crook takes pawn, part 60

    Driving the Lebaron back escalated the deterioration of his male ego. This was bad. He felt like a fucking loser. What's worse, he had only himself to blame. Self-sabotage seemed a likely culprit to his woes. He had left Rebecca both upset and unsatisfied. This could be a deal-breaker.
    For the zillionth time, he felt the tears coming.
"Stop crying!!" He shouted inside his worthless car, "Be a man!!!"
    Greg was getting soft, and not just his flaccid dick either. His edge was gone, dulled by feminine wiles until no sharpness remained. Previously, his acidic anger burned and ate away at him. But it also fueled him. The car-jacking and subsequent killing was only made possible because Greg didn't give a flying fuck about himself. What if another psycho killer attacked him today? would he survive this round? Or would he just cry incessantly, wah, wah, wahHis stony soul had refused to be touched, refuted any kinship to his son, would not allow anyone to alter his choices. Was he improving himself, or just tenderizing for the inevitable plummet?     Rebecca is close to what's at his core, which is rotted and insipid. His failings as a person would have to be weighed against Julie's rescue. He had scooped up a strangers child from evil, but couldn't be bothered with his flesh and blood Raymond. But why was Greg obsessed with Ray? WHy won't it leave his mind. He couldn't run from it anymore. It was getting in the way of his future.
    Then, Greg made a final conduit between his feelings and his actions. A human  was not an animal. If you neglected a dog, it might be damaged goods, but it may only act erratic the 10-15 years that it has to live. A human has decades upon decades of life with which to suffer and reflect. If he damaged Ray in any way, the poor kid might lead a lifetime reliving it all. It was wrong to deny his son Raymond. He must tell Rebecca. It was killing him, and suffocating their potential love. But he couldn't do it tonight. He just couldn't face her. Emmasculated, and dejected, Greg dropped into his bed, which had no box-spring. Pitifuly, he managed to rub one out, though it was mostly a softie when he did it. It was only to exhaust himself sufficiently to lay down. He keeled over and slept a restless sleep.
    He kept the store closed. There wasn't much point in keeping it open. He had called Ben and told him to postpone the computer delivery til tomorrow. Ben said that was fine, it looked like all of his inventory was coming out of storage. It would take longer than predicted to properly secure all the computer cases for the trip across the interstate highway. Ben was really putting all his eggs in one basket here. Having nothing to lose, and everything to gain could make a man either daring or unbalanced.
    Rebecca had called him last night, but he let it go to voicemail. He checked his messages now.
    "Greg? Hey, it's me. I--I just wanted to know if I did something, or said something that, you know, bothered you, or affected you, to make you, uhfeel that way, I mean...Just call me, ok???"
    Greg slumped against the wall as he heard her voice timidly asking about him. She probably felt unattractive, or at fault, or some other contrite emotion. She was so awesome. How could fate have deemed to bring them together? she was way out of Greg's league, and here she was, concerned about his erectile dysfunction.
    He intended to call her. His hand was on the green call button, but he chickened out. He sent her a text instead:
    "I'm the one that should be sorry. you didn't do anything wrong. There's something we need to talk about. It doesn't involve you in any way, it's about me. I'm keeping the store closed today. Come by later and we'll talk. I'll explain everything."
    It was far and away the longest text he had ever sent, but it felt good to put things in motion. She sent a text back immediately:
"I have class until 2:30, but I won't have long. I need to pick up Julie from daycare, so we can talk for only about half an hour."
    Only half an hour? That sounded like an eternity, but apparently women go by different schedules when it comes to heart-to-heart chats.
    With no store to run, and no other plans, Greg went back to bed. He didn't eat anything, which made him weaker, which made him sleep longer. Right around noon, Donny called him.
"Hey, Greggie," Donny said cheerfully.
"I just wanted to let you know that Gus and I will be stopping by tomorrow afternoon. We have something to give you."
"Is that all?" Greg asks irritably. Donny pauses. The tinny sound of  a radio wafts cheesy noise in Donny's apartment. The song is an '80s metal ballad, and Gus sings along audibly with the chorus.
"You sound like you're in a bad mood, Greg."
"your powers of perception are amazing, Donny."
"What's wrong?"
"I don't wanna discuss it. It doesn't involve you."
"Alright, sheesh. I was just thinking I could smoke you up, or something."
