I’ve had a headache now that’s about nine days old. It has peaks and valleys through the week. My daughter is careful to monitor the pain scale – with a 0 being gone and a 10 being paralyzing pain, I was about a 6.5 most of yesterday and about a 9 around 3:00AM this morning.
I went to bed simply out of exhaustion around 10:00PM or so last night, waking up at 1:00AM to go downstairs and waking up at 3:00AM on the couch because of a blast of pain, falling back asleep somewhere near 4:00AM. My wife came down to check on me and apparently from my sleeping position I looked quite comical and she tried to take a picture (she ultimately deleted it). That was actually good news, because in my sleep I remembered seeing a flash and worrying that was the first signs of my brain cells zapping out of existence or a bad storm outside.
My wife went to work and my kids took care of their own breakfast. I was entirely willing to make whatever they wanted but at the same time, I was relieved I could just sit and read and enjoy my coffee. Not only that, but as I did an internal diagnostic, I realized my headache was down to a 1, approaching 0. My elation grew. I started to get a burst of energy. I wanted to build a bookcase or something. With the weather being wet and overcast, I knew the kids wouldn’t want to do much of anything and I wasn’t going to argue with that. I had not much ahead of me – the clothes were all washed and the dishes were mostly clean and dinner tonight would be pasta with two different sauces (alfredo for my wife and son, tomato for me and my daughter).
I felt almost guilty having this much energy and sitting down to write. Like it wouldn’t be work to write. Like it would be a waste of time. Then it dawned on me.
Writing is work. Otherwise, quite frankly, I wouldn’t avoid it. But it’s good work. And it’s satisfying. But that’s my cross to bear. In the meantime, here’s 1003 words. Actually, it was 996 words. I added a sentence at the end because, well, I have a touch OCD when it comes to round numbers.
Ten minutes, four houses, and seventy eight more dollars later, Teddy knocked on his final door. Wally asked him if he was sure.
“Did the girls say exactly when they would come by?”
“No. Only said a couple hours.”
They want for us to wait for them.
The homeowner had opened the door as Teddy and Wally debated time management.
And he called Teddy “Junior”.
“What the hell are you doing here? Did your mother tell you to look for me?”
“Teddy, you okay?”
“If anyone coulda found me, it would’ve been you.” Ace stopped a moment and looked at Teddy. “Aw, fuck, boy. Get inside.”
“Is the big one with you?”
Teddy stopped on the threshold and looked at Ace. “W-w-who?”
“The one that looks like a big girl.”
“Hey, fuck you, old man. Teddy, where you going?”
The man Teddy called Ace gripped Teddy by the bicep and threw him inside.
“If you want to fuck over everything your buddy pulled off,” he said through his teeth. “Then keep it up. Otherwise, get inside.”
Teddy, Wally and Ace sat around a small circular table in a kitchen nook that looked out into the front yard through a gauzy, yellow veil of a curtain. On the table next to a fruit bowl containing apples, oranges and bananas, was a large, Ziploc baggie of what looked like rubbed oregano.
Wally’s eyes were wide, almost popping out of his head as he looked from Wally to Ace and back again. It seemed that Teddy had regained something of his composure. He’d never heard Teddy stutter before.
Ace spoke first. Actually, he yelled.
“Jessie! Come get us something to drink.”
The TV room was right next to the kitchen. From the low light allowed through the parting of heavy brown curtains there was a thing cloud of smoke that billowed through the entranceway into the kitchen. So far, all Wally could smell was stale cigarettes and sweat. Out of the gloom of the TV room came a call, thin girl with straight, dirty blond hair, wearing pink short shorts and a translucent, dirty white tank top. Wally looked away he realized he could see the areole of her apple sized breasts through her overwashed shirt.
She opened the fridge door. “Yeah?”
Teddy shrugged when Ace looked at him questioningly.
“Uh, Coke,” Wally said.
“And a pair of Canada Dry. You still like ginger ale, don’t you boy?”
Wally didn’t answer. Jessie brought the cans to the table, giving Wally’s last, smiling at him just a little. Ace’s can cracked open loudly. Wally put his thumb over the opening of his to contain the spray.
“I’m going to guess that you didn’t dress up for me, eh? How much have you got so far?”
“Enough,” Teddy answered.
“How much were you counting on?”
“I wanted to go out with my friends. I needed some money.”
Ace looked Teddy up and down.
“And where are you and your mom living these days? Around here?”
Ace smiled. “That’s good. You don’t pull this stunt too close to home. Too much risk of being caught. What about you, Handsome? Where do you live?”
“He’s the muscle,” Teddy blurted. “He didn’t talk to nobody.”
Wally looked to his friend. ‘Didn’t talk to nobody?’’
“Muscle, eh? Isn’t that a bit dramatic? I get the idea, though. Not bad. Didn’t have much choice, though, eh?”
Teddy shook his head.
“Show me what you got.”
The bills were folded neatly in Teddy’s front, right pocket.
“Small bills on top. You were listening.”
Ace flitted through the bills.
“Almost a hundred and thirty bucks. You know, they are cancelling those, eh? The one dollar bill. Going to be a coin or some such. Bad enough that our money looks like fucking Monopoly money.”
Ace took about half of the cash and stuffed it in his front, right pocket.
“Hey!” Wally shouted.
“You got a problem with that, boy?” Ace looked at Teddy.
Ace continued to look hard at Teddy.
“What the fuck is going on?” Wally said.
“I’m taking my cut. Just in case anyone comes around asking about….” Ace left the sentence unfinished for Teddy.
“Cub Scout trip to Ottawa.”
“That’s awesome,” Ace said. He reached far across the table and clapped Teddy on the shoulder. “Well done, boy.”
Ace sipped his ginger ale and took the bills out of his pocket after a moment’s thought. He began to check them in the light.
“What the fuck is going on?” Wally said.
“Checking for counterfeit,” Ace said.
“That’s not what I was talking about.”
“You didn’t have time to check for it, did you, boy? That’s why you took the chance to do one extra house, right?”
“That’s why?” Wally asked, forgetting that he hadn’t got the answer to his real question.
“Does anyone know you are back in Ontario?” Teddy asked. He didn’t look Ace in the eye.
Ace finished the last of his ginger ale. Satisfied that the bills were all genuine, he stuffed them back into the front right pocket of his jeans. He looked from the bag of ‘rubbed oregano’ to Teddy, then Wally, then back to Teddy.
“Jessie!” Ace yelled “Where’s my cigarette machine?”
Jessie stomped to her feet when she got up from whatever she was sitting on in the TV room, snatched the step stool from beside the fridge, opened the dark, brown cupboard door and brought down the red, rectangular machine from overtop. It had a winder on the face of it, making it look like a kid’s toy. She put it, a can of ‘Players’ tobacco, and a box of white paper cigarette tubes on the kitchen table near Ace.
The faux-brass handle of the door had a greasy film that transferred to her hand when she touched it. She wiped her dirty hands clean on the seat of her pink short shorts, taking care to catch Wally’s eye. She smiled and Wally looked away.