WE'RE ALL MAKING OUR QUOTAS TODAY:
That’s what this fruity wad of asskiss is saying on the news right now, all bundled up outside the Best Buy on 6th and Broadway. A few hundred suckers lined up behind him in the -3 degree weather with their pop tents and heat packs—this is about the only time these jackasses aren’t trying to get on TV.
It’s the only day you can walk into this bar at five in the morning and order whiskey without getting the stink-eye. Warm and quiet; the perfect place for a sit-down. Everyone knows you come to Kelly’s for the best Black Friday deals.
And this shriveled little prick with Woody Allen glasses and about two years of hair left—I can just tell he’s going to need it beaten out of him by the way he looks at me. Or doesn’t look at me, tail already between his legs and about to piss himself. One of his eyes is yellow-brown, which means this ass-hat was getting a shiner about a week ago.
Fuckin’ guy barely raises his chin off the floor when he asks, “So…are you…him?” mouth hardly moving with the scabs on his lips, hands shaking and stained cheap red wine from the cold. Unmarked. He didn’t fight back.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, officer,” and Woody raises those punching bag eyes to me just in time to see whiskey jog past my lips. Stuff burns so damn good I’m tempted to lose the top layer.
“Wait—what?” the little purple fingers get all twitchy. “I’m not a cop.”
Forget all the bullshit sayings you’ve heard over the years. Always assume. Even if the guy’s 150 pounds of old sponge, he could still have twenty badges waiting outside to bust your ass. Covering your bases is a good habit to get into.
“If you’re not a cop, then yeah,” I offer a little grin, hoping this will chill him out. “I’m him.”
And the guy on the tube in the wool body condom, he’s going on about $300 laptops and $150 game systems as a greed riot breaks out behind him. People throwing elbows, trying to get to the $70 iPods and $5 CDs. A Wal-Mart employee got stomped to death last year, so naturally, this media cocksucker goes to the place with the best prices, hoping it will happen again.
“I heard you had…deals,” Woody goes back to his quiet little self, fingers playing piano on nothin’.
A 55” Toshiba HDTV for $900.
An iMac with all the bells and whistles for a grand.
If Woody wanted these things, he’d be on TV, too. You come to Kelly’s, to me, when you’re lookin’ for something that can’t be picked up in a store. Or those things not in an ad. And the fuckin’ guy is still shakin’.
“There’s a house on the on 5th that’s runnin’ a deal on $1 rocks…$2 shots of H. Go down there and—“
“—You think I do drugs?” he cuts in.
“I know a junkie when I see one, pal,” holding up the next shot of whiskey, making my hand shudder enough to spill a few drops. “Body don’t lie.”
“I’m not a junkie, I just…if my wife knew about this she’d kill me.”
Mr. Twitch doesn’t wear his ring either, so that means he’s one of two things: guilty, or he’s like me. In my line of work, you never talk about your home life. If people don’t know about your family, then you’ll never have to protect them.
“16th and Park…little piece of shit kike neighborhood. There’s a place called Abramowicz Diamonds going out of business where you can get conflict stones the size of your knuckles for practically nothing.” Lean in, smiling like I give a shit, “That oughta make the wife happy, huh?”
And on the tube now is a guy curled up on the iced pavement, clutching an XBOX 360 as four guys try to pry it from his gloved fingers. It’s already starting.
“No, this is more…personal,” Woody says, dabbing a scratch on his face with a finger.
More selfish, is what he means. Something he doesn’t want his wife to know about, and he’s still shaking at the hands. The shoulders.
“I’m not exactly…comfortable asking,” and one of the hands drops a Franklin on the whiskey puddles, quickly drawing back to his side of the scuffed table. “But your time is valuable…so maybe just run through what you have.”
The bill leaves a booze trail when it’s slid off the table, into my jacket pocket, and when I ask, “Why does my gut tell me you want something no one else is asking for?” Woody doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t have to. The way he can’t look me in the eye tells me all I need to know.
That trembling thing isn’t from the cold or withdrawal or nerves.
Check the ads and you would’ve seen that sale on the Rock Band set-up for 70% off (limit 5). Circuit City was pitching Sony Vaios (limit 2) for $200 a pop, but only between 7:00 and 7:15 in the morning. So when you see those people standing out in front of the store shaking their asses off for these deals, only half of it has anything to do with the weather.
This guy is excited about something. Jacked on adrenaline.
