Category Archives: Richard Lake

Doing Business

I’m rubbing my hands together to keep ’em warm and steering with my
knee when the kid appears, giggling and straddling the yellow line in
the center of the road.
+++++“Shit!” I say. My cig falls from my mouth. “Fuck!”
+++++I wrench the wheel left, fishtail across black ice, clip the curb,
pull the wheel right, get things straightened out just before the
engine sputters and dies. I wipe the burning ash from my pants, take a
breath. Get out to change the tire the curb shredded.
+++++“You forgot to push the clutch,” Dad calls out the window.
+++++“Yeah. I get it. Been driving half my life.”
+++++“How many times do I have to tell you that you shouldn’t smoke,
Ezekiel? And when are you going to fix the heater in this thing? And
you know you’re not supposed to say the eff word. What would your
mother think, God rest her soul?”
+++++I laugh. Can’t help it. I think, this is so fucked up. Think, dad sure
has changed.
+++++“Now make sure your seat belt is fastened tightly and start it back up.”
+++++I crank. She starts. I roll outta there.
+++++Jimmy ain’t gonna be happy if I’m late. Can’t be late. Don’t want
Jimmy pissed off. Not with dad tagging along like this. I push it, 60,
70, 80, flying down the highway. The old Chrysler’ll be fine, long as
I keep it straight, long as she don’t show up again. Always causing
trouble, she is.
+++++“Now now, son,” Dad says. “Don’t think about Matilda like that. And
slow down. The roads are icy and you have a headlight out.”
+++++Sure ‘nuf, Jimmy’s waiting when I get there. I keyhole the trunk, step
back while he checks the merch.
+++++I watch. He scowls, knifes one of the bags, snorts powder from the blade.
+++++“Good stuff Zeke, as always,” he says. He eyes me sideways. “You had
me worried. Not like you to be late.”
+++++I don’t say nothing for a minute, get tired of waiting for the point.
“We cool?” I say.
+++++He pauses, says, “Yeah. We cool.” He hands me a stack of bills, which
I pocket. I light a smoke.
+++++“You’re not going to count that? You should always count it,” Dad
says, fanning smoke away from his face. He gives Jimmy a look,
whispers, “You can’t be too careful, especially with him. You’re too
trusting, Ezekiel.”
+++++I don’t speak. Just watch as Jimmy and his thugs unload the trunk.
Jimmy slams the lid closed, approaches me.
+++++“You all right?”
+++++Puts an arm around my shoulder.
+++++I see dad tense up, get back in the car.
+++++“Wasn’t your fault, you know,” Jimmy says. “Labs explode. Your pa knew
that better than anyone. Man was a fuckin’ demon. Just sucks your
folks and the kid were there when it happened. What was she, seven or
eight?”
+++++“Matilda was six.”
+++++“Just the cost of doing business.”
+++++I get back in the car.
+++++“What did he want?” dad says. “Was he speaking about your mother and
your sister? He has no right to speak of them. No right at all.”
+++++“Course he was, dad,” I say. I’m flailing my arms, don’t even realize
it until the back of my hand hits the rearview. I drop my voice to a
whisper. “He sees the way I been acting lately, all jittery and shit,
since you showed back up. He knows something ain’t right. He was just
trying to calm me down.”
+++++I put it in gear, head toward the driveway. Jimmy motions for me to
stop and roll down the window. His thug tenses.
+++++“Who were you just talkin’ to?” Jimmy says. He has his hand on the gun
tucked under his coat.
+++++“Take it easy, Jimmy,” I say. “I wasn’t talkin’ to a fuckin’ soul. You
know I wouldn’t do that to you.”
+++++He motions his thug over.
+++++“Zeke here’s talking to someone. Find out who. Look for a wire.”
+++++The thug rips the door open, reaches for me. I feel dad move through
me before my world goes black.
+++++I come to, the sunrise skipping off the bug-covered windshield. I’m
half in, half out of the car. My knuckles are sore and covered in
blood.
+++++Body parts litter the snow outside. I see Jimmy’s head splayed on the
end of a fence post. I walk up to it.
+++++“Sorry about that,” I say. I light a smoke, breathe in the cool morning air.
+++++“Just the cost of doing business.”