Pressure Part 3

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(Continued from part 3)

You hunch your shoulders.  “I’d rather not,” you say.

           Frank says: “We can knock it out in no time. Get high and become robot men, man.  I ain’t in any hurry to get home.  Fucken rugrats’ll drive you crazy, man.  My old lady’s always bitchen at her two, yelling and shit. I fucken can’t stand the brats, drink a fucken gallon of milk a day and slime everything they touch. I ain’t in no fucken hurry to get home,” he says, like he has read your mind and warped your thoughts. You love your daughter. That’s why you’re working—not to stay away.

           “Time and a half,” Gary says again.  “I can’t just listen to this guy jabber all night by myself.”

           You’re not sure he’ll really pay time and a half.  You doubt he’ll even pay you on time anyway.  On your first pay day, he wrote a crumpled check that he pulled from a beat up checkbook, signed it like he had all the money in the world.  He smiled and gave you a pat on the back and said, “You stick with me.  This painting and industrial maintenance business is the right place to be.  I have a a new web page I’m gonna launch in the fall and I’ve got some guys, some associates in Minneapolis and Los Angeles who want to go with this idea too.”  He laughed. “Like I mean, you’ve got a head. We could make a go of it.  You just need to prove yourself, that you’ll stick with me.  Like really, in California, man, I know some pretty rich fuckers.  My dad does too. We’ve got a line on some new industrial paint that’s coming out soon, hard as titanium, guaranteed for fifteen years. You’d be rolling in the bucks man, plenty of time to ski in the winter.  Then again maybe not. Once this web page launches, I’m gonna have way too much work. Like a goddamn whore in Thailand, man.  I’d like to make you lead for a top gun crew out in L.A., Brentwood man.”

           The check, however, bounced. You were late on the phone bill and the utilities payment. Finally you had to press him for cash at lunch, telling him you were going to take legal action. He pulled out his Tic Tac box, popped a pill, and walked quickly down the block to an ATM, finally coughing up what he owed you. “Look, you’re the best employee I’ve ever had. I’m good for it. Here. Stick with me, man. We can make a killing. I got to make some money for this winter. I’ve gotta show that bitch what I’m made of one more fucking time. Prove I’m the fucking best. Nothing like pressure to perform. We can kick ass, man. No need for any legal action, Five Hundred.”

           Frank, standing too closely as always, had piped in, saying that he had a half kilo of killer weed that his cousin brought from Alabama.  “Fuck Gary and his fucken promises. I’ll give you a good deal, Five Hundred. You can make some quick cash and have a little extra left over for that sweet warm pussy at home.”

           You shake your head. “Shut up Frank,” you finally say.

           Gary says to you.  “Let’s fucken knock it off, work all night.” He pauses and shuffles his feet on the ground.  Then he says to you, “You need a rug?”

           “What the hell, I’ll take it,” you say, thinking that at least it’s secure payment. It was a nice rug.

           “Let’s go get the paint,” Gary says. He offers you a “Tic Tac.” You refuse.

           Something has to break your way you’ve been telling yourself like a mantra for the three weeks you’ve been working for Gary. Fuck the president, you think, and your blood starts to boil thinking of how he is spending billions halfway around the globe and lining his rich buddy’s pockets wit and you’re not even going to be able to buy the Lamictal, which is now a pre-existing condition she has that no individual insurance plan will cover. You’ve got to get a job with a decent group policy again. That’s the bottom line. You catch up with Gary who is walking to his truck. This misery can’t last forever, you think.

 

           Gary climbs the scaffolding that you have rolled to the northwest corner of the main gallery, where you have set up the sprayer. He holds the spray gun casually in one hand, the line dangling.  Your job is to feed the high-pressure line to him, uncoiling it and making sure it doesn’t pull the plastic covering off the rugs and to keep paint in the feeder bucket.  The paint is pumped into the line at two thousand five hundred pounds per square inch and it is stiff and awkward as a giant spring.  

           “So like there she was laying there on the bed,” Gary says, starting in again, looking at the ceiling, planning his route.  “And like you feel all your blood rush to your head like it’s gonna explode.  I mean, you love this woman, man.  Sweet, nice looking, a kick ass skier and a good dancer—really smart, a sharp business chick. I mean Revlon, can you believe that? And her dad’s on the fucking Olympic Selection Committee, totally loaded. She’s a goddamned princess. And your brain’s flicking back and forth, fuck her, fuck him, fuck her, fuck him. 

