crook Takes Pawn part 83

    They had been conversing agreeably, when Greg brought up the issue of the commission. He hated brining up the subject of money during the party, but it seemed a good a time as any. The wives and girlfriends were in attendance, as was Donny, the spare help.
    "So, we never really agreed on the percentage I'd be making for those computers," Greg starts, "I was thinking it should be, maybe, 20%???"
    Greg offers this bid with hesitance. He is asking, more than telling. Greg doesn't have the gall to be cutthroat in business. Ben is too cool of a guy to try to strangle money out of him. Greg understands the immense financial worries that accompany Benjamin everywhere. The weight of a business, a home, and a strained marriage have Ben taxed to the limits. Greg would limit his own taxation on Benjamin to what he thought he deserved.
    Ben has his fingers tented together, and he opens and closes his hands, touching his fingertips on both hands. About 2 minutes pass. Ben looks lost in thought. The room is silent, as everyone waits for Benjamin's response.
    "Ben?" Greg says, after an inordinate pause. Ben snaps his head to look at Greg, as if he was napping with eyes open.
    "Wha?" Ben asks slowly.
    "The commission," Greg says with a meager grin, "I was thinking 20%."
    "I was thinking more like 25%," Benjamin says with a counter-bid. Greg raises his eyebrows in disbelief. His mouth hangs open.
    "Deal." Greg says immediately, and shakes his baked friends hand.
    "Ben!!" Michelle exclaims, batting his shoulder with her thin palm. She wears a strained smile. "You're not supposed to go UP on an offer!!"
    "What?" Ben says, shrugging his shoulders, "I'm grateful. I didn't really do anything. Greg has been instrumental in getting this thing going. I'm not good with people. I have the smarts and product knowledge, but I hate being around customers, and interacting with them. Greg is way better at it."
    Michelle crosses her arms and legs altogether at once. Her leg fidgets, as her body posture reveals her displeasure. Donny glances fictively from Greg, back to Benjamin. This was the oddest negotiation he had ever been privy to.
    "So, it's settled!!," Rebecca shouts, "25% is the special for the day!!"
    "Not so loud, Rebecca!!" Greg hisses, "You're gonna wake Julie!!"
    "Julie's at my sister Amy's," Rebecca says, "Remember? Amy came by and picked her up just before they showed upyou're so ripped, Greg!!"
    "I am," Greg confirms.
Rebecca rolls onto her back with laughter. Unwittingly, her legs are spread and she reveals her panties to all in attendance. The smiley mouth leers out at them, confirming Greg's previous entreaty was successful. Greg pushes her leg against the other silken thigh, and pulls her dress back down.
    "Your not decent, Reb," Greg scolds, "we can see your underoos."
    Donny got the best view from his low position. He even saw some whale tale as Greg folded her legs together. Despite Donny's reservations towards ogling a friend's girl, Donny felt his erection spring up. He felt ashamed, somewhat. This girl was way out of his league. Donny shouldn't even be in her eyesight. A horizon's distance should be between them. That's how he felt.
    Being around such a vixen made Donny sad, rather than happy. It was like a reminder of what he himself couldn't dare hope for. Rebecca was kind. Donny had no quarrel with her. But Donny felt out of his element. That skittishness seemed to return to him on this night. That old social fear began to fester.
    Rebecca excused herself from the room and Donny is glad. Feeling those beautiful blue eyes sweep across Donny made him nervous. He wanted to shrink from view. Donny thought about the drugs he stole. Greg had said they were even now, but Donny still felt guilty. If Rebecca ever found outâ¦
    "Here, Donald," Rebecca says gaily. Donny looks up. Rebecca is offering him a metal folding chair. Donny smiles and hops to his feet. The chair is placed carefully, and now Donny is on a better elevation for common humanity.

    "You know, I was thinking about it, Greg," Donny says, "and I realized something. If it wasn't for a cheap, $3 bike tube patch, you never would have been shot up at the Pawn and Payday."
    Everyone stares at Donny. No one knows if this is a joke, or a strange anecdote.
    "You see, I found this old bike by the riverbed," Donny explains, "and it was actually in pretty fair condition. It was an old Schwinn, and looked to be thrown there by some Tom, Dick, or Harry. Only, the front tire had been submerged in the water, so the tube was popped. But the rim was still intact."
    Donny leans forward, getting into the tale. It is the first time that night that Donny has gotten emphatic about something.
    "So I wheeled this crappy ten speed back to the gazebo, where I slept under."
    Michelle's lip curls at this part in Donny's tale. Her disdain shows an unsympathetic view to the homeless, to say the least.
    "I bought a tire patching kit from Wal-Mart, and tried to repair the tube. I thought it would work, but the next morning, I got up and the tire was flat. I was gonna ride over to your shop, to warn you about Jessie, but by the time I got across town, the cops were already there. You see? If it weren't for a cheap tire repair kit that didn't work, I would've been able to let you know Jessie was gunning for you."
    Ben mutters a laugh. Everyone else looks at Donny puzzlingly. Donny feels their gaze, and the nervousness returns from its brief absence.
    "Wait a minute," Greg says, splaying his hands outward, "What do you mean, 'warn me about Jessie'? How did you know what was gonna happen?"
    Everyones gaze whipsaws back and forth between Donny and Greg.
    "I bought a bag of weed from Jessie, the day before the shooting," Donny says casually, "he mentioned you, not by name, but by description. I planned to go to the Pawn and Payday, to tell you to watch out. But the patch on the tire didn't hold. If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."
    Even Benjamin looks sobered by this retelling. Rebecca is frowning. No longer smiling, her mouth is a straight line. There has been a change in the atmosphere here. Donny should have said nothing at all.
    "You mean, Greg could've avoided being injured?" Michelle asks reproachfully. By her tone, it seems she has made up her mind about Donny.
    "how could you buy a bag of weed from a guy like him?" Benjamin asks in stark wonder. Donny feels his face grow hot. Even Ben is flabbergasted by past events.
    Greg senses the tension in the air. "Well," he says, "the way I look at it, if it wasn't for the shooting, I never would've met Rebecca. And I wouldn't be in this beautiful home, with this sexy beast beside me."
    Rebecca has draped herself across Greg's side. Unconsciously, Greg pats her bottom  rhythmically with his hand. They are at ease with each other. Public displays of affection were warranted. All is well. Greg's inhibitions are cast aside like a curtain in a vanitas painting. He has no secrets, and does not feel anger towards Donny for buying a bag of green from Greg's most perilous foe.

Uploaded 07/01/2012
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