“Hey! You got a lighter I can borrow?” The dude had to shout over the noise of the band and the revelers in Boomer’s, but the flicking motion he did with his thumb, conveyed his request, over the din of it all, quite efficiently. Barely noting his sizable frame, nor the fact that his appearance placed him firmly as a practicing Harley Davidson disciple, I reached into my pocket and automatically forked over a red lighter to the guy, figuring I would be reunited at some point in the near future, but too intent on my purpose at that time to care when.
“Hey, you’ll get it back. Promise.” The word sounded incongruous, coming out of the bearded face of what might have been a Viking, with his wiry blond hair, splayed out from his head, and impressive, flaming red whiskers.
I was trying to part my way through the sea of dancing humanity, to the other side of the establishment, because I felt compelled to make conversation, such as it was, with an individual sitting at the bar. We had only met an hour before, to conduct a little business deal, that was not working out all that well for me. This guy Frank was being a real dick, and I was starting to get nervous. As I approached, another lowlife strolled away, and disappeared into the throng.
The original exchange was straightforward enough, a pound for eighteen hun, and had gone down without complication. As dismal as it was, it was the established price, the deal had been made, and the money exchanged. The problem was the dude demanded another pound, and that couldn’t happen. First of all, eighteen was about seven hundred short of what I could get, if I could hold off until June. Second, this was not my regular customer. I’d happened to have had a pound on hand, I’d missed a connection, and I’d needed the infusion of loot, but now I just wanted to call it quits. And the dude was being a real dick.
Now we were sitting in at the inside part of the bar, where I had to walk past him, and around to the other side, to get back through the exit. He had not responded well when I had told him flatly, no way. I told him I had limited numbers, and at seven hundred dollars difference, each one, I could not afford to part with any more at less that top dollar. When I had gotten up to leave, he had stopped me, saying, “You’re on probation, or so I hear.” He waited expectantly. Now I connected the lowlife who had been telling tales in Frank's ear.
“Yeah me, and half of Laytonville. What’s your point?” I had gone past uneasy, all the way to paranoid at the question, but I couldn’t let him see that.
“My point is, you don’t got no choice.” He sneered at me.
“Why do I not have a choice?” I stared straight back into his snake eyes, and waited for him to say the words.
He didn’t have the cojones. “Because guys on probation have to be worried about anonymous phone calls, to probation officers, describing certain illegal activities.” He could hint at it, but he could not spit it out.
“Dude. If you have something to say, get on with it, because I’m finished doing business with you.” I honestly was not sure if I meant it or not, and what I would have done if he had come right out and threatened me. As far as I was concerned, if I could get out of here now, without any more palaver, I would just disappear into the hills, and not show my face at Boomer’s until the dude had skipped town. He didn’t know me from Adam, even if he suspected I was on probation.
The only question was, how could I get past him and out the door, without having to flex my nonexistent machismo? I mean, I’m a mild-mannered school teacher, and this guy looked like he could dispatch me with ease. If you asked me why I was conducting business with him in the first place, I would say it was probably the bipolar disorder talking, but I have agreed not to use that as an excuse. Besides, I am leery of all disorders that begin with the letters, “bi.”
This was the moment of truth. As he stood up, and withdrew his cell phone from his jacket pocket, he looked as though he were going to start spewing the "truth" right into that phone. Before he could place that call, though, we were both suddenly dwarfed by the individual who had borrowed my lighter from me--my red one--who came up beside us at the bar, looming over us, and holding out the lighter. “Hey, there. Thanks for lending me this. Is everything all right?” Maybe it was the degree of familiarity, with which he greeted me, maybe it was his size, and his appearance, or maybe Frank was just full of hot air.
Whichever, the moment he appeared, and presented the lighter to me, Frank bolted for the door, maybe figuring I was about to sic my big friend on him. All I did was reach for the lighter, while watching Frank’s receding figure, and wave dismissively at the giant. Sometimes a red cigarette lighter packs more wallop than a fist.
I like a man who keeps his promises, especially when doing so in such a timely manner.