           “So you slowly back out of the trailer, real slowly. And you casually grab the door knob. And then you fucking yank it with everything you got and slam the motherfucker shut so hard that the knob comes off in your hand. And you just get in her Bonneville, slam it into drive and go.  Before you know it, you’re in Texas and your jugular vein isn’t bulging like a fucking slug on your neck anymore.  And your heading to this cow pasture not far from this fucked up town called Marfa where you know there will be plenty of mushrooms, man, just to fucken calm down. Catching her in fucking him replays over and over in your mind. 

           “It’s late spring, remember, and that flips you out ‘cause it was a tough winter—no wins or even places on the circuit. Every time you think of her you go, ‘Shit, now we could’ve had some time together.’ You could have scrounged up some painting jobs at a resort.  And it’s sunset outside Marfa and you notice that there’s all these big fucken dragon flies swarming and your start seeing that they’re coming at your windshield in rows of five, like they’re these squadrons of jets playing chicken with your car. And you think, man you’re fucked up about this woman, you’re hallucinating without the mushrooms. They’re coming at you, the two on the right and the two on the left veer off to each side of the car, and the middle one comes right at you and at the last moment swirls over the roof. Fucken adrenaline junkies would make fine downhill racers! This goes on for like a half an hour as you’re driving along on the lonesome Texas highway and then this one squadron of dragonflies starts coming at you, but this time the center dragonfly is not a dragonfly.  It’s this big fucking Monarch Butterfly, flanked by these dragonflies, and the butterfly crashes and smears on the windshield.

           “And like somehow that’s significant, man and I can’t get that out of my head, kept thinking about it last year on the circuit.  I was that butterfly every time I was flying down the track, trying to fucken win something for her. The fucken bitch made me want to stop skiing, man. I can’t concentrate anymore. And the killer is: I still love the bitch.  I do. I get all jumpy, man. I’ve been like speeding since I walked in on her and I swear I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch when the right opportunity arises. He might just fall off a cliff someday.”

            You nod your head carefully, acknowledging that you do believe he would.  The sprayer pump cycles a few times and the hose bucks under the increased pressure as Gary stands on the plank and looks at the ceiling.

           “Well. Gary. Love can make you crazy,” you say. “Makes everyone crazy from time to time. I just hope you’re talking metaphorically. You don’t want to end up in jail like Frank.”

            Gary laughs as he starts to spray the ceiling black  “Don’t make me sick. It’s too late in the day for that shit, man. Metaphorically.” He makes a few more passes with the spray gun and shouts, “Turn up the pressure, Five Hundred.” 

            You turn the knob all the way up.  He reaches above his head and the hissing of the spray begins, the massive electric motor pumping, surging on and off, building and maintaining the extreme pressure at the orifice of tungsten carbide tip of the gun. If you’re not careful, you can get tattooed, the paint blasting right though your skin and into your bloodstream. The translucent fan of black mists the ceiling that is still five feet above Gary’s outstretched arm and the electric motor whines.

           “Fucken A,” Gary shouts. “This’ll be a snap. It’s covering great. Never fucken used this Ralph Lauren sissy paint before.”  He continues and you begin setting up for the next placement of the scaffold. And you work silently moving sector by sector at the pace that the machine demands. 

           Gary, though, keeps looking over his shoulder toward Frank who has been trying to mask the upper edge of the front windows.  You notice Frank too. You could have masked far ahead of where Frank is by now.  He’s getting all tangled up in tape and paper, and you’re quickly moving toward him.

           When half the ceiling is black, the line stretched nearly to its fifty foot limit, the first section has begun to dry, the sheen flat, not glossy.  After you pour more paint into the sprayer bucket, you walk over to the first section and see thousands of specks of white showing through, white shadows of the sprinkler system pipes.

           “It’s gonna need a second coat,” you shout.

           Gary jumps down from the plank, throws the gun on a stack of the covered rugs and quickly moves through the aisleways.  When he reaches to where you’re standing he looks up and scans the ceiling.

           “You’re seeing things. Black as night.”

           “What about there?” You point. “Are those the stars? Is that the Milky Way?”

           “Who can see that?  You gotta learn, Five Hundred, that as a painter you see things no one else will ever see.  You’re too close to it emotionally.”

           “I am not emotionally attached here, ” you say and laugh at the idea.  Clearly it needs a second coat.  “But you’re the boss,” you say. “Fuck it then.”