He’s not like the others, though: the guidos looking for $5 Cuban cigars or $3 DVD bootlegs. Never seen a dude get shaky over a $20 Blackberry or $50 brick of weed. It’s the first time I’ve ever been tipped. He’s investing.
“Automatic? Or semi-automatic?”
“I’m sorry?” Woody squints.
“There’s a house just over the bridge that has AKs for $250 a pop.”
Today only. Limit 2.
He shakes that one off.
“You need someone killed?”
And Woody starts rocking back and forth in his chair, sort of like when you’re trying to scoot it up, but he’s not moving. Sweat all over his face. The cold kind that doesn’t sting so bad when it washes over a few scratches in your cheek and forehead.
“I got a uh…a thing,” Woody’s still squirming in his chair. “Got this problem,” and it finally clicks when he looks to me, then down at himself. His lap. Body don’t lie.
The guilt’s already killing him.
Take the victory shot, savoring it, tell Woody to calm down because he can’t keep still in that chair. Us married guys know how hard it can be, once you get that first taste from a pro it’s hard to go back.
“You’re gonna be in good hands, Twitch…know this Vietnamese girl havin’ a deal but you better hustle.”
70% off. But only until 6am.
“Don’t put your mouth anywhere on her—and wear a goddamn raincoat, y’know,” which leads to an address finally being written, but Woody, he doesn’t look relieved. Still doing that shaking, junkie thing with the hands. Nodding me off.
“No…no…I got a problem,” he turns his head, left-right-left. Sweating shotgun shells. “I don’t think…don’t think you can help.”
On the tube there’s fire. Cars being torched. People do crazy things when they’ve waited hours in a row for nothin’. It’s the store’s fault for carrying only two of something three hundred show up for. Sore losers. Black Friday is a test of character, some guys say.
“This might have been a mistake,” Woody says, the fingers touching his lips—not like he’s thinking. Guy’s heading towards a panic attack or something. Feels like he’s in over his head.
“Hey guy, why don’t you just tell me what you want, huh?”
He’s shaking his head, “No.” Saying, “The last man…he didn’t like it,” choosing between keeping his ass glued to that chair and cutting his losses. “He didn’t understand.”
Why people wait six hours in the snow and ice and cold, risking sickness with no guarantee they’ll get what they came for, not to mention the assbeatings waiting out in the parking lot—makes me wonder if it’s really worth it.
“I probably won’t understand, either,” and another shot is poured, then a second for Woody. “But I don’t judge. I sell product,” my fingers pushing the drink his way. “So tell me what your problem is and maybe I have a something for it.”
He doesn’t touch the drink. Doesn’t want it, either. Does this thing with his nose that tells me he’s not a whiskey guy or just flat out sober.
But the gesture helps. Loosens the tongue.
“Got a problem…a kid problem,” he mumbles, the eyes daring to meet mine.
The Planned Parenthood is having a door buster sale on abortions and day-after pills, but that’s probably not going to be any help. Besides, Woody already said he didn’t need no one killed.
“You need one...kidnapped?” but I’m reaching. It ain’t right.
Woody sighs, drawing his face back just in case I take a swipe at him, checking those exits again. “Borrowed,” he says.
To some people, Black Friday is more than just getting a good deal or the ritual. Sometimes it’s not about money. Today is one of those days where people go looking for the impossible, and they’ll deal with practically anything to get it.
“Two grand,” I tell him cold, head down and writing an address. He was right to be scared.
If you’ve ever been on the inside, then you already know that there are two kinds of people that never make it in the joint: rapists and guys that fuck little kids. Woody is both.
He lays the money down in front of me, taking the beer mat with him when he draws that hand back. Those shaky fuckin’ hands ready to go purple again out in the cold, waiting to put chills in some little kid. Any kid. He didn’t even care.
“He’s headin’ east,” I say, pouring another shot. Woody’s is still sitting on the other side of the table like a bad memory, but he’s gone now.
“Don’t be nice,” my mouth tilts down to the thing taped on my chest, inside the shirts. Got to wear two layers just to hide the damn thing.
Not used to how it feels because I’m no cop.
I’m just a guy who got caught doin’ something he wasn’t supposed to. It was either help out or never see my family again. That was my Black Friday deal.
And after that burning feeling clears my throat, I say, “Send in the next one,” waiting for another crackhead or perv or murderer to walk up to my table. The next piece of trash.
A sting this big really helps out those end-of-the-month numbers.
We’re all making our quotas today.
by Bill Pieper