Nice Guys Finish Bad

When your whole life is a lie you lose sight of the truth.

Hardly revolutionary, I know. But in the Gutter, where one and one already equals three, payback can be disproportionally cruel. Or Shitty Billy Joel Songs for $100...

Nice Guys Finish Bad by Paul Greenberg

Leonard Terry’s day off began with a bad night’s sleep. Sucking in his gut to get into a pair of pants, he realized that he had grown another inch around the waist. 

“Trying to take control of my life,” he thought, “has become a full time campaign and I am losing the fucking war.”  

Today, his goal was to cancel his Planet Fitness membership, which had been sucking him dryer than a pair of Depends. He had calculated that he had pissed away over five hundred bucks the past three years to a club that he had seen the inside of, sadly, less than four times. 

After a few phone calls he found out that a cancellation had to be done in person. So he drove over to the South Boston location to do it. 

Afraid of getting any lip, Leonard did something that he found came quite naturally to him. He lied. Leonard said that he was “moving to Montana and don’t ask me if I want to transfer the membership because my company hasn’t given me any specifics yet. It’s a high-tech government job and I’m not married and I have no children, (this part was true) so fuck it. That’s where I’m going, so cancel the fucking membership.” 

The story wasn’t even necessary. The meathead turned in the direction of a trash barrel and hocked up something the color of Fenway Green, had him sign a paper and that was that. They couldn’t have given a shit if Leonard had stroked out right there on the floor. 

It was ten o’clock in the morning and a liquor store near the club was just opening. Leonard went up to the counter and told the clerk that “two punks are trying to break into the store’s delivery van out back, so you better get out there. I’ll keep an eye on things.” The clerk put down his copy of the Herald and ran out of the store, leaving Leonard to pocket a pint of Jack Daniels and a bag of beer nuts. He was on his way out and the clerk was on his way in, shaking his head, thinking that he may have been sent on a goose chase. Squinting his eyes and looking at Leonard the clerk said, “Hey, you take something?” 

“Fuck you. I didn’t take shit,” said Leonard and walked away. 

Leonard stood at the side of the building and drank from the pint and threw the bag of beer nuts at a passing PT Cruiser. 

Back in his Honda, Leonard drove from Boston through Cambridge to Watertown to the Mall on Arsenal Street. 

A Target store anchored the mall. Leonard parked in a handicap spot, walked in the entrance, and still fortified by the whiskey, grabbed a two-hundred-dollar air conditioner off of the display floor. He put it in a carriage and brought it up to the return desk and said, “I got two of these for my birthday and I only need one. I live in a one-room studio apartment and if I put in two air conditioners I won’t be able to shit and turn my head at the same time, so give me the money on a gift card.” 

The clerk took this all in while twirling his nose hair, finally asking for a sales slip. 

To which Leonard replied, “If I have to stand here for another minute I may have to staple your tongue to your chin.” 

The clerk scanned the box and a gift card and handed it to Leonard who promptly exited the store. 

With gift card in hand, Leonard grabbed the first sap that walked by and said, “Listen, bub. I have a two-hundred-dollar gift card that I have to turn into cash. My daughter was raped and killed by the Procol Harum in Iraq and I’ve got to get her body back and this government isn’t helping me, for shit. I’ll take a hundred bucks.” 

The guy looked it over and said, “That’s like half price?” 

“Yeah, genius. What do you say? I’m doing you a solid.” 

The guy pulled his wallet out of his pocket and counted out eighty dollars. Leonard took it and walked off. 

Behind the Target store, among delivery trucks, he spotted two black guys smoking a dube.  He approached them and asked if they had any weed that he could buy. One guy said that they had a couple of joints but it would cost him fifty. Leonard asked to sample it before he paid, so they passed him the joint. Laughing at the white dude with the penguin shape, they watched as Leonard took a long draw, held it in and then coughed it out. He said, “This is shit and I don’t mean that in a good way. I know my weed. I was born in Jamaica and this is the worst fucking hooch that I’ve ever smoked, bro. I’m not buying crap from you guys.” 

They exchanged “fuck yous” and “you don’t know shits” until one of the men clocked Leonard on the side of the head with a fist the size of Plymouth Rock. Passed out on the ground, Leonard had his pockets rifled. They took the eighty bucks, his wallet and car keys, tossed it all on the front seat of their truck, pulled a gas can out of the back seat, poured the contents over Leonard, took a lighter and set him ablaze. 

Coming to, Leonard flopped and rolled around the concrete trying to put himself out while screaming, “I was lying. It was all a big joke. Help me.” 

“Liar, liar…” they chanted as they sped off. 

A security guard came by in a golf cart and tossed a blanket over Leonard, called for the EMTs. When they arrived Leonard was barely hanging on. They asked him to identify himself but after a morning of stories and lies all he could muster was, “Pants on fire.” 

“True that,” said the EMT.

Paul Greenberg is convinced God doesn't want him to work. So he spends his time mentally cataloging his long lost record collection and writing. Jim Morrison said: The future's uncertain and the end is always near. So, fuck it. Paul is a regular contributor for Out of the Gutter. This is, like, his 12th fucking story.