           Gary rubs his eyes and then his jaw tightens. “It’s fucken okay, got it. We gotta get this done, man,” He yells. “It’s getting late.” He turns and moves through the aisles to where Frank is. He has now only masked two of the five windows, and he is taking a break again, sitting on a stack of rugs, filling his little onyx pipe. You shake your head and think about your wife and your daughter who you certainly will not see awake tonight.

           Gary grabs Frank by the back collar of his tee-shirt and drags him backwards over the stack of rugs until he falls off the other side into a narrow aisle. Gary pulls him up, the tee-shirt choking Frank, and then starts pulling him backward through the aisles of rugs. Frank is nearly falling over backward, kicking and twisting.  Then Gary shoves him toward the service door. “Go get the rest of the paint out of my truck, Frank.  Get those four fives on the right side of the truck.  We need paint.  A lot of fucking paint.  I want Fortune 500 here to make sure you don’t fuck up…Do you think you can carry two five gallon containers, Frank?  Can you handle that?”

           “Don’t you fucking do that again, Gary.  You Fuck.”

           “Go get the fucking paint.”

           “You know what they’d do to you in the pen, Gary?  Do you?”

           “Come on, Frank. Just forget it,” you say.  “Let’s just get the paint. I want to get home.”

           You walk back into the service area.  Frank’s behind you, you can hear.  He’s flicking his Bic and sucking on his pipe. You hop from the loading dock onto the back of Gary’s pickup.  Frank hops down and groans.  Then he looks at you, grins and cocks his head. “Are we having fun yet?” he says.

           You shrug your shoulders, shake your head and grab the handles of your two paint buckets and heft them up.  They are heavy, and at the end of the truck bed you can’t make the step up to the loading platform. So you lift them one by one, one foot on the tailgate and one on the loading bay deck.  You hope your back doesn’t go out just now. 

           Frank stands in back of the truck bed, takes another hit. Then he finds an opener tool in the corner of the truck bed. He picks it up and regards it.  He rips open the two other containers in the truck. 

           “Why are you opening them here, Frank? You’re wasting time,” you say. “Come on.”

           “Yep.  Black,” he says stupidly and then he pounds the big plastic tops back on with the palm of his hand.  Then he lugs both containers to the back of the truck.  He looks at you and smiles then he hops up, onto the lip of the loading dock and grins.  Then he looses his balance and drops one of the containers into the truck. The lid pops and the black paint drains into the bed of the truck.

           Frank grins.  Puts his finger to his lips.  “Shh.”

           “Good Lord, Frank. Clean it up,” you say and lift your two cans and head back to the gallery.

           When you get back to the sprayer, it needs more paint. Gary is frantic. “Jesus, Five Hundred, you gotta keep me loaded.”  Frank comes lugging the one can, swinging it between his legs.  He sets it down heavily and the lid pops off and a big swale of paint goes over the lip of the can. Then Frank kicks it and paint spills everywhere. 

           Gary jumps off the scaffolding and runs toward you and Frank.  Suddenly he’s pacing, darting around the puddle, pulling his hair and clenching his fists. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he’s saying over and over.  “Fucking’ A, Frank.  JESUS FUCKING FRANK,” he shouts.  “Fucking dim wit. Jesus.”

           Frank is laughing, shaking his head. “Goddamn, Gary, you can wig out so fast. A fucken hair-trigger moody fucker you are,” Frank says and then grabs a handful of the visqueen and rips it open, exposing rugs.  He starts dancing in the paint, and then he jumps up on the bare rugs, smearing the soles of his sneakers across the rug and looking at his footprints.

            “That’ll teach you to fucken grab me by the neck, you pussy—always carping and full of fucking hot air bullshit.” Frank pulls his pipe from his pocket, puts the pipe to his mouth, flicks his lighter.  In one quick movement Gary jumps on top of the pile of rugs and kicks the pipe from Franks lips with the toe of his boot.  The pipe flies and bounces onto the neighboring stack of rugs. 

           Frank says slowly. “You had no right to do that, man. You nearly fucking shoved my nose into my brain.” Frank pauses and stares at Gary.  “When are you gonna shut up and kill the cheating bastard and her as well? I ought find your precious old lady, Gary. I’d fuck her right in front of you, too. Hear her howl in delight.” Then he knees Gary in the groin. “Bet he’s getting it right now and she’s all wet and moaning.”

           Gary is doubled over and Frank throws a roundhouse into Gary’s ear. You jump over a pile of rugs and shove Frank back so that he sits down on the paint-stained rug. You’re shaking, saying, “Just fucking cool it.  Just fucking cool it.”  You jump off the pile and look at Gary.  “You okay?”

