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Light fiction with subtle humor, or as my Australian friends would say, “humour.”

LONG BEFORE I  actually laid eyes on the man, I sensed that my relationship with Gordon Tuttle wouldn’t be a source of joy and comfort to either one of us, especially me. What could I expect? His goons had me tied up with duct tape, one of my two favorite products. I love WD-40, too. That’s the other one. I felt I should mention it since I brought it up.

Got to hand it to Gordon’s boys, using modern technology to do the job. Imagine trussing somebody up with rope when duct tape is used around every home in America. You know, quick repairs to your car’s upholstery, covering the split in your kids bicycle seat, just about anything.

They had me in a kitchen chair. My kitchen chairs weren’t all that sturdy, being twenty-five years old and having gone through the rigors of my four, now grown and gone children. Made of oak, my favorite wood, the old brown high-back style meant they were strong, except at the joint points, which creaked from loose screws and failed glue. I point out that they held me tight just fine.

Charlie and John did a good job of making me part of the chair, I have to admit. Crooks learn stuff about things most people hear or read about, but seldom take time to really get into. I think it’s part of the School of Hard Knocks where they learn all that stuff, you know, how to use rope and duct tape, how to torture people for information or just torture them, if that’s their thing.

Charlie sat on a chair smirking at me. Charlie wore an out-sized blue work shirt and baggy jeans. His belly protruded over where he might have had a belt, but I couldn’t tell. I guessed he liked his beer. A disgustingly fat, but very strong man, he kept his eye on me while John went out for cigarettes. There’s a packy a block from my house and they sell ‘em there. I know because I buy liquor there. Obviously, they sell cigarettes, too.

I don’t smoke any more. Filthy habit. Stinks up a room and the stale mouth you get from cigarettes only works if your wife also smokes like a chimney. Then you’re immune, kind of.

‘Course, if you’re a drinker and she’s a smoker, neither one of you would be able to abide the other, I suppose. Fortunately, my smoking wife died of lung cancer two years ago, kind of why I gave up cigarettes and started drinking. Well, not fortunate she died; only that she doesn’t have to watch me become a lush. I do miss her. Strange how when you’re all tied up, you have time to think about absurd things.

Charlie’s a hulking dummy, Gordon’s dog. He likes to hurt people. Evidently Gordon saw value in that, because I picture Charlie groveling at his feet like a lovesick puppy, that type of guy.

The only contact I had with Gordon so far, a phone call I got two days ago, he told me he’d be showing up to discuss money. As I sit looking at Charlie’s smirk, I replay the conversation in my head.

“Money? Who is this?” I say to the unfamiliar voice on the other end.

“Gordon, my man.” He sounds black. I know, I shouldn’t stereotype, but he does.  He has that unmistakable inner city speech pattern. I search my brain, but I can’t make a connection. There has to be one. In my business, you don’t get to know all the people you affect, one way or another.

“I don’t know a Gordon, do I?”

“You gonna soon.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know Dilatania Jones?”

“Oh, her. Yeah, so what?”

“She married to a friend of mine.”

“How’d you get my number?”

“I got ways, man. Look for me.” He hung up.

I found it a little unsettling. Dilatania Jones borrowed some money from me. I run this banking business, see. You need money and you can’t get it from a regular bank, you can come to me. My rates are high, but you got a need, I can fill it, you know? Call it a substandard client loan fund, something like that. Hey, the banks give out sub-prime mortgages. Pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?

Jones didn’t tell me what she wanted the money for, but I found out later her husband is into gambling and isn’t always successful. Not my problem, but I’d been after her for the weekly payment. You know, nice at first, accommodating - for an additional fee, of course - then not so much.

So this morning about seven a.m., this guy John comes to the door. John is tall and thin and clean cut and he’s got blue eyes and he’s wearing a dark brown delivery outfit that says UPS. He looks the part. I can’t remember getting a delivery so early in the morning before, but they got to start sometime. I’m not expecting something, but I have in the past, so I open the door. I should have listened to that little nagging voice in my head.

“Check this out first,” my voice says, but I don’t.

My voice is right. John pushes me and I catch my balance on the telephone table near the door and by that time Charlie looms behind him and it’s all over but the shouting, you know.

That’s where we are now. John comes back and I’m sitting, going nowhere. I can’t believe this, he lights up outside and has his smoke before coming back in. Gotta love these no smoking programs. Even some of the scum are doing the right thing. Must eat in restaurants a lot.

Five minutes later Gordon walks in. He’s short and dapper and I want to laugh because he’s wearing a zoot suit. Remember them, high waist, wide legs at the top, tight cuff, pegged trousers, long coat with wide lapels and the wide padded shoulders. Remember the zip-up pants bottoms? This guy’s out of the fiftes, for crying out loud. He’s got intense brown eyes, kind of bloodshot near the edges and with a little madness in them. In a couple of minutes I figure I know why he’s the boss of this pair. He’s a take-charge guy, and for his size, real impressive. He gets right to it.

“My friend Lennie found out his wife borrowed some money. He had to take her in hand. Consider it a bad investment. You write off bad investments?”

“Not often.”

“You going to write this one down.”

“She signed a contract.”

“It’s void, get it?”

“Let me outta this chair and we’ll talk.”

“I talk, you listen.”

The upshot of my day is I get to live and we forget Dilatania Jones, Lennie Jones, Gordon Tuttle and his two dogs. We go back and forth for a little, but after he calls Charlie over to administer some grinning persuasion, I decide Gordon is right, after all. He didn’t exactly break my legs, but they’ll be healing for a time and he may be a dummy, but at pain he’s an expert.

Win a little; lose a little, like life. It took me six hours after they left to get out of the tape job. You’d think he could have left a kitchen knife nearby to help out, but I didn’t suggest it with Charlie around.

I figure I’d better relocate. I’ve been known to make good choices when it counts.

Lots of big towns in this land of opportunity.

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