Arnie doesn’t believe that Larry is sleeping with a woman that seems way out of his league, and they make a bet over it – but who will have the last laugh? By Scott Harris.
|Image generated with OpenAI|
Shunning the conventional approach has always appealed to me. I am what I am. My most egregious malady seems to be greed. Greed for dope, food, booze and most grievously – money. Greed for sloth is also a favorite. The lengths I will go to do nothing is astounding. I’m always in search of a cozy cushion. The easy route. The right lane going the speed limit with a golden oldie wafting from the speakers. I also have a short attention span and get bored easily. That’s when I feel the need to whip it in the left lane and tromp the gas and see what this baby will do. That leads me to bad decisions and momentary regrets.
These traits have gotten me branded as a “toxic person.” What the fuck does that mean? New wave psychobabble bullshit, I say. I’m old school – I prefer hard to handle or temperamental. Let’s say I’m an acquired taste. Like battery acid.
My loosely defined form of employment is finding holes in the defense. Like in Star Wars where they find the alley to slink down and drop the bomb up the ass of the Death Star. Everything, every person, has an exploitable weakness. My motto is steal from the greedy. And nobody is greedier than crooks, and there are no bigger crooks than the government and big business. I visualize myself as a guerilla fighter, who lays camouflaged in the underbrush as I leap out at my targets and whack them on the knee and scoop up any trinkets that they drop.
Trinkets are the key. They go unnoticed. Another one of my mottoes is – pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. I’m a singles hitter, and occasionally I’ll stretch it to a double if I know the right fielder has a weak arm. I’ve disciplined myself to lay off the tantalizing hanging curves and maintain a conservative approach at the plate. My one weakness – ok, one of my many weaknesses – is women. They entice me to swing out of my shoes, ignoring the count, and then my batting average suffers, and my strikeouts increase.
They say self-awareness is the key to a healthy, adjusted life. I say knowing better never stopped me from stepping in it. And life is chockfull full of irony. That’s the situation I found myself in as I sat in a little neighborhood bar two blocks from the beach. I was slow-sipping a Landshark and noshing on stale popcorn.
“For Christ sake, Georgie, quit being so cheap. Toss this shit out.” I said. Georgie was the bartender flavor of the month. I bounced around since I was forced to leave my favorite watering hole – Arnie’s.
“I’ll put some fresh in when the real customers show up.” Georgie said as he polished the bar. Georgie was a noticeably plain fellow with one strange habit. He liked to wear Teenage Mutant Ninja wristbands. I never inquired.
“What do you mean by that? I’ve been a steady customer.” I said to Georgie with a mock hurt on my face.
“Yeah, only after you hightailed it out of Arnie’s joint.”
“Why do you always feel the need to bring up that rat bastard’s name?” I said, this time genuinely irritated.
“Cause it’s a great story. It makes me laugh.” Georgie said.
“You’re a real kind soul, you know that?”
“C’mon, tell me again and maybe I’ll take this down.” He said and smiled a wolf’s grin and pointed to his recently acquired FREE BEER, TOMORROW sign. He bought that sign to jack me off after he first heard my tale of Arnie and the bet.
“What’s in it for me?” I asked.
“How about a free beer?” He said, and he laughed far too loud.
“Fuck you.” I said, but hey, free beer is free beer, right? And I preceded to tell him the story of me and Arnie.
I was a frequent flyer in a bar called Arnie’s Place. It was near the apartment I was renting after leaving my third wife, Lou Ann. What a doozy. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it coming, my friends sure did, but you know why I didn’t? Big tits, a big ass, and a libido to drive those, that’s how. She was relentless in every way and made me long to be a eunuch, a wish she nearly fulfilled.
I escaped her clutches and began to spend a large portion of my time hanging with Arnie. Arnie was a bartender, fry cook, floor sweeper and degenerate gambler. After getting to know him, I was constantly amazed how he kept the deed to his place.
We shared an appreciation of booze, women and betting, mostly sports. Arnie bet as many games as he had dough. In the old days his knees would have been in pieces but today, he owed all his vig to VISA and Mastercard, at twenty-five percent, the wise guys were more honest.
Arnie’s need to wager was insatiable and arbitrary. He’d bet on what commercial would come on next – beer, Taco Bell or toilet paper. You name it, Arnie bet it. And lost it. I only remember a handful of bets he’d won. Even coin flips.
