Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Merchant of South Texas

Bass was in trouble. He needed money to pay rent on his apartment, and he’d just spent what was left of his unemployment on food for his six-month-old daughter, Leah. The child was ravenous and growing larger by the day, as children are wont to do, and Bass was determined that his daughter would never go hungry. But now he faced the proposition that his daughter may be homeless for a while.

Not exactly the perfect situation for her, especially as it was the dead of winter in the middle of the city.
Sitting at the bar of the Thirsty Devil, the bartender smiled at him as Bass ran a hand over his bald head.
“I’m sure you’ll find something Bass,” she said, sauntering over to where he was seated. “After all, you always seem to find a way out of trouble at the last minute.”
“The problem is I’m already at my last minute and I’ve got nothing!” Bass said, slamming his fist down on the bar. Tired, he smiled at his friend. “Sorry Portia, I shouldn’t be whining to you while you’re on the clock.”
She just shrugged. “Where else are you going to get free drinks and a sympathetic ear?”
“Not many other places,” Bass said, lowering his head to his beer.
“I know of a place,” came a dry whisper, causing both of them to jump. A pile of rags that had been laid out in a booth near the bar moved, revealing a man wearing layers of shredded clothes. He smelled of cheap whiskey and looked as old as the idea of Bourbon itself. With stubble from ear to ear and unwashed hair falling down his back, the man blinked back some crust from his eye and looked over at Bass and Portia.
“What?” Bass asked.
“I know of a place where you can get the money you need,” the man warbled, sliding his hands out from beneath his rags, a pipe in his hand. He pulled a lighter and slowly lit it, taking a few puffs off of it before he continued staring at Bass. “And you wouldn’t even have to leave the bar.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense.” Bass said, looking at the whiskey-addled man with an unbelieving eye.
The man held a hand up to his chest, his other held up as if he were swearing into office. “The truth mate, you can get money enough to pay your rent and cover the rest of the bills for a whole month. No interest, no gimmicks. Just text 88-34671.”
“That’s not even a number,” Bass said, looking at his bartender friend.
“Yeah Bass, don’t listen to the kook, I’ll lend you the money.” The bartender said, cocking her hip to the side.
“I don’t know Portia, I need a lot this time around and I don’t want to cause any problems.”
“Oh,” Portia said, looking down at the bar. “How much is a lot?”
“Three grand.” Bass stressed.
Portia choked at the thought of forking over that much money to a “close” friend, while the man merely laughed, slapping the table. Both Bass and Portia looked at the man.
“Tha’ ain’t nothin’.” The man said, reaching into his coat interior, pulling a wad of rolled hundred dollar bills.
“Holy shit,” Bass said, echoed by Portia as the man peeled a hundred off and handed it to the buxom bartender.
“Just keep the drinks comin,” the man said before he motioned across from him in the booth. “Sit a while and listen to what me friend has to offer.”
Bass shrugged, looking at Portia. She shook her head. “You and Ashley can always crash at my place, you know that.”
“Yeah, I’d rather save that for when I’m really in trouble.” Bass said, smiling as he stood from the bar and carried his beer over to the liquor soaked man, bloodshot eyes never leaving his frame the entire time.
“There’s a lad… let me give my friend a jingle, see where he’s at. He can be here in under an hour.” The man said, pulling a shining new black phone from his dirty coat pocket.
“A man with lots of money that can show up to give you a loan in the middle of the night… he isn’t a drug dealer, is he?” Bass asked, thinking of his daughter.
“Nah mate, he’s clean. He just likes helpin’ people who need the help.” The man said as he held the phone to his ear. “Hello? Hello, there you be! Where you been all day? Oh I’ve been in the Thirsty Devil, got a young man who wants to meet you. Yes, he is. Yes, he does. Oh, I don’t know,” the man said before lowering the phone from his moth, looking at Bass, “you got a job?”
Bass rubbed the back of his head. “Not at the moment, but something always turns up.”
The man frowned but returned to his call with the mysterious stranger. “You hear that? Yeah? Twenty minutes? We’ll be here!”
The man snapped his phone closed before sliding it back into his coat, thanking Portia as she brought a bottle of foul smelling scotch with two shot glasses. “Aw, thank you girlie you remembered me drink.”
“Hard not to guess just from smelling you,” Portia said, waving a hand in front of her face.
The man ignored her, pouring a shot for Bass and himself. “We jus’ gotta wait twenty minutes while he finishes his work down the road.”
“What’s your friend do?” Bass asked.
“Lucky asshole, he’s just rich. He spends his time helpin’ people.” The man said, shooting his drink quickly before pouring himself another.
Bass frowned before downing his scotch, reveling in the fiery trail it burned down his throat as he swallowed it in one go. Slamming the shot glass on the table, he tearfully smiled at the man, who only chortled.
“Now you’re in the spirit boyo! Always need ta be in the spirit when makin’ a deal, otherwise it’s bad luck.” The man said, pouring Bass another shot.
“I don’t think you should get too drunk while waiting for this guy,” Portia said, turning as she heard her name called from the bar. “Shit, I’m needed. Bass, wait till the end of my shift and I’ll drop you off at your place on my way home, okay?”
“Sure thing Portia,” Bass said, sipping his shot glass before downing it as she turned. As Portia walked away, he leaned in to the strange man and nodded at him. “So what’s your name anyway?”
The man took a pull straight from the bottle, his teeth clacking the glass harshly as he pulled a swig from the brown colored glass. He swallowed and smiled, looking at Joe with one eye wide open. “Antonio, and tonight’s your lucky night I wager. This man might be a right jerk at times, but he loans out money like no one else I know. And I’ve been a bit of a loan shark for a while now.”
“So why didn’t you offer me the money?” Joe asked, motioning for Antonio to pour another shot.
Antonio shrugged, sloshing some of the liquor around for Joe. “Not too liquid at the moment, if’n you catch my drift. The money I gots is for payin back me friend and payin to keep me nice and happy.”
“I gotcha,” Joe said, taking his shot back and smiling as a warm haze started to cloud his mind, the worries of the day seemingly falling away as he sat in the booth.

No comments:

Post a Comment