Pawn takesKing part 32

Donny spent the next several days trying to get word of Greg's condition. Even though it was the technology age, Donny felt he was in the dark ages. Just because there were cell phones and wireless tablets and such, didn't mean everyone had access to them. Donny went to the library, to research Greg's status. He was wondering how he could logon to the computer without a card, but it turns out he didn't need the internet to check the info. There was a TV on in the lobby of the library that was running a special report on Greg. They were running over familiar ground, upturning facts that Donny already knew. Leave it to the news to stretch a story for all it was worth. At the closing of the report came the info Donny really wanted to hear: Greg Jefferson is at Iowa City hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit, in stable condition.
    "Wheew," Donny sighed in relief. Iowa had some of the best hospitals in the nation, according to their billboards and signs posted everywhere. Thank goodness for that.
    It was getting cold. They hadn't really experienced an autumn. It went straight from summer to winter, pretty much with no transition. Donny was saving up his dough for a space heater.  The toaster worked well enough to convince Donny to invest in a heater actually intended for warmth.
He had scrimped and saved up most of his pop-can money. Donny didn't have a bank account, and so he devised a new security box. He had $50 stashed away under a loose board in the gazebo. Some people were losing faith in the banks anyway, and were holding onto the money, to make sure the banks didn't try anything funny. What a scary place the United States was becoming. The perpetrators of crime were the ones in charge, and they gave themselves immunity.
    Donny felt accomplished that he was building up a safeguard of cash. The old Donny would've already spent that money on dope by now. And then what would he have to show for it? Nothing but a high that never lasts. Donny was gaining clarity on his position.
    Christmas was coming. Donny wasn't looking forward to it. He had no gifts to give, nor receive. The VFW always had a turkey dinner for those less fortunate. Donny had gone two years in a row now. The people didn't seem to notice Donny wasn't a veteran. All those Christmas stories about goodwill towards men seemed only to make sense in that spacious hall, where the homeless and hungry gathered to feed. If only all men were as caring as they who  dished out the sustenance to the huddled masses. There might not be a need for a God, then.
    Donny was still grappling with faith. Christmas always made him stop to reflect. One fact always gave Donny pause: all of time was measured by Christ's birth. Why was that? Was it a ghost-story that got out of hand, and everyone believed? Or was it true?
     Donny had his doubts. He supposed he could relate to Christ, in so much that Donny had suffered through his own unique trials and tribulations. But Donny was a realist. His brain was familiar with computers, which ran on logic. The leap of faith required to believe was too far, much farther than the leap of electricity on circuits and buses on a motherboard, which Donny understood much better.
    Upon further examination of the Mongoose bike chain, Donny sees the broken link is actually the removable piece that binds the separate pieces of chain together when first purchased. Donny felt stupid for damaging the bike further. He should feel lucky to even have a bike frame in such good shape. He buys the chain piece in the store for 75 cents. A new chain would've cost $15. It was a bargain. Donny even shelled out money from his space heater fund to buy a new inner tube. The bike was magnificent. Donny took great pains to oil the chain heavily with the last of the WD-40.
    Over the next week, Donny habitually returned to the Pawn and Payday, trying to see if Greg had returned. Riding the bike made travel much easier. Donny didn't even get that hot while riding the Mongoose. The air was a natural cooling source, as it swept over the handlebars, across his sweaty brow. Greg was still not home.
    One late night, Donny had trouble sleeping, which was nothing new. Heavy flurries were blowing, but it wasn't the cold that kept Donny awake. His blankets lining the lattice kept things nice and toasty. Donny had purchased a stocking cap and gloves, and other supplies to keep him warm. So what was it?
    Donny crawled out from beneath the gazebo. He went for a walk. The bike was fixed, but the streets were now too slippery to trek on the Mongoose. Donny didn't mind the long distance. He puffed on a small pinned joint, which held his last remaining weed. He had another fatty joint saved up in his pocket, but he might just break that up, bit by bit, and smoke it a piece at a time.
    Donny could see his footsteps in the soft powder. It made him feel like the only living person around. He liked that. He could make it by himself. It was when other people came onto the scene that things became difficult.    Donny eventually made it to the Pawn and Payday, his cheeks rosy, and his nose dripping. His crunching footsteps stopped. The Lebaron was moved. Donny saw the square of bare cement, where the Lebaron had sat previously, blocking the snowfall. Greg was back.
    Donny hunkered down into a public bus booth and waited. He eventually fell asleep. He tried to stay conscious, but it was so peaceful, with the flakes flitting past the overhead street lamps, and the wind occasionally howling in the cramped booth.
    Donny was roused by the slamming of a car door. Rubbing his brown eyes, Donny squinted into the dark. He saw a rather large silhouette emerge from the vehicle. The cars springs jumped back up as the weight was lifted. The heavy figure grunts with effort. It had to be Greg. Donny stands to his feet. As he walks over, Greg fumbles trying to get to the sidewalk. The fat man was using a cane, and it slipped out from under him, making Greg pitch forward onto the sidewalk. A shoebox jumped from his grip, scattering what looked like pictures every which way. The unforgiving wind grabbed hold of the pics and tosses them around. Greg can only look on helplessly. With frustration, Greg chucks the cane across the road. Greg was crying. Donny could sympathize with the disastrous way life played out. He didn't want to make Greg self-conscious, so Donny waits until the tears subside.
    "Do you need help, Greg?" Donny asks, once the outpouring of sadness halted. Greg swings his head up, startled. There is a thick bandage covering his neck, making it hard for Greg to steer his gaze.
    "Yes, Donny, help this old tub of lard up."
    Donny helped Greg stand, and also retrieved all the pictures that were blown around. He told Greg how important pictures were, and Donny showed the last remaining photo of Ronald from his wallet.
    Greg invited him in, at first to grab a pair of crutches from the store room. Then, Donny offered to smoke the giant joint with Greg. A hero truly deserved a hit of some herb, to settle his aches and pains. Donny didn't really remember what they talked about. They were both tired from lack of sleep, and dazed from the weed. Greg was a lightweight, and got ripped off just 2 teensy hits. Greg offered Donny a soda, which was taken gratefully. They smoked in the back office, which was complimented with a stereo system.
    The only thing really notable was the fact that Greg had been prescribed Oxy Contin. Even though Donny hadn't had a taste in a while, the mere mention of the drug's name piqued his interest. Donny began wondering where Greg kept the bottle. Donny dismissed the idea of theft, but the knowledge the pills were around somewhere made him antsy.
    Greg does not go into detail about the shooting. Donny got the impression Greg was still coming to terms with what he did. The fat man even seemed a tad guilty about killing Jessie. Had Greg known more back history about Mr. Jessie Baxter, that guilt would quickly evaporate. Donny did not say a peep about his exploits with Jessie. He didn't want to lose Greg's trust.
    Greg offered to buy breakfast for Donny, and they went to the drive-through of the McDonalds close to them. Donny only requested one sandwich, but Greg hooked him up with much more. They feasted together in the Lebaron, devouring unhealthy food, and somewhat healthy orange juice. Greg asked Donny if he could buy a bag of weed for him, from wherever he got this stuff from. Donny said he would check with his guy, and get back to Greg about it. Greg drove Donny back to the park, where they went their separate ways.
    Donny looked up to Greg even more now. Although facing ruin, Greg went the extra mile to help Donny out. It was remarkable. Given the current recession/depression eating away at America, it made the gestures even more impressive.
    Donny felt at ease as he climbed back under the gazebo. With a belly full of food, and a leftover container of biscuits and gravy, Donny rested peacefully.

Uploaded 01/28/2013
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