little joe ~ the hard way

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dead tired and dead broke were his only options for the day.  that day or another day for that matter.  it had been that way for days months or was it years?  even he couldn’t remember.  of course, he didn’t work at the dead broke part.  doing that would have been pointless at best.  or more like bailing water out of a sinking ship with your hands.  see?  pointless.  not that it mattered much any more. 

money came and money went.  more left than stayed the vast majority of the time.  if he was quick about it when the money did come in he could take care of stuff.  not that it mattered much anymore.  taking care of stuff was low on the list of priorities.  most of the time at the bottom of that list. 

what bothered him was the dead tired.  the bone dead tired even after a long sleep.  a long deep sleep followed by a nap at 10am with more naps throughout the day.  ending with a nap in the evening and then bed.  this had gone on for way longer than he thought it should.  but then what did he know?  in the end not much.

the only thing he knew was his job.  a job that didn’t take up much of his time, that’s for sure.  it was more like a part time job than a real job.  though it was a real job.  often times a job far too real.  not that it mattered that much anymore.  money came.  money left.  he worked and he didn’t.  pretty simple.  really.

it was the time between that worried him.  especially since all the sleeping and napping were taking up more time than he thought was wise.  he woke with a start.  another nap and barely past noon.  how long this time?  half an hour?  fifteen minutes?  he wasn’t sure.

he got up went to the kitchen and ran the water until it was cool.  he splashed the cold water on his face and then drank deeply from the faucet. just as he was finished drying his face his cell phone rang.  another job?  so soon?  maybe it was a good thing.  maybe less time spent sleeping.

hello?

we have something for you.

so soon?

does it matter?

no, not really.  ok.  where?

tomorrow.  i’ll be eating lunch at the chinese place down the street from you.  11:30.  before the big lunchtime crowd.

fine.  i’ll be there.

the caller was gone.  it was how it always was.  a call.  a meeting.  a seemingly casual encounter really.  two strangers thrust together by circumstance.  or fate.  nothing outward.

he passed the rest of the day napping and watching the talking heads discuss all manner of sports.  dinner came and went.  a steak.  rare.  red wine.  a movie.  a nap.  then bed.

in the morning he showered.  no shave.  he tried to kill some time reading but it was putting him to sleep.  tired of trying to stay awake he set the book down, put on a jacket and left his apartment.

the late morning street was busy with all manner of young and old out and about doing whatever it was that they were doing.  he was just killing time.  perhaps others were but some seemed to busy for just time killing. 

he stepped from the sidewalk into a storefront.  a day worker office which at this time of day wasn’t busy.  he put his back to the wall as pulled out his cell phone.  11:30.  time to cover the last 20 yards to the chinese joint.  he could smell schezuan chili and garlic in the morning air.  stepping out of the alcove he looked both ways.  seeing nothing.  he made his way to the meeting.

through the window he could see the restaurant was already busy.  all of the tables had customers.  though no line yet.  as he opened the door he spotted his meeting sitting alone at a table.  looking around he caught the chinese owner’s eye and shrugged his shoulders.  the owner smiled and shrugged as well then pointed to his meeting.  in other words.  share that table or wait.

he went to the counter and smiled at the owner.  ordering from off the menu he asked for shanghai noodles and a buddhist veggie side.  he was hungry.  after paying he turned and went to his table.

head down his meeting was reading the day’s sports section.  already several pages into it the headline was visible.  his cue to speak. 

i don’t understand how boise st gets so much attention with their awful schedule.

i would agree with that but it does keep the BCS big boys antsy and worried.

i suppose.  guess we’ll just have to wait until they move into another conference.

no one wants them except for the mountain west if that’s even an upgrade.

folding the paper his meeting returned to eating.  the man sat looking about the restaurant.  all looked normal.  everyone eating and enjoying some of the best off the radar chinese food for many blocks.  the owner appeared and sat the steaming plate of crispy shanghai noodles, sliced pork, and vegetables smothered in a rich deep dark gravy in front of the man.  he also sat another smaller plate of vegetables on the table as well.  tofu, mushrooms, clouds ear, sliced carrots and bok choy to accompany the crispy noodles.  as the man dug into the spectacular meal his meeting was finishing his.

i’m about done here.  finished with the sports too.  the paper is yours if you’d like.

sure.  thanks.

no problem.

his meeting finished eating.  dug out his wallet and left a tip on the table.  he got up.  smiled.  turned and left the restaurant leaving the folded newspaper section.  the man continued to eat as he read what was visible on the folded paper.  the food was satisfying and delicious.  when he was finished he stood up.  took some money from a front pocket and left it on the table.  he picked up the newspaper and walked back out into the street.

with the sports section under his left arm the man walked out of the restaurant and turned away from his apartment.  he walked around the block watching the people and checking reflections in the store windows.  nothing seemed out of place.  and as far as he could tell he wasn’t being followed.  when he reached his apartment entrance he let the newspaper slip from under his arm and it fell to the sidewalk.

as he bent over to pick up the paper it gave the man the opportunity to check both directions.  front and back as well as across the street one more time before he entered his building.  all seemed well.  nothing out of place.  no strangers lingering.  everyone paying him no mind as they moved along with their business.  satisfied he opened the door and made his way up the well worn stairs to his third story apartment.

when he was locked safely inside his apartment he went to the window and opened it.  outside all was well.  moving away from the window he went to the table, sat, and opened the newspaper.  on the next to last page he found a folded piece of paper taped to the newsprint.  he removed the folded paper without damaging the newspaper.  setting the piece of paper on the table he got up and put the newspaper in the trash.           

another look out the window and then back to the table and the piece of paper.  he sat down and unfolded the dime store piece of paper.  it was all there.  everything he needed.  so it began.  yet again.

jmh

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2 thoughts on “little joe ~ the hard way

    Crosseyed MOFO Incognito said:
    January 10, 2011 at 11:11 am

    What ever he’s about to do, I’m glad it’s him and not me. I got tense just reading it and I ain’t goin’ no where.

    johnhauge responded:
    January 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    thanks, cross. i hope the rest proves to be as tense for you.

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