           “Yeah, man I’m okay,” he says and slowly stands upright. Without a word he calmly walks back toward the scaffolding, and grabs the sprayer gun. He puts his hands on his hips and leans back looking up at the ceiling. “Yep. It needs a fucking second coat and we got no fucken paint and we gotta be done by eight fucking A.M..”

           Then, in an instant, Gary turns and comes racing toward Frank, striding over the uneven stacks of rugs like a hurdler. Frank races toward Gary and Gary swings with the paint gun like brass knuckles, hitting Frank in the face. Frank goes down awkwardly in a narrow aisle.  Gary jumps down and gets Frank’s neck in the crook of his arm.

           And no sooner than you realize what is happening, he’s holding the spray gun point blank at Frank’s temple, pulling the trigger, and paint is spraying everywhere. Frank suddenly goes limp.

           “Stop. Jesus. Stop,” you shout. In the dim light of the showroom, you see a large black blister, a weal growing across Frank’s forehead and you race toward the machine just as the weal bursts and paint and blood drenches Frank’s face. 

           Gary continues holding the spray gun to his head. He is splattered with paint. Frank’s eyes are crossed and his jaw is loose. Finally, leaping across the rugs you reach the sprayer and you search for the switch and flip the machine off.  And you do not stop. You run to get your cell phone and call 911, staring at Gary through the window that overlooks the vast expanse of warehouse. He’s sitting cross-legged on the rugs, staring at Frank, who has now rolled half way off the stack, twisted awkwardly, just staring at Frank. He’s still holding the paint gun in his hand, and pulling the trigger absently.

           You run back to check on Frank. He’s lost too much blood. He’s got to be dead.  You look at Gary and he hunches his shoulders and looks away, perhaps regarding himself in the reflection the store front windows, and you hear the sirens coming, the police lights smearing red light across the builds in regular intervals getting brighter until the cars stop and the cops fly out of the doors. The ambulance arrives moments later. And Gary’s just sitting on the rug that was yours, looking up at the woman police officer pulling out the cuffs, as if he can’t explain why a genie hasn’t appeared and why the magical rug he is sitting on hasn’t somehow floated away. Two other cops are checking Frank out and shaking their heads, snapping on latex examination gloves. In the unsettling night, the massive sign of Digital Communications on the highest building downtown burns brightly over the city, the beacon of productivity and rising stock values now that it has downsized. Your head is pounding and you walk outside. The roaring of the city is like a distant waterfall of a great river or a storm of raging wind approaching—the freight trains rolling, a million tires rushing to find work on the interstate overpass not far away.  And you swallow as you watch the cops lift Gary up and you have this feeling like you’re speeding down a near perfect parabolic surface, approaching one hundred twelve miles per hour, wanting to get smaller, trying relieve the mounting pressure, wondering when suddenly everything will be velvety and you’re riding cushion of air, like snarly lotion, man, hoping just to survive and not crash into smithereens.


*The End*

Pressure Part 2

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(Continued from part 1)

You knocked and he came to the door in his painting whites. He pointed for you to sit at his kitchen table while he was on his cell phone, yelling over the CD player that was blasting Lupe Fiasco.  “The deposit is non-refundable,” he yelled on the phone. “And I will have a guy out there this morning for certain, for sure.  He’s right here,” he said looking at you, the door of his dishwasher in the kitchenette was open and sparking clean paintbrushes hung from the upper rack. There were ski’s everywhere, leaning on walls, stacked on the floor. Dusty trophies in cardboard boxes by the fireplace.

           But now, here in the Persian Rug Emporium, you just want to get home to your wife and hug your daughter, be done with the day.  Gary tucks his loose blond bangs behind his ears, adjusts the rubber band that holds his short ponytail. He stands and walks to get another beer. Frank is pissing off the loading dock.        

           “Jesus Frank. Use the fucken john.” Gary says, throwing up his hands in disgust. “There’s a lot of rich fuckers who come here. Do you ever fucken ever think before you do anything?” 

           Frank shrugs his shoulders, slowly zips up and adjusts himself.

           “You know what, Frank?” Gary says, looking at his watch. It’s about five-thirty, and it’s about time to kick your fucken ass.  You fucked around all day!  But Fortune 500 over here,” Gary says, looking at you and then back at him. “He fucking trimmed out Saddam’s office today, cutting in all day long, steady as a train, man.  No splatters.  You’re working ‘till midnight with me, Frank. I’m gonna fucking increase your efficiency one way or a fucken other.”

