Spring Has Sprung
Who could possibly enjoy the cold, driving rain that marked the first day of spring, except for the early sprouting daffodils perhaps? Such was my initial thought when I opened my eyes and saw the gray dawn, but that was me; always the glass-half-empty kind of guy.
You couldn’t really blame me if you knew the kind of day that I had to look forward to. With so much on my mind, I didn’t have the luxury of languishing in bed contemplating the meaning of life or other mundane thoughts. I had an appointment with Richard.
I quickly discharged my usual morning routine so that I could concentrate on the momentous events yet to come. Namely, putting Richard in the ground, the poor dumb bastard.
His careless mistake cost the organization a boatload of cash, and the boss was adamant; he had to go. There was no room for debate.
To his credit, Richard was one hell of a worker and strong like a bull elephant. Whenever one of the crew boosted an eighteen-wheeler, Richard could move more freight faster than any four other guys together. He was big, dumb, and stupid; just the way the boss liked his bag men. Imposing in size, too childlike and honest to get greedy, and compliant enough to follow simple orders.
Richard was the pickup man for our mob, his one big job in life. Each Monday, he collected the weekly donations from all the joints that gladly paid their protection money. Then he’d drive out to the farm to make the drop. Santino’s place was the perfect cover; no one suspected the pig farmer was also the mob’s banker.
One trip per week, make the drop, then Richard was free to do whatever he liked with his spare time. I knew he spent hour after hour at the arcade playing video games like the overgrown kid that he was. He loved the simulated motorcycle thrill ride that was the arcade’s most popular attraction. I laughed as I imagined this giant man-child straddling the miniature arcade game intended for a twelve-year-old.
Last week, however, Richard messed up big time.
At the end of his rounds, he should have driven straight to the farm only this time, Richard being Richard, he didn’t do that. He couldn’t resist stopping by the arcade to check out the new games recently installed. That’s when disaster struck.
He’d left his backpack unattended “for only a moment” so he claimed, and someone stole it right out from under his nose. The big dummy.
Now I ask you, what are you gonna do with somebody like that? Pat him on the head and tell him it’s going to be all right? Let him make it up a little each week until he paid it all back – like over the next two hundred years!
The boss appeared magnanimous about it. In that calm, fatherly voice he used when addressing Richard, he told the big lug to simply forget about it. He understood how these things can happen.
However, just to make sure everything went smoothly from now on, the boss insisted that I tag along on the weekly rounds. No more screw ups or else!
Richard was so relieved. He liked the idea of having me tag along like we were best buds on a field trip together. Only now I gotta put him down like the poor, dumb animal that he is. This was my one big job now.
The rain had stopped, and Richard was standing outside his apartment when I arrived. It usually took all day to complete the rounds, what with parking and all. Time wasting idle chitchat was never a problem as people were happy to see us leave as soon as possible. It was business as usual.
Between pickups, Richard chattered like a jaybird about all the stuff he liked to do. Besides the arcades, I learned he liked comic books, and enjoyed watching old movies. He spoke at length about his favorite films. When he started describing Of Mice and Men, I nearly choked trying to stifle a laugh. Did he subconsciously identify with the main character, Lenny? Or was I being unnecessarily critical?
When we finished for the day, Richard asked if we could stop for ice cream before heading out to Santino’s farm, but I nixed the idea. I reminded him it was that kind of thinking that got him into trouble in the first place. I promised we’d stop for a treat on our way home.
Richard was quiet for the rest of the trip as we drove through the countryside. At last, he broke his silence to comment on the gathering storm clouds, which put him in mind of yet another movie, The Specialist, starring his favorite actor, Sylvester Stallone. Did I know it?
He rattled on none stop about how the main character was a clever hitman, but I was only half-listening. What did it matter? I just wanted to finish the job and get back to town.
We made the drop at Santino’s without incident. Richard started to open the car door when I suggested we take a short walk before the rain started again. I’d never been to the farm before and wanted to see the layout. It was a lie, of course, but Richard would never know.
We followed a path that led into the woods, and I told Richard to take the lead since it was all new to me. After only a short while, Richard suddenly stopped. He reached above his head and broke off a thick, leafless tree limb. Before I could react, he whirled around and laid into me like a baseball slugger swinging for the fences. I went down hard, barely conscious, wondering what the hell had just happened. Damn, but Richard was going to get it now!
Richard snatched me off the ground with one hand and slammed my back against a tree. My feet dangled above the ground.
He leaned in close. “You ain’t going to do this to me! I won’t let you.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Put me down this minute, you big lunkhead.”
“I know this scene. This is the part where Sylvester takes the mark into the woods and whacks him out. I’m the mark, aren’t I? You were gonna kill me!
“No, Richard, no! We were just walking here. C’mon, don’t go crazy on me!”
“When you said to walk ahead, I knew what was coming next, just like in the movie. And I know you always carry a gun. But I’m not the one going down. You are!”
So much for my one big job. How had I managed to screw it up so royally?
Richard drew back his massive, powerful arm. I saw it coming, but there was nothing I could do to stop him. It was like watching a train wreck; I couldn’t look away as his mighty fist came barreling down the tracks at full speed aimed right at my head.
I only had a second. I screamed, “It’s all a big mistake, Richard! We can work it out – “
Terry Adcock © 2022