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Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Carrot

I entered another contest. Not that I have a snowball's chance, but it got me writing, and it was free to members of the Next Big Writer online writing group;-)
It's a short story called 'The Carrot', but of course, it has nothing to do with carrots. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to read it slowly, 'cause I'm a slow typist.

It had been a long time since a man looked at me like that. His eyes travelled slowly up my long, toned, leather-clad legs, followed by an appreciative, lingering study of my ample curves, and of course, the heated, almost leering type eye-lock, kept in check by the presence of the extra-large man at my back, entering the pub two steps behind me. He obviously didn't know who I was. His drinking buddy, on the other hand, recognized me, blanched and froze.
"Mr. Sabatino," I poured on the honey. "Fancy meeting you here. You're just the man I've been looking for." Which wasn't ever a good thing. I leaned forward, resting my palms on the table, giving the oblivious hormone factory an eyeful of cleavage. "I think you need to make a trip to the little boys' room while I have a word with Nicky."
Upon painfully pulling his gaze from my chest to my eyes, and then to the gorilla-sized man over my shoulder, I saw the exact moment it hit him that this was a business call of the second oldest profession, not the first. His chair scraped the floor as he pushed himself back from the table and turned tail. Poor Nicky still hadn't moved, frozen like a deer in the headlights, and likely just as doomed.
I pulled out a chair from a nearby table and made myself comfortable across from Nicky as Carlo, my escort, made himself comfortable at the bar, behind Nicky.
"So, Nicky, how are the wife and kids? Doing well, I hope. Or did Ria finally pack up the kids and move to her sister's?" I already knew she had left his sorry ass weeks ago.
Finally, his frozen expression broke. Or maybe it was just Nicky. His bloodshot eyes grew glassy with unshed tears and his face contorted into a blubbering mess. "I'll have the money for you by the weekend," he began to whine, "I swear on your mother's grave, Angel, I -," he nearly choked on his own spit and likely emptied his bladder when I reached across, grabbed the front of his shirt and yanked him onto the table. Carlo tensed and sent me a warning glare over Nicky's shoulder. Most people would think he was there for my protection, but my father gave him permission to haul me out of there by the scruff of my neck if I got out of line in public. Dad knew I was losing my patience with weak, sniveling losers, but Carlo was willing to give me some leash.
"You leave my mother out of this," I practically growled. "She had nothing to do with the likes of you when she was alive, and she sure isn't the patron saint of good-for-nothing losers."
No one in the near-empty pub acknowledged the ruckus I created. The bartender continued to polish the counter at the far end of the bar, and the few patrons just stared into their drinks. Apparently my short temper was common knowledge.
Nicky nodded vehemently, not daring to say anything else to set me off.
"Fifty thousand, Nicky," I whispered into his face. "You owe my dad fifty thousand dollars. Where do you plan to pick up that kind of cash, Nicky? You've tapped out Ria's inheritance, your kids' college funds, and even Larry the bookie has cut you off. No more betting on your 'sure things'. Just how stupid do you think I am? In case you weren't sure, I'm a true brunette."
The hand I had twisted in his shirt started shaking. For a second, I thought it was giving out on me, but then I realized Nicky was fighting back sobs. I shoved him back into his chair, not wanting to get blubbered on.
"You're right, Angel. I got nothing. No money, no family, no job-," he sucked back a sob, his head swinging back and forth as he stared at one callused hand, then the other as they rested on the table in front of him. His voice dropped to a barely audible decibel. "I deserve whatever whatever you have to dish out. I've been a lousy husband and father, letting the ponies come before my family. I robbed them of their security, counting on luck that wasn't there. They deserve a better life than I've given them." He snorted out a weak laugh. "At least I didn't cash out my life insurance policy."
I narrowed my eyes and leaned forward on the table. "Is it enough to cover your debt?"
"Only when I'm dead." His brain kicked in and his eyes grew wide. "You mean you'd go after Ria...?"
I leaned back and stretched my legs out under the table. "What other options do I have? You said yourself that you don't have a job. With no source of income, there's no chance of me getting paid, now is there? That's what we're here to discuss - basically - is my salary. If I don't get the money out of you, I don't get paid."
"I - I - I'll get a job, Angel. I swear on...my son's life." His voice strained at the mention of his infant child. "I'll pay your dad back. It might take some time, but every spare penny I make is yours. Please, please, I beg you, leave my family out of this." Nicky was stretched out across the table, his hands offered forward in supplication.
I stared into his face, trying to gauge his sincerity. He continued to whisper, "Please, please," as he held my gaze.
"Dad has a warehouse over on the docks just off of McLeod. You drive forklift, don't you? They could use a new operator down there. Your shift starts at six a.m. tomorrow," I stood up. "Don't be late."
A fog of confusion clouded his face. "So you...you aren't going to break my legs? Or kill me?"
"Who knows what might get broken if you don't show up at the warehouse and give it your all, twelve hours a day, until your debt is paid off. Your wages will be garnished, of course."
"But...I don't get it." Nicky shook his head. "Why?"
"Do the math, Nicky, do the math." I pushed the chair under the table. "Six a.m. at the warehouse. Let's hope this is the only break I have to give you."
As I turned and headed out the door, I felt Carlo's hand in the small of my back and his breath on my ear. "You enjoyed that way too much. Why not just give him your dad's offer straight out?"
I smiled to myself. "He had to want it, first."

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