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Crook takes Pawn Part 67

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Morning came early. Once Greg woke, he knew it was impossible to stay down. This old place had too many ghosts. It was stiflingly hot there, too. The underpowered table fan was little relief from the sweltering conditions. His sweat had soaked into every inch of the loft. He never noticed the smell really until after he stayed at Rebecca's consecutively. Now that he had a reference for congenial scents, it struck him how much this place stunk.
    His home needed more than a spit shine; it required a napalm splash of strong disinfectant. Greg gathered up the bedsheets. They were yellowed with months of perspiration. Managing to find his hamper net, Greg loaded up all his filthy best. Some clothes he decided to just throw away, which turned out to be quite a few. A few even had a nasty green mold pervading the threads. Depression and failure leave a wake of disorder and disrepair. It was time to put back what was asunder.
    The trip to the laundromat was even more isolated. The rain kept most people in. Greg splashed through the puddles with his car tires, feeling like the last human on earth. The empty confines of the mat did little to dispel this thought. A dozen different detergents intermingled, hanging thick-smelling vapors like invisible fog. The wheeled cart he threw the clothes in had many pieces broken from the fenced plastic. Wheels shrieked in the empty silence as he moved over to the washer. It cost him about $20 to both wash and dry 3 loads. He dozed off while the last dryer cycle hummed it's own particular lullaby. He awoke when a nearby patron slammed the lid down on one of the washers. Greg groggily picked up his clothes and left.
    After flipping the darkish mattress, Greg made the bed. Sweeping the floors ate up some time. Putting clothes on hangers was the last thing he could invent to occupy himself. It was 11am. He texted Rebecca. She was on her way back. Thank goodness. It was stuffy inside his little bungalo. He moved downstairs and surveyed his store. For once, he didn't see anything that needed impending repairs. Six shots from the barrel of a crack-heads gun had forced a remodel of the whole infrastructure, but now it was done.
    The computers stood side by side, a line of robotic soldiers intending to take back their prosperity. Greg flipped one on tentatively. The computer digitally belched a series of beeps and the login screen kicked on. There was an LED on the front of this one, similar to the server the Computer Shack was running. It looked to be one of the calling cards of Ben's style. Although Greg knew zilch about technology, Ben's designs were certainly eye-catching. They catered more towards the higher-end crowd, but Greg thought students with boatloads of student loan money would shell out for some of this digital hardware. Those younguns would have to eventually pay that moolah back, with interest, but it didn't concern Greg, as long as he got paid. It wasn't his job to offer financial advice, just to sell product.
    Coincidentally, just as Greg was pondering their business strategy, Greg was sent a text from an unknown number:
'This is Donny. Just sold 5 computers to the Y. Mark up the board, please.'
It had to be the phone Ben had given him. Five computers?!?! That was two grand, if sold for $400 a pop. Greg's first thought is if he will get any commission from that sale. But Greg reconsidered. He wasn't greedy. Maybe Donny should get the commission, he did all the work.
    Greg marked up the dry erase board. Seven down, 33 to go. Writing up the sales reminded Greg of his old telemarketing job. If you've seen one call center, you've seen them all, and they had eerily similarities. Greg had briefly worked a second job in the city at a calling center, but ended up walking out the door after only a few hours. Never again. He could sell person-to-person, but not over the headset. Nor during a person's dinner, or any other time. They could put Greg on the Do Not Call list, he was through.
    Once again, the Pawn and Payday would not be opening. What was one more day? Greg had busted his butt the past two weeks. He needed to chill. The day Rebecca came back into the store, his life had taken on a saturated quality. More and more, he found himself scrambling to keep up. So much had happened in their short acquaintanceship, all of it for the better. Kickin ass and taking names. He was breakin' necks, and cashin' checks. Well, maybe not, but he was doing okay.
    With nothing else to do, Greg hauled five of the cases near the front of the store. Might as well make it a shorter trip for the successful salesman Donny. Did they buy monitors too? Greg texted his question to Donny.
'they're reusing their old monitors from the other computers' he replied. Before Greg's excursion into the techno game, he didn't even think you could use a separate monitor with another computer. He thought they were only compatible within their self-contained equipment. Now he knew better, but it was just the tip of the iceberg.
    Where was she? He had to calm himself. This was the sort of behavior that lead to controlling boyfriend syndrome. How ironic. His first inclination was that Rebecca was clingy. Now, it was flipped. Rebecca had her own life, outside of his. Greg really needed to get a hobby, or start hanging out with the guys more. With that thought in mind, Greg called Ben.
"Hello?" Ben answers.
"What's up dude?"
"Oh, Greg. Nothing. Did Donny tell you about his sale?"
"Yeah, he texted me. He's a traveling salesman, at its finest."
"yeah. We actually sold those computers at-cost, to compete with the other bids coming in. We didn't make any mark-up, but we've got a foot in the door with them now. I'm hoping to become their permanent supplier, across the board."
"Breaking even is winning," Greg reminded, "there's plenty of folks right now that can't even get that far ahead."
"Yeah, I suppose. I'm gonna try to get tax-credit for this one. $1000 can go a long way for me right now. The Y is a non-profit, so I should be able to do something with it."
"Cool. I was just calling to see if you wanted to grab some lunch, maybe get some drinks, too."
"I don't drink, Greg."
"Oh, shit. I remember now. Well, we can still get some grub. Whattya say?"
"Sure thing. Meet me at Mesa's pizza, about 15 minutes?"

