jacks or better pt 5

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julio was never one to mince words. he only wanted to hear what your point was with no sugar coating or bullshit. cypress johnny knew this. with his other hand he poured himself another cup of coffee. took a sip then told julio all about the night before at jacks or better. when he finished julio spoke.

ass holes. those dumb ass inbred politician types out that way are the main reason i’m where i am now. crooks and thieves. all of them. i should have left sooner.

for a time there was silence on both ends of the line. johnny imagined he could hear julio’s wheels turning and the clank of gears meshing in his head.

ok. look. you’re gonna have to stay on nights until we know exactly what the hell is going down. i suppose i could cancel the card games but i ain’t doing that. i want to know what jerry powell is up to. i also know this puts a ton of pressure on you, johnny. you and eddie. um, let me think about some extra muscle or security.

julio, it’s your place. you do what you think you need to do. i’m cool with whatever. eddie and i work well together. always have. i’m just sayin’ that if some security types show up or obvious muscle jerry will know. see what i’m saying?

yeah, point taken. we need to know his next move or something. damn it. it’s always some damn thing or another. shit. i wish ben was still alive. we could trump jerry and his bikers easy.

julio was speaking of an old friend from los angeles and a fellow downtown bar owner, ben morris. julio and ben had become friends soon after julio opened his bar in l.a. sadly, ben had passed away a number of years ago. ben morris had been a business man with connections. useful connections.

johnny johnny johnny. ok. next game is friday night right?


we have a couple of nights then. let me see what i can do on this end. maybe some of ben’s old friends are still working. though that’s a long shot. and i’m not sure if i want to go down that road anyway without ben to deal with that aspect. here’s what i want from you, johnny. stay on top of your game. you and eddie. you may want to add some personal protection of your own.

ok. julio.

cypress johnny didn’t think this was the time to tell julio about the pistol under the bar.

i want you to call me every morning when you get home with a daily up date. i won’t be able to sleep anyway.

ok. anything else?

not right now. if i come up with anything else i’ll call you before you leave or at the bar. watch yourself, johnny. we may be reading this wrong but i don’t think so. talk to you later.

alright, julio. talk to you tomorrow morning. bye.

bye johnny.

johnny hung up the phone. rinsed out the coffee maker then made himself a breakfast of grits with a fried egg and parmesan cheese. followed by a banana and yogurt. after washing the dishes he read the paper until he was bored. took a shower then slept for a few more hours on the couch.

cypress johnny woke up with a craving. his shift at the jacks or better didn’t start until 6pm. so he crawled off the couch. got dressed. then he drove to the market and picked up some things for his dinner. johnny had been craving his marinara sauce for a few days. it was time to make it and satisfy that italian soul food jones. after picking up the ingredients for the sauce johnny paused at the door to let an elderly couple enter the market. as johnny was leaving he noticed something very strange. two men were going into the doughnut shop at the west end of the shopping center. there was no mistaking them. not even at that distance. it was jerry powell and eddie otto. no doubt about it.

stopped dead in his tracks cypress johnny’s mind raced trying to process what he’d just witnessed. could it really be? johnny was certain they hadn’t seen him. while placing the groceries in the trunk johnny decided to to exit the shopping center near the doughnut shop instead of his usual exit which was a much shorter drive back to his home. he put on his sunglasses then found an old baseball hat on the backseat. hopefully, it would change his appearance just enough so that he wouldn’t automatically be recognized if the two spotted him as he was driving by the doughnut shop. johnny put the hat on and fired up his ride.

taking a deep breath he put the car in gear and slowly made his way out of the market parking lot. as he neared the doughnut shop he saw the two men standing at the counter with their backs to him. they were waiting for their order and talking. absolutely no doubt about it now. the two men were jerry powell and eddie otto. cypress johnny mumbled to himself.

what the fuck is up with that?

johnny exited the shopping center and turned north. both men still had their backs to him. from what he remembered of jerry he was probably trying to pick up on the attractive asian lady working behind the counter. he exhaled deeply. took off the cap and tossed it towards the backseat without looking. cypress johnny doubted the two men had made some sort of chance encounter. then decided to score some java and a doughnut while having a little chat. highly unlikely. johnny knew that jerry lived in the city to the north. he was at least five miles from home. as for eddie, he lived in chino and he was a good five or six miles from home as well. the doughnut on the corner of holt ave and san antonio ave was a good as any place for a meeting on middle ground.

cypress johnny wouldn’t be seeing eddie again until friday night and the next scheduled card game. he also figured he’d be seeing jerry powell again on friday night. johnny wondered if the bikers would be back as well.

when cypress johnny got home he immersed himself in his marinara sauce making. he’d worked on the sauce for a good ten years before he figured it was what he wanted. truthfully, it was more of a tomato vegetable stew rather than a classic marinara sauce. it really didn’t matter as those that were lucky enough to taste it thought it was the best marinara they’d ever eaten. that always made johnny happy. after he’d added some red wine and a little sugar to the sauce it was bubbling nicely. he turned the gas flame down to a simmer and poured himself a small glass of red wine. the sauce would cook for thirty or forty minutes. johnny would keep and eye on it and stir it occasionally while he sipped his wine. it really wasn’t a time thing but more of how the sauce looked and felt as he stirred it. that’s how he determined when it was done.

