Crook Takes Pawn Part 37

"hello, sir" Gus says, extending his hand. Greg studies the palm for a split second before shaking it. Hopefully Gus didn't notice. Gus' hand seemed pretty clean for someone without a sink. Greg had spied a small bottle of workshop hand cleanser in the back of Gus' cab. Cleanliness seemed to be important to the former Carpet King. Maybe a drab environment doesn't seem so bad if it is at least kept clean.
"Hi, my name's Greg,"
"Gus Landry, if you can read the logo on my former work truck here." Gus points lazily to the blazer with a touch of what looks like nostalgia.
"I remember seeing some of your ads, on TV," Greg mentions.
"Call the Carpet King, see what prices, and savings he'll bring!!" Gus says in a sing-song voice. Gus steps back and forth from one foot to the other, and waving his hands playfully. Greg cracks up with chuckles.
"that's the one, Carpet King!!" Greg says,  "it gets stuck in your head."
"Shit, those were the days," Gus says with a sigh, "Before it all changed."
"What happened?" Greg asks, "I remember you had two stores doing pretty well, ready to open up a third, then"
"I tell you, the banks are the real fucking crooks, man" Gus says with an offended snarl, his lip twisting in aggravation as he conjured up his own internal images of what evil was. "They got me to refinance my house. I spent 10 years paying the damn thing off, then they start whispering in my ear, 'tap that home equity, tap that home equity'".
Gus raises his arms to accentuate the point. Gus' wild grey eyebrows churn this way and that, while his mouth worked steadily above a beard that was mostly grey, with streaks of remaining black. Apparently the topic of banks got old Gus worked up.
"What they don't tell you is that what they really are doing is giving you a mortgage" Gus says with fervor, "and the laws are set up now that they can pretty much do whatever they want with the interest rates, jack em up beyond what any person can realistically pay off!!"
    Gus pauses his lecture long enough to hack a loogie up. Gus has enough etiquette to at least spit away from Greg's car, but Greg catches an unpleasednt glimpse of the twirling mucus before it splats on the ground. Gus ask Donny for a cigarette, who produces one from the pack.
"Pretty soon, I was losing the house," Gus says, putting the loaned cigarette between his lips, "So i took out another mortgage, this time on my business. And sure enough, they ratcheted up the payments on that bitch, too. And before you know it, poof!! It was all gone."
    Gus snaps his calloused fingers to drive the point home. Greg had to admit, even though Gus' kingdom now resided in the back of a crappy former work vehicle, the guy could still talk up a storm. Greg liked Gus immediately. Hard luck stories always made close chums to those who shared similar trials and tribulations.
"The only goddamn thing they didn't take in bankruptcy was this turd-on wheels." Gus says with disdain, "Now it's my mobile home, of sorts."
    Gus doesn't seem reserved when expressing his plight. Rather than hide his lack of a domicile, Gus was the first person to bring it up. Greg admired that honesty.
"Any who," Gus says, "Donny here tells me you need some help laying down some carpet,"
"I sure do, Carpet King," Greg says with a grin, "Donny and I measured and we need about 50 feet by 30."
"Okay, we can haul the roll in my truck," Gus says, pointing towards the rusting blazer, "Do we still need to rip out the old carpet?"
"Yeah, me and Donny were going to do it first, but cleaning took more time than we thought." Greg says.
"Well, we might as well head over to your place to start out," Gus suggests, "You own that Pawn and Payday place across the city, right?"
"Correctomundo" Greg says.
"No worries, my friend. We'll get it done." Gus says, pausing to light his smoke. "Okay, well let me hop in my ride and I'll follow you,"  Gus tucked in his workshirt as he ambled away. How could you not admire a guy who gives his all to look presentable?
    There was sparse traffic returning to the shop. Everyone was already at work, or were full-time unemployment status. Greg took a second to picture what it would be like to legitimately receive benefits. He had paid his taxes, along with all the local state supportive fees and subsidies and such. It must be nice to be drawing cash while doing practically nothing.
    Again, Greg intended to let Donny do the work. Knowing the work ethic of the bum, Greg reckoned he would get his money's worth. Gus worked with deliberate speed, neither too fast, nor too slow. Greg flipped on the storeroom stereo to create a casual mood. Gus smiled and nodded his head to the oldies song which came on. Donny was basically there for brute strength and simple tasks. The first order of business was removing the floor trim which held the carpet flush with the wall. Gus had an extra crowbar from within his tool chest. The box containing Gus' various tools was surprisingly nice, and well kept. Donny had removed one of the rear passenger seats and secured the box in place. A simple bungie cord around the top and over the back of the tool chest prevented the drawers from spilling out. Gus explained how he originally had a security lock on the chest, but someone had broken into his blazer one night and gotten it loose. It was the one night where Gus didn't sleep in the back open area. Gus had crashed at his sisters pad on a particularly cold night, leaving the blazer behind in it's usual unmetered spot by the park. Gus returned the next morning to find his tools strewn across the ground, and his back window bashed in. The case was still there, but was dented and warped. Gus was able to recover a lot of his missing pieces, but the most expensive ones, like his micrometer, power reader, 8 Volt battery, and rachets were nowhere to be found. Gus had paused to take a smoke break outside as he told the story. With an angry yell, Gus shook his hands towards the horizon, at his unseen enemy, the thief in the night.
"Fucking crackheads, and junkies!!" Gus howled, "Come and steal my shit in the middle of the night, in winter??? Fucking lowlifes. Desperate for a fix."
