Crook Takes Pawn Part 96

Rebecca and Greg return sulkily to the motel. Rebecca extends their stay for an additional night, and swipes her card to pay for it. Greg takes a long, hot shower. Rebecca knocks and asks if she can join in the bathing. Greg says he wants to be alone right now. Raymond was the only thing that could compete with his attention towards Rebecca.
    They grab a greasy lunch of burgers and onion rings. The unhealthy food stirs uncomfortably in Greg's gullet. It is a Friday night. They decide to forgo another attempt at visiting Diane. Perhaps 24 hours would allow sufficient time for Diane to cool off.
    It does not turn out that way. If anything, Diane's rage has increased. Upon answering the door to Greg's knock, Diane hawks heavily and spits a luigi on Greg's cheek. It is so large, Greg can hear the splattering sound quite vividly as it connects. With disdain, Greg wipes the slimy mucus off with his handkerchief.
    "I deserved that," Greg says without pause. Also without delay, Diane rears back for another large wad of saliva and snot. Greg swerves and narrowly avoids the stream of grossness.
    "Stop!!" he shouts.
    Diane slaps him. Caught completely off-guard, Greg is stunned by the force of her swipe. She put most of her mass behind the slap, pivoting her body to the side to follow through. Her girth rivaled Greg's own now. Greg sees dark sunspots dot his eyesight. Shit, she could hit.
    "If you don't leave, there's more where that came from." Diane growls.
    "I'm not leaving until I talk to Raymond." Greg says defiantly.
    Diane rears back to give an even heavier strike, when Rebecca clamps onto her wrist. Diane's fury changes to total disbelief. Who did this bimbo think she was??? What gall to assault Diane on her own property. And the most infuriating part of it all was this cheap slut was obviously having sex with Greg. Diane would tear this skinny bitch a new pussy hole. But Rebecca shows nary a trace of fear, even if this mastodon woman was well outside her weight class.
    "Listen lady," Rebecca says in a thinly controlled tone, "if you hate Greg, that's fine. You have your reasons. But you don't have the right to hit him. You lay a hand on him again, and you and me are gonna get into it."
    "GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME, WHORE!!" Diane screams, ripping her wrist from Rebecca's grip. Rebecca stands her ground.
    "Don't call Rebecca names," Greg asserts, "this is between you and me. Leave her outta this."
    Ed is ashy gray in color. He hates confrontation. He is neutral, neither for or against any of these proceedings. He simply wishes for it to be over as soon as humanly possible. Conflict does not agree with him.
    "I will leave," Greg says calmly, "if that's what you want."
    "Good, that's EXACTLY what I want!!" Diane scowls.
    "But I have this to give to you," Greg says, producing the envelope full of cash. He splays the bills slightly from the opening, to convey what is inside. Diane eyes widen.
    "It's a thousand bucks," Greg says.
    Diane smacks his hand savagely, and the envelope flips from Greg's grip. Fate deems it time for a sudden gust of wind, and the bills scatter. Greg's mouth drops open, as he looks helplessly as the cash is blown away. Ed is the first to start retrieving the bills. The middle-aged dude frantically chases down the errant currency, running this way and that. Greg joins the fray and starts his own catching game. Between the two of them, they recover $900.
    Greg curses himself for not breaking the bills into smaller currency. A single C-note gone is not the same as losing $20. He hands the money back to Ed. The cash was an effort to plead for forgiveness.
    "Make sure you hang onto this," Greg says gravely, "I'm just trying to help out a little. I know it's not much for years of neglect."
    "I appreciate the gesture," Ed says sincerely, "this really will help. thank you, Greg."
    Rebecca stands resolute, never joining in the expensive hide-and-go-seek game of large currency. She stares after Diane as the bloated woman returns to her house. Rebecca's eyes are angry lakes of cold bitterness. She really would have fought Diane, if it came down to it. Rebecca refused to watch Greg treated this way.
    "I know she doesn't want to hear me out," Greg says tiredly, "But I do have this car that I wanted to give to her."
    Greg motions behind him at the Chevy Caprice. Ed looks intrigued. They both walk over to the vehicle and Greg gives an inventory.
    "I had to change the, battery, plugs, and terminal cables, but it runs fine. I drove it all the way from Iowa. The serpentine belt shrieks a little bit, but it can be replaced."
    Ed is somewhat more versed in vehicle inspection than Greg. He checks the oil.
    "Good," Ed says, "If the headgasket went, this oil would be all milky-white because the antifreeze would be mixing with the oil pan. But it's okay."
    "Alright," Greg says good-naturedly. At least Ed noticed Greg wasn't actively trying to deceive.
