Crook Takes Pawn Part 93

"So, you have the keys, right?" Greg asks with trepidation.
    "Yes Greg," Donny says, shaking the key ring for emphasis.
    "And you know how to mark sales, and deposit in the register?"
    "Yes, mom," Donnie says jokingly, "and I promise to wear clean underwear, too, everyday."   
    Greg's mind is whirling. Like all travelers, he struggles to list all possessions and worries that need to be tended to. His bags and suitcases lay in the spacious trunk of the Chevy Caprice. Rebecca waits outside in the van. The plan is this: Rebecca will follow Greg out to Cali, hopefully Greg will convince Diane to take the Caprice, and then they will journey back to Iowa with one less car between them. That is, assuming Diane is ready to deal. They could've flown, but the uncovering of the new/old car necessitated this new traveling itinerary. This was the last stop before Greg's odyssey began.
    Greg paused, glancing around one last time at his store. From father to son, this building had been inherited, along with George's poor parenting techniques. Now, Greg was planning to smash down the barriers he himself had laid between him and his boy Raymond. Thousands of miles of blacktop must be navigated before this can even begin to happen. But it will happen. Rebecca is outside, supporting this very decision.
    "Allright, i guess that's everything," Greg says with a worried sigh, "I'll have my phone on me, but don't call unless it is an emergency. I don't have nationwide long distance, so there'll be roaming charges."
    Rebecca had prepared for even this eventuality. She purchased a pair of expensive walkie-talkies that would allow them to communicate between vehicles. She thought of everything.
    "Ok, drive safe, Grego," Donnie says, "Good luck, I love you bro!!"
    Greg pauses and gives Donnie a dirty look.
    "What?" donnie says with a grin, "guys can say they love each other."
    "Gay guys, maybe," Greg jokes, and turns to leave.
    "Well, when you get back, maybe we can have a good old-fashioned circle-jerk, whattya say?" Donnie says loudly. Greg chuckles to himself. He supposed in some ways he did love Donnie, but not enough to voice it, as Donnie had. Donnie evidently felt much stronger in his gratefulness to Greg. But as many truly generous people feel, Greg did not want recognition for his efforts to improve Donnie's situation. In truth, Donnie might very well be dead were it not for the fat pawnshop owner intervening in his affairs.
    Rebecca sat in the idling van. She was so tiny, her head reaching just enough over the dashboard to get a proper view. Her slim arm reaches out to give him one of the walkie-talkies.
    "Breaker, breaker, this is Sexy Buns, come in, over?" rebecca says comically. Her talkie squawks as she releases the send button.
    "Sexy buns, this is Stanely Steamer. When you gonna give me some road-head, over?" Greg says, joining in on her game. She laughs.
    "Stanely Steamer, maybe if you washed your balls sometime, I might consider it, over." she says, descending into laughter.
    "Are my balls really dirty?" Greg asks with mock hurt. She detects his insincere voice and cuts short their repartee.
    "Let's get on the road, Stanely," Rebecca says, revving the vans' engine.
    She kisses him. It will be several hours before their next smooch. Julie did not accompany them. Amy agreed to watch the little gal until they got back. All their ducks were in a row.
    Greg never really traveled outside the Western United states. The trip to Iowa, to inherit the Pawn and Payday, was the only foray into unknown parts for Greg. His and Diane's honeymoon had been an exception, but that was as far as it went.
    As they traveled, Rebecca kept close to his rear, with Greg leading the way. She talked about everything, filling in the gaps of his knowledge of her. Her parents were both alive and well, living in Florida to spend their retirement. She spoke of making another expedition to visit them sometime. Greg agreed. Rebecca told many stories about her and Amy. The two siblings had been restless and wandering. Rebecca's father had raised them mostly like boys. Rebecca had eventually diverged into a path decidedly more feminine, while Amy still retained her tomboy ways. Amy regularly hunted with her husband David, and they had half a dozen deer heads mounted on the wall at their home. David had taken to bow-hunting instead of using guns or rifles.
    "It's more of a challenge for him," she explains, over her crackling communication device. Greg said hardly a word. He just listened, and tried to work out what he would say to Raymond, or Diane. Like most practiced speeches, it always sounded better in your head than when it was voiced.
    Greg eventually tried role-playing with Rebecca, having her pretend to be Diane. There was nothing but time to kill on the open road, and so they went through it. Rebecca would give her critique after he was finished.
"More apologetic," she'd say, or "too much detail."