"Yeah, go ahead. Keep buying pot with money you don't even have."
"Alright, goobye Greg. I'll see you tomo--"
Greg hangs up before Donny is done. Fuck Donny. Fucking thief. What kind of scam will he be pulling tomorrow now???
    Greg debates calling the glass technicians to fix the front window. Obtaining several reputable quotes, he figured the cost right around $200. It was another notch out of his savings. There would be no more deposits from now on, only withdrawals. His stomach was a witches brew, gurgling from hunger, and churning from acidity. It was a formula for a bleeding ulcer. Forget the glass men today. Tomorrow, or the next day would be better. His position with Rebecca would at least be known by that time. Everything else followed that.
    He only got up to pee. As he urinated a thick cascade of yellow, he stared at his penis. It had let him down. Haven't I treated you good?, Greg thought to himself. The penis seemed to shrug as he sprayed the last few streams of urine out. Don't look at me, the wang seemed to say, I'm not the one all fucked up in the head. My head works good. Body follows mind. Greg felt crazy having an imaginary conversation with his schlong.
    At long last, Rebecca called him. Greg answered to the rush of the highway out her lowered car window. Greg holds the phone away from his ear until the sound dissipates as she rolls up her window.
"You still want to meet up?"
"Uh (sigh) yeah"
"Ok, I'm on the interstate, I should see you in a few."
"Ok. Bye."
    Greg vaults to his feet. A dizzy spell swarms him, and he realizes he must eat something, even if just a small snack. He manages to choke down a mundane bologna, cheese and mayo sandwich. It clots in his throat and makes him want to gag, but he stomachs it.
    Greg watches out his shattered display window. The outside world was distorted by the cracks and fissures. It was similar to Greg's view on life: broken.
    Greg catches sight of her Nissan pausing by the distant stoplight. IT is the same spot where Jessie attempted his amateur kidnapping. Greg inhales deeply, steeling himself for what he must divulge. He frowns. There is a cargo truck following Rebecca. It makes the turn, and rides Rebecca's ass, right up until they both pull into Greg's parking lot.
    Greg walks out hesitantly to meet her. The truck idles beside her vehicle, the drivers watching Greg from their high position on the seats. Rebecca gets out and meets him halfway.
    "Morning, lover," Rebecca says, smacking his lips with a kiss. Greg felt queazy. He was no lover, just a failed excuse for a man.
"What's all of this?" he asks, jerking his head toward the cargo truck. It was then that Greg caught sight of the company logo on the rear storage container of the vehicle: Williamson Windows. Greg is dumbfounded.
"Surprise!!" Rebecca squeals, "Coming up, one repaired window,sir!! It's on the house!!"
Greg stands there and stares with incredulity.
"You're kidding" he says.
"Nope, isn't it exciting?!?!" She exclaims, clapping her hands together joyously.
    The two men exit the truck and make their way over to them.
"Hold on a second, guys," Greg says, motioning for them to stop, "I don't know if I"m comfortable with this."
"It's okay, fellas," Rebecca explains, "I'm gonna be paying for this all."
"Don't, Rebecca,"
    She gives him a shocked look. The two windows men shift on their feet uncomfortably, clipboard in hand with the necessary forms.
"Whattya mean?" she almost whimpers.
    Greg takes her arm by the wrist and leads her toward the Maxima. She follows, her crock sandals scrapping across the chipped yellow parking outline. She is wearing grey sweatpants today, and a Pac-Man t-shirt. Her smile competes with Pac-man's gaping yellow mouth for wideness. Her hair is free-flowing, unencumbered by barrets or clips. The streaming chestnut strands drape and fold across her lean shoulders and neck. She seems strangely chipper this morning for a woman who was unfulfilled the night before.
    "Don't worry about what happened," she says, once they are both seated, "I was thinking about it, and I fucked up our first night together when I blacked out. So, we both started off badly."
    Greg mulls this over. It holds water. Immediately, he felt immensely better on that regard. But there was still the matter of Raymond.
"Anyway, I know you're under a lot of stress, and that's why it didn't work out like we wanted," Rebecca says understandingly, "but I know you don't normally have that problem. The first time we almost hooked up, you were doing just great."
    She was stroking his ego and it was relaxing. What she was saying made sense.
