Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scene 21

Myron stomps into the gas station. He sees a woman from behind, standing in the door of the garage. There is a metallic pounding sound coming from beyond the door. “Aw, baby, I can’t believe you did it!” she’s saying. “You haven’t even met these people!” The pounding stops for a moment. A gravelly voice comes from the garage. “Now listen to me, Charlene. I done it cause I think it’s a good idea.”

The woman turns and sees Myron. “When is he coming?”

“None of your damn business, is when.”

“Okay, baby,” says the woman. “I sure hope that envelope don’t get put somewhere funny. Like to get lost.” The woman turns around and sees Myron standing at the counter. Suddenly a menacing-looking man pops in the door holding a big tool. “It ain’t gonna get lost, Charlene. Or somebody’s gonna get her ass beat. You hear?”

Myron is dumbstruck. The man looks at him. His face is all folded up with anger--long term anger, 24 hour anger mad multiplied by weeks times years. His eyes poke out to the sides, and his forehead looks like a hammer. He’s wearing a work shirt. His name is on the sewn-on oval over the breast pocket. It says, “Tom Thick.”

“What in hell do you want,” says Tom.

He’s terrifying.

Myron, who came in the door mad, is backing off a bit. “My car overheated. It has to cool down. I’ll need some antifreeze and some gas.”

Tom says gruffly. “Leave it out there. Couple hours.” Then he turns to Charlene and takes her upper arm in his enormous, greasy hand. “I mean it. Nothin’ better get lost.”

She’s unfazed. She puts one hand on his, and with the other, touches his chest lightly. “I know, baby. Nothing’s gonna get lost. It’s behind the register.”

Tom Thick releases her and turns around to look for the envelope. Charlene places her hands on his back and looks at Myron.

“Good. I’m almost done with this job,” Tom says over his shoulder.

“I’ll watch for him,” says Charlene.

“I’m gonna go over everything one more time.”

“Okay, baby,” says Charlene. Tom walks back out to the garage.

Myron is still getting over the spectacle of Tom, when he truly begins to get an eyeful of Charlene. He’s almost afraid to even look at her. Charlene has dark hair that runs down to her shoulders and licks up in a weak curl. Her complexion is dark. Her eyes are brown and black, and she’s got a mouth that you can’t believe. There’s some serious swivel on her.

She’s 35, 40. Magic and mileage, both.

The pounding sound resumes in the garage.

She’s wiping the grease off her arm. Now Charlene is sizing him up. “You need something else?” Myron pushes his glasses back. He looks out the window at Blinky, who’s plopped himself down next to the smoking car. “Why are simple things so hard sometimes?” says Myron, spontaneously.

“Because nothing’s simple, that’s why.”

“No, some things really are simple. Most things are simple, if you ask me.”

“I wish you were right.” She’s friendly and rueful and dangerous, all at once.

“How long do you think it’ll take for that to cool down.”

Charlene shrugs. “Awhile. You have time for a beer.” There is the tiniest hint of challenge in her voice. “Take a little edge off.” She points out the back door, across an enormous parking lot, to a sign that says “Star-Lite Lounge.” It’s a low commercial building.

Myron doesn’t drink much, beyond a once-a-year spiked egg nog on Christmas Eve. He’s about to say this, when something tells him not to. “Thanks,” he says, and pauses. Subconsciously, Myron puffs up a little. “You’re really nice,” he adds.

“No, I’m not,” says Charlene.

“Is it that simple?” Myron has no idea where he gets this sentence.

Charlene smiles. “Of course not. I’m a woman, aren’t I? Women are complicated.”

“I know that,” says Myron, as if he’s speaking from wide experience. He thinks about winking at her, but can’t actually. He never learned how. Even so, Myron’s freaked out that he gets the idea at all. “I’ll be over there,” he says, pointing to the Star-Lite.

“We’ll know where to find you,” says Charlene.

Myron walks out the back door.

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