Crook Takes Pawn, Part 53

Greg had 2 missed voicemails. He always turned his phone to silent when he was at work now. He used to have a landline for the company number, but he had it shut off out of financial necessity. Donny had called from his apartment phone earlier in the day, then a few hours later, just before Greg closed his doors.
    "Greg? This is Donny. Call me ASAP. Bye." the message revealed. Next message: "This is Donny again. Please call me back soon, it's really important."
    Greg did just that. Donny picked put the phone before the first ring had a chance to die off.
"Greg?" Donny asks, out of breath
"Yeah, it's me," Greg responds, "What's going on now?"
"Can you swing by the Y?" Donny asks.
"What? Why?" Greg asks, perturbed, "I've had a really long day, just tell me what's happening already."
    "Gus got his blazer towed away." Donny says meekly. Greg emits a long, drawn-out groan.
    "I hate to say I told you so, Donny," Greg says, not finishing the rest of the line. Donny clears his throat loudly. Greg thinks he sounds kinda jumpy and stressed.
    "The administration towed it," Donny says, "They're charging a $100 fee to get it out."
    "Ok." Greg says. He already knows what Donny will ask.
"CanCan you lend us the money to get it out?"
"but, Greg"
"I tried to warn you, Donny. You didn't want to listen."
"I can work off the money."
"You still owe me from the last time you ripped me off, Donny. Besides, I just paid Gus, why can't he use that money?"
"C'mon, Greg."
"I ask again, why can't Gus pay it?"
"We spent all our money on food. Gus offered to buy groceries for my place."
"$250 worth? I find that hard to believe."
"He's got some money left, Greg, but it's all he has. He needs something to live off of."
"Why don't you ask Ben?" Greg ask
"I already did. He said no."
"This is a pile of bullshit, Donny. You're just pissing me off, now."
"Greg, please--"
"Goodbye, Donny"
    Greg hits the end button on his cell and snaps the flip phone shut angrily. He did not create this scenario, he had warned against it actually. Greg's phone vibrates, startling him. It is Donny again. Greg curses to himself. He answers the phone.
"Listen, Donny--"
"It's Gus," the carpet kings says, to Greg's puzzlement, "Greg, I wanted toListen, I know you think pretty low of both me and Donny right now. I can't say that I blame ya. But that truck is all I got in the world. Donny forgot to tell you, but my wallet is in the glovebox. I would pay it myself, but the money is in the wallet, and the wallet is in the blazer."
    It occurred to Greg that Gus might be lying.
"My tools are in there," Gus appeals, "and I need that vehicle to survive, maybe even get work."
    "So, now I'm the asshole because I don't want to spend my hard-earned money to help out a couple of losers." Greg spits irately.
    The phone scrapes against something, piercing Greg's ear with loud noise. Greg can make out the anguished cry of Gus, and a door slamming. Greg thinks back to that day, when Gus had cried behind those cracked sunglasses. Greg's stomach churns with discomfort.
"Gus? Wait!!" Donny  calls after him. Another jarring sound as Donny picks up the phone.
"Greg? Can you hold on a second?"
"No, Donny, I--" Greg begins, but Donny is already away from the phone. At least Donny had the decency to at least put the headset on the table, so it wouldn't rattle against anything. Greg would like nothing more than to hang up, but a memory stops him. He recalled that day, when Donny had retrieved those polaroids from the grasp of the wind. Greg then relived the discovery of the stolen pills. Greg's conscience whipped back and forth between pity and frustration. Donny was a shady figure. Everytime Greg seemed to regain the lost footing of their friendship, Donny did something else to fuck it up. $100 was a lot of money to Greg still.
    At times of deep difficulty, a person's character comes forth. Greg was a good-hearted man. He strove to help others. He looked for ways to steer the outcome so that all parties could benefit. As Donny raced after Gus, Greg formulated a way for Donny to make amends. The fatman could really think on his feet.
    Greg could hear their voices rising as they approached the apartment door. Greg heard snippets of their talking.
