Thursday, January 22, 2009

SHUFFLE, Chapter Sixteen

Eddy, we need a break,” I said. “Here’s a twenty. Go get us some beer. Cold beer.”

“Lord, yes.” Aunt Lois tossed Eddy her car keys. “Use my car, honey. The police are on the lookout for the monster truck. And lock us in,” she said. “I don’t want our guest leaving while you’re gone.”

I raised my eyebrows at the mention of the police. Eddy took the keys and money and disappeared through the office door. “Yeah,” I said looking at the vehicle. “A monster truck with bright lime green flames and undercarriage would be hard to miss.”

“What?” Lois asked but I just lowered my eyes and started playing Solitaire. “Oh, I know my dear boys,” Lois continued. “Tommy’s not the brightest horse in the corral. And Eddy definitely isn’t. But they’re easily led and that’s important to me. That’s why I needed someone smart like Runt to help me.”

My hands stopped messing with the cards when she said my brother’s name.

“Help you?” I asked.

“I remembered him from when the boys were all in high school and all the trouble that child kept getting into with computers. Lord, yes. My dear Tommy did good in school but Eddy needed his grades changed a time or two.”

Yeah, I bet. “Let me get this straight. You’re the boss of this outfit?”

“Lord, yes. You think Eddy could be boss? Dear Tommy could but I just wouldn’t feel right about that. You know, being out to get his father and all.”

“So Tommy’s not trying to take over his father’s company?” I asked, but it wasn’t really a question. More of a statement. “You are.”

“Taking it over? I don’t think so. I don’t want it. I want to destroy it. Destroy Tommy’s father completely. Lord, yes. Destroy that man’s company, his life, his girlfriend’s life, their child’s life.”

Ohhhhh. Their child. A mistress and a love child. A mistress young enough to have a love child. Maybe I’d want to ruin the man, too, if that happened to me.

“If this affair has been going on long enough to have a child, why’d you wait this long to do something about it?” I asked.

“Lord, no. I didn’t wait long. They don’t have the child yet. The little bitch is pregnant. I believe you young people call it preggers. But I should have gotten suspicious when he started running little household errands. Grabbing a gallon of milk on the way home. Taking in the laundry. Picking up the cleaning. Humph!

“And she’s not even pretty! But, Lord, yes, she was sick the day I went in to see her, sicker than I ever got when I was pregnant. Of course, I’d seen her before. I’d just never looked at her when I went into that place. She must be a foreigner because her name is weird. She’s young enough to be Tom’s daughter! She’s Tommy’s age!”

Yuck. Senior with a woman my age? When there were men like Shade and Dante available? And with child by a man that old? He’d be in his late eighties at that child’s college graduation.

The relationship made my skin crawl between my shoulder blades. Tom Senior didn’t need Viagra. He needed ginseng to boost his brain power. I had assumed the Viagra was for Tom Junior. Maybe it was for Tom Senior. Wish I could get my hands on that medicine bottle again, for my own satisfaction. Well, not my satisfaction ─ definitely wrong word there. I meant for my own knowledge.

“OK. How does Tommy feel about ruining his Dad’s business and then destroying the life of his half-sibling?”

“How do you think he feels? His father has virtually left us high and dry for that whore and her kid. Tommy never gets to see the man anymore. His father doesn’t want him in his life now. Probably thinks he’s a reminder of me. His own child! And since Tommy’s an adult, Tom probably thinks he can take care of himself. Humph. Even adult children need fathers.

“After Tommy and I make his father’s life miserable, we’ll let him off with a little something and we’ll get a lot of something. Lord, yes. A lot of something.”

Suddenly I was mad. Very man! “YOU’RE SOMETHING ELSE!” I shouted. I stood up and walked away from the table, then back again. I knew my face was bright red with anger but I didn’t care.

“You scared the hell out of me, had me kidnapped ─ KIDNAPPED, FOR GOD’S SAKE! You killed my brother’s dog. All because of your family’s problems? Haven’t you ever heard of marriage counseling? Or divorce? Or even murder! Anything as long as it doesn’t involve my family!”

“Oh, we’re so sorry about the dog. I felt so bad when I heard about that. Eddy gets so carried away with that cowboy and Indian stuff. I think he watches too much Gunsmoke on TV Land. Lord, yes.”

Somehow I didn’t feel she really cared that much about Sloppy or our feelings for the dog.

“What’s gotten into you, woman?” I said, continuing my tirade. “I can’t believe you’d pull such a stupid trick. It’s bad enough you involved my brother but then to have me kidnapped? You’re insane! Tommy’s crazy! And Eddy…Eddy’s just plain dim-witted!”

From the blank look on her face I could tell my words didn’t mean anything to her. I settled down a bit to try another tactic. “You know, you really need to let me go so Tommy doesn’t have a kidnapping charge pressed against him.”

