crook takes pawn, part 63

    They spent most of the ride laughing crazily. Between Donny and Greg's wisecracks, Ben was doubled up with tears most of the time. He never swerved, but Greg joked that Ben might run them off the road, with his distracted chuckles.
    Greg was filled with purpose. Had he read Lord of the Rings, perhaps he could give proper voice to their adventure, and sense of daring he felt. They were not on the way to Mordor, but Greg still felt a camaraderie with his fellow travelers. the diesel for Ben's car amounted to around $30. It was at that time that Greg realized the most expensive fuel was always Diesel, at the pump. Greg hypothesized it was just one more way for the corporations to screw truck drivers, and keep the bloated corpse of inflation expanding. Greg had once seen a bumper sticker on a pickup truck that read, "You bought it? Truck brought it". Even today, most commerce depended heavily on semi transport. If the diesel prices kept going up, everyone would feel it, because the trucking outfits had to raise rates to adjust. Ben had his own theories about the current state of America's economy, and small business.
    "They're a bunch of megalomaniacal idiots," Ben says sourly, as the topic is brought up, "take the stock market for example. All of those bad mortgages they had? It was a big fucking game of hot potato. They just pushed bad debt back and forth, charging each other fees, and surcharges, and this and that. Well, when people started losing their houses, along with everything else they had in the world, some companies got wise, and some didn't. Those that were left holding the bag got closed down. And we fucking bailed out the rest of the assholes later on, when their failures finally happened, too."
    "It was the gas prices that brought the whole thing down," Donny says, adding to the chat, "You had people barely able to afford their houses, these subprime mortgages. Lots of people have to drive to work, and I'm sure it got to the point one day where people couldn't fucking afford to even get to their job anymore. Then it all started collapsing."
    It was becalming to hear Greg's own inner speculations voiced by others. These three Joes right here were on the same page. An alliance was required to advance further past their difficulties. It was on to the next chapter of their exploits.
    Ben put eye drops in before they entered Bill's establishment. Ben and Bill. It had a nice ring to it. Like an ice-cream brand or something.
The front office was a tiny tin shed basically added on as an afterthought. the door closed agains the angular sheet-metaled wall, and the three guys were clustered together in this tiny annex.
    A jovial-looking red-head was seated behind a cheap-looking computer desk. To Greg, it looked to be composed of particle board. Much more impressive than the furniture was the woman's elaborate desktop computer. It had an LED display on the front that showed a single blinking red dot flashing across back and forth. It was hypnotic, like a screen-saver on a DVD player. Ben's eyes lit up especially brightly as Donny pointed out the computer to Ben. A startled recognition showed on Ben's face.
    "What can I do for you gentlemen?" The firey red-head asks with an easy smile. She wears a company polo shirt, which glares "Computer Shack" in showy letters. Sally, her name says boldly on a gold-colored nametag.
    "We have some monitors and flatscreen TVs to recycle," Greg announces.
"You've come to the right place," Sally says politely, "I have some short forms for you to fill out, if you want a tax credit that is. Otherwise, you can just drop them off."
    Greg felt like a cheapskate to request the forms, but he needed every advantage he could. As Sally picked through a file cabinet, Donny and Ben eagerly inspected her desktop a bit closer. They were bent over, Donny whispering in his ear, and ben nodding. They resembled paleontologists who have unearthed a rare find. Or, they could just be a pair of gawky geeks. Either way, they were fascinated.
    As Greg checked boxes and scribbled his name, Maggie chit-chatted.
"My husband tells me that you were the guy on the news," Sally says, "the one who had the shootout."
    "Yeah," Greg agrees, "It was me allright. Who's your husband."
"Bill Fuller. Tall guy? Beard? Kinda smells funny?" Sally says, throwing in a joke as none other than Bill himself enters.
"Just because I wear my underwear for three days straight, doesn't mean I stink," Bill says, berating himself. Everyone in the crowded room brays with laughter.
    "Hey Greg, how ya doin?" Bill asks, clasping Greg's hand. Bill swings his massive jaw towards Donny and Ben.
"Hello guys," Bill says, "I see you admiring our Server machine."
Ben takes off his sunglasses and hangs them from the neck of his Fender Straticastur guitar shirt.
