A lot of good samaritans out there.
Makes you wonder what their hustle is.
Makes you wonder what their hustle is.
Red Pop by Morgan Boyd
After getting out of the program, I get a job at a convenience store. I’m required to wear a white polo shirt and khaki slacks. The attire makes me feel douchy.
Mr. Barnes owns the substance abuse rehab facility I clean up at. He also owns the halfway house I stay at, and he owns the Food Mart I work for.
I’m thankful to Mr. Barnes for the job, even if it is demeaning minimum wage bullshit. He helped me get clean, gave me a place to stay, and hooked me up with a job. It isn’t ideal work, but it beats the hell out of the crummy things I used to do. Stocking TV dinners and two liter bottles of root beer trumps ripping off mom for a hit any day. At least that’s what I tell myself while price-tagging plastic soft drinks.
As I slap a ninety-nine cent label on a two-liter bottle of soda, the plastic jugs on the shelf next to me explode, followed by a deafening sound. The blast knocks me on my back, and covers me in fizzy red pop. A man in an orange ski mask points a shotgun at my face. Playing possum, supine in a pond of sticky crimson sugar water, I sneak a peek into my attacker’s eyes; one brown, one blue. The blue eye twitches as he opens the till, alleviates the evening’s earnings, and flees.
I used to shoot dope with a murderous scumbag named Eddy “Winky” Fisher. Winky’s peepers are identical to the yegg’s.
The police arrive and put me through the standard rigmarole. Kindness and understanding aren’t words I’d use to describe their questioning tactics. I tell them everything straight without mentioning Winky.
They all seem to buy what I’m selling except for a corpulent, balding detective named Donaldson. “Dope fiend Danny! Remember me?” He asks.
“All cleaned up?”
“How’s that working?”
“How’s it look?”
“Pink’s not your color.”
“Can I go?”
“Your story’s shit. And when I prove it, I’m stuffing your junky ass back in the can.”
“Hear me out. Your hype-headed buddy shoots up the joint. Of course you don’t get done, just covered in pop. He gets the nightly earnings, and in a couple of hours, you’re both higher than the price of groceries.”
“Danny! Thank god you’re alive,” Mr. Barnes says, entering the Food Mart in a blue three-piece suit. “When I heard about the shooting, I feared the worst.”
“I’m afraid you’re being suckered, Mr. Barnes,” Donaldson says.
“Who’s this?” Mr. Barnes asks, dabbing the sweat on his forehead with a silk handkerchief.
“Mr. Barnes meet detective Donaldson,” I say.
“What do you mean Danny’s suckering me?” Mr. Barnes asks.
“He and one of his druggy buddies robbed you. Right, Danny?”
“Someone almost killed him,” Mr. Barnes says. “You should be finding the guy who did this, not blaming Danny.”
After Mr. Barnes vouches for me, the police let me go. Mr. Barnes gives me a ten spot, and tells me to buy a new polo shirt. I get into my pickup truck and head for the halfway house. Then I get an idea, and turn around my 4-banger.
At each hotspot, I park down the street, scoping crack houses, but there’s no sign of Winky. Seeing those hops scoring brings back hard memories.
I call my stakeout quits just as Winky wanders out a rundown apartment building and climbs into a hooptie.
I follow as he crosses the tracks into the right side of town. Winky parks in front of a large white two-story house, walks to the front door, and is admitted inside. I wait, but Winky never comes out. After several hours, I get tired and leave.
On my way to the halfway house, a cop pulls me over, and stuffs me in the back of a squad car.
“Sorry about dicking you around at the Food Mart,” Donaldson says from the front without turning around, the back of his fat, bald head directly in front of me. Eye contact occurs through the rear view mirror. “But you know more than you’re saying, so I had to bust your chops.”
“I told you everything.”
“We’ll see,” Donaldson says, lighting a cigarette. “A man comes into your shit shop and tries to blow off your goddamn head.”
“And you know the sorry sack who done it, but you don’t say nothing.”
“I don’t know who did it.”
“Admirable you cleaned up, Danny,” Donaldson says, turning to face me. “Too bad Mr. Barnes has a bad habit of taking out life insurance polices on his clients shortly before they die.”
“I never signed a life insurance policy,”
“Think I’m feeding you magical horseshit?” Donaldson asks, holding up a piece of paper. “Got a copy right here. Take a look. That’s your John Hancock there and there.”
Leaning forward, I see my signature scribbled several times on the page.
“Who were you following?”
“Bet it was the guy tried to kill you.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because he led you straight to Mr. Barnes house,” Donaldson says as a ship sinks in my gut. “Ain’t it a bitch, Danny? Signing up for death instead of life.”
Dope sick, I filled out a stack of paperwork before gaining admittance into Mr. Barnes’ drug rehab center. I didn’t read any of it, just signed all the dotted lines.
“Winky,” I say.
“That a boy, Danny. Got a copy of his life insurance policy here somewhere too.”
“Can I go?”
“Sure,” Donaldson says, letting me out. “Hate to say I told you so.”