Crook Takes Pawn Part 9

Greg first thought of the mother again while he was driving back from the storage garage. He pictured her smile, and the gratitude in her one good eyeGreg's mind quickly revamps the image of her. As our minds often do, Greg fixed the flaws within his little day dream. He envisioned her with two healed eyes, wearing a huge smile that showed those flawless white teeth. Thank youThank youfor what? for saving her childGreg was just now coming to understand the implications of what he did. He had recklessly rushed in to save her daughter, and had succeeded. He was not completely unscathed, but he was still alive.
His low view of himself would not yet allow him to acknowledge his heroism, but for now he was content in knowing he had accomplished a good deed, despite much violent adversity.
Greg found himself in a wonderful mood. Perhaps it was partially due to his pseudo heroin pill kicking in, but he was delighted. As he parked his car, he actually found himself whistling a christmas tune. Upon stepping out onto the icy road, however, his tone quickly changed.
Greg stumbles out of his crappy Chrysler Lebaron. He fumbles to securely plant the cane on the ground to help prop himself up.
Greg crashes to the ground, barking his shin painfully on the curb. He grits his teeth and hisses obscenities through his clenched mouth. What's even worse though is that the top of the box of photos is torn loose, and the wind begins to snatch up the many pictures inside.
"Oh, no!!" Greg gasps, "No, please!!"
Greg finds himself awkwardly snatching for some of the photos in front of his face. they flutter mockingly in front of him for a few moments before beings cartwheeled down the street alongside the curb.
    He angrily whips the cane across the street. It twirls through the air, then clatters on the ground, coming to rest in the road. Greg realizes he himself is only a short trip from the gutter as well, and the thought finally sinks in for him.
His torrent of curses dissolves into a fit of crying. His large body shakes, wracked with deep sobs.
    His shitty little life is unraveling. Is it really that much of a surprise though? The United States had been circling the drain for years now, with businesses collapsing and people going hungry. It seemed the country was hellbent on keeping wars going, while the people went bust. It was a crazy fucking world to be living in at this time of history.
    In the back of Greg's mind, he always believed he would come out on top. Somehow, he would overcome the difficulties of a failing economy and emerge victorious. After all, he was smarter, he was better, he was more prepared. But now, cold reality was hitting home in a big way. It turns out he wasn't special, or innovative. He was a fool. His macho swagger would not see him through. Now, here he sits, a broken human being, both physically and financially. And the vultures from the bank were ready to swoop in to pick clean whatever is left.
At that moment, Greg would have gladly disappeared from the face of the earth to avoid the dire consequence of his failing business. Like so many before him, he prayed secretly for oblivion to come and whisk him away from painful choices, and even more painful existenceAnd like many others before him, he was denied this fate. The world continued to spin...the cane still lay amongst the trash and discarded fast food wrappers, and he still sat a broken down, dejected fatass.
After a few minutes of heavy soul-searching, Greg laboriously tries to get to his feet. After a feebly attempting to boost himself up on a parking meter, Greg noticed the bum watching him.
Donny, his name was. Greg remembered him for his soft-spoken manner, and his polite nature. The man was gaunt, and wore the face of many hardships. The wrinkles surrounding Donny's tired brown eyes seem etched into his features. Donny's brown stubble was forming a thick, nappy beard, a form of insulation from the chilly winter winds. Donny nervously toyed with the zipper of his hood sweatshirt. It was an article of clothing that Greg had seen so often he knew it to be one of his only belongings. The same could be said of his threadbare denim jeans, which were patched numerous times over.
 The bum never caused him any grief (at least not any that he was aware of). Greg occasionally threw small labor jobs his way, things like mowing his lawn, and painting the outside of the building. This was back when Greg first opened, and funds were still plentiful. Now, Greg couldn't even afford to hire Donny for slave wages.
Donny hesitantly approaches Greg.
"Do you need help, Greg?"
Never one to ask for help, Greg opted this time to allow assistance.
"yes, Donny, help this old tub of lard up."
Donny takes hold of Greg's chubby hands and hauls him upright. Greg rests most of his considerable weight onto his one good leg, causing it to throb in protest. To equalize his posture, Greg leans heavily onto the parking meter.
"Donny?" Greg says softly, perking up the bums attention ,"would you please do something for me?"
"Sure" Donny says without pause. He knew Greg to be an honest individual. the meager work Greg had sent his way never went unnoticed. Greg had even bought lunch for Donny and his pals whenever they were all working for Greg. Those had been good times in Donny's life. He will remember them always, even in these black times. He was grateful for whatever scraps he could get together.
