Better late than never…
Prompt: write for an hour, a down and out hs friend returns
By Lori Carlson
Clyde was just cleaning up his dinner dishes when someone knocked on the door. He crossed the small space between his kitchen and the living room and peeked through the peep hole before finally opening it.
“Well I’ll be! Jack Stone!” he said, taking the outstretched hand of the man standing in his doorway.
Jack gave Clyde a firm shake and said, “Clyde Martin, so good to see you again, my friend.”
“Come in, come in.” Clyde said as he stepped back to give the six-foot friend room to enter.
Jack stepped into the interior of the trailer. It was smaller inside than he had thought when he drove up to it. He almost banged into the couch and a coffee table. He was rather clumsy and had been all his life. He moved to clear a side table, but knocked into it, sending a glass of liquid crashing to the floor.
“Oh man, so sorry about that,” Jack said as he bent to pick up the pieces.
Clyde chuckled. “Don’t sweat it. It was just an old mason jar anyway. Why don’t you go into the kitchen while I get the broom and mop.”
Jack nodded and squeezed by Clyde to enter the kitchen. In the middle of the floor were a giant sized wooden wire spool and two smaller ones on either side of it. “Hey, I like your kitchen décor, man. Rustic Industrial.”
Clyde and Jack both laughed and then Clyde said, “I got them at work. We use sets like that in the break room and I thought, why not?”
Jack sat down on one of the small spools and watched as Clyde cleaned up his mess. There was a time when Clyde cleaned up all of his messes. Jack hoped that this would be another one of those times because he was in one hell of a fix.
Clyde dumped the glass in the trash can and put the dust pan away, and then he joined Clyde at the table. “How did you find me, Jack? I’ve been living kind of low key for the last five years or so.”
“Your Mom told me where to find you. I had to bribe her with one of my ma’s pecan pies though.”
As he stood up, Clyde laughed. His mom had a huge sweet tooth. “Want some horse swill? Err, coffee?”
“You got anything stronger?” Jack looked up at Clyde with a sorrowful face.
“Good lord, Jack… what have you done now?” Clyde went to the fridge and came back to the table with two beers.
Jack guzzled his beer and then said, “I’m in a hell of a hurtin’ right now, Clyde. I lost my job at the shipyard six months ago, my house four months ago and Susie left me last month for good.”
“She took the kids?”
“Yeah, they are staying at her mom’s for now. I was staying at mine, but I wore out my welcome too fast.”
Clyde took a drink of his beer. He took a hard look at the guy he’d spent his entire childhood with. “What did you do to your ma?”
Jack put his head down on the table. After a few minutes of silence, he raised his head and said, “I stole money from her.”
Clyde jumped up from his chair and exclaimed, “Fuck Jack! That’s not like you!”
“I know, I know… but I owed this bookie money and if I didn’t pay him off, he was going to do harm to Susie and the girls.”
Clyde grabbed two more beers and sat down. This time he studied Jack even closer. He knew Jack had a slight gambling problem in high school, but when he got that job in the shipyard, he figured Jack was on the up and up.
“How long have you been gambling this heavy, Jack?”
“Just since I lost my job, I swear! I’ve gambled away our retirement, the kids’ college funds, and Susie’s savings. Any penny I could get my hands on. I just knew I could win it all back.”
“So why exactly are you here?” Clyde drank the rest of his beer and offered a third to Jack, who declined. Good, at least he isn’t trying to get drunk.
“Remember in High School when I got caught with Betty Ann behind the bleachers of at the homecoming game? That was such a rush, man.”
“If you remembered correctly, Betty Ann left school after that. Heard she was sent to a halfway house for pregnant teens. Is that the kind of rush you mean?”
“There’s no way that kid was mine. She was sleeping with half the football team”
Clyde stood up and dumped the empty bottles into the trash. “You never could take responsibility, Jack. You should have offered a blood test. Let’s get down to the meat of this little visit of yours. What do you want?”
Jack hung his head low. “I just need a place to crash for about a week just until I can get myself together. Hell, maybe I will find a job.”
“Do you still owe that bookie money?”
Jack raised his head and stared at Clyde. He didn’t have to say a word. Clyde knew.
“Dammit, Jack! I tell you what. You can stay here for one week. One week! If during that time anyone knocks at my door looking for you, I will not hesitate to turn you over. Do you understand me? I am not cleaning up anymore of your messes.”
Jack stood and reached for Clyde’s hand, shaking it vigorously. “Thank you, Clyde, thank you. You won’t regret this.”
Clyde nodded but inside he was already regretting it.
“You can have the couch, unless you want to sleep in the old pop-up out back.”
“I’ll take the couch tonight. If I remember, you never were one for cleaning out the bugs and spiders from that old thing.”
“Yeah, yeah. Well I am turning in. Sorry there isn’t a tv to keep you company. Pile of books on the shelf by the couch though. Good night.”
Three days later while Jack was out job searching, Clyde heard a knock on his trailer door. When he opened it, two large men in black suits stood on his porch. Clyde stepped outside and nodded at the two men.
“Can I help you?”
“We are the FBI,” one of them said, as both flashed their badges. “We are looking for Jack Stone and have reason to suspect that he is staying here.”
FBI! What the hell was Jack really messed up in?
“Ah, he was here for two nights, but moved on this morning. He was gone by the time I left for work. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Did Mr. Stone say anything about a bookie in the Bronx?”
“Only that he owed one some money.”
“The bookie is missing and your friend was the last one to see him.”
“Listen man, if I knew where Jack was, I’d tell you.” Why am I defending him? Just turn him over. Tell them he will be back soon.
One of the men handed Clyde a card. “Call us if you hear from him.”
Clyde nodded and the two men walked back to their car and left. As he walked back into his trailer, Clyde was furious. He thought Jack was a better friend than to keep important information from him. He grabbed a beer and sat at the table waiting for Jack to return.
Thirty minutes later, Jack came barreling into the trailer, a six-pack of beer in one hand and a large pizza in the other. He sat them down on the table and bounced around the table like his old jubilant self.
“Guess who got a job today?”
“Guess who got a visit from the FBI today?” Clyde countered.
Jack stopped cold in his tracks. “Oh shit!”
“What did you do, Jack?”
Jack kept running his hand through his hair and swearing under his breath.
“Jack! What did you do?”
“Oh God man, I fucking killed that bastard.”