the pot of water he set on the stove for the pasta came to a boil and cypress johnny added a fair amount of kosher salt to the boiling water. as it normally did, the water almost boiled out of the pot with the addition of the salt. while he was at the market johnny bought a package of already made fresh angel hair pasta. once the sauce had rested for five minutes or so he’d add it to the boiling water and 60 seconds later dinner would be served. his pasta craving satisfied for a time. plus, the house would smell like his grandmother’s or mother’s house for a few days. that unmistakeable lingering smell that said something really wonderful had been recently cooked here. to bad you weren’t around to taste some of it.

johnny poured himself another glass of red wine then grated some fresh parmigiano-reggiano over the sauced pasta on his plate. he would eat at least a couple of servings which would leave him another meal plus a small amount of sauce to freeze. those frozen nuggets always came in handy when a spur of the moment pasta jones hit after work. his dinner as always was outstanding and clean up was relatively simple. he still had a couple of hours before he had to go to work.

sitting in the living room with an old gram parsons lp on the cd cypress johnny was satisfied and a bit buzzed as he sat thinking. he couldn’t really call eddie otto. he had his number but he’d never called him on the phone. ever. if eddie wasn’t coming in for whatever reason it would be eddie who called cypress johnny. after that days event it wasn’t time for johnny to start making any calls to eddie. that he was sure of. they were working buds and there had never been any trouble between them. work wise. it was what it was, they never hung out after work. regardless.

it was hard to believe that eddie was in cahoots with jerry powell. along with whatever the hell jerry was up to. it didn’t make any sense to cypress johnny. at least he had another day or so to think on things before he saw eddie again and the next poker game. he was also sure he would just wait and call julio after work. no sense giving him heartburn so early in the evening. johnny would wait to call after work as planned.

at a quarter to six that evening cypress johnny left for work. the sun was setting and a few clouds created a nice combination of color and light. he paused in his driveway to watch the show for a few moments. sunsets were one of his favorite things. sunrises being another. johnny sighed and saddled up as it were.

cypress johnny arrived at jacks or better a few minutes before 6. there were several regular after work customers drinking at a table near the bar. he checked the till. then told willie he needed some help in the stockroom before he left for the night.

sure, cypress not a problem.

johnny had the door open and he was already inside.

close the door, willie. have you talked to julio recently?

no, not since last weekend. what’s up?

cypress johnny laid out what had happened the night before. no shit were the only two words willie lawson could come up with. johnny kept the eddie otto part of the story to himself. he’d let julio tell willie about it later because johnny wasn’t sure about willie and eddie’s friendship outside of work.

that’s all i’ve got right now, willie. i’ll be keeping julio up to speed every night after the place closes. if you talk to julio tell him i told you the story.

sure thing, cypress. let me know if you need anything. anything at all.

thanks, willie. you can take off now.

both men left the stockroom and willie picked up a jacket then paused at the table of drinkers to say good night.

cypress johnny busied himself behind the bar checking the stock and supplies. the drinkers at the table paid their tab and left. as they were leaving another small group of people made their way into the bar. they were also semi regulars at jacks or better. johnny took their orders and had just taken their drinks to the table when the sound of a single motorcycle out front rattled the windows.

cypress johnny was back behind the bar with the little door open and the loaded pistol ready. a moment later the door opened and junior walked in wearing the same dirty greasy clothes he’d been wearing the night before. junior stepped to the bar and said.

evening, johnny. a shot of patron anejo.

coming up, junior.

cypress johnny placed a tequila shooter in front of junior and poured him the patron.

you going to run a tab?

well, ain’t that sweet of you. nah. i’m just in for a quick hit and run.

the biker hit back the shot of tequila then dug out a ten spot from his dirty levis. he placed it on the bar got up and said as he was leaving.

smooth stuff that patron. keep the change, johnny. see you tomorrow night around 9.

as the door closed cypress johnny thought, thanks for the warning. out front junior kick started his bike and roared off into the early evening.



4 thoughts on “jacks or better pt 5

    mike kamradt said:
    July 26, 2011 at 4:47 am

    The more you write, the happier I become. That lifestyle is so far removed from mine that I find the whole concept alienesque.

    johnhauge responded:
    July 26, 2011 at 5:25 am

    thanks, amigo. very kind of you. i’m happy to be of service to your happiness. after reading this mornings local newspaper i’ll be adding ‘crooks and thieves’ to the local politician description uttered by julio. thanks, again, mike.

    Cheryl Timmons said:
    July 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Great story, John. I also use a little sugar in my sauce and cypress johnny’s dinner made my mouth water! The fact that he was playing Gram wasn’t lost on me either. Crooks and thieves red or blue, pretty much
    sums it up…

    johnhauge responded:
    July 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    thanks, cheryl. yeah, all us great sauce makers add a little sugar. it helps cut the acid. plus it makes a big difference. very glad you’re enjoying the ride. an even better dinner coming up!

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