Friday, July 25, 2008

Spare Change #11

I watch the storm clouds gathering while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. It’s another six blocks to DJ’s store and I’m quickly losing confidence that I’ll arrive dry. I wish I hadn’t stopped to check in on Tommy and then wasted even more time asking around about his whereabouts when he wasn’t there.

It’s been two days since the knife incident and it seems like nobody has seen Tommy since. I’m trying not to worry about him but that’s proving to be difficult.

The walk signal brings my attention back to the here and now. I step out onto the crosswalk and –

“Hey, watch where you’re going moron!”

“What the…” It takes a few seconds to realize that this clown on a motorcycle almost ran me over. “Watch where I’m going?”

“If you had scratched up my new ride there woulda been hell to pay!” He has flipped up his visor and all I can see are flaring nostrils and angry blue eyes. Ignoring common sense, I don’t walk away.

“Sorry to get in the way of you running a red light,” I say with a sneer. “Next time I’ll be sure to let you ride on through so a cargo truck can knock some sense into you.”

“Are you getting smart with me?” I’m not surprised he’s unable to figure it out on his own. The walk signal is flashing now so I shake my head and turn to walk away. “That’s right, chicken. Walk away.”

Throwing rational thought out the window, I spin and flip him off. We’re frozen for a breath as we both try to comprehend the situation. Then he jumps off his bike.

Rational thought makes its triumphant return and I turn and run.

I glance over my shoulder as I reach the far sidewalk to see him getting back on his motorcycle as the light turns red. I slow to a walk but keep watching to make sure he goes straight instead of left. He does and I breathe a sigh of relief. Is anything going to go right for me?

Right on cue, the first drop of rain crashes onto the top of my head.

I hunch up my shoulders and hurry to DJ’s, taking special care to look both ways five or six times per intersection. By a minor miracle I manage to arrive without further incident.

“J-man,” DJ says as I enter, dripping rainwater on his clean floor. “There’s a washroom in the back, go dry up and we’ll get started.”

I nod gratefully and make my way past the coffee bean bag blocking the back hall and into the cramped washroom. I do what I can to sop up my dripping clothes and only bang my elbow on the sink three times.

When I reenter the store DJ is with a couple customers so I hang back to browse his “DJ Mike Picks of the Week” display. I’ve listened to all of them before which is both reassuring and a let down. Good to know I’m keeping up with the good stuff, disappointing I don’t get to discover something new.

DJ rings up their purchases and sends them on their way with a smile and a promise that they’ll be back. I arrive at the counter to begin my training as the door closes behind them.

“Alright J, first things first,” DJ says. “I am not the post office, I’m not hotmail and I sure as hell ain’t Facebook. So don’t plan on turning me into your message center.”

“What are you talking about?”

“This is the first and, more importantly, the last time I pass on a message to you, okay?”

Who would leave me a message…? Karl and Tommy are the only people who I’ve told about this gig. Karl would never do it and Tommy was so out of his head that I can’t imagine he remembered anything we talked about after he came back down.

“Got it man. What’s the message?”

“A woman came by yesterday, said she needs to talk to you,” he says. I swallow hard. “Said her name was TJ.”

Friday, July 18, 2008


Alright, apparently I'm missing two weeks. But hey, I haven't missed a day yet on my Daily Writing Practice.

So... yeah. July 25th will be the return of Spare Change.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Spare Change #10

“So what’s new with you?” Tommy asks as he admires his own smoke rings.

“Well, I’ve got a job,” I say, still not really believing it even though it’s been two days since I told DJ I’d cover for him. “I start in a couple weeks.”

“Nice man, who you selling for? Doug will rip you off; I hope it’s not Doug.”

“No, I’m –“

“And Petey’s crack is terrible; please tell me you’re not selling his junk.”

“Listen,” I begin but Tommy isn’t paying any attention to me. He’s just blowing rings and patting that damned rabbit of his – bastard still won’t tell me where he got it, probably stole it from some poor kid.

“You gotta watch who you work for on these streets man, competition is getting scary,” he says before taking a long, deep drag on his joint.

“I know Tommy, that’s why I’m not selling drugs,” I tell him and he finally looks at me. Alright, now that he’s listening –

“You think hookers are any safer? Man, if the pimp don’t get you one of those crazy who-“

“Tommy! Just shut up for a minute, okay?” He looks a little hurt but at least he keeps his mouth closed. “I’m not doing any of that crap, alright? It’s a legit job – DJ Mike asked me to run his shop for a week so he can take a vacation.”

“Tiny wants you to run his shop?” Tommy says in disbelief. “I thought that man was clean.”

“He’s not high, at least I don’t think he is.”

“Might explain a few things if he was,” Tommy says as he feeds the rabbit a scrap of bread.

“I didn’t know rabbits ate bread.”

“Oh, they’ll eat all sorts of things,” he says from far, far away; I’m gonna have to cut him off soon. “Isn’t that right Hopper?”

“Oh good, you finally got around to naming him.”


“Right, her… every other bum in this city has a dog or cat for a pet, but not you – always gotta be different, huh Tommy?”

“Hopper ain’t no pet,” he mumbles. “You see a leash?”

I concede the point as Hopper nuzzles my hand, searching for food. I’ve got nothing on me so I give her head a pat and she goes back to Tommy. However he got her, pet or friend, they’re definitely together now.

“Anyway, DJ wants me to come by a few times this week to show me what he wants done while he’s gone,” I say as I try to get back on topic. “I wasn’t sure at first but I’m starting to look forward to it.”

“Whatever floats your boat man,” Tommy says, flicking away the remains of his joint and reaching into his jacket pocket for another. “You get to wear a cute hat and uniform too?”

“It ain’t McDonald’s man,” I say, finally starting to realize this isn’t the person I should be talking to about this. I reach out my hand to stop him from lighting up again. “I think you’ve had enough of that for today.”

“Don’t you tell me when to stop!” He’s leaning over me in an instant, breathing hard through his mouth like a rabid dog. I’m so shocked by his change in demeanor that at first I don’t see the knife clutched in his right fist.

“Where the hell did you get that?”

“You shouldn’t be worrying about where I got it,” he spits, waving the blade in front of my nose. “But where it is right now.”

“What are you smokin’ man, to pull a knife on me?” What the hell is this? Did someone lace his joint or was it something he was doing before I got here? The only thing I’m sure of is that this is not the Tommy I know.

“Get out of my alley before I throw you out… piece… by piece,” he says matter-of-factly, tapping the blade first against my right cheek, then my left.

“Tommy, what is going on man?” I ask, doing my damndest not to panic.

“Get out you thief!” he screams at me from inches away. I scramble to my feet and back away down the alley. My eyes never leave his face; his eyes never leave my throat. “And don’t come back!”

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I call down the alley as I reach the sidewalk. “Hopefully you’ll have all the crazy out by then.”

He screams incoherently and throws an empty soup can in my direction. I duck around the corner and head for home. I need to get back to relative safety… I doubt I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Maybe I’ll get to see Phakov coming in the morning.

Oh man… what just happened?