in the lot here."
"So, is he living with you now?"
"I dunno. We haven't really talked about it. I just couldn't stand letting the Carpet King sleep in a fucking truck."
"Is that allowed?" Greg asks awkwardly, "I mean, don't you have an agreement that--"
"Don't worry about it, Greg," Donny interrupts, "What's up now? Did you need something?"
    Greg's voice catches a bit. He isn't used to being dismissed by Donny.
"I uh, needed some more help rearranging my store. I want to open Monday because I had the store closed for the repairs."
"Really?" Donny says with an audible sigh, "You wanted to do that tonight? Can't we do it tomorrow? I'm still sore from yesterday's job."
    Greg marvels at Donny's lack of motivation. What happened to Donny's desire to repay Greg?
"No, I have plans tomorrow," Greg says, feeling suddenly important that he had a social obligation.
"Well, I guess I can help you, maybe," Donny says unenthusiastically, "what time did you want me to come over?"
    There is a muffled exchange of words on Donny's end. The receiver scrapes as Gus gets on.
"Greg? We'll be there in a few minutes, okay? Donny apparently is feeling kinda lazy right now."
    Greg smiles and thanks Gus for his predetermination. They hang up.
    Donny seemed irritable. He was really dragging ass, while Gus worked diligently. the Carpet King's steadfast labor spelled a quick resolution to Greg's rearrangement needs. All the merchandise (what was left after all the sales, anyway) was put back where it belonged. A few more minutes of tidying up, and the place looked spotless.
    In a few hours time, Greg had carefully plotted out precisely where to put his merchandise. It wasn't exactly Feng Shui layout design, but Greg had purpose to where he stacked his goods. The best items, like the video games and DVD players, he put near the far end of the store, away from the entrance. He wanted people to have to walk through the entire length of the place in order to get to the ever-popular electronics. This way, the patron could peruse the other fine aspects of Greg's extensive junk catalog. Also, by keeping the electronics away from the entrance, it might deter some theft.
    It was always terrible to realize something might have been stolen. Greg had consulted his archaic paper chart of inventory, and discovered several items were not among the shelves. It wasn't like losing something in your home. You can usually find an errant set of keys, or whatever if given enough time to search your pad. But if someone kifes an article from his store, it's gone forever, with whatever profit margin slipping out the door.
    Greg felt authoritative as he glanced around his neat and tidy business. It had never looked so magnificent to him in all the time he'd been there. He was a king among pawns.
    "Very nice" Greg says happily, nodding his head in contentment.
"Whatever," Donny mumbles. Greg has had enough of his bitchiness.
"Donny? Can I have a word with you?" Greg asks with agitation.
Donny follows Greg with trepidation into the emptied back room.
"You got something to say to me, huh?" Greg asks, clearly upset, "Are you mad? What's the deal?"
    Donny angrily jams his hands into the pockets of the jeans Ben gave him. Donny rocks back and forth on his heels, still mumbling.
"So what is it?" greg asks again.
"Gus needs a place to stay," Donny says randomly, "The fucking guy has nothing. I just want to help him out. It doesn't involve you at all, so its not your concern, okay?"
Greg tips his head back and gives Donny a funny look.
"Really?" Greg says with skepticism, "That's what has your panties in a bunch? I was only pointing out the fact that if you have an unauthorized person staying with you, you both might get your asses thrown out. Did that ever occur to you?"
    "It's just temporary, for the time being," donny dismisses, "Don't worry, I've got it figured out. There's always empty parking at the YMCA. I'm allowed one parking spot per unit. So, Gus will just park his blazer there and no one will say anything. Most of these jokers staying at the Y don't have a ride. They take the bus. If there's an empty spot, might as well use it."
    "Look Donny, I'm glad you're trying to help Gus. I'm not against helping the guy, you gotta believe that. I just know the way the city and organizations run. I've got a bad feeling about this. It might not turn out right."
    Donny shakes his head. "I've gotta try, Greg."
    "Couldn't you just have him apply for an apartment through the Y, like you did?" Greg asks.
    "There's a long back-log for people waiting," Donny counters, "Ben knew someone within the YMCA administration, and they helped speed up my application. I just filled out some forms and stuff from the Methadone clinic that proved I was a former addict, and that I'm getting help. That moved things right along."
    "I think it's a slippery slope," Greg says, "I'd say it was alright, but I'm not the one running things. The office staff are always particular. Especially if you're staying there for free."
    Donny shoots him an angry look. His eyes were shrunken to pinpoints, a side effect of the methadone. It was somewhat unnerving to see Donny agitated, with the full spectrum of his eyes to glare their displeasure.
    "When I was working, I paid my taxes" Donny defends, "I never collected any benefits when I was sleeping on park benches. I'm collecting now, so what?"
    "I'm not ragging on you about free room and board, dude," Greg says, "I'm actually afraid you're gonna lose it, if you don't play by their rules. That's all."
    "I'm not kicken Gus out."  Donnie says sternly, "that's the end of it."
Greg shrugs and rolls his eyes, turning to head for the floor room.
"You're not getting what I'm trying to say, Donny," Greg says, as he rejoins Gus.
    Gus eyes Greg warily. The walls of the Pawn and Payday are paperthin.
"Everything cool?" Gus asks slowly.
"It's fine, King." Greg says, "How much do I owe you for the work you've done?"
"You don't owe me anything, sir," Gus says formerly, "But you don't have to worry about me and Donny. You don't have to tell the YMCA anything, do ya?"
    Greg is uncomfortable yet again around Gus. The old man is practically pleading. Pleading not to have a warm bed and running water, and a sink taken away from him. My God, Greg thinks, what has this country become? When the meek were not even content to starve, must they also suffer and vex themselves to such a horrible degree???
    "No," Greg negates, "You've got it wrong, King. I'm not trying to fuck you over. I'm just voicing my concern about things. Nothing more, King."
    Greg wants to pay Gus, but the old man will not accept it. Greg takes them out for dinner instead. He buys them all subs, instead of the heart-clogging goodness of the drive through. They sit and chat, like old friends, munching on chips and sipping their sodas. Greg wished them no ill will, and the two men sense that. As Greg drops them off at the Y, Gus compliments the car once again, and Greg is reminded his transportation will take a drastic downgrade come monday.
    It's just as well. Like Rebecca, Greg needed to ground himself, and getting the Lebaron back as his primary mode of travel would surely humble him.
    As Greg pulls away in the throaty roar of the foreign car, he is reminded of the cinderella story. Greg's carriage was about to revert to true type. The ball was over and it was back to the slave drive of the American economy. Greg tossed this thought off. Fairy tales were for chicks.

Uploaded 03/30/2012
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