"Please help me pick up these pictures" Greg says, motioning with his box full of photographs.
Donny nods and jogs forward to the curbside, where most of the photos seem to have congregated. Donny diligently picks up every last one. Greg can honestly say later he probably hadn't missed a single one that got loose. Greg felt useless, but allowed himself a rest while Donny worked.
Donny hands them back to Greg with great pride that he was able to help a friend.
"I know how important pictures are, Greg" Donny says softly. Donny takes his wallet from his pocket and produces a picture from the bill holder.
"That's my dad" Donny says happily, "He died when I was real young. But he was a good guy."
Greg studied the picture. The fathers resemblance to Donny as uncanny. Although faded, and slightly in sepia tones, it was pretty much Donny as he looked now, albeit with an afro.
"I like the 'fro", Greg says smiling warmly. Donny laughs and takes the picture back, carefully slipping it back into a spot where money would normally be kept. It seemed obvious what Donny valued now.
"I heard what happenedI'm sorry to hear things went downhill for you." Donny says softly.
"It was gonna happen sooner or later,"  Greg chuckles bitterly, "my only option left is to burn the place down, or blow my fucking brains out."
Donny looks at him with a blank stare. "you'reYou're jokingRight?" Donny inquires.
Greg snaps him an angry look. Boy, he must really be in a sorry state if such a statement could be taken seriously.
"A poor attempt at humor, I know," Greg concedes, "but I don't mean it. Besides, who would pay for the funeral?"
Greg utters a raspy, desperate laugh that sounds like part coughing fit. the corner of Donny's mouth rises in a weak smile. His bushy brown eyebrows rise uncertainly, furrowing creases into his brow.
"I tell you what" Greg proposes, "you wanna help me? Go inside, grab those pair of crutches in the far left corner of the store."
As he speaks, Greg fishes his mass of keys from his pocket. He sorts through the set until he finds the front door key. He holds it out to the bum, like a crooked tooth pulled from a rotting mouth. The key was rusty and tarnished, covered by thick nicks and scratches.

To the bum it is quite a statement. The keys to a kingdom. This measly pawn and payday may be a shabby refuge, but still a refuge notheless. To Donny the bum, it was beautiful. Anyplace with heat and running water seemed like paradise to Donny. It's funny how the things we view as unobtainable set the standard for what our luxury is. A bum is not hard to please, or impress. The basic amenities will astound them just as easily.
Greg gestures impatiently with the keys, as if to say, come on already. Donny takes the keys from him and does as he was asked. Emerging with the crutches, Donny hands first one, then the other to Greg. Greg tests out his balance tentatively on the sidewalk. Oh yeah, that was much better. He could relax some of his girth off his aching ass.
"One last thing Donny" Greg asks, jerking his head back toward the direction of the gutter, "pick up that cane over there would you, and take it inside?"
Donny was never one to turn down an offer to come inside for a spell. A good day for Donny could be measured in how long he spent indoors, whether at the library where it was free to doze off in a chair, or on the city train until closing.
Greg hobbled inside with lurching swings of his legs from the crutches. It was awkward, but he could get used to it. It was a better alternative to walking around feeling like he had a fire burning in his butt bone. Greg debated turning over the front sign from closed to open, then dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand. Fuck it. He was taking a day off. One day isn't gonna hold off the bankruptcy any longer.
Donny relished the feeling of warm air dousing his body. The furnace was just kicking in as they entered the abandoned store. Donny could feel the blowers pushing the air from the vents, and quickly stood in front of it to be surrounded by the heat.
Greg made his way to the soft leather chair where he had sat that mother so long ago. The padding on the chair was so soft, he didn't even need to use his hemmroid cushion. Greg just eased back, putting his feet up on a rack of metal dumbbells. Greg quickly thought of several self-depracating jokes about himself being a dumbbell, but brushed them aside.
His buzz was coming on, and he was mellow. Although he could still feel the pain itself, his mood was improved drastically.
"Hey Donny" Greg shouts out, "if you grab me a soda from the fridge back there, you can get one for yourself, too."
"That's a deal" Donny says with a big grin. It had been 3 days since he last had a taste of a soda, and his mouth watered at the offer. Donny quickly returned with the refreshments, and the two men popped their tops and drank deeply. Greg leans over and grabs the remote to one of his stereo receivers. with a flip of button, one of the larger speaker systems kick on, and the store is flooded with classic rock. Greg leans his head back and lets the atmosphere wash over him. he was feeling good. He could get used to this.
