Crook Takes Pawn Part 8

After countless hours of sleep, Greg awoke and examined his surroundings. It took his dazed consciousness awhile to sort out where he was. He was in his loft, on his single bed. He only had one set of sheets, and these were tangled and wrapped about his pudgy lower legs. The sheets were damp, drenched with his cold sweat. He couldn't locate his pillow. He stares a moment at the book he had in a death hold. He can see the indentations his fingers left as he grasped it in a vice-like grip. Setting the book aside, he tries to swing his legs over the bed, and a bolt of pain shoots through Greg's lower back. It takes few seconds for the painful throbbing to subside, and Greg can breathe again.
He needs to take his back pill. the pleasant effects of the oxy conton were wearing off. The pain was returning, reminding him that all was not well. Might as well take it with food, Greg decides, as he gingerly pushes himself up without including his buttocks in the process. What time was it? No way to be sure, but it was still dark. He hadn't yet located his phone. It would be difficult to find, seeing as how it was surely dead by now. He'd have to scavenge around for it later. Some futile grappling with his jeans convinces him to simply leave his old clothes on until his pain meds kick in. Greg throws on an old Cleaveland Indians sweatshirt and manevers down the stairs. Greg praises his luck in a rare moment, when he finds his car keys are still dangling from his office hook where he left them. Greg is almost out the door when he remembers one particularly special item. Walking with his legs slightly apart, Greg retrieves a hemroid cusion from his office shelf. It was his fathers. Apparently Greg's dad George had suffered from the 'roids for several years. In fact, it was a hemrroaidal infection which actually did George in. While George was combating the infection, his weak immune system contracted pneumonia and he had died. this useless information was relayed to Greg by his father's attorney, for some reason. Greg had found the small, circular, bright orange cusion sitting on the chair of his fathers work desk. For some reason it had struck Greg as sad and pathetic. The old man had no success whatsoever, and it surely burned like hell when he wiped his asshole. Greg had tossed the cushion like a frisbee onto a desk in the far corner of the office, where it lay until he picked it up now. "Like father, like son", Greg mumbles aloud.
    It struck Greg that perhaps the lawyer knew more about his father George than Greg did himself. Yes, the lawyer had spent quite a bit of time preparing George's estate, and settling his accountsFor a fee, of course. It turns out George had stiffed the lawyer on several occasions, and the lawyer wanted to collect before he would transfer ownership of George's possessions to Greg. Greg had forked over $500 to the shyster attorney, thinking he was inheriting Ali Baba's riches, or something.
The lawyer didn't produce much for his cost: A title to an old '85 Chrysler Celebrity, the deed to the store, and a garage full of more useless crap. Greg had junked out the Celebrity for a paltry $250. The car still ran, but was over a hundred thousand on the odometer, and was rusting through on the bottom outside doors. The salvage yard owner said he would use the car as a work vehicle. "You can drive it up your own ass, for all I care" Greg had muttered under his breath as he drove away in his own vehicle. It was the start of Greg's mutterings, as well as the epiphany that Greg's situation would not improve by inheriting all his fathers headaches and frustrations.
Greg's own vehicle was starting to give problems. It seemed to overheat far too often. How ironic that Greg would've been better off if he had taken his fathers car and junked his own Crysler Lebaron. I guess we were both found of Chryslers, Greg thought, as he started up the frozen hulk that was the Lebaron. In retrospect, Greg had no real way of knowing how well his father had treated the car. If he had to go on experience, with the treatment George gave his own son as an example, Greg would say the car would most likely not been taken care of.
As it turns out, George had babied that car, driving slow and maintaining it properly. Greg had seen the junk yard owner again when he was shopping around for cheap tires. The junk yard owner had proudly complimented the car, saying how dependable and smooth-running it was. Meanwhile, Greg had already replaced a waterpump on his own vehicle, and was thinking that the thermostat was going bad too.
If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, was a common saying Greg threw in with his usual mumblings. He had just such a thought as he scrapped his car windows free of ice and snow. After a few moments, Greg sat behind the wheel (with the aid of the cushion, of course) and drove off to get something to eat. He wasn't sure what he was hungry for, but opted for a diner meal instead of fast food. Since he had one foot in the poor house already, a little splurging on a meal wouldn't break the bank.
The diner was mostly deserted, which Greg was thankful for. The digital clock on the wall showed it was 1:30 in the morning, and the only other patron was a man who looked like a truck driver. He must've been a late-night straggler, trying to get one last shipment in before the holidays. Greg didn't care much one way or the other, and didn't give the guy a second glance. In his emptiness and inner torment, Greg didn't much care if he talked to another living soul for the duration of his stay on earth. He tried to be polite to the waitress, but made no effort for small talk or idle talking. All he wanted was to eat and be left alone, and so he ordered a heaping portion of eggs, sausage, bacon and orange juice.
It wasn't often he ordered breakfast at night, but this day was not ordinary. He wanted some kind of comfort, and had always enjoyed diner breakfast food. Wow, big spender, way to cut loose, Greg thought to himself with venom. For once, he pushed aside his negativity and focused on the meal, which came out better than he could've imagined. Firstly, he downed his pill with a gulp of orange juice. Then he ate ravenously, as if he hadn't had a meal in days. Greg didn't reckon that hospital food was much more than styrofoam with flavor, so in truth, he really hadn't had an actual meal for several days.
Everything was good. The waitress was generous with her refills, coming by very often whenever his glass was empty. To him, it was a feast, a celebration of living in the moment, even if dark, treacherous times lie ahead. For a brief time there, in that cramped little diner, he felt at ease. Perhaps things weren't so bad after all. The waitress handed him the check and smiled courteously at him.
Feeling somewhat generous, Greg left a heft tip of $10. If his money was quickly going to run out, he might as well enjoy spending what little he had left. Greg figured $10 wouldn't put a much of a dent in the universe, or affect his karma at all.
But, sometimes a small act of charity given at our lowest moment can change more than we realize. If we are broken and dismal, whatever we give can mean much more than it would on any other given day. Little did Greg know that his fortunes would eventually take a change for the better.