"I built this computer, motherboard and all," Ben says animatedly, "Where did you get this??? This is a Mark 2 model, one of my earlest ones!!"
    Greg has to stifle a chuckle as Bill's face glows with recognition. It was two nerds on common ground.
"No way!!" Bill shouts, "You must be Ben Johnson!!!"
"that's him," Donny says, obviously pleased, "The one and only."
"Pleasure to meet you, sir," Bill says in a strangely hushed tone. It was filled with reverence, as if he was in the company of a man to be respected.
    Ben feels slightly on the spot by such an interaction.
"Thanks," Ben says, "I remember shipping this puppy out. What's that running again? Like, a 4 Gigahertz dual-core CPU, with a 850 Megahertz Front side bus?"
"Not to mention, 10 Gigs of Double Data Rate RAM!!" Bill says passionately, "We use it for our server system. That was pretty impressive, back in the day, when one single Gigabyte of RAM was considered luxurious."
    Once the ball was rolling, it was hard to stop. Greg sat foolishly in the corner of the office as Bill lifted the computer onto the desktop, and began prying open the side cover. Ben began pointing out different nuances that he himself had designed. Donny observed quietly. Greg began to text Rebecca:
What's up Reb?
--Not much, studying for a test tomorrow. U?
I'm bored, tell me a joke
--Why is a blonde like a balloon?
    And so on, and so forth. Greg had activated Rebecca's old phone, and she had paid for the additional fee to add texting to his call plan. Greg had his number transferred over, and now he technically had a smart phone. It wasn't touch screen, and he had no idea how to log onto the internet with it, but it was still a smart phone nevertheless.
    A phrase caught Greg's attention, and he looked up from his messaging.
"I'm gonna need at least two of them," Bill said absently, as he rubbed his hairy beard, "I might need as many as five, depending on how our new website turns out."
    "I'm sure you know, Digital Dreams has a lifetime warranty on our parts," Ben says professionally, "Depending on what our diagnostic tests come up with. If we determine it was the mainboard at fault, we can send you one, free of charge. A onetime deal, but it's there for life."
    "Nice to know," Bill says, rapping the top of the Mark 2, "But I've had this computer for going on 6 years now. It's been through lighting storms that fried everything else in the office, but it wasn't even affected. You build those bastards to last, Ben."
    Greg knew a sale when he heard one. It was his livelihood. Ben had apparently just convinced Bill to purchase 2 computers. That was $800!!!
    "Do you have them on you now?" Bill asks eagerly, "I can't wait to try them out!!"
    "Er, not today, I'm sorry," Ben says nervously, "I wasn't expecting a sale today."
    Bill throws his head back and chortles, as he puts a loose arm around his wife Sally. "That's why you always have to be ready for a sale, my friend!!" Bill exclaims.
    Greg hung back a bit as they unloaded the pallete of deceased electronics. Between Donny, Bill, and Ben, there just wasn't much for Greg to assist with. Besides, Ben and Bill were talking up a storm. If Greg heard correctly earlier, it sounded like Digital Dreams was on track to sell a shitload of computers. Not bad, considering this was the first team-up with the Pawn and Payday.
    Greg continued to text frequently. Rebecca suggested they go out to California to visit Raymond, once her classes ended. She offered to pay for gas and lodging. How could Greg turn that down? Rebecca was obviously going to be the breadwinner for quite some time. At least, until this computer business got off the ground. (Actually her former husband was the provider, for both of them. How odd)
    Greg agreed to her terms. But, he wanted to bring Raymond a gift, as well as give some sort of payment to his ex-wife Diane, in order to smooth things over. Rebecca offered to pay for both of these things as well, but this time Greg refused, pounding the buttons NO on his phone.
    Greg needed to do this on his own, to truly sacrifice in order to show he had changed his old ways.  how much was appropriate to reconcile 6 years of neglecting a son? They say that an engagement ring should cost 3 months salary. Maybe that's what he should go by. Lets call it $2,000, he decided. He thought about it, then revised his figures. $3,000. The cost of living in Iowa was a lot lower than california. It sucked to think that Greg's money would steadily lose value the closer he got to his son. What a tradeoff, huh?