           Wafa Yakhlef, “Saddam” to Gary and Frank, owner of the Persian Rug Emporium, appears in the doorway that leads from the warehouse loading area into the rug showroom. He pulls a thin cigarette case, a chrome flicker, from his vest pocket and pops it open with a flip of his wrist.  He shakes his head and looks at you and then to Gary.

           You look at Frank. He looks ghostly, evil, his moist eyes slightly askew—a sign of his wicked and depraved life, you think. His particle mask now rests on his forehead, leaving a flesh colored triangular shadow around his nose and mouth, amidst the drywall powder.  “Where do you get your workers, Gary? I don’t have much hope for this one,” he says in his thick accent and points his cigarette case at Frank. “In Persia, he would be dead.”

           “Yeah, like you Islamics ain’t fucking nuts?” Frank says. He stands and lopes toward the case of beer. “Terrorists blowing up shit, torture and shit,” he says. He draws a can of beer from the cardboard box, flipping the aluminum container in the air and catching it just before it hits the floor. “President George fucken kick ass Bush, president of the United fucken States of America hammered your sorry asses and he’ll do it again if he has to.”

           “Shut up, Frank,” Gary says.  He looks at his customer. Yakhlef has now drawn a cigarette from the silver case and is tapping the filter on his long thumbnail.  He’s wearing a nice tweed sports jacket and he brushes some plaster dust from pressed his navy slacks. He flicks his Zippo and lights the cigarette. He shakes his head.

           “You’re a lucky guy, Gary,” Yakhlef says, half smiling, now leaning on the unfinished door frame.  Beyond, you can see the imported rugs covered with huge plastic dropcloths.  The room looks more like a morgue than a rug store. “You’re lucky still to be working for me. You are two weeks behind since you started and now it’s down to the wire. Tomorrow is the downtown street fair and we are kicking off our annual Blowout.  If it is not done, Gary, things will become very serious.” He now blows a stream of smoke from his lips. “Very serious, Gary.”

           “We’ll finish tonight,” Gary says. “You’re gonna work too, right, Fortune Five Hundred? Time and a half, you know. I know you need it.”

           Frank shuts his eyes and clenches his fist and presses his thin lips firmly together. “Fucking Islamic,” he mutters to you under his breath. His face is a plaster death mask. This job is just temporary, you remind yourself. Just, temporary, please God, just temporary. And, you remember the place where Frank lives. One day last week you picked him up on your way to work when his car wouldn’t start, a beat up Chevy Nova with only one seat remaining inside, the driver’s torn leather bucket seat. It was parked in front of a duplex with a dirt yard. Inside, there was a bong on a makeshift coffee table, a worn green sofa. His girlfriend’s two daughters were peering into the living room from behind the dirty white walls of the kitchenette. There was a poster of a long-haired barbarian and a big-breasted woman in a tight superhero outfit riding a saber-toothed tiger, chasing a dragon flying by the rings of Saturn in the background.

           The rug merchant says, exhaling smoke as he speaks, “Finished, Gary. All the plastic gone and the scaffolding out of here. Finished. Done. Absolutely. By eight A.M.”

           “Hey man, don’t worry.  We’ve got it covered.  A little more sanding of the sheetrock and we’ll spray it out like fucken madmen,” Gary says and looks at you. “Our felon here is gonna be masking ahead of us. And it’s gonna look great.”

           You shake your head. You just want to get home, send out more resumes, but twenty-five an hour would help with the insurance.

           “Gary, don’t forget that you have promised that you will re-paint the ceiling in the main gallery,” Yakhlef says.

           “The white is fine. Jesus.  In fact, I think it looks fucking great. You wanted it white, we painted it white and it has a fresh coat of white just like I said I’d do.  We gotta finish the rest of this place.”

           “The ceiling looks horrid,” the Yakhlef says. “The white does not work.  You should have known the pipes and cracks would show up more. It doesn’t make the place seem lighter; it makes the place look like shit, Gary.  This has to look good. We sell valuable rugs here.”

           “Two coats.  White. You agreed. It’s done.”

           “You have agreed already to repaint it black, Gary. Look at it, Gary.”  Gary stands and goes around the rug merchant. He passes through the doorway into the showroom gallery, swaggering with a hitch in his right knee, like he always does when he walks.  The owner follows him, and you and Frank follow along.  Gary looks up at the ceiling and walks around the space, going between the stacks of the visqueen covered rugs, a labyrinth of small aisles.

