Look it Up-
In the Dictionary
TJ carried a dictionary with him everywhere he went, which was saying something, because that kid got around on his little bicycle, like nobody’s business. I mean, he didn’t display it or anything, but he always had it with him, stashed in his Yankees backpack. What made it his “Yankees” backpack was the hand-drawn team logo, put on with some sort of magic marker. When asked about the dictionary, TJ would smile knowingly, and say that he never knew when he would need a good word.
No one really knew where twelve-year-old TJ called home; he always had his backpack and he was always on his bike. If he went to school, he went somewhere else, but no one had any delusions about that. He was a messenger boy by trade, and he was as well-known in the numbers office, as Lucky, who single-handedly paid the rent, through his poor picks. TJ got along well with everyone, being able to slip, unobtrusively, in and out of his destinations, making a connection, exchanging envelopes, and then moving on. If he paused to grab a sandwich, or a soda with ice, he did so, knowing that he had the flexibility to take a minute here or there, without rattling any serious cages.
The bottom line is, TJ did not rub people the wrong way. He was smart enough to know the score, without having to check the sports page. So it seemed a little surprising to see Willie giving the kid a hard time, as he made his way through the restaurant, to deliver an envelope to Fat Marvin, the owner, who had been expecting TJ’s arrival, with a great deal of anticipation. Marv was so happy, he tipped TJ a twenty dollar bill, thereby attracting the notice of Willie, as Fatty waddled his way back to his office, for a closer look at the contents of the envelope.
“Hey there, Little Guy, wha’s crackin’?” Willie was loud and boisterous, surrounding himself with others who liked to maintain a certain aloofness for the concept of actually having and holding a job. That was so beneath a gentleman of leisure, which is the way Willie liked to think of himself.
“Nothin’,” mumbled TJ, smart enough to know Willie’s box-score, from way back. Don’t say anything, and maybe he’d cut you some slack. Try and keep up with his mouth, and lose, every time.
“You in a hurry? Saw you pocket the twenty dollar bill. What you do wid all that money? You ain’t got a sugar-baby, do you?” Willie laughed at his own wit, while TJ made his way out front, brusquely ignoring Willie’s questions. The others were more than happy to let Willie entertain them.
“What the flock?” Willie asked, to no one in particular. “That boy ack like I ain’t talkin’ to him.” He got up, lurching against the table, as his legs adjusted to the new role, of being upright, and actually moving, and headed for the same door, that TJ was just opening, prior to escaping into the relative obscurity of the great outdoors. Willie was smart enough to wait until he had shut the heavy glass door behind him, before saying to the back of TJ, “Hold on there boy. I am talkin’ to you.” There was more than a hint of savagery in his tone.
TJ had seen his type before. Total loser and a jerk besides. He got his rocks off picking on those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and if he was feeling particularly nasty, then he treated those unfortunates with even more attitude than normally. Today, he was feeling particularly vicious. His head was still pounding from the abuse of the previous night, and his attempts to drown his pain in more of the same, had resulted in his headache taking on epic proportions.
And this little piecer was going to ignore him? TJ turned and faced the man. “Yo. Wha’ you want? I got no truck wit you. I got my job to do, and you got yours,” indicating the table of yahoos, with whom Willie had been sitting. “Go back in and have another beer.” Hoping that was it, TJ started on his path again, when something went whistling past his right ear, and made him instinctively duck, though it would have been too late, if the missile had struck TJ.
Now he responded quickly and agilely, dropping to the ground and spinning around, coming up with his dictionary in his hand, to see what was coming his way next. Willie had heaved an empty beer bottle at him, and that set TJ’s teeth on edge. As TJ opened the dictionary, Willie had sneered at him, but adjusted his attitude, as he realized that the kid had pulled out a miniature derringer and was pointing it at him. Unfortunately, his attitude led him down the wrong path, because instead of feeling fear, he felt anger. Even that would have been OK, except that he let TJ see it, and TJ responded by shooting Willie in the kneecap.
Willie was no longer angry; he was feeling a great deal of pain. What’s more, he was hurting so badly, that he lost track of the fact that he had a fair quantity of recently obtained oxy, which was still on him, when he was taken to County Hospital. From there, he was transferred to County Jail, where he had more to worry about than twelve-year-old messenger boys. He had an obliterated knee cap to worry about, and an anger management problem that probably bore looking into. Besides, he now needed a lawyer.
Meanwhile, TJ had to replace the ammunition he had expended, to rid himself of a big, nasty pest. Every time this happened it was a pain in the neck, but what was a fellow to do? He’d have to find someone old enough to purchase the bullets for him. Maybe people would get the idea, that a dictionary, when used properly, could command more respect than might have been expected. It just depends on how good you are at using it.
Frankly, TJ was pretty good at coming up with the perfect parting shot.