“Oh, don’t worry your head about that, dear. Lord no. As soon as Runt finishes up that old computer stuff, Tommy will let you go and everything will be fine.”

Fine? I wouldn’t bet on that. I’d been kidnapped one too many times this week to let this one ─ the real one ─ go by.

“Since I’m being held captive here, I assume Runt’s being forced to help Tommy now, as we speak?”

“Lord, yes. They’re both over at Sirlo’s right now with their heads together. Runt mentioned another friend, I think. A man named Clyde. Do you know him, dear?”

“Heard of him.” Yup, I’d heard of him. At least I knew things on the outside were rolling along without me.

I walked away from the table and back again. I thought about the gun in the far corner, but as lovely and ladylike as Aunt Lois seemed, I thought she’d probably be a scrapper too. We didn’t seem evenly matched. I was way younger but she looked to be in good shape. She also had her version of right on her side. I just had desperation.

I just couldn’t see me and the old lady sprinting across the room, then fighting for the gun. It wasn’t the form of gun control I’d be interested in. My winning streak might not hold up under those circumstances.

The hell it wouldn’t!

From a flat footed stance to an all out run, I raced around the table but it was like Aunt Lois knew I was going to make a move for the gun before I even thought it myself. She stuck out a dainty foot in a pink leather heel and sent me sprawling. I landed in a skidding five-point position. Nose, palms, and knees took the impact on the cement floor. I was still trying to get up when she leaped out of her chair.

Someone could have shot off a starter pistol and gotten the same reaction from Aunt Lois and me. We both started running towards the far corner. We were neck and neck, side by side, racing towards the gun. The slick leather soles of my cowboy boots and her low heels didn’t give either of us an advantage on the smooth concrete.

She threw her right elbow my way and gouged me in my side. I backhanded her with my left and had the satisfaction of seeing her head snap back. One of her heavy hair combs hit the floor. The blow stopped her in her tracks.

Lightning fast, her hand grabbed my shirt collar and jerked me backwards. The hold had me running in place, getting nowhere.

We were halfway to the gun.

A hunk of Aunt Lois’ gray hair fell loose from her coiffure and hung around her face. I grabbed hold of it and yanked with all my might. She tried to get a grip on the front of my shirt but got a hand full of titty instead.

I spun towards her, jabbing my palm upwards towards her chin. It connected hard but Aunt Lois wouldn’t let go of my titty. I was right about her being a scrapper.

I hauled her around in a circle by her hair, edging my way closer to the gun. She twirled me around by my titty, keeping me away from the far corner.

Round and round we went.

And then my bra strap ripped free.

The beautiful green American currency that I’d won from Dante flew out of my chest and fluttered to the warehouse floor. Both of us stopped where we were, still holding onto various body parts.

Aunt Lois must have felt silly standing there holding my titty because she let go first.

I felt silly too, standing there with one boob hanging out, holding the hair of a well dressed older lady, so I released my grip on her hair and straightened my shirt and booby as best I could. She pulled her hair back behind her ear and adjusted her skirt. We both were breathing heavy and sweating. I’m sure she would have used the more old fashioned term “glowing.”

“Looks like you had your own money to play with all along, my dear,” was all Aunt Lois said. She was between me and the gun. I stooped down and quickly gathered my money together. My broken bra would no long suffice as a safe so I stuffed the cash into my boot.

Silently calling an unspoken truce, we both walked with whatever dignity we could muster back to the table and sat down in the same seats we had before, like ladies gathering for afternoon tea. Deflated, I picked up the cards and dealt us a hand of Rummy.

Neither of us said a word. No accusations. No apologies. No exclamations. A new found respect for one another settled over us.

After of couple of hands of gentle card game, Aunt Lois spoke up. “I work out three times a week,” she said.

Oh. I continued to suck on my sore, bloody knuckle. “Guess I’m going to have to start working out myself,” I told her.

“How old are you?” I asked her.


Hmmm. Three times a week, huh? Wow. I’m half her age and don’t work out at all. And it tells. I can’t even beat an old lady in tit-to-hair combat.

Besides my bloody knuckle, my nose was bleeding a little and one booby was definitely hanging lower than the other from the broken over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder. Aunt Lois’s hair was no longer neatly contained in a bun. It hung in long, damp lanks down her back. One of her cheeks was red and puffy. Two buttons, breast high, had popped off her blouse. For the moment I’d have to be satisfied with those results.

Several endings to this whole kidnapping scenario played out in my mind. I didn’t like most of them. This gang of relatives was a rough one, led by a tough old broad.

The office door opened and Eddy, with a suitcase of beer, strolled back into the warehouse.

“Well, it’s about time, Eddy. Lord, yes,” Aunt Lois not-so-lovingly said. “Pop me a cold one and sit down. I’ll give you a little more money. We have to play poker. We’ve got to win some of my money back from this woman.”

