Fired Up

“I’ve got three grand,” said Josh, pulling out a stack of bills, not explaining where the other two thousand had gone.  “How long will that carry me?”

Mayor looked at Josh, thought about saying no this time, shrugged.  No time to get sentimental.  The money clock ran slow here; most drinks were paid for with wadded-up dollar bills and change counted slow from dirty pockets.  A pile of crisp hundred dollar bills was rare, except for Josh.  Mayor looked at the calendar, studied it like the football coach on the TV studying his playbook.

“Let’s say the end of March.  Same deal as always: sleep in the back room, sweep up at night, drink only the cheap stuff, only enough to stay drunk.  Eat from the lunch buffet, though you never eat much anyway. Don’t cause trouble, though you never cause trouble.  You can be everybody’s buddy, but you can’t buy them drinks ‘cause you got no money and I ain’t fronting you any.

“End of March, skinny girl and I will wake you up.  Last two weeks, no booze, nothing but coffee and the buffet, sober up and go back, jack, do it again.  Wheels turning round and round, find some scam or an actual job until you show up here again. Or not.  Cash aside, won’t break my heart if someday you get stuck in the real world and don’t make it back here.”

“Deal,” said Josh.  He shoved the stack of bills across the bar.  “Let’s get started.” The mayor reached under the bar, pulled out the plastic tumbler that was Josh’s cup, pulled out the gallon jug of the cheap stuff he used to top up the expensive bottles behind the bar, no need for pretense with Josh.  He filled the tumbler half full, no need for the pretense of dishing this out one shot at a time, either.

Josh picked up the glass and emptied it.  He picked up the paper sack he’d brought and headed to the back.





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