the ex bum watched as jenny’s car crossed euclid made a left then headed north. soon it was out of sight. he just stood there staring and not moving. once he came out of his reverie he decided he was indeed a very lucky man. he’d found 8 grand in cash, met a gorgeous lady, a gorgeous lady who apparently liked older guys, and the same gorgeous young lady had just asked him out to dinner. a prime rib dinner to boot. lady luck was smiling from ear to ear. or so it seemed.
bruce day went back up to his room and showered again. shaved as well. no sense leaving any thing to chance he thought. then he set about getting dressed in his finest new clothes. a fairly nice cheap suit, a pale blue dress shirt, a red and dark blue stripped tie, socks, and new black dress shoes. when he was finished dressing he figured he looked ok. he could probably get away with the same outfit when he started to look for radio work again. day for got or neglected to buy a wristwatch. he had no idea how long he’d taken getting ready. bruce turned on the tv and tuned it to cnn. he still had twenty minutes or so. the bum sat and watched the news while hardly paying any attention to it. his thoughts were on his date with his new friend, jenny rider.
a few minutes before jenny was due to pick him up he made his way outside and stood in the late afternoon shade while he waited. the san gabriel mountains were clear and turning a nice pale purple in the setting sun. not long after his arrival jenny’s car pulled to the curb. bruce day was thinking this was very nice as he heard the passenger side door unlock.
jenny rider looked even more stunning than he remembered. her perfume was intoxicating. he realized he hadn’t been with a woman who smelled so nice in a long long time. let alone a woman who looked as good as she did. day hoped he wouldn’t make an ass of himself. jenny flashed him a big smile and said.
‘hi, bruce, you look nice. i hope you’re hungry.’
‘thanks, jenny you look great. that perfume is amazing. hungry? you bet. i haven’t had prime rib in ages.’
‘good, we’re going to the sycamore inn up in cucamonga. have you heard of it?’
‘sure who hasn’t? it’s been a number of years since i’ve been there though. i’m really looking forward to it.’
jenny smiled again as bruce got in the car then pulled away from the curb. the stereo system was quietly playing an old gram parsons cd. ‘a song for you’ and jenny’s perfume filled his senses. they made small talk and bruce was happy he was able to keep up the conversation without letting on he’d spent the last several years out on the street drunk 24-7.
‘you know it’s interesting that a young lady like yourself would be listening to an old gram parsons cd.’
‘probably. i was exposed to him at a very early age by my mother. she was a huge gram and emmylou fan. i imagine it’s the first music i ever heard. either in the womb or out of it.’
‘very cool. i’m a big fan myself. too bad things ended up the way they did for him.’
as bruce was speaking they were entering the sycamore inn parking lot. he thought the place looked the same. the only difference, of course, being the sycamore trees that were nestled about were even larger than he remembered.
‘when i was a kid there was a sycamore tree growing up through the floor in the east end of the dinning room. is it still there?’
‘really? i didn’t know that. and no. i’ve been coming here for a long time and i’ve never seen it. the east end is now sorta like a party room.’
bruce day quickly got out of the car and went over to the drivers side in order to help jenny from the lexus.
‘my, such a gentleman’. jenny smiled.
she took bruce’s hand as they walked up the stairs to the front door. day’s heart skipped a beat or two then settled down. yeah, settle down he thought, this could be a long evening. don’t blow it. their table wasn’t quite ready so jenny suggested they sit at the bar and order a drink. bruce day hadn’t considered this option. he’d been doing ok with not drinking for the past couple of days but no telling what the hell would happen if he started to drink again so soon after stopping. though they would be eating soon. so why not? magic seemed to be in the air.
jenny ordered a margarita. bruce was still thinking when the bartender asked him what he wanted. it took a couple of tries by the barkeep to get bruce’s attention. he finally ordered a vodka martini straight up with olives. may as well dive right in were his thoughts. they sat at the bar sipping their drinks and chatting. several minutes later they were told their table was ready. taking their drinks with them they went into the dinning room and dinner.
their dinner was spectacular. just as good as bruce day remembered from back in the day. probably some of the best prime rib to be found for miles. nothing like it. after their drinks were finished jenny ordered a bottle of red wine. then another. after dessert she suggested an after dinner drink in the bar. bruce said sure why not? sipping their drinks at the bar bruce asked jenny what she did for a living. the subject hadn’t come up before.
‘i’m a consultant. i…help folks with their business. you know like steer customers to people that may help. i more or less freelance my services which keeps me free to do what i want when i want. though there is a local business…i…do a number of things for.’
‘sounds interesting. it must keep you busy.’
‘it keeps me on my toes that’s for sure.’
‘um, i was just wondering…ok…i’ve been wondering why you asked me out? i mean…’
‘ah, sure. you were such a gentleman when you were helping me out today and you’re cute. i just wanted to get to know you. i’m glad i did.’
several minutes passed before either of them spoke again. jenny broke the silence.
‘do you like to gamble, bruce?’
‘um, yeah, sometimes. i’m not much of a gambler really. why do you ask?’
