Crook Takes Pawn Part 94

Ed is home. He is shirtless and shoeless, explaining he just got through an overnight shift at the utility company. He is dismayed at seeing them, and runs his grizzled fingers through his thinning blonde hair. He ushers them in, scratching the ass of his sweat pants as he does so. Ed is hospitable. He offers freshly brewed coffee, which he and Rebecca accept.
    "First things first, Greg," Ed says, "what happened there in Iowa that's got you all over the news like a celeb?"
    "I killed a man," Greg says blankly.
    The steam rolls from their coffee mugs, as silent as all three currently are.
    "So--how did that--" Ed asks, trailing off. He is confused and slightly worried. Did Ed unwittingly let a murderer into his home?
    "the guy was trying to kill us all," Greg elaborates, "and it was either him or me. We had a helluva shootout, nothing like those movies make it out to be like. I got him, and he nearly got me."
    Greg pulls aside the collar of his dress shirt and shows the scar. Ed tsks in sympathy.
    "You're one tough hombre, brother," Ed says, shaking his head, "there's no way I could stand up during a crisis like that. I know my own limits."
    "So, my store got shot to hell," Greg continues, "a good samaritan who helped me took one in the chest, and Jessie the maniac, got what he had coming to him."
    "So, he was robbing you?" Ed asks.
    "Actually," Rebecca interjects, "Jessie stole my van while my baby was in the back, and everything. The safety alarm locked out the engine, and Greg swooped in and got my daughter back."
    "Holy shit!!" Ed exclaims, clapping his hands together, "this just gets better and better!! You're a fucking saint, Greg!!"
    Greg shakes his head. Humility is never hard for one who still remembers how low the bottom is.
    "You and I both know that ain't true," Greg says, "a saint doesn't give u on their kids, like I did. After the shooting, all I could think about was Raymond, and how I had to face him again. I have to see him, Ed."
    Ed twirls his mug with one lazy finger. The ceramic bottom grates against the counter, proving a distraction from the matters at hand.
    "So, I take it you became an item after this whole thing?" Ed says, sidestepping Greg's admittance of abandonment. Greg sighs.
    "Yeah, I love her," Greg says, enfolding Rebecca with his flabby arm.
    "And I love him," Rebecca says as well, "It was both our idea to come out here."
    This is only partially correct. Rebecca had been all about it, but Greg had been reluctant. No need to tell Ed that, though.
    "The shooting made me take stock of things," Greg says wistfully, "I turned my dad George's business around, and I wanted to let you know I have some money to give you guys."
    Greg proudly produces the envelope and places it in front of Ed. Ed flips open the envelope with that same lethargic finger. He raises an eyebrow at the moolah, but his voice is still soft and calm.
    "That's good," Ed says. Greg and Rebecca wait for him to say further, but he doesn't speak.
    "So, I was thinking," Greg says slowly, "is Raymond around here? Can I see him? Like we talked about on the phone?"
    Ed's face grimaces, as if he has indigestion.
    "Raymond is at school right now," Ed says, "his class is running a little late this year. He only has a few days left."
    Ed sips his cup, looking as if this were an explanation unto itself.
    "So, what time does he get off?" Rebecca says just as slowly.
    "Diane always picks up Ray, and drops him off," Ed says, "If you want to see him, you best wait here for Diane."
    This prospect is not attractive. Diane would be livid to see Greg, considering he had made no arrangements to come out here. It would be an unpleasant shock, and the resulting argument may spiral out of control."
    "Is it possible to visit him at school?" Greg asks cautiously.
    Ed shakes his head negatively. "If you want to piss Diane off, I'd say that's the sure-fire method to do it. But if you want to keep in touch with your son, I'd say you'd better just wait here for her to get back."
    Greg weighed his options. Maybe he and Rebecca could speak to Ray without Diane's overwatch. A small effort to wrangle in Raymond when he is alone seemed the best option to Greg. Diane would be pissed regardless of what happened. If Greg left the school before Diane picked up Ray, all might go smoothly. Diane didn't have to know.
    "I just wanna talk to my boy, one-on-one, without Diane meddling." Greg pleads.
    "What you call meddling, Diane would call mothering," Ed states.
    "Edward, I know you're in a difficult position here," Rebecca chimes in, "but Greg is Raymond's biological father. What happened in Iowa, the shooting, and almost dying? It changed him. He's not the same man he was. YOu gotta believe that, Ed. A different Greg sits in front of you now."
    Greg holds her hand and squeezes. She squeezes back.
    Ed rubs his weary blue eyes and rests his chin on his knuckles. He makes a few unintelligible noises to himself, as he ponders it all. At last, he pats the kitchen counter with one hand, showing he's decided.
    "Since you took the trouble of driving all the way out here," Ed says with compassion, "I will phone the school and let them know that Raymond will have visitors. I'll tell them you're his biological father, and you want to see him. They might even take Ray outta class, so the kid might be willing to go through with meeting you. But I can't promise anything. Cali has a different way of doing things out here."
    Ed stands up and stretches, his gaunt body twisting to the side. His back pops audibly. He pushes the envelope of money back to Greg. "But, you'd better give that money to Diane yourself," Ed says, "I think it'll mean more coming from you directly."
    Greg is extremely thankful, and says so. For a split-second, Greg wonders what Ed would be like if Diane hadn't squashed his male ego. Ed seemed like a decent dude, before Diane figuratively neutered him. Things being what they were though, Diane would probably only settle with someone she could control. It lessened the chance of further abandonment.

    Ed phoned the school. Evidently, it was a difficult request to have a father whose son bonded with his chromosomes visit his offspring. Ed is transferred several times. He makes it all the way to the principal, and Greg begins to write the idea off, and concede they must meet Diane at home. But then the conversation turns.
    Ed's face brightens. "That's right, sir. THe very same," Ed says, "It was in the paper. It--what's that? It was on the news, too? Wouldn't surprise me."
    Ed tips back in his chair and sips his mug.
    "He got shot too, though," Ed explains, "in the neck. It's a nasty scar, he showed it to me. Yup. Well, I don't think I need much more to prove he's who he says he is. That's right. Father, by blood. Mmm-hmm. Yes sir. I--I give him permission, as the boy's legal guardian. Okay. A license for ID? NOt a problem. Well, they will be over shortly. What? Oh, him and his wife. She's coming along."
    Rebecca nudges Greg and gives him a spirited look. Here we go, Greg thinks.

    There actually wasn't that much fuss about Greg visiting Ray. Greg seemed to be something of a celebrity. Apparently the principal had blabbed about Greg's feats, and now the front office was crammed with people eyeing him. This wasn't low key like Greg wanted, but it would have to do. Once they have attached their "VISITOR" tags to their shirts, Rebecca and Greg make their way out to the playground, where Raymond will be sent.
    Greg strummed his fingers impatiently against the steel picnic table, making it bellow with metallic noise. It was hot today, like most days under that merciless California sun. Iowa was warm, but not with this much frequency. Check the calendar, folks: sunny and hot for the next 30 days, until a new month flips around. Radar says there maybe a little rain sprinkled here and there, but more than enough sunrays.
    The cafeteria door opens and out steps Raymond Jefferson.

Uploaded 07/24/2012
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