Crook takes Pawn Part 66

Gus was already working as Greg pulled in. A sturdy security frame was attached to the entrance door. Gus pointed it out as Greg approached. THe bars swung on a hinge, and there was a catch in the upper right corner of the bar for a padlock.
"I can take those other locks from the old door, and install them onto this one, if you want," Gus suggests. Greg turns his head toward the blazer, and sees his former door trailing out the back end, onto the open tailgate. Greg shakes his head. He didn't want to fuck with that old mess of metal anymore.
"nah, you can just dump it, King, if that's what you already had planned." Greg says.
"Sure thing, boss," Gus agrees.
Donny and Ben are sitting on the sides of the pickup bed, face to face, talking quietly. Well, maybe quiet isn't the word.
"I had you!!" Ben says ,"My zeppelins had demon augmentation, but I couldn't deploy it after you hexed my spell!!"
"You snooze, you lose," Donny says smugly, "I had cast excelerate time. that made my castle develop faster, and my gold mines, too."
    From what Greg can gather, they were in a nerd herd about a role-playing game on PC, or a realtime strategy, whatever in tarnation that was. Ben had given Donny one of his lesser PCs, and now they were battling online constantly.

    Ben had a 4G nationwide internet connection, and somehow he was able to tether a cellphone so that Donny could use the data connection via Ben's spare phone to the PC. Ben said the phone was essentially transformed into a modem. Thusly, they could play their dumb little RPGs together.  Donny was also using the phone as a company cell.
    "Did Gus finish up the door?" Donny asks.
"Yeah, he did a good job," Greg comments, "time to start stacking!!"
    And stack they did, moving 15 of the computers over by the newly-replaced show window. Greg opened three of the computer boxes, and placed them on the shelves, in full view of the store. Once situated, Greg found several power strips to allow all the display models to be plugged in and turned on. They still had no computer monitors, however. Donny knew how to hook the computers up to two of the remaining LCD televisions Greg had in stock. That would have to do. Ben booted the computers, and put them into a demo mode that showcased the sytems capabilities.
    Their monitor dilemma actually fixed itself. The technician from the Computer Shack showed up around 1pm. All men watched, stupefied, as the back of the trucks sliding door was raised. He had the back of a moving truck nearly filled to capacity with refurbished computer monitors. Most were sleeker flat-panel displays, and all lined the floor of the storage space. Between all five men, unloading was a breeze. It was 20 monitors in total. They were on the ground of the Pawn and Payday, like an electronic mushroom patch.
"I hope you don't think I can pay for all these," Greg says somberly.
"Oh, no," The man states, "Bill is working with you on commission, is what he told me. I just need you to sign for the delivery, and there's also a paper with the contract terms."
    Greg groans hesitantly. "I don't know if I feel comfortable just signing something without reading it. Especially if it affects my store."
    "I understand," the man says, "Bill told you to call him if you had any questions."
"You don't mind waiting?" Greg asks, taking out his newly-acquired smart phone.
"Hell no, I get paid hourly, pal."
    "This is Bill," he greets on the phone. Greg put him on speaker so Donny and Ben can listen in.
"Hey, it's Greg. Your employee is standing here. We just unloaded the computers screens."
"Oh, Good. Glad to hear it."
"Yeah. Listen, are you going to be selling these on commission?" Greg asks, "Cause I don't have near enough money to buy them from you."
"Yeah," Bill replies, "the contract is basically for a record of our transaction. You're not gonna pay me now, but cover my end when the customer buys it. If you want to have a lawyer take a look at it, I understand. It is binding. But I give you my word that's all that's in it. Scout's honor."
    Greg didn't have the funds for a lawyer. Bill was a reputable guy. He would trust that nothing secretive was within the document.
"Ok, Bill," Greg says, "I'll agree to it and sign. Thanks again, sir."
"No problem. Buh-bye."
    With a stroke of the pen, Greg had a profusion of monitors. The delivery guy gave a carbon copy to Greg, and departed. Ben was visibly impressed. "you don't fuck around, do you?" he said, "Getting shit done."