"I figured you were having money issues. I hope this makes it a bit easier on you."
"that's not what it was about," Greg corrects, "I just told you those things to cover up what's really going on."

"Whatever it is, we can get past it," Rebecca says with dreamy eyes "I love you, Greg,"
    He recoils as if he was slapped across the face. Greg shakes his head in disbelief.
"You don't know what you mean," Greg says reproachfully.
Rebecca blinks. This is not the response she was expecting. She looks wounded.
"Why? Don't you feel--"
"I like you a lot, Rebecca, but no. I can't say I'm in love with you. You shouldn't say it either.
    "So, you can tell me how I should feel now?" Rebecca says, raising her defenses.
"You can't keep doing this," Greg says with a bit too much gusto. He was coming off as angry here.
    Rebecca draws back, "What do you mean?" she asks in an innocent voice, "Did I do something to piss you off?"
"I can't have you paying for everything all the time," Greg says, obviously miffed, "I'm supposed to be a man, I need to provide for myself."
Rebecca relaxes. "is that what this is about?" Rebecca asks with a carfare grin, "C'mon, don't be like that."
"Just don't do it anymore." Greg snaps.
Rebeccas smile falters.
"Don't give me orders," Rebecca says sternly, "I was only trying to help."
"I don't need anything else from you." Greg says, "just stop it,"
"Don't tell me what to do," Rebecca says coldly, "I'm a grown woman. I can do what I want."
"You're making me look ridiculous in front of those workers there." Greg counters.
"I think you're doing a good job of looking ridiculous all by yourself," Rebecca retorts, "I mean, look at what you're doing here. Don't you know how to accept a gift???"
Greg sighs and shakes his head, muttering to himself.
"What was that?" Rebecca asks.
"I said, I don't need your charity."
Rebecca cocks her head, stunned.
"I think maybe you have some deep-seated self-esteem problems, if this is how you react to getting a present."
"Oh, please,' Greg interjects.
"Maybe you think you don't deserve happiness," Rebecca continues, "So you sabotage everything."
"I'm not--" Greg begins, but Rebecca cuts him off.
"Or, maybe you're afraid to be with someone." she states.
"Maybe you're afraid to be alone, so you settle up with me." Greg challenges.
"wow, you are quite the persuader there, boy," rebecca says with an agitated laugh, "you just managed to insult both of us there. So, what? you're saying that I have to settle with you? Like, you're not a good person? That I'm not attracted to you?"
"Oh, please, you wouldn't even give a guy like me a second glance if I hadn't a done what I done." Greg says bitterly.
"You think I'm shallow?" Rebecca snarls.
"I think you're in love with being in love," Greg explains, "You're caught in some make-believe land, where you don't have to worry about bills, or cash, or anything else, really. People bend over backwards for hot women. You don't have to worry about real hardships, or pain."
"Get out." Rebecca says, jabbing her finger angrily out his passenger window.
    Greg hits the release on his side. Rebecca puts the van in gear, and begins backing up while Greg was opening his door. The force of the backward motion yanks the handle from Greg's hand, and the door grates against it's hinge.
"Would ya stop?" Greg asks, with amazement, "You about ran me over!!"
Rebecca slams the van into park, throwing them backward violently. The glass workers look over with great interest as they make the finishing touches to seal the glass' border. Gossip is universal among people. It's always a free show. Greg rushes to slam the door, cutting off the scene from rubberneckers.
    "You're just projecting all your bullshit onto me!!" Rebecca scowls, sounding like a perturbed kid in a taunting match, "You feel lousy about yourself, so you want to spread it around. You're just voicing your own fears, that's all."
"Do me a favor, would ya?" Greg asks, "don't play pocket psychologist with me. Taking a couple classes at the community college does not a psychiatrist make."
"Well, tell me what it is, then, huh?" Rebecca says, "Why are you acting like this?"
    "Things are just moving too fast," Greg tries to confide, "I don't feel comfortable with all this, maybe we need to hit the brakes."
"So, you're saying you don't want to see me anymore?" Rebecca says, raising her voice.
    "No, I don't mean that," Greg retracts, "It's just thatThings are getting way involved, way too quickly. Hell, we were all over each other at the club. And then, last night. But we don't have clue one about each other."
    "Are you calling me a slut?" Rebecca asks with scorn.
