The morning had already been bad enough.
Five years earlier, Max Marberry had run the Crestwood office of the Warren Insurance Agency, that is, until Harry Warren had sold out to a Spartanburg agency owned by Leland Allin, who had installed his son as the manager of the Crestwood storefront. Now the elder Allin was spinning off the local operation to his son entirely, and “Lee” (Leland Junior) was trimming the fat, so to speak. Marberry made more money than the other employees, so more money could be saved by eliminating his position, which Lee had just informed him he was reluctantly going to do. Marberry sat down, not completely surprised but taken aback by the shock of it actually happening. He sipped coffee. Lee had told him to take all the time he needed, as long as he was moved out by the end of the day.
“Mister Marberry, there’s a Mr. Jones here to see you.”
Marberry looked through the windowed partition separating his cubicle from the lobby. Jesus Christ. It was Golightly Jones.
He had the most inappropriate name ever. He’d never gone lightly anywhere. The name would have matched a running back or a flanker. Jones had been a defensive tackle. Marberry had played center and thanked the Lord Jesus every day before practice for saving him from having to try to block Golightly, who was mean, ill-tempered, and equipped with the most horrifying pair of forearms on the team. He hadn’t gone on to college. He hadn’t been college material. He’d just played high school football because it was less likely to get arrested there for what he liked doing, anyway. Football had been easy for Golightly. He seldom had to expend much energy against the weaker teams Crestwood had met on Friday nights. That’s because Golightly made deals. Back in those days, football players wore foam-rubber padding on their hands and arms. When a defensive line pummeled the man in front of him in the head – “rung his bell,” it was called – no flags were thrown. It was legal. Meanwhile, offensive linemen couldn’t even use their hands. Marberry had enjoyed watching Golightly on the films. He cut deals. On the other team’s first play, he’d pummel the poor devil vainly trying to block him, and then he’d make a little deal.
“Don’t make me look bad, asshole, and they won’t have to carry you off the field,” he’d growl, and it was incredible how that almost always worked unless the opponent was similarly powerful. In those games, they’d had to carry the other team’s blocker off the field. Some teams swapped tackles, right and left, from time to time so that perhaps the two of them might last longer.
Playing high school football saved some boys from the penitentiary. In Golightly’s case, it merely postponed it. He’d been hooked on about every substance known to infest the neighborhoods of Crestwood. He’d been sent up several times, but the cops had never pinned anything serious on him. By all rights, Golightly should have been dead. He was just too mean.
What a perfect time it was for a visit.
“Send him back, Miriam,” Max said into the speaker phone.
Golightly was thinner than when he’d played. He looked rought. Heroin would do that to a man. Or meth. Whatever was on sale this week, Max reckoned.
They shook hands. Max told him to sit down. Golightly might be his last “client.” He’d be a tough man to insure. Hah!
“What can I do for you, Golightly?”
“I got a proposition for you, Max. We need to go somewhere where we can talk.” He was taller than the top of the partition. Lee had the only office that was fully enclosed. “I got something to tell you needs to be between us.”
“Sure,” Max said. “Want to walk across the street to the park?”
“Nah, I’m layin’ kinda low, you know. Don’t need to be seen by too many. How ‘bout you and me ride around a while.”
“I’m kinda busy, Golightly …”
“Ah, you just got fired,” he said. “I done heard that settin’ in the lobby.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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