‘oh, well, i know of a party tonight where they’ll probably be a dice game going down. just a few people. would you care to join me?’
it was probably the last thing he wanted to do. especially after drinking what he already had consumed. things could get crazy if he didn’t watch himself. probably crazy enough to blow whatever chance he had with jenny. plus, blow his new found fortune. he was carrying it. no way he would leave it in his motel room. at any rate, alcohol and gambling. not a pair to draw to for bruce day.
‘ok. sure why not? i seem to be saying that a lot tonight. i’m afraid if it involves you jenny i’d be down for just about anything.’
jenny gave him her radiant smile and put her hand under the bar and on his thigh.
‘how sweet of you. finish your drink and let’s go.’
she left her hand there until bruce got off his bar stool. he waited for her and they walked arm in arm out of the restaurant. when they got to jenny’s car bruce was there to open the door for her. he asked.
‘are you sure you’re ok to drive?’
smiling she pushed bruce up against the car then kissed him. they stood there kissing and groping each for what seemed like to bruce a good ten minutes. he was ready for a room or the backseat when jenny broke it off.
‘oh boy. that was hot. ummm. just something to look forward to later. ok?’
bruce caught his breath and said.
‘ah, yeah. sure why not?’
‘good. let’s go to the party.’
jenny drove carefully to the same house on ‘h’ st. the same spot she always took her prospects to. eddie and danny layne’s home. her main and only clients in her ‘consulting business’. once she had the car parked a few doors away she kissed bruce again and let him feel her up a bit.
‘easy there. nice thing about this is it isn’t far from your room. we’ll hang out. play some craps. then go up to your room. ok?’
‘um, yeah, ok, i mean…er…sure why not?’
there it was again. bruce day was pretty well in his cups as it were. feeling no pain. he’d probably say or do anything to get jenny alone in his room or any room or the backseat or out on the road as the beatles once sang. he didn’t care. he was more than ready for ms jenny rider.
the street was it’s usual dark. no lights coming from the front of the layne’s house. they walked to the front door arm in arm. bruce day still trying to feel jenny up. she was giggling and making no real effort to stop him. they got up the porch steps in one piece and jenny rang the bell. a short wait and the door opened. it was danny layne.
‘hey jenny. good to see you, girl.’
‘hi, danny. this is bruce. ok?’
‘sure, you know that. come on in, bruce. nice to meet you.’
once inside the two men shook hands. danny led them to the back room where the ‘party’ was happening. there he introduced bruce to his brother and a couple of other guys who were shooting dice. an army blanket was on the floor and a decent amount of cash was on the blanket. jenny went off to make some drinks and a tipsy bruce tied to pull a couple of hundred dollars from his pocket without showing everyone in the room his wad of cash. he almost succeeded in pulling it off. almost. only eddie and danny saw the large roll. they gave each other a look that bruce and the other guys totally missed.
jenny brought in the drinks for her and bruce. it was a vodka rocks. he killed his drink with one swallow and handed his glass back to jenny. apparently his sign he was ready for another. jenny flashed the brothers layne a look then left to make the drink. bruce had his cash out and placed a hundred down saying he didn’t think that one of the other guys would make his point. the man didn’t.
things went semi sorta ok for bruce as the evening wore on. he was drinking and becoming more animated. the other two fellows got tired of losing and left. bruce was ready to leave as well but eddie suggested they double their bets for say like the three of them getting one chance each to hold the dice. jenny wan’t playing. bruce hadn’t noticed.
what he did he notice was danny palming a pair of dice. though it didn’t register until he saw him do it again after bruce had lost a grand on one pass.
‘hey. hold on there, pilgrim. i saw that. you palmed some dice. something ain’t right here. let me see those dice.’
‘what are you talking about, man. i’m not palming any dice. look. see?’
danny opened his hand and it was empty. that didn’t stop bruce day.
‘look. i know what i saw. you palmed some dice. i’m thinking the dice are loaded or at least one set is. i may be pretty loaded myself but i know a fixed dice game when i see one.’
‘hey, man. chill out.’ it was eddie. ‘there are no loaded dice and i think you’d better apologize to my brother.’
‘piss off douche. you guys are crooks and i’m outta here. you coming jenny?’
jenny just stood there with an odd look on her face. saying nothing.
‘you coming jenny?’
still nothing. though now she was looking back and forth between the brothers.
‘oh shit. now i get it. this whole thing has been a set up. a den of thieves here. i’m gone and i’m calling the cops. screw this shit.’
bruce day was making his way to the door, his back to the brothers, when he heard the snick of two blades opening. he felt one of the blades enter his right lung. deflating it. the next stab was expertly inserted into his heart as he fell to the floor. the blade then twisted and buried deeper. bruce day was dead several seconds after he hit the floor. hands went into his pockets removing all of his cash. danny and eddie removed their knives then wiped them clean on bruce’s new suit as they rolled him up in the army blanket. the two brothers carried the bum in the blanket to a bathroom and put him in the tub. one of the brothers spoke.
‘we’ll take out the trash a bit later, bro. i need a drink. but first…ms jenny…what the fuck? where’d you find this guy?’
copyright 2012 by john hauge