"No, don't put words in my mouth," Greg fires back, "It doesn't matter if we make love or not."
    "Good, because it's gonna be a long wait for you now, buddy." Rebecca says through clenched teeth. Greg sighs deeply. What was it he was trying to accomplish here? If it was to get her infuriated, it was mission accomplished, send up the signal flare, the job was done.
"All you guys are the same." Rebecca voices loudly, "You don't know what you want, so you look for the opposite of what you have."
"I'd say women are the ones who don't know what they want." Greg responds.
"HOw would you know?" Rebecca sneers, "You're not the authority on women, looks to me. When was the last time you had a girlfriend? Huh?"
"I haven't been in a relationship since I got divorced," Greg answers.
"And how long ago was that?"
"About 6 years or so,"
    Rebecca throws her hands up and shakes her head back and forth. She is really peeved.
"So, if you're so hard up for a girlfriend," Rebecca says nastily, "Then why are you trying to get rid of me?"
"i didn't say I didn't want you around," Greg says.
"YOu've got a weird way of letting a girl know she's wanted," Rebecca says.
    "This is why people get married too soon," Greg blurts out, "and why half of all marriages end in divorce right now. People go all head-over heels and shit, and think they're in love, without knowing any better."
"What is it with you, Greg?" Rebecca questions, "I think I'm starting to see some cracks in your armor there, Lancelot."
"That's just it, Rebecca," Greg says, "You have your mind made up about me, without knowing the truth."
"So, what's the truth, then?" Rebecca asks, "Tell me. I wanna know."
"Well, for one, I'm not a nice guy. I'm a good-for-nothing father." Greg confesses, "I gave up my son, signed away my rights. Then I moved outta state. He hasn't seen me since. I'm a deadbeat, a fucking deadbeat."
    There is an awful silence following that. Rebecca is speechless. They sit in mutual quiet. Finally, Rebecca speaks.
"Oh, Greg." that's all. But he detects suchdisappointment, in her voice. It stings him. But it's all out on the table now. No more bluffing, or omitting facts.
    "How long has it been?" Rebecca asks quietly. IT sounds like the fight has gone out of her voice. She is saddened by this exchange. Although she did not start the verbal disagreement, she doesn't want to prolong it any longer.
    "Same since I've seen my ex-wife, bout six years or so," Greg mumbles. His shoulders droop as the shame envelopes him. Maybe rebecca was on to something about the whole self-esteem thing. Self-hatred was an easy pit to fall in, especially if there was guilt from previous life choices.
    "Have you sent her any child support payments?" Rebecca asks gingerly.
"Not a penny," Greg admits, "It was the reason I filled out all the paperwork, so I didn't have to pay."
    "I've gotta tell you, Greg," Rebecca says with a long, tired sigh, "that's pretty low."
    "That's what I'm saying," Greg says in a hushed voice, "I'm a bad person. My dad ran out on me, too. And I did the same goddamn thing to my boy."
    Greg chokes and the tears start. He struggles against them. The last thing he wanted to do was start the waterworks in front of a woman. But, it was akin to laughing in church: the harder you tried to fight it, the quicker you lost.
    He turned away from her, clenching his eyes desperately, as if this was the key to stopping his crying, by closing it off. He still manages to speak, despite his emotional handicap.
    "You're an amazing woman, and I don't deserve your kindness," Greg says, disparaging himself, "And I'm tired of things getting taken away from me, so usually I just give it up first, to save myself some pain."
    That's what it was. Rebecca had revealed much to him. She knew Greg's ailment before he himself did. She may seem like a space-case, but her insight to human interaction was well-developed. Women in general were more in touch with their inner beings than almost any guy. It wasn't about her generosity, it was about his own selfishness.
    "When I was lying there, with the hole in my neck, bleeding like a stuck pig," Greg says shakily, "I was thinking about my son Ray. And how I would never see him again, or be able to fix things between us."
    Rebecca is the one to stroke his back this time. The subtle comfort a woman can provide is seldom felt for some melancholy males. Greg feels like a cap has been put on his suffering. His pain may reach a certain point, but Rebecca could make it cease beyond that threshold. She kisses his cheek.
    "You're still alive," Rebecca relays to his lobe, "Visit your son. It will do your heart some good."