Greg has a sensation of deja vu. Bill had said precisely the same thing to him the day they first met. The mass of monitor carcasses had tickled Bill's funny bone.
"No, I'm serious about this all," Greg declares, "like you said, no more piddly ass stuff. It's time to move outta the bush leagues."
    Greg was searching the cardboard box for letters. He needed a P, and they were in short supply. Greg and Ben had positioned the tacky arrowhead message sign into place. It was now pointing fixedly towards Greg's entrance. The sign had stayed outside in the winter, and Greg wondered if the flashing bulbs near the top of would still operate. Greg crossed his fingers as he plugged it in, and the bulbs lit. Most had burned out, but the ones that remained concluded that the connection was good anyway.
    They discussed what the sign should display. It was decided, "Authorized Digital Dreams Computer Seller". Greg discovered he did not have nearly enough plastic letter cards to fulfill their message. They must journey to the hardware store. Gus tagged along. He had assembled a rudimentary shelf in the dock of the Pawn and Payday. Taking down the shelf from the rear closet, Gus had mounted it where the remaining computers were being stored. Since then, the carpet king had lounged about, restlessly. He wanted to help Greg as much as he could. Things were progressing well enough to the point where Gus' hopes of reemerging to middle class were likely. Greg was much of the reason for his aspirations.
    They went into Ben's truck four deep. Greg stretched his legs, remarking how luxurious Ben's ride was. Greg wondered how many computers they must sell in order to pay for this beastly ride.
    Ben was nice to Gus. Donny had explained the carpet king's situation, and Ben felt pity for the old dude. Again, Greg always had his ear to the ground, in order to see potential ways for their whole group to prosper.
    Kevin Nash had an equilibrium theory, for which he won the Nobel Memorial Prize. It states that in a game, or circumstance, each player will benefit most from actions that help both themselves, and the other player. The best action is the outcome that is best for both the individual and the group.
What Greg was doing was contrary to the unspoken rules of modern capitalism. With economical Darwinism, it seems your competition is out to gut you, and destroy your enterprise, whereas Greg was looking to work as a group, networking and using synergy to combine their goals. A single man cannot accomplish much. It is only when Greg's efforts were joined that this loose association of guys had legitimacy.
    Gus was in his element here. Without pause, he walked directly to the sign letters, which resided in slotted compartments. Greg consulted his scribbled list and picks out the necessary alphabetical symbols. Gus couldn't keep still. He wandered over to the drills. Gus eyed an 18 Volt cordless drill. His hand twitched at the sight of this steadfast hardware. Artists and workers share the enthusiasm of examining tools of the trade. Glancing at the pricetag, Gus sees a bright red sales sticker. The previous price of $130 has a slash mark through it, and underneath the new label says $100. Gus sees an opportunity. He doesn't have a drill of his own, one of the cornerstones of carpentry and finishing. An idea is formed.
    "Hey Greg?" Gus says meekly.
"Yeah?" Greg says, a stack of letters in his hand.
"Listen have you ever thought of using your old front door in that back storage room?" Gus asks
"Whattya mean, King?"
"You don't have any door there right now. If you plan on keeping stuff safe, I could screw some mounts into the cinderblock there, and attach the old door."
"Really. Huh." Greg says
"I've done it plenty of times before," Gus says confidently, "The only thing is, in order to do it, I'm gonna need a nice power-drill."
"oh." Greg says. The other shoe has dropped.
"C'mere, take a look at this," Gus says with fervor, waving his hand over his shoulder as he walks away.
    Greg saw the tag, and Gus made his pitch. Donny backed it up by stating that the rates for a licensed mason could run as high as $50 an hour. That would buy merely two hours of work, but Gus would put in that and then some. Greg studied Gus intently. The old guy stood there wearing a new brown Carhartt jacket. The battered green glasses were gone, replaced by cheapies, but they were still new shades nonetheless. The Carpet King even had on a brand spanking new pair of workbooks. With these few articles of clothing, Gus had certainly blown through the rest of Greg's paid wages. Well, if Gus was gonna live with only the shirt on his back, they might as well be nice clothes, and warm by the looks of it.