    "But there's a problem here," Ed says with a note of alarm, "this model was built before the catalytic convertors started cutting down on immersions. You see Greg, here in California, this car isn't even supposed to be driven on our roads."
    "Whattya mean?" Greg says with disdain.
    "The state of California has mandatory vehicle inspections. If the cops pull you over and you don't have that little sticker that says you passed that inspection, your car might get impounded."
    Greg's balls rise into his stomach. This was trouble. Not only would Ed and Diane not be able to drive the car without modification, how was Greg supposed to get back now? Suppose he did get pulled over, what would he do? His only choice would be to get the mammoth of a car retro-fitted, or just leave it, like he had left Raymond. Rebecca could drive them home in the van. Neither idea seemed appealing.
    "In all honesty, Greg," Ed says sadly, "I don't think we have much use for the car. It's a gas-guzzler for sure, and if we were to drive something this big, we might as well get a mini-van, or a truck."
    Greg's good deeds have not come to fruition. Everything that he thought would transpire has gone south in a bad way. Greg's daydreams of after-school special reunions would lead nowhere.
    "Fuck," Greg says with desperation, "I guess it figures. Maybe I shoulda never come back here."
    "ED!!" Diane yells from the screened-in porch, "Get inside!!"
    Ed gives Greg a sorrowful look, and shrugs. That one gesture sums up Ed's feelings in more ways than his limited vocabulary will allow. Ed shuffles back into the house, waving to Greg as he joins Diane.
    Greg opens the large door to his environmentally unfriendly vehicle and pauses one last time to look at the house he used to share with his ex-wife. Raymond is watching from the upstairs bedroom window. That poor child. Ray is caught between his squabbling parents, one of which the child barely even knows. Greg raises a hand in parting to his lost progeny. Raymond reciprocates, waving weakly through the bright steaks of light on the glass.
    Greg feels tears again. "At least you tried," he mutters in a choked voice.  A dark finality has started to settle in. This is the way it was going to be.
    As he kneels down to enter his car, he sees something clinging to the hubcap. He leans closer to the fluttering object. It is the last unaccounted for Ben Franklin. Greg feels a roar of triumph, however fleeting. He clasps the bill tightly before it can fly away. With a cautious stance, Greg goes back to the front of the house and rings the doorbell. Diane answers.

    She goes to slam the door, but Greg wedges his foot against the lower jam, to his discomfort. Diane lunges agains the door with her considerable weight, wrenching Greg's ankle painfully.
    "Get out!!" she screams.
    "Calm down!!" Greg says, "I found the last hundred dollars!!"
    He holds up the crisp bill. Diane's hand snatches out for it, but Greg keeps it out of her grasp intuitively.
    "Can you just talk to me for like 5 minutes???" Greg asks desperately, "and I'll give you the money. You can't beat that, it's like $20 a minute!!"
    Diane begrudgingly opens the door. Greg's foot throbs from their exchange.
    "I've got nothing to say to you," Diane says, "you're a pig, you're an asshole, and I hope you rot in hell."
    "I know how you feel about me," Greg says, "and I know there's probably no changing that. I am sorry, for what it is worth."
    Diane bares her teeth at him like a feral feline. But she relinquishes her hold on the door, and Greg enters.
    "I can't describe to you how I felt, receiving that letter from you," Diane says, "it said it all in nice pretty type: I DON'T FUCKING CARE ABOUT YOU OR YOUR SON!! That's what it should have said."
    "I'm sorry." Greg repeats.
    "Do you know, I didn't even have time to cry for myself?" Diane says angrily, "that same day, I had to get Raymond dressed, and fed and bathed. And it was twice as hard because your fat fucking ass wasn't around to help pay for it anymore!!"
    "I'm sorry. I was wrong." Greg says.
    "You know how sad Raymond is?" Diane screeches, "he hardly ever smiles. He doesn't like to go outside even. He just stays in his room, and plays video games."
    "I'm so sorry, Diane," Greg cries in anguish, "it's all my fault."
    "You're damn right it is," Diane sneers, "you've fucked him up in the head. Just like your no-good sonovabitch bastard of a father did to YOU!!!"
    She pushes him at the last phrase of this. Greg rebounds against the door, which shakes in its frame. He does not retaliate. Ed is watching like a pale ghost, from the kitchen. He will not intervene, even if there is bloodshed.
    "You're right," Greg whimpers, "I wasn't smart enough to see how I could avoid what my dad did to me. I was wrong, and I was weak."