In the corner of his mind, however, Greg knew this euphoria was a result of his temporary access to Oxy-Conton. The responsibilities he kept were still tugging at the edges of his thoughts, but they became blurry and not as important when the Oxy kicked in.
With a chilly thought, Greg suddenly knew how people might become addicted to this stuff.
Greg opened his eyes through slits, and watched donny carefully. Donny looked very content, swigging his drink , and bobbing his head to the pleasant music. Donny notices Greg looking at him, and smiles while holding up his drink.
"Cheers" Donny says joyfully. Greg smiles and tinks his can next to Donny's.
"How's your ass feeling?" Donny asks with a chuckle.
"I dunno" Greg says, "why don't you ask your girlfriend? She was grabbing it all night."
"The jokes on you" Donny says with a snort, "I don't have a girl!!"
"touche" Greg says, raising one eyebrow comically and swigging his drink.
"Nah, my ass does hurt though" Greg says, with a slight sigh.
"What meds they give you?" Donny asks
"Oxy"Greg replies, " as in Oxy Conton"
Donny whistles. "that's some powerful shit, Greg"
"What you know about Oxy?" Greg asks, genuinely interested.
"Let's just say" Donny explains, "I've known a few street pharmacists in my time."
"tell me about it," Greg says with a sneer, " that fucker Jessie was dealing on my corner at all hours of the morning."
Donny nods gravely. "yeah, you gunned that bastard down" Donny states simply.
hearing it said that way makes Greg feel uncomfortable. It makes it sound more like a street execution than awell, whatever you call an event like that, it surely was no crime of hate or revenge, though. Greg suddenly wondered how the neighborhood would view him now. There might be ramifications of what he did that have yet to play out.
"You did the right thing, man" Donny reassures, "That guy had to be taken out."
"I don't' want to talk about that" Greg says gruffly, "I've been thinking about it too much already."
"ok, fair enough" Donny says respectively ,"But can you just let me know one thingI heard you saved a kid or something. Like, a baby infant. Is that true?"
Greg doesn't want to say yes outright. That would mean taking responsibility for what he did, which oddly enough he wasn't ready to do yet. He tried to downplay it instead.
"The kid was about 2 or three" Greg confides,"But she was never in any real danger. Jessie wanted me dead. I was the one who locked him up before he made bail."
"That's some crazy shit"  Donny says, shaking his head thoughtfully.
The two may fall silent for a few minutes. The only sound is the soft contemporary rock drifting through the aisles of Greg's merchandise.

Greg shifts in the chair and yelps out in sudden pain.
"Are you okay?" Donny asks, alarmed.
"Yeah, yeah" Greg says softly, "It's just that these pills are starting to lose their effectiveness. I guess your weight determines how well they work, too. I thought about taking more, but I only could afford a two weeks supply of that Oxy."
"Did they give you any benzos to take with that?" Donny inquires.
"Benzos?" Greg asks, "Oh, yeah. Those benzodiazapims. The doctor said that would enhance the effect of the oxy cotton."
"Damn straight they do" Donny says, with an odd smile.
"Right, but I can't afford both the Oxy and the Benzos" Greg sadly informs him.
"Yeah, you sound like you're in pain" Donny says softly, "You wanna smoke a joint?"
Greg raises his eyebrows and looks at Donny. Donny fidgets uncomfortably under Greg's gaze.
"For the pain, I mean.' Donny explains almost apologetically, "It'll take your mind off of things at least. I mean, unless you don't smoke or nothing."
"you have a joint with you right now?" Greg asks expectantly.
"wellyeah I do" Donny says very quietly.
"hell yeah!!" Greg exclaims," lets go to my back office to fire it up!!"
Greg was really throwing caution to the wind today. First he had invited a bum into his business, and now he was about to partake in illegal drugs as well.
Greg allows his disconcerts to be quieted. This was his place, it was okay. Had it been another person's domicile, he might have second thoughts. But Greg was no stranger to weed, either. Back in his old hippie days, Greg has preferred smoking grass to getting drunk. It just seemed to agree with him better than the alcohol.
Greg felt excited as he locked his office door. the prospect of temporary relief through cannabis seemed like a very attractive prospect at that time. Greg was impressed with the quality of the weed. He could smell the piney scent from across the room before they even lit it.
Donny offered him the first green hit, but Greg waved it off, telling him that it was his weed, he should hit it first. In actuality, Greg hadn't smoked even a cigarette for years, and was afraid he would look uncool, not knowing how to light it properly.

Uploaded 01/06/2012
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