    Rebecca asked him about Raymond and Greg realized he knew practically nothing about his son. His first spoken word was truck. His first steps were at age 27 months. He used to like creamed pears. After that? Raymond's step dad took over a few months after Greg scrammed.
    Greg sadly told this to Rebecca: I don't know much of anything.
 His empty knowledge was carried via radio waves, dispersed across distance at the speed of sound, and reassembled to Rebecca's cell phone. Carrier pigeons had nothing on data and IM services.
Rebecca's reply? :(
    Rebecca talked about her own parenting, trying to give her outlook on it. Rebecca was a single mom too, for awhile. (not anymore, though)
Julie's birth was unexpected. 'Not a mistake, a surprise', her message read.
Rebecca had been on the pill, and her ex-husband was always very frisky. Greg wondered if this was the reason Rebecca was so amorous and playful. She was an open book when it came to love, and the book was pornographic.
    Rebecca had come down with a case of gonorrhea, and was prescribed antibiotics to combat the inflammation and burning. The antibiotics canceled out the birth control and Julie was conceived. Even with a pecker that burned during urination and dripped puss, Rebecca's former mate still wanted constant sex with her.
    Greg grimaced at the learning of her prior sexually transmitted disease. Too much information. But then again, if you didn't know anyone well enough to ask if they have an STD, you probably don't know them well enough to fuck them.
    Rebecca got it from her husband, and God only knows where he got it from. This was 2 months before Rebecca eventually caught her friend in bed with him. Her female intuition began to descend, and eventually her ex-husbands infidelity was rooted out.
    Rebecca said she could relate to Diane's perspective. It made Greg uneasy to hear her agree with his ex-wife. He couldn't bear the thought of the two of them teaming up to snip his nuts. This was getting to be a huge cluster-fuck. Both Rebecca and Greg were divorced, and now there was Diane's new husband to keep track of. They both had children by different spouses. Imagine the family gatherings!! Everyone should wear nametags.
    Greg heads back over to where Bill and Ben are. Donny leans against the loading dock railing, watching with disinterest towards the setting sun on the horizon. It seems that Donny too has grown weary of their incessant talking.
    Bill was a nice guy, but almost too nice. He could bullshit with the best of them, and Ben matched him stride for stride. A streaming of consciousness seemed to emanate from the two computer savvy dudes. Bill was absent-mindedly standing on one of the lifts for his pallet jack, and was rocking it back and forth like a skateboard, his other foot planted on the ground. They were both hyper spazoids. Every other word, both Ben and Bill would be shaking their heads, motioning with their hands, or speaking loudly over each other.
    they were just gushing over each other like Best Friends For Life. Greg was glad to see it, but he was desperate to see Rebecca again. She was at the forefront of Greg's mind at any given moment now. Whenever a task was undertaken, she would briefly retreat to the background noise of his mind, but  would always reemerge to take point once more.
    "I hate to break up you two lovebirds," Greg says sarcastically, "but I was really hoping we could get back, Ben."
    Ben nods and scratches his bushy mustache. Bill does the same, unconsciously stroking his dark brown beard, and Greg thinks he's never seen a more kindred pair of entrepreneurial spirits.
    "like I told you, Ben," Bill reminds, "I have a guy scheduled to do a service call near you tomorrow. I'll have him stop by to pick up those computers, okay?"
With that, Bill tore out a company check with his John Hancock. Payday came in different intervals for the self-employed.
    "Sure," Ben says happily, "We also sell bare-bones computers, if you wanted to pay for, and install the RAM yourself. Not to mention the HDDs and things."
    Bill nods with that gleaming grin showing from his meaty face. "yeah, I'm actually planning on revamping all our old computers. It's been too long, time for an upgrade, know what I mean?"
    As Ben walked away, confident and triumphant, Greg thought all of their lives were going to get an upgrade as well.
    Returning from Bill's, this time it was Greg who slept and Donny who stayed awake. Donny lit a celebratory roach, and nudged Greg to offer a hit. Greg saw Donny had cleverly used two pennies together as a roach clip. Feeling tired, Greg waved off the pot. It was only a roach anyway. It would go further between two people.

Uploaded 04/30/2012
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