    Diane is not satisfied by this. She too had imagined this confrontation for many an hour. But in her vision, Greg was shouting back at her, escalating the situation, denying his guilt. She wanted there to be more insolence behind his tone. That way, she could justify ripping his guts out. She always figured she would never see Greg again, and in some ways, that relentless, driving anger had spread to Diane's current marriage, to the woe of Ed.
    But Greg was passive, submitting to her. And she was venting her anger, but it didn't make her feel any better, like she thought it would. Instead, that dull ache of failed promises began inside her. She believed that disempowering feeling had been quashed long ago. But it stirs within her core. The sadness threatened to unveil itself, overriding the anger, which stems from that melancholy.
    She tells herself she will not shed a tear in front of this man, but they break free anyway. She continues to shout as she sobs, spittle and snot and words flying randomly.
    "You left us," Diane says sorrowfully, "and it's like you never thought twice about it. Had you just, STAYED, it could've been different. We could have been separated, but you could still see Raymond."
    "I have no excuses, Diane," Greg says, as he kneels down, "but I'm here, begging you, on my knees. Please, just let me talk to Raymond one last time. That's all that I ask."
    Diane towers above him, a swaying glob of flesh. Greg has ruined her, he realizes. During their marriage, she had been plump, but still sexy in Greg's eyes. Her charm and personality made up for whatever she was lacking. And she never lacked in the area of bra size. Greg had always admired her breasts, knowing it was the best part of her.
    Now, flash forward to present. Diane was a mess. Those wonderful breasts had grown almost comically large, matching the rest of her body. Her stomach overhangs her crotch, looking like a grotesque malformation. Diane's mascara was runny with tears now, which added to the unpleasant image. Her eyes demanded his head on a plate. Greg continues to crouch before her.   
    Then, those eyes soften. For a moment, she is the old Diane, the one he proposed to, the one he conceived a child with, the one he loved. But the look passes, like a stray flash of light across a jeweled surface. Her emerald eyes harden again, but he detects less animosity now. She still hates him, but there is now a civility to her demeanor now.
    "Raymond!!" she bellows upstairs, "Please come down here!!"
    Raymond has been there the whole time. He clutches Ed, who rubs the boys back gently. Raymond's face is red from crying also. Ed is the only one not streaming tears.
    Raymond walks over to his biological father, the donor of sperm. Greg remains kneeling. Raymond's wet eyes seem to twinkle with despair. It tears Greg in twain. Raymond should be out playing with friends, kissing girls, causing trouble. Instead, the big boy was submerged by the failings of the man who brought him into this world. Greg imagines Raymond sitting alone in an empty room, hunched over a game controller for all hours of the summer. Innocence lost, never to be recovered.
    Greg places a hand on Raymond's shoulder. Ray looks at the hand quizzically, as if he didn't understand the gesture, had never felt a person's touch before.
    "Raymond," Greg begins, and swallows hard, "I want to tell you that my leaving had nothing to do with you."
    Raymond looks at Greg doubtfully. The young one had inherited Greg's intelligence, that much was clear. Greg could see Ray examining his words, searching for meaning, or genuine emotion.
    "I made a huge mistake," Greg continues, "and it's not your fault, was never your fault, ever. I've been a bad father to you, Raymond. I was selfish, and thought only of myself. I--I--I--"
    Greg struggles. Time was slipping away. Years had passed in blinks. This was terrible. There was no explaining, no denying, no accepting. Everything Greg said felt hollow.
    This was a eulogy for the relationship with his son. Their bond was dead. Greg merely wanted to sum it up, get it all out, and try to give a deeper meaning.
    It was like being in a class with a beautiful girl, and knowing the semester will end soon and she will never be near again. The desperateness was the same. The yearning for love was as well. Perhaps some 11th hour speech could sway the girl, or befriend the son. How to sum it up?
    "I want you to feel however you want about me. I wronged you, Raymond, and for that I am eternally sorry. I'm a bad person. But I want you to know you are loved and admired, and I will think of you always. I love you, my son."
    Raymond hugged Greg. The boy cried hard, the wracking pain coming out from years of torture. Greg knew what it was like to be denied by your loved one. At least they both could share that. But love? Compassion? That's what is currently being denied.
    Raymond breaks away from him and runs upstairs. Greg's heart seems to collapse upon itself in grief. Greg was no hero. At best, saving Rebecca might equal out the agony inflicted upon Raymond. How cruel that Greg should weigh his life out in such terms.
    Diane and he lock eyes for a moment. Not a word is said. Diane does not look angry anymore. Just tired, old, and defeated. She turns and rounds the corner into the dining room. Greg can only hope the fire and rage that stoked within Diane can now be extinguished. At least that way, some good could come of this.
    Greg gets slowly to his feet, turns, and exits through the front door.

Uploaded 07/25/2012
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