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“So what’s new with you?” Tommy asks as he admires his own smoke rings.

“Well, I’ve got a job,” I say, still not really believing it even though it’s been two days since I told DJ I’d cover for him. “I start in a couple weeks.”

“Nice man, who you selling for? Doug will rip you off; I hope it’s not Doug.”

“No, I’m –“

“And Petey’s crack is terrible; please tell me you’re not selling his junk.”

“Listen,” I begin but Tommy isn’t paying any attention to me. He’s just blowing rings and patting that damned rabbit of his – bastard still won’t tell me where he got it. Probably stole it from some poor kid.

“You gotta watch who you work for on these streets man, competition is getting scary,” he says before taking a long, deep drag on his joint.

“I know Tommy, that’s why I’m not selling drugs,” I tell him and he finally looks at me. All right, now that he’s listening –

“You think hookers are any safer? Man, if the pimp don’t get you one of those crazy who-”

“Tommy! Just shut up for a minute, okay?” He looks a little hurt but at least he keeps his mouth closed. “I’m not doing any of that crap, all right? It’s a legit job – DJ Mike asked me to run his shop for a week so he can take a vacation.”

“Tiny wants you to run his shop?” Tommy says in disbelief. “I thought that man was clean.”

“He’s not high, at least I don’t think he is.”

“Might explain a few things if he was,” Tommy says as he feeds the rabbit a scrap of bread.

“I didn’t know rabbits ate bread.”

“Oh, they’ll eat all sorts of things,” he says from far, far away; I’m gonna have to cut him off soon. “Isn’t that right Hopper?”

“Oh good, you finally got around to naming him.”

“Her.”

“Right, her… every other bum in this city has a dog or cat for a pet, but not you – always gotta be different, huh Tommy?”

“Hopper ain’t no pet,” he mumbles. “You see a leash?”

I concede the point as Hopper nuzzles my hand, searching for food. I’ve got nothing on me so I give her head a pat and she goes back to Tommy. However he got her, pet or friend, they’re definitely together now.

“Anyway, DJ wants me to come by a few times this week to show me what he wants done while he’s gone,” I say as I try to get back on topic. “I wasn’t sure at first but I’m actually starting to look forward to it.”

“Whatever floats your boat man,” Tommy says, flicking away the remains of his joint and reaching into his jacket pocket for another. “You get to wear a cute hat and uniform too?”

“It ain’t fuckin' McDonald’s man,” I say, finally starting to realize this isn’t the person I should be talking to about this. I reach out my hand to stop him from lighting up again. “I think you’ve had enough of that for today.”

“Don’t you tell me when to stop!” He’s leaning over me in an instant, breathing hard through his mouth like a rabid dog. I’m so shocked by his change in demeanor that at first I don’t see the knife clutched in his right fist.

“Where the hell did you get that?”

“You shouldn’t be worrying about where I got it,” he spits, waving the blade in front of my nose, “but where it is right now.”

“What are you smokin’ man, to pull a knife on me?” What the hell is this? Did someone lace his joint or was it something he was doing before I got here? The only thing I’m sure of is that this is not the Tommy I know.

“Get out of my alley before I throw you out… piece… by piece,” he says matter-of-factly, tapping the blade first against my right cheek, then my left.

“Tommy, what is going on man?” I ask, doing my damndest not to panic.

“Get out you thief!” he screams from inches away. I scramble to my feet and back away down the alley. My eyes never leave his face; his eyes never leave my throat. “And don’t come back!”

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I call down the alley as I reach the sidewalk. “Hopefully you’ll have all the crazy out by then.”

He screams incoherently and throws an empty soup can in my direction. I duck around the corner and head for home. I need to get back to relative safety… though I doubt I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Maybe I’ll get to see Phakov coming in the morning.

Holy shit… what just happened?

The End

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