"fuck this life, I'm sick of it," Gus
"Don't give up, dude," Donny
"All the hurting, and shit" Gus
"C'mon, we'll find a way" Donny
"We shouldn't be asking him, Donny"
    Donny comes back on the line.
    The line hums  continuously over the dead air. Donny seems to be at a loss of words. Greg hears the snort and cough of Gus, who has almost certainly been sobbing.
"Greg, I--"
"Shut up and listen Donny." Greg says in a barely controlled voice, "I'll drive by and pick you two up. I'll do this for you, but I need you to do something for me in exchangeGot it?"
"Anything," Donny says, "I'll do anything, bro. Thank you so much, man. Really."
    Greg hangs up.
    The two disheveled men meet Greg at the front of the Y. Greg still has his Toyota, but the shop has already called, notifying him that the Lebaron was fixed. After Greg helped bail out these two bafoons, he would return the loaner car. Today was shaping up to be a real drag.
    Neither Donny nor Gus said much of anything, besides directions of how to get to the impound yard. Greg was upset. His every gesture revealed his annoyance, even the way he angrily snapped the turning signal this way and that in time with his turns. They arrived at the towyard, a dilapidated tin building surrounded on three sides by fences and razor wire. At the rear of that building, a vast parking lot of cars stretched quite a distance. A neighboring brick warehouse closed off the back of the lot. Greg thrust the car into park and dug out his wallet. Five battered $20 bills were placed into Donny's hand. Donny sheepishly exited the vehicle and made his way up to the tin office. Gus and Greg were left in the car. After an especially troublesome silence, Gus spoke up.
"thank you for doing this Greg. And I'm so sorry."
    Neither spoke to each other following that. Donny came back out, while the owner of the lot headed to the rear, where the cars were stashed. Donny handed Greg back $2 and 25 cents change. The amount was almost an insult to Greg.
    Gus, Greg and Donny all walked to Gus' car. Greg angrily kicked a stray rock in his path repeatedly. It clattered end over end, coming to rest until Greg would step up and kick it again. Donny signed some forms and then Gus had his transportation back.
    The first thing Gus did was to snag his wallet from within. Pulling open billfold, Gus yanked out a wad of money and held it out to Greg.
"Here," Gus offers.
"Don't, Gus" Greg says briskly.
"It's only $80, but I can get you the rest."
"I said no, goddammit!!" Greg screams harshly. His voice echoes around the mute cars, bouncing off the brick wall and doubling up his raging tone. The owner tips a glance backward as he continues towards his office. Gus jumps twitchingly. Gus' hands tremble as he returns the money to his wallet. With downcast eyes, Gus hops back into his crappy conveyance. Donny walks up and pats Greg on the shoulder in a brotherly way.
"Thanks so much, Greg. You--"
"Don't fucking touch me," Greg says, gesticulating by throwing off Donny's hand. Donny also finds it hard to make eye-contact.
    "Consider this your last get-out-of-jail free card," Greg says tempestuously, "You're gonna show up at the shop at 9am tomorrow. Gus is gonna drop you of, and pick you up. I'm through given' rides. You're gonna help, no if's ands, or buts about it. Ya got me???"
"I gotcha." Donny affirms.
"Good. Now get the fuck outta here." Greg says savagely.
    Greg peels out in the Toyota, tires screeching like a bat outta hell. The engine snarls, as if agreeing with Greg's animosity. He raced all the way over to the Speedy Motors, the shop where his dubious car awaited. Had a cop clocked him, the radar surely would have justified a ticket. But Greg arrived without a violation, and the transfer of vehicles was complete. He was now officially an underprivileged man again.
    Rebecca texted him, asking him to hang out. He jammed the buttons, saying it was a long day and he was in a bad mood. She asked if he would stop by tomorrow and Greg did not send a reply. Greg fell into the habit of reverting to vindictive thoughts when things went awry. HIs baleful mind could only see the negatives: She was getting clingy. He wasn't worthy to be around such a beauty. He didn't want to deal with Julie. All too often humans can provide themselves with flawed logic, as long as it suited their current mood. And his mood was foul.

Uploaded 04/10/2012
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