eat lunch

I ate my lunch where I stood. It didn't take me long. I pinched my nose and swallowed - things taste better that way - and wished for a nip of bourbon to chase it down.

Old Bernie, the building janitor, came toward me down the hall, swinging his mop from side to side and singing dolefully through his nose. He stopped when he got close to me, mainly as I was in his way. He leant on his mop and gazed at me with his sad-spaniel eyes.

"Heard you got slung out. What you still doing here?"

"You heard wrong," I said.

"Huh, right," he said and sloshed a lot of dirty water onto my shoes in what I considered a mean-spirited way.

"Watch out!" I said. "Those were new."

"Ten years ago. Saw the same pair last week. A flithy hobo left them in the salvation army bin."

"And I guess you're gracing the covers of Esquire this month hey Bernie?"

"Got any cash on you?" he asked, unperturbed. I suppose he didn't understand my subtle humor. He stared at me hungrily, his heavy jowls swaying like slabs of gelatine.

"Me? You know better than to ask that Bern."

"Cos if you did," he said airly and removed his eyes from mine to gaze soulfully at the light-fitting. "I might have something to say."

"You've always been a fan of old Bogie, haven't you Bern?" I said. "See here, I do so happen to be in possession of something just a little bit special." I sold it to him like I had my own daytime show on a shopping network, holding the snap so the light hit it just right. Humphrey with a halo.

"Nice pic. Stole it did you?"

"Me? I'm the soul of honesty! I'm hurt, Bernie. I'm bleeding here."

"Not on my floors you're not," he said, but he reached for the photo nonetheless. I held it up higher.

"So what did you have to tell me? You don't get something for nothing."

"True enough, in this sorry life," Bernie agreed. "Ok, some people came by when you was out. Man and a woman. Asked me where you were which is how I knew they were wanting you y'know?"

"That would do it," I said. "They say why they wanted me by any chance?"

"No, only I thought they looked familiar. Like I'd seen them before someplace. Then I got it. It hit me Sam, like lightning. Pow! Like that."

"Pow?"

"Pow is right," he tapped the side of his head and screwed his eyes up. He maybe thought of it as an intellectual frown. Truth was, he looked more like an asylum escapee who'd just sat down on a pin.

"So?"

"Well, he's the mayor. Recognize him anywhere. And I remembered she's his wife. Runs that health spa. My wife wanted to go. Huh, like that would ever happen. I told her Sam, I said; You think I'm made of money? Why don't you get out there and earn some, I said. Instead of spending all mine, I said. You know what she spent last month on cosmetics. Cosmetics! She needs a cement truck, with her face! Nothing else is going to cut it. Cosmetics, my ass. Huh, money down the toilet is what it is!"

I handed him the snap and slunk away. Once he gets going Bernie can talk for hours about his marital issues. Poor woman. My sympathy is all with her.

The End

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