I couldn’t believe she didn’t ask me to give back her original stake. Maybe she realized I would have won it anyway, even if I had used my own funds.

Eddy looked from one of us to the other ─ again. We both looked him right in the eye. He didn’t have the guts to ask about our disheveled looks and we didn’t offer an exclamation.

“Sit,” I said, and he did. Aunt Lois pulled the cards together and started dealing poker.

Eddy spoke up but not about our tousled looks. “What’s all them clothes hanging in plastic bags in your car, Aunt Lois?” Eddy tilted his can and guzzled his beer.

“Just my dry cleaning. You take care of your cards, boy. We’ve got to play catch up. My money’s on the line here.”

Aunt Lois’ purse was a never ending source of cash for her and Eddy, My side of the table filled up nicely as more piles of currency were added beside the pills. We gambled the late afternoon away. Eddy’s eyes kept wandering to my uneven chest.

The suitcase of beer emptied out, mostly into Eddy and Lois. I just nursed a couple of beers along since I wanted to keep my wits about me. For what, I didn’t know yet. With this crew, though, anything could happen at any time. That was obvious. I couldn’t beat them one-on-one so I knew two against one wasn’t going to work either.

“I’m hungry. How about a pizza?” I said.

“Pepperponi!” Eddy tried to voice his choice of topping, but with all the beer he’d consumed, there were just too many Ps for the word to come out properly.

“No. Vegetarian.” This was from Aunt Lois. I was thinking pineapple and ham myself.

“OK, trip pizzas. I’m buying,” I said.

“Lord, yes, you’re buying. Winner always buys. Beer goes right through a girl. We need more toilet tissue too, Eddy,” Lois said. Another woman with tissue issues.

“You two be OK here together?” Eddy asked, suspiciously. He seemed hesitant to leave us alone again but after Aunt Lois mumbled uh-huh, he dutifully stumbled out for take-out and tissue. It wouldn’t bother me a bit if he got picked up on a DUI. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, but the TV ad doesn’t say anything about letting kidnappers drive drunk.

Aunt Lois used her cell phone once in a hushed voice. All I heard was, “Well, call me when it happens.”

Aunt Lois fixed her hair and dug around in her purse until she found a safety pin for my broken bra strap. It probably wasn’t so much about my comfort as it was about exposing Eddy to carnal knowledge. But I remembered the look in his eye when he reached out and touched Toni’s hair and I knew he already had that knowledge. Aunt Lois’ reality must be more skewered than I thought if she didn't realize that.

I washed the blood from under my nose and used the safety pin. I needed a bath, a change of clothing, fresh makeup, and deodorant. Especially deodorant.

With the break in play I pondered the May/December, baby chick/old dinosaur, sweet young thing/old geezer relationship Tom Senior was enjoying. Somewhere in that sexual mess was a puzzle piece my mind kept picking at, but I didn’t know what it was. Anyway, what did I care who old man Sirlo was doing? Why should I even be dwelling on it?

Eddy arrived with the pizza. He’d made a gigantic mental leap, at least for him, by stopping to get more beer too. Of course, he had forgotten napkins. And plates. We all ate out of the boxes just like we were friends sitting around having a good time. Poker night with pals!

Hold’em ate up the hours but we played out at ten thirty-eight that night. At least that’s what time Aunt Lois’ watch said. Eddy and Aunt Lois were worn out and broke. We’d finally gone through all the purse money. Taking a rough mental count, I figured I’d taken in over three thousand dollars in cash and pills. Add that to the three dimes plus I’d won off Dante and I was one rich kidnap victim.

Best of all, I’d learned what was behind this dog and pony show Runt was involved in. Now if I could only go home!

“OK, I’m beat. Take me home, Eddy,”

They looked at me as if I’d grown fangs, a little fear mixed with wonder. After all, I’d just won all their money, ate with them, drank with them, fought with them ─ well, at least with one of them. I was like an old friend now. Comfortable. Personable. A fellow poker player. A hell of a lot better poker player than them but, by golly, who wasn’t!

“Lord, no. You’re staying here, my dear.” Aunt Lois gathered the cards together while Eddy crushed empty beer cans on his forehead and threw them across the room.

Dejectedly, I laid my head down on the table. My arms hung below the seat of my chair, one hand touching Aunt Lois’ big pink purse.

Hmmm, I thought. If she carried that much money, I’m willing to gamble she carried a gun in her purse. But then again, I’m always willing to gamble. With my head still on the table, I silently scooted the purse over just a little bit, put my hand inside, and fished around.

Yup, a gun. Not that I knew how to use one but I could grab it with both hands and point it like they do on TV. This could be a big bluff on my part or I could actually have the internal hole cards to pull this off.

After all, how hard could it be to pull the trigger of a gun?

To be continued.

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