"I feel so much guilt," Greg says with a marble mouth, "My ex has a husband, but Ray should've known me better. I'm his real dad."
"YOu know what, Greg?" Rebecca asks, lifting his chin with her hand, "I think it's because you have a conscious that it bothers you. If you didn't give a rat's ass about your boy, you wouldn't even think of him."
    Greg chews this over.
"You're only human. Only sociopaths don't feel remorse, or regret," Rebecca says, "They only act for themselves."
"I think Sociopaths work on WallStreet," Greg jokes. Rebecca laughs briefly and her phone starts ringing. She glances at the incoming number.
    "Ugh," Rebecca says with distaste, "It's my ex husband calling me."
She puts the phone on silent and puts it back in her purse.
"Aren't you gonna answer it?" Greg asks.
"I don't ever answer the phone when he calls," Rebecca says with disdain, "I just listen to the messages and text him back. I don't ever want to talk to him unless I have to."
    Deadly silence. Greg has a funny feeling. Would he end up as another ex on her list? Hell have no fury like a pissed off divorcee.
"when's the last time you met up with your ex?" Greg asks boldly.
Rebecca lifts an intrigued eyebrow up. Her emotions were stirred, she was still stalking the situation.
"What does that matter?" Rebecca asks with an antagonized breath, "I don't see him anymore. What business is it of yours?"
"I'm just asking" Greg states plainly, "I told you about my life. I'm interested in yours." She considers the question. It ticks in her firey brain.
"He came to town to meet up with me, after the shooting," Rebecca replies, "He's still a creep. I was all upset about it all and he tried to take advantage. I told him to get out and not come back."   
    Yet another inward celebration from Greg. Rebecca had a long memory. She wouldn't forget past transgressions, even when lonely and terrified. It makes her trust all the more important to him. In truth, she was going overboard with generosity. Greg felt privileged.
"It's my exe's money Greg," Rebecca clarifies, "Never forget that. He's paying for my broken heart. For every piece, he has to account for that. I was a good wife. I took his last name, and tried to take care of him."
"So..Is Drake your maiden name then?" Greg piques with interest.
"yeah, I didn't want to even sign his name anymore alongside mine. Fuck that hyphenated name shit. He's out of my life. I gave everything to him, and he deceived me."
    Rebecca's phone vibrates in her purse. Her former hubby has left a voicemail.
"You should meet up with your son, Greg."
"Yeah, I really should"
"They say that kids that grow up with divorced parents might have attachment disorders." Rebecca mentions, "Maybe you feel all conflicted because you're separated from your own dad. Maybe you and your father could--"
"My dad is dead," Greg says, before she can suggest anything further, "I visited out here to settle some of his business, and I guess I just stayed."
"Maybe you're running from yourself," Rebecca says enigmatically.
    Greg wipes his drying ducts, and takes Rebecca's hand.
"Thank you for doing this," Greg says, "But from now on, I need to find my own way, you know? I want to prove I can do it on my own."
"Okay, that's fine," Rebecca states, "WHen you put it like that, there's no issue. It does look great though, doesn't it?"
    Rebecca exits the van and strides over to the newly installed window. She prances majestically, looking like a gameshow host exhibiting a showcase. Her arms sweep through the air, waving at the shiny glare from the glass.
    Greg stands beside Rebecca and puts an arm around her waist.
"I'm trying to improve my life, you know," Greg says softly to her.
"Yeah, I know Greg,"
"If I can sort things out with my son, I think everything would be perfect."
"Me too."
    They had just had their first fight, and came out of it none the worse for wear. Greg had vocalized his fears and Rebecca had helped him through the subconscious labyrinth of despair. On her part, Greg hoped she would hold back a little, and orient herself. It wouldn't do to press upon their emerging relationship. She just needed to turn it down a notch. There were worse things in life than having a dizzy dame go nuts with love. A lot worse things, some of which Greg knew from first-hand knowledge.
    She signed the forms, then the job was underway. They worked diligently, cutting the huge broken plate into sections, and carried them to the truck via the aid of powerful industrial suction cups. These same suction devices were used to install the new glass. It took around an hour overall, and Greg felt exultation. The window was spotless, just as their budding infatuation with each other. Their enmity had passed. The lovers basked in the warmth from the reflecting sun. It was time to begin anew

Uploaded 04/23/2012
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