    Greg wondered how far Gus would get with just one simple tool at his disposal. The thought intrigued him. The $80 from Ben was still in his wallet. Greg hadn't spent much in the last few days. Before leaving her home, Rebecca lent her credit card when he announced he would fill up his gas tank. He didn't ask, she just gave. His sugar mama kept him well-stocked.
"Alright, let's do it," Greg said with unbridled passion, "Let's give it a go. Ring it up, bro."
    As Greg is checking out, he notices Gus holding a set of drill bits.
"What're those?" Greg asks.
"Masonry bits," Gus explains, "I need them to drill into the cinderblock. But don't worry, I have cash to buy it."
    Greg thought back to all the money he had given Donny. Once again, Lady Luck needed to stay interested in Greg's affairs. More charity meant a greater depth in the karma pool. Besides, with Rebecca being his benefactor, it seemed Lady Luck had materialized into reality; form of a cute, voluptuous brunette beauty.
    Greg paid for the masonry bits. $30.
    Ben and Donny were occupied with the letters. Ben would shout out consonants and vowels and Donny would hold them up.
"Give me an A"
"Give me an S"
"Another S, what's that spell?"
     Ben's and Donny's eyes had a similarly slanted quality. They both were obviously stoned. They must've snuck off for a smoke break while working. Donny was waving the vulgar obscenity like he was on a gameshow, with a foolish smile.
"you are correct, sir!!" Ben says. Greg shepherds them out the door, chuckling to himself the entire time. Ass!!

    Taking a marker, Donny divides the dry-erase board with a line. Column 1 is Greg, 2 is Donny. Donny swipes two tally marks on Greg's side.
"wait a minute," Greg says suspiciously, "Why do I get two sales right off the bat? Ben made the sale, not me."
"I'll give them to ya," Donny says condescendingly, "you're gonna need all the help you can to outsell me. I'm talking to the YMCA tech department. They got a state grant for computer upgrades. they're taking bids right now, but they're having a hell of a time because their fax line is down. They still run off of dial-up internet."
    Ben's mouth drops open. "you're kidding me,"
Greg is again struck by how unabashedly geeky these guys are. Judging by Ben's truck, you would assume him to be the manliest guy you'd ever meet. who knew that a nerd operated such a goliath of a vehicle. 
"Dial-up is a waste of money," Ben says sourly, "My parents used to have dial-up, like in 1985!!"
    "They really need IT support," Donny says thoughtfully, "Maybe you can get hired on as a consultant."
    Gus was busy drilling the holes to place the concrete anchors. His squattish frame pressed against the handle of the drill, pushing hard. The whine of the drill would cut down periodically as it chewed up the cinderblock. The old door was resurrected, propped up against the wall until it could resume its perch as a deterrent to invaders. All four men had grabbed a corner of the hulking door, and carried it like a corpse.
    "It would be nice to get a steady paycheck again," Ben says nostalgically, "If I could do that as a side-project, it could help fun my manufacturing side."
"Manufacturing?" Greg asks doubtfully.
"Yeah, those mother boards don't build themselves, Greg," Ben says reproachfully, "I have to plot out the specs, and circuit diagrams, nodes, buses. I don't do the actually soldering, or installation, but I take it to a guy ready-made."
"Geez, what flew up your butt?" Greg asks.
"Nothing. But I'm defensive of my work. I went to school for this stuff. I'm still paying on loans, but I've got most of it paid off, finally. Just another debt. I"m a bit on edge, as of late."
    "So I see," Greg says softly. Ben's brilliance was outside the horizons of Greg's own lackluster knowledge. Greg had difficulty even setting up a web email.
    Gus continued his labors. His decision was to put in 5 sets of hinges, in order to support the weight of the door. If all went well, it would take a bulldozer to get through. Greg studied the venerable old masonry man. Gus was a jack of all trades. Whatever skill was needed to feed him, that's what Gus could do. The Carpet King was resilient, to say the least.