    Greg found himself at yet another restaurant he'd never been to before. Being a recovering recluse, Greg was just starting to open himself up to new experiences. Mesa's was a novelty pizza diner. Greg got a slice of macaroni and cheese pizza, and another of mushrooms and pepperoni. Ben was a bit more sophisticated in his choices, grabbing a piece of barbecue chicken, and what appeared to be potato slices with chess on the topping.  They sat atop tall stool chairs, with a matching long table. Ben was gnawing away on his pizza like he was a starving Ethiopian boy. Greg wondered how much herb he smoked, because he obviously looked baked. Oh well, it was benign, and less-harmful than alcohol, although the latter is legal. Ben knew from experience the dangers of what was allowed, versus what was considered taboo.
    Greg took conservative bites. He may be an obese man, but he didn't have to eat like one. Ben's mustache quickly becomes covered with bits of food and sauce. He wipes his 'stache with a forarm and speaks through a mouthful of parmesan and dough
"Exciting times, huh?"
"Yeah. Three months ago, I was lying on my deathbed, now I'm moving up the ranks."
"You and Donny have come a long way," Ben agrees, "Donny was like a vampire, draining everyone who cared about him. And you? I remember you looked like a walking zombie when I bought that TV from you."
"You're a big monster movie fan, huh?" Greg asks, "by the way, how's that TV holding up?"
    Ben's smile disappears. "I had to sell it. I couldn't afford the card charges. I shouldn't have bought it in the first place."
"oh."
    What an inane thing to do. Irresponsibility did not seem to be one of Ben's hallmarks. It might've been a way of maintaining appearances, so maybe his wife wouldn't catch on to their woes. It was none of Greg's business, though. It was simply making conversation. He didn't question any further.
    "How's your wife doing?" Greg asks, changing the subject.
"We're fine. It really meant a lot for me to be able to show her the check from Bill. She was so happy. Then we, uh, uh, got it on!!"
Ben grabs the air with both hands and brought it towards his lap in a humping gesture. Greg laughs uproariously. Even nerds could have a rigorous sex life.
"So, how's things with your girl?" Ben reciprocates.
"It's amazing. I've never been happier. She was so grateful for what I did, she's been practically falling over herself to help me out."
"Good. That's just what you need right now. A good woman helps out a lot. Have you guys made love yet?"
    Ben is casual with his sex question, but Greg is does not shy from it. Gus acted like a social reject when it came to sexual questions, but Ben was quite the gentleman.
"Well, no. I mean" Greg debates telling him what happened.
"Just between us, Ben?" Greg says lowly, glancing around for any eavesdroppers, "Have you ever had problems, uh--rising to the occasion?"
    Ben eyebrows furrow in sympathy. "Unfortunately, I can relate. Money problems have been getting to me lately. It got to be I couldn't even concentrate when I was with Michelle. We haven't done it for awhile, so when we hooked up just lately, it was way good."
    "Okay. that makes me feel better," Greg says.
"Guys like you and me think too much, Greg," Ben says, "It's our strength, but it's also a fault, too. I think Donny's the same way."
"Well, that, and he's a drug addict." Greg says offhandedly.
Ben pauses, the pizza halfway to his mouth.
"Donny's had a hard life," Ben says carefully, "that's why he got into drugs."
"Hard life, huh?" Greg says, "I guess walking into traffic is a tragedy now."
    Ben cocks his head to the side in a puzzled gesture.
"I don't follow you," Ben says.
"YOu know, when Donny got ran over by the car?" Greg says, as if it should be apparent, "He got a broken leg when he was hit in a crosswalk. Then he took the pain pills. Right?"
"He said he got hit by a car???" Ben asks distrustfully, "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, he said he walked out into traffic."
    Ben's thought lines appear as he frowns.
"Why? Is that not what happened?" Greg asks.
"I don't know if I should tell you," Ben says slowly, "It looks like Donny didn't want you to know."
    Greg swallows his food a bit too hard. Was Donny lying about something?
    "What is it?" Greg asks cautiously.
"I can't--"
"Ben, if we're gonna be partners here, I need to know the whole scoop. the guy's already stolen from me, what else do I have to--"
    "Awright, awright, awright," Ben says, muttering through his teeth. He really didn't want to attract attention. Mesa's was quickly filling up with the after-class crowd. He throws away his paper plate, but takes his soda cup.
"Let's go outside. I'll tell you what happened." Ben says placatingly. They step out to the city sidewalk.

LINK TO PART 68: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/blogs/view/82508921/
artman4444 Uploaded 05/04/2012
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