           “I said I’d do it, if , if, I could fit it in. I said I might  do you a favor,” Gary says. “If there was time.” He casually sips his beer.  He has nerve. You can say that much. You’d try to please the customer at any cost if it were your business, especially when the job looks as bad as this one.  Now that the ceiling is white in this old warehouse building, your eye is automatically drawn to the high ceiling, and you can’t help but notice the disturbing, dandruffy shadows of flaking layers of paint, at least fifty years of stratified sediment that Frank half-hearted scraped. Flat black would have made it all invisible, unobtrusive, even stylish, if they’d taken the time to roll it in.

           “Okay. How much, Gary? A black ceiling?” Yakhlef asks and shuffles expensive eel skin shoes over plastic covered cement floor. “Just to get it done all done by tomorrow.”

           “Another two grand,” Gary says, standing with his thumb in his belt loops, head thrown back, still eyeballing the mess he knows he has made, the bad advice he’s given.

           “You’re joking,” the Iranian says.  “Two grand? You could hang ceiling tiles for two grand.”

           “Fucking A,” Frank pipes in. “Let’s fucking pack up.”

           Gary eyes the merchant. “I’m gonna eat it. What about seven hundred?  That’s just barely covering the cost of the paint, though.”

           The merchant laughs and tosses his cigarette butt on the floor of the aisle and grinds it with the toe of his shoe, twisting the plastic covering. “Listen Gary, I have a special carpet for you.” The merchant says. “A thousand dollar rug.  Gorgeous. We can trade.  I’ll give it to you if you just paint the ceiling black tonight. Tonight, Gary.”

           “What am I going to do with a rug?” Gary laughs.

           “Let me show you.”  Yakhlef waves Gary to follow him over to a back corner of the showroom.  Gary finishes his beer. “I need your help, guys,” the merchant says to you and Frank.

           He directs you and Frank to carefully peel back the thin plastic drop cloth covering a stack of rugs.  “It’s like you’re unveiling some fucken treasure in Timbuktu,” Frank whispers, his breath smoky.

           As you pull the dropcloth back, plaster and paint dust rises like pond fog.  Yakhlef then orders you and Frank to lift rug after rug off the pile. When you come to a thick rug, a black one with intricate geometric designs, the Iranian pauses for a moment and then regards Gary. Even amidst the smell of construction, the room suddenly seems to smell of Middle Eastern coffee and black tobacco. “It’s yours for a black ceiling.”

           Gary crosses his arms and looks at the rug. He closes one eye and nods his head.  He furrows his eyebrows and brings his finger to his lips after shaking his bangs away from his eyes. Then he moves closer and feels the pile.

           “It’s a weird fucker.  No wonder you haven’t sold it.” Gary bends back the corner of the rug. He rubs his hands over the dense wool. “It seems pretty fucken well made.”

           “The best quality in the world.  But I have not wanted to sell this rug. You don’t sell a rug like this.”

           “So why in the hell would I want it?”

           “Women, Gary.  Women like this carpet.  It shows impeccable taste.  They melt on it. “

           Gary laughs. “Women! Ha. I’m done with women.”

           “A fucken magic carpet,” Frank says and hoots at Gary. “Fly it over to Sally Rippy’s, Aladdin.  Sweep her off her feet.” He starts singing and air guitaring, “Close your eyes, girl. Look inside, girl…Why don’t you come with me…on a magic carpet ride.” He grins.

           “Gary,” the Iranian says, exhaling a drag of another cigarette. He rubs his forehead. “Please shut him up. My brain is about to burst.”

           “Yeah, yeah,” Gary says and shakes his head.  He looks at his watch. “Jesus fucken Christ. I can’t believe this shit.”  He looks at you. He says to you.  “We should’ve sprayed it black. Home Depot is still open, I guess, but paint’s more expensive there.”

           Yakhlef motions you and Frank to cover the rugs.  “It’s yours if everything is absolutely done tonight.”  He pulls his key ring from his pocket and spins it on his forefinger.  “It is a holiday for us today.  My wife has been cooking all day. I must go.”

           The rug merchant walks briskly to his desk, picks up his briefcase, and walks through the front entrance to his Mercedes parked in front of the glass storefront.

           Gary shakes his head, rolls his eyes and scratches his head. He looks at you. “You can work late tonight, right?”

 

(to be continued)