    Gus mutters the last few phrases under his breathe, as his voice dies away, but not his hatred of criminals. Donny gives Greg a curious look. Greg can read the expression there, and decides right then Gus should not learn about Donny's previous drug problem. That was evidently a sore topic for Gus, and what Gus didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
    Gus handed Donny a crow bar and away they went. Donny did alright for his first attempt at remodeling. Although he cracked the first piece of molding he pried on, Gus showed him how to wriggle a little bit beside each nail first, that way it wouldn't give on one side. After that quick tutorial, Donny did much better.    
    Greg relayed his own robbery to Gus. Greg found himself referring to Gus as King: "Yeah, those fuckers broke in here too, King" Greg would say without realizing it. It seemed a subconscious praise to a fallen Titan. Greg had yet to attain the success that Gus had sought. To see someone reach such heights, only to come crashing back down so hard struck a chord within Greg. If Gus didn't like this title he was being addressed as, he didn't show it. Gus just kept working, continuing their various conversations.
    Greg had to admit, he hadn't had such an intellectual chat in a long time. Gus seemed to have a philosophical side. He imparted the downward spiral of his fallen empire. His ex-wife took what little was left over after the bankruptcy.
"She would've grabbed it all before the IRS got ahold of it, if she could've," Gus says indignantly, with nails pinched between his teeth,"That greedy bitch."
    Although Gus seemed irritable while discussing his past, Gus still seemed lively and energetic, optimistic almost.
"I had it all, man," Gus says,"a full staff, contractors, wholesale carpets. We were expanding into remodeling, and maybe even roofing. But now, it's much simpler. No more headaches over payroll, or making it to the end of the month. If I make it to the end of the fucking day, that's a success."
    The first section of carpet is free. Donny and Gus move down the line, freeing the carpet up as they go.
"The worst part was when I still had everything, but it was slipping away," Gus says with a grunt, as he tears up his portion, "Now that it's gone, I gotta say i do miss it, but now it's just me and my own problems. I know that the worst has already happened, and I might stay at zero, but I can't fall anymore."
    At this point, Donny piped in with his own experiences.
"I was homeless for going on 7 years," Donny says seriously, "Until a few days ago, I would've said I was gonna die on the streets."
"I'm also a member of the homeless population," Gus says with a false glamourous voice, "It's the fastest growing club in America!!"
"I'm not only a member," Donny says in a likewise snobbish announcer voice, "I'm also the president."
    They all crack up at that one. Greg had forgotten what it was like to hang around with just a bunch of dudes. It was relaxed and joking, each man taking a turn as they made the rounds of talking. There was plenty of farting and burping too. Gus ate a steady diet of fast food, and soon the store was filled with the smell of stale gasworks. Greg was forced to crank open one of the store windows after a particularly viscous bout of digestive explosions from the cackling Gus.
"Be careful, King," Greg warned, "you're gonna peel the paint from the walls with that smell!!"
"I should put a funnel from my butt to the blazer's gas tank," Gus says with wheezing laughter, "I could fuel that bastard for miles and miles!!"
    They took occasional breaks, talking about women and such. Greg sits upon an old car speaker box, while Gus positions himself on a drum set stool that was relocated to the side where they already peeled up the carpet.
"My ex was what they call a trophy wife," Gus says as he stares at the barren shelves devoid of merchandise, "She had a nice body, but shit for brains,"
Gus taps his temple, "We could fuck for hours, but couldn't hold a conversation for more than a few minutes before we got sick of each other. There was nothing beyond the sex. She just wanted to be taken care of, like most women. But when the money stopped rolling in, she stopped too. She split."
"You should see the chick Greg's going out with tonight," Donny says nodding with a mischievous grin, "oh man, she is fine."
Now it is Gus' chance to look over Greg's physique.
"You must have a huge dick, son" Gus says blankly. Greg bursts into fresh laughter at this jib.
"Well, that and Greg saved her child," Donny says jokingly.
"really?" Gus says with suspect eyes, "Whattya mean? Like, you pulled her from a burning car or something?"
"Try rescuing her baby girl from a guy with a gun," Donny says in a spirited voice, "And, Greg shot it out with the dude, and wasted him. DIdn't you see it on the news?"
Gus dismisses it with a wave of his hand. "I don't exactly have satellite dish in my ride, there."
Donny raises his hand and points at Greg's neck.
"Show him the scar," Donny requests.
Greg reluctantly leans over and exposes the welted wounds of his jugular vein.
"Gnarly," Gus says with veneration, "at least you're gonna get some pussy out of the deal."
"Maybe," greg says shly. he can feel the tips of his ears burning red.
"there's no maybes, son," Gus says, with the heir of experience," You've gotta act like you're in charge. you can't be all unsure and whining. That's the women's job, to be insecure and shit. You've gotta man up, she's gonna look for you to take control.
"You'll get laid bro," Donny says assuredly, "She was practically begging for it in that van today!! Single mothers get all pent-up dude."
Gus nods his agreement.
"She's probably a closet freak," Gus says with a wink, "if she's been alone awhile, she'll go to town on you, pal. She's probably got a huge dildo to keep her company."
"lets just hope she doesn't use it on Greg!!" Donny says merrily.
Gus looks like he will keel over as waves of laughter convulse through him. Greg just sits there with a wry smile.
    Greg doesn't feel comfortable discussing Rebecca in such terms. It belies the image of their mutual puppy-love. Although he didn't like to admit it, Greg was more of the old-fashioned type. He believed in getting to know someone before knocking boots with them.
"Anyway, maybe we should get back to work." Greg mumbles.
"I didn't mean any disrespect Greg," Gus says softly, "I'm just a dirty old man that can't get any. But remember what I said: act strong, buddy."

Part 38:
Uploaded 03/07/2012
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