Friday, March 20, 2009

The Tips are Where It's At

I was telling the man that I didn't think he should be doing this kind of job, hanging around with these kinds of people. He was a tall lanky Polish looking caucasian, with short cropped hair and a slight but perpetual forward stoop, as if it his head was too heavy for his body and was continually overbalancing him. Even now as he stood talking to me, he looked down at the pavement.

"I have to do it because tips are where it's at," he said to me. "Tips are were all the money is. Without tips there's nothing really. You got nothing. So I have to do it this way," he said with a sort of dejected defiance.

I looked around at all the widely spaced cars spread out on the pavement. Here, space was plentiful and cheap. No need to be frugal with space. In the dark night, I couldn't see much beyond the pavement platter of cars, but I had the feeling that south western style desert surrounded us with sand, cactus, and the occasional outcrop of weathered sandstone. Above me towered a covered carport type of construction, similar to those you find at gas stations. Several flood lights were strung on its edges, attracting clouds of whining insects.

A cluster of men were assembled around one of the cars. Sniggering and drinking, they lounged against the car or the carport, some of them staggering at times to keep upright. They were a surly bunch. Disagreements flared up regularly intermixed with ringing raucous laughter.

Eventually, one of the men threw a shot glass at another's feet and exploding glass shards sparkled in the reflected light. Angry and confused, the victem threw his own glass at the car. Just then, the man I had been talking with earlier stalked into the middle of the group and demanded to know what was they were doing to his car. Behind him, one of the drunk men calmly picked up a long handled axe and expertly swung it over his head and struck down with a sick thunking noise directly onto the back of the car owner's neck.

The scene changed. It was daytime now as I gazed on a small house with a peaked tar gravel roof. Near the chimney, a man cowered on this roof, attempting to hide. The cops had already seen him be he pretended not to hear their shouts to come down. Eventually, they put ladders on the side of the red wood house and reached up to the man's leg and pulled him down.

He did not resist. In fact, he relaxed. The chase was over and there was something he wanted to say. "It was Wayne SoandSo (I forget the actual last name he used)," he said without any prompting. He had wanted to say it all along but he hadn't wanted to get himself implicated. But now that he was already caught, he could finally get it off his chest with confidence. He wanted the real murderer to be known. Everyone knew Wayne anyway and nobody was surprised. He would be easy to find. The only question was, would the charges stick?

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