Friday, September 5, 2008

Spare Change #17

“Tommy, let’s just talk this through, okay?”

He swings the gun back towards me and I can’t help but flinch. I don’t think he’s ready to pull the trigger yet but I can’t be too sure of anything right now.

“Shut up J,” Tommy says casually, “before I shut you up.” His calm demeanor is more terrifying than the crazed ranting I faced in the alley the last time we were together. I worry that this is the calm before the bullet storm.

Satisfied that he’s obtained my silence, Tommy brings the gun and his attention back to the couple huddled together on the floor next to the register. They haven’t moved since I told them to get down when I saw Tommy arrive. Was that only ten minutes ago?

“I didn’t mean to involve you in this,” Tommy tells them, “but now you are and I can’t just let you go. You’d go yap to the cops and they would insist on interrupting my business with J here.”

“What are you going to do with us?” the man demands. He’s trying to sound tough and brave but that’s a hard thing to accomplish when a madman has a gun leveled at your head.

“Haven’t decided yet,” Tommy says, “but I’ll thank you kindly to keep your mouth shut ‘till I do.”

“If you keep telling everyone to shut up,” I say from the door, “you’re gonna be the only one talking. That doesn’t sound like a good way to resolve this.”

“You wanna talk J? Fine, let’s talk. How about you start by explaining why you stole all my dope?”

“What are you talking about? If your drugs are gone it’s because you smoked them all in one go, then decided it was a good idea to go buy a gun.” I want to scream at him, I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him, I want to unlock the door and make a break for it and to hell with the couple I would leave behind. But I keep my voice even, I stay still, I pray we all make it out of here alive.

“You know I never do enough of anything to lose control, man. But it’s all gone and the last person I was with before it disappeared,” he says as he walks over to me, stopping inches away, “was you.”

I look into his eyes – they’re clear, focused and very, very angry. Oh God, he’s clean… whatever he was on in the alley has left his system. The alley…

“Tommy,” I say softly, “were you with anyone in the alley before I turned up?”

“What does that matter?” His eyes narrow and he jabs the barrel of the gun into my chest. My heart skips about five beats. “You want to dump the blame on someone else?”

“Listen to me.” These could be my last words – I better make them count. “When I got there you were already smoking something. Whatever it was, it was messing you up big time. We’ve known each other almost two years now and I can say, with complete confidence, that wasn’t you I was speaking with that day. Who gave you those joints?”

Without a word Tommy slams a fist into my abdomen. I double over, gasping for air, as he turns and strides away. My vision goes blurry as I put a hand on the floor to steady myself; but my hearing is fine. I hear him stop and turn to face me. I hear the gun being cocked.

“I will not listen to you smear her good name.” Her? What is going on here? “She has done more for me than you ever have. She would never steal from me. Not like you did.”

“Tommy, I have no idea who or what you’re talking about.”

“Save your lies for the devil J – you’ll be seeing him soon enough.”

“This woman of yours is the one spoon feeding you lies, Tommy! She poisoned you, she stole your drugs and now she has set you on me! Open your damn eyes!”

“How can you say that?” Tommy screams. “How could you say something like that about your own sister?”

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