Greg drove around the deserted city for hours. His crappy little car puttered around, trailing white exhaust from its tailpipe. He looked for roads where no cars had been. He enjoyed hearing the crunchy, packing sound the snow made when his tires plowed through it. His headlights reflected across a brilliant array of crystals imbedded in the snow. He went up back streets he was only vaguely familiar with, trying to get lost in the crisscrossing of avenues and alleys. If there was a way he could drive free from this mess, he surely would've do so. Just put 'er in gear and start driving till you run out of gas. Sadly, it was not that simple. He was merely killing time, distracting himself from the actuality of things. He had no idea what the fuck he was going to do to get out of this situation.
    Eventually he turned around and headed back to his business/home. A thought occurred to him then, and Greg instead went to the storage garage he received from his father. What an inheritance, Greg thought to himself, as he grappled with the frozen lock on the sliding door. The garage had a back-tax of over $100  Greg had to pay before he was allowed access to what was inside. the garage now cost him $20 a month, on top of all his other expenses. Surely somewhere in that garage, amongst all the clutter, there was a diamond in the rough, which would justify all the expense for keeping this crap. However, Greg was doubtful he would keep possession of the storage long enough to find out. He himself had seen the managers throwing the contents of several storage sheds in the dumpster, because of unpaid rent. Greg had an unsettling feeling that his shed would share a similar fate. But for now, the shed was his, and everything else in it as well.
there was one item in particular he recalled seeing that may prove useful. As Greg swept the flashlight through the piles of junk and useless debris, he saw the cane.
It looked like oak, or maybe mahogany, polished with a dark red coating of lacker. The handle of the cane looked like a swirl of wood braided together, like a bundle of roots tied together. It was an exceptional antique, and Greg had made  a mental note it was there. He wasn't sure why he was compelled to grab it in the middle of the wintery night. Perhaps his wandering mind seized upon it as something to occupy his thoughts from misery.
It might've also been because it belonged to his father, and right now Greg had a longing for connection to a parental authority. His mother had passed away about 6 months before his father, and Greg had no living ties left of his family. He couldn't ask advice from ghosts, that was for sure.
And yes, as Greg held the cane in his hand, he did feel somewhat better. The cane might help him get from point A to B, at least until his wounds healed more. Greg was about to shut the sliding door back down, when he spied a shoebox hanging precariously off a rickety tin shelf. Curiousity crept into Greg, and he grabbed the box to look inside. A cluttered assortment of poloroid pictures was inside. As Greg searched through the box, he found a picture of his father, dressed up as Santa Clause. greg was perched on his father's knee, a toddler still in diapers, looking blankly into the camera.
Greg studied the picture intently for perhaps two minutes, unmindful of the cold biting at his cheeks, or the snot dripping from the corner of his nose. Greg was moved beyond words. A tear fought it's way free, and slid down his grizzled cheek. This was the first indication of any involvement George had in his upbringing. This came at a time when Greg had little to no cash. But Money could not buy such a feeling. Right then, the emotional impact of that tiny faded poloroid held much sway over Greg. It did his heart good to see such a momento. Greg sniffed his tears back, along with slightly frozen mucus. He held the box under one arm as he slid the door back shut. He could barely wait to get home and explore more of these pictures.
It was something to look forward to, something to keep his spirit going.

Uploaded 01/05/2012
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