All SquareMature

Verbs returns to our table, looking like a beaten dog that’s been left in the dirt for two days too many, and wordlessly hands me another envelope. I glance inside to find my missing money and add it to the collection in my pocket.

“If you’re short again next week,” I say while once more looking for our waitress, “don’t bother showing up. I could find someone to replace you within an hour.” I spot her chatting up a guy sitting by himself at the corner table; he kinda looks like a young Tom Selleck, only with a mullet, a beer belly, and three missing teeth.

“It won’t happen again man, I promise.” I roll my eyes but remain silent, staring at the courting ritual going on across the room. It‘s like watching baboons in a zoo. “Speaking of taking more clients on… I saw Warren the other day in Rosa’s Pool Hall and he could really use your help.”

My head snaps back to center with enough force to cause a small, frothy wave in Stinky’s glass. The edge of my vision is starting to go red already.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that! You know he’s got the money to…”

“I thought I made it clear, to all of you, that I will never deal with that racist piece of shit ever again.”

“Quarters, Winky ain’t a racist,” JJ dares to say.

“He said, and I quote, ‘I will Kung Pao chicken your ass’ - does that smell like tolerance to you?”

“He was drunk.” Et tu, Stinky?

“Not drunk enough,” I growl. A distant voice wonders what kind of trouble Winky has got himself into to reach out to me. The closer voices whisper sweet details of his punishment: the smashed nose, the tongue I had almost managed to rip out, my hands around his throat…

“Besides,” Verbs says after a long drink of liquid courage, “you’re only like one-quarter Chinese anyway.”

“What. Did. You. Just. Say.”

“You heard me Quarters. I said…”

*     *     *

“Get him the fuck off me!”

“Quarters! Ease up, man! Come on!”

I’m being dragged off Verbs, who has turtled like a little bitch on the floor. Stinky has one of my arms and JJ has the other while I look down at the bruised and bleeding bastard at my feet. After a few breaths I notice that my left hand is aching and I raise it to eye level to discover that I’ve dislocated a knuckle.

That’s what I get for holding with my right and punching with my left. At least, that’s what I assume I did. When everything goes dark like that I have to wait for the voices to fill in the details later.

“Can we sit down before Bruno decides to call the cops on us?” JJ hisses at me with a nervous glance at the bar.

“Bruno knows better than to do that,” I say but I sit down anyway. Verbs is hauled to his feet and dumped back in his chair by Stinky, an experience even I wouldn’t wish on him.

“What, you got a deal with Bruno too?” Stinky asks, surprise making his face stretch out like melting wax.

“Different terms, same idea as you children,” I respond. Realizing my glass is empty again I grab the pitcher and drink from it instead. “You’ve never seen the health inspector in here, have you?”

JJ nods, looking impressed. Stinky lets out a low, long whistle that sounds like gas being passed. I say a small prayer that it only sounds that way. I don’t actually believe in a higher power, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Verbs doesn’t do anything. He just keeps staring at his hands hiding under the table. I don’t need to see them to know that they‘re shaking.

So. Yeah, that’s how I make my living. People that can’t hold a job or run a business come to me to take care of their career obstacles. Even shitheads need to make a living, you know? So I visit their managers or employees or city officials and have enlightening conversations with them. Maybe I’ll share a few of my more memorable meetings with you.

But first I need to secure my motley crew another round.

The End

33 comments about this story Feed