    Gus used blocks and wedges of wood to level the door at the bottom. Greg, Donny and Ben all held it in place as Gus attached the additional hinges. Gus had spent considerable time drilling a notch in the stone for the doors deadbolt to catch. The moment of truth came when Gus slowly closed the door for the first time. He lined up the deadbolt with the hole in the cinderblock. Gus had removed the regular door knob, and there was no stopped to keep the door from swinging open. The deadbolt was the only thing keeping the door shut, but it was still a lot sturdier than wood.
    Greg jammed the deadbolt key home, and twisted. The deadbolt slid in freely. Greg pushed heavenly on the door, and it wouldn't budge.
"Ha-Zaa!!" Ben shouts happily, "Success!!"
"Sha-Zam!!" Donny says mockingly. Everyone is all smiles, especially Gus. There was still some use in that old codder yet.
    They moved the grove of computer monitors into the back room and locked it up. Greg also put a lock on the rear sliding dock door. He couldn't believe he hadn't found this door earlier. How long had it been since he surveyed his property? Forget that, how long had it been since he even walked around to the outside rear of the store?!?!
    They spent some time huddled around Gus' blazer and chatted. Not a shred of pessimism was to be found in their group. Everyone was motivated, and energetic. the new drill lay on Gus' seat, reflecting the light from the utility poles. The transformer boxes on the poles hummed a monotone tune, which befit the swerving masses of mouths by the light fixture. repetitiously, the moths sought there ever-elusive light source.
    A small breeze was picking up, scattering potato chip wrappers and miscellaneous refuse. A crackle of thunder sounded on the horizon.
"Looks like a storm," Gus comments, "Glad I have a roof over my head now."
"Oh, you found a place?" Ben asks encouragingly, "Where at?"
"I'm staying with Donny," Gus says, jutting a finger Donny's way.
Donny makes a cutoff gesture by his neck, telling Gus to stop his explanation. Donny knew Ben was a stickler for following the rules. If Greg's insight to their towing problem was any indication, Ben probably could find a whole mess of holes in their plans.
    But Ben just turned to Donny and studied him quizzically.
"Is that right?" Ben murmurs, "Isn't that place like, smaller than a rabbit's asshole?"
    They all crack up at this.
"It's a tight fit, but we rotate the futon and loveseat sleeping arrangement" Donny says, "It's a lot nicer than sleeping in the back of the blazer, though,"
    Gus looks up fondly at the approaching storm. He stands on the runner of his blazer, propping himself up above the tin cab. The energy in the air vibrates with every living thing. The lighting stirs up the hair, and the damp seeps into old joints.
    "Oh, I don't know," Gus says distantly, "Night like this? It was always nice to hear the raindrops on top of the blazer's roof. Helped me sleep. I always liked storms."
    Their small congregation breaks up. Donny hops in with Gus and they all depart. Greg pulls out his phone and dials Rebecca. She is number one on speed dial. It rings twice, then goes directly to voicemail. Greg frowns. This is usually a sign the person is available, but doesn't want to talk. Greg isn't sure how to proceed. Within a minute or two, Rebecca sends him a text:
--went to movies with my sister Amy. Can't talk. I'm staying at her house tonight. Will call u tomorrow.
    Greg's stomach sinks. He won't get to see her again at all tonight. Or Julie, either. Shit on a shingle, this sucked.
    It was only 9, but Greg headed to bed. Nothing seemed enjoyable on that Friday night. A sudden bout of sadness strikes him as he climbs into his shoddy bed in the loft. Being lonely was brutal. How had he managed to survive so long by himself? How could he get to sleep without Rebecca there next to him? Rebecca had refreshened his acquaintance with intimacy. He would always go it alone before. Greg hadn't counted on becoming dependent on companionship. Now, it was murderously difficult to switch back to his solo role. He was eager to get to bed. The sooner he winked out, the sooner he could reach her in the morning. The rain began to downpour, battering his ceiling with a soothing chorus of drops. It counteracted his mood, but not by much. He fell asleep, aching for his woman.

Uploaded 05/03/2012
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