    They stopped after about 10 hours and slept at their first of three hotels. Rebecca had brought a sexy bikini, and so they sat in the hottub, and around the pool for a few hours. Greg was distracted, to say the least. Even the sight of Rebecca's awesome T and A session in a swimsuit did not hold his attention.
They tried to make love in the room, but Greg couldn't manage. Rebecca understood this failing more the second time. She could see in his eyes the nervousness and tension.
    A mediocre continental breakfast, checkout, and they were driving again. Rebecca asked to see the Grand Canyon, and so they went. She had never been, but it was blase for Greg, because it was an attraction he had been to many times. Being closer to California, it wasn't much to stretch ones legs and journey to the large chasm. But it was hot now. Since they left Colorado, the temperature steadily began to climb. At the Grand Canyon, it was 108 degrees, which further dampened Greg's spirits. Rebecca did the tourist thing, taking pictures, looking at the viewfinders for a closer view of rocks and brush, all that stupid crap. The summer crowd was taking over. The place was packed, to the point of discomfort.
    After 2 hours of indulging her request, Greg asked to keep moving. Rebecca asked if they could divert on the way back and visit Mt. Rushmore. Greg shrugged. This trip wasn't for sight-seeing. And so, they only drove through Las Vegas without stopping. Rebecca had planned to rent a hotel within Sin City, but Greg had balked, saying it was too expensive. They were already paying what amounted to over $300 gas for both vehicles. The Caprice rolled like a cloud, but the engine guzzled gas. He began to have doubts whether or not this car was the proper fit for Diane.
    Before he left, he had the car registered, and the title switched over. It shouldn't be an issue to transfer it once more, although it was an out-of-state title. Greg enjoyed the long drive. He could feel his skin soaking up that sun, and tanning his epidermis. But as the miles wound down, Greg felt uneasiness rise in him. This was it. 125 miles down I-80 West. A brief merge onto I-29 North, then back onto I-80 West for another 353 miles. 187 miles on I-76 West, then to I-70 West for 500 more miles. Finally, it was I-15 south through Arizona, and Nevada. 401 miles. After that, it was about 125 more.
    Then, he would see his son, his boy, Raymond. Greg was not excited about the prospect. It was a 50/50 shot, either he would make amends with Raymond and all would be hunky-dory, or it would shatter. There was no in-between that he could see. In a cheap, tacky honeymoon suite, Greg sat with Rebecca and voiced his fears again. It amounted to the same things: the terror of rejection, the shame of betrayal, the glimmer of hope. They talked until the wee hours, then fell asleep amidst the murder-red heart pillows and pink wallpaper. No love was made between them, but their bond went beyond the physical.
As they approached Bakersfield, traffic began to ensnarl them. Several times, aggressive drivers wedged in between Greg and Rebecca. It was bumper-to-bumper, and increased the heat of the day to sweltering limits. The Caprice had air-conditioning, and did not overheat. Greg looked around at the rabble of cars surrounding him, and saw some of his fellow drivers with windows down, a sure sign their AC was not cooperating. Once Rebecca regained her position behind Greg, she rode his ass so as not to get separated again. They plowed through the traffic this way, like siamese vehicles.
    At long last, the traffic broke apart and they were able to turn off into the suburbs. Everywhere Greg looked, it was a mass of humanity. The overwhelming number of bums was mind-boggling. Greg had forgotten how vast the multitudes of disheveled homeless really were. The vagrancy was concentrated to a few shady-looking ghetto areas, though, and once the 'burbs were around them, the bums diffused across the concrete and blacktop into lean patches of poverty.
    Diane kept their old house. It was a yellow ranch-style affair, the paint peeling and faded. Greg feels it all come back to him in a rush. The white shutters, the eave spouts, the cracked and drooping driveway. It was as if he left only yesterday. A popular grew to one side of their gravel alleyway beside the house. Greg scanned the trunk of the tree. He had carved his and Diane's initials into the bark when they first bought this house. Greg only finds a patch of naked wood where the name must've been cut out. It reminds Greg of the named rocks in Rebecca's yard, that absent space where her exe's name was also removed. Greg had certainly been absent as well.
    "Well?" Rebecca says expectantly. She offers her arm and Greg takes it gladly. His legs are rubbery as he walks the path to the front door. He spies the old garage door, as yellow as the rest of the house, but with a white trim gridded across the front, in neat, concise squares. No vehicle is parked outside. Maybe nobody is home. There could be a car in the garage, but the garage door motor never worked. Unless they fixed it by now.
    Only one way to find out.
Greg rings the doorbell.


Uploaded 07/23/2012
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