I was in his place doing some routine day drinking, when in walked a smoke show redhead. This little beach town had its share of attractive women, but in Arnie’s they were harder to find than foxhole atheists.
Lo and behold this devilish creature slid in beside me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. This caused Arnie’s eyes to bulge and then his head to tilt.
The lady, her name was Hannah, ordered a gin and tonic, and we chit-chatted. She finished her drink, kissed me on the cheek again, and departed. I returned to the ever-present ESPN as Arnie stood in front of me, more dumbfounded than usual.
“Who the hell was that?” He asked.
“You ain’t got no friends.”
“You underestimate me – my friend.” I said and winked.
“See – like I said – you ain’t got none.” Arnie replied, which was remarkably witty. I grinned at his repartee and gave him a consolatory nod and remained silent.
“No – really – who is she?” He asked as he leaned forward.
“A friend – an acquaintance – that’s all.” I said, reluctant to divulge any more.
“There’s no way you’re hitting that.” Arnie said.
I anticipated his bluntness and replied, “Au contraire.”
“Get the fuck out. She’s thirty yards out of your coverage zone.”
“But my punter has great direction – and hang time.” I said.
“No, he doesn’t.”
I had finished my beer, slid a ten across the bar, got up and said, “Wanna bet?” And walked out, knowing the trap was set.
Hannah was a nurse, and I her patient and we were in business together and regretfully not monkey business.
Through numerous disabilities, some real and some not, I slithered my way into the largesse of the Social Security system. Which lead me to the cavernous and complex lair of Medicaid. Over time I’ve mastered its mountain of bureaucratic bullshit. I’ve come to understand the reams of paperwork and rules are for two purposes. One, it gives work to the writers of said bullshit, and two, it gives employment to those who administer the bullshit. The only skin those two departments have in the game is to keep their paychecks flowing.
The flow chart of my deception is, Social Security – Medicaid – prescription drugs. This is where Hannah emerged.
I entered Hannah’s world as Peter McRaney, though my given name is Larry Brown. Peter was a youngish fifty-three and in need of some pain relief from his chronic back ailments. Back problems are the gold mine of my business. Hard to prove, harder to disprove. And again, most people don’t give a fuck.
Hannah was a fiery redhead with the face of a woman restrained. She had pale, clear skin with a dusting of freckles and a strong sense of ancestry. Therefore, when Peter McRaney sat on the exam table, she had already formed a kinship.
The secret to selling the yarns is believability. I believe my own bullshit. Some have diagnosed it as a condition, I prefer, God-given talent.
She began the cursory interview, and I gave the short, sweet answers. Then she came to my relationship status, and I had a plan. Widowed. Instant sympathy – and available. The last part was an added bonus. I walked in with the story already concocted but after meeting nurse Hannah, and spying no jewels on her fingers, I had further incentive.
She didn’t register a reply, but my story was set. We went through the basics, blood pressure, weight, medications and then we landed on family history and personal habits – smoking, drinking, drugs. I answered all of the above, and added, family history. That caused her to peer up at me and tilt her head to one side. I took the cue.
“Oh, you know, curse of the Irish.”
To which she replied, “That’s a shame.”
And I laughed, and fidgeted on the paper and responded with, “Not physically, just habitually.”
She gave me a low hum as she probably had heard that backpedal before. I was silently applying a boot to my ass. When cornered, I’ve found silence is a powerful counter-puncher. I shut up.
As I would learn, Hannah’s ex-husband had the complete encyclopedia of Irish maladies, and she was familiar and oddly attracted to them.
She then asked me what was the reason for the visit and I described in detail the discomfort and disability of my phantom back issues, but I pulled back. I told her that I believed in natural remedies, diet, exercise and that sort, and I only wanted my heartburn script renewed. She made notes and dismissed me to wait for the doctor.
The good doctor was a short, fat, hairy Italian fellow by the name of Dr. Antonelli. He arrived, and since my estrogen kryptonite had exited, I was in full Irish Pete, the steamfitter, who hurt his back, busting his hump for his poor departed sweetheart. The doctor was sympathetic and wanted to make sure I wasn’t suffering unduly. X-rays, blood work, the full Monty were ordered, and he wanted to see me again in a month.
My X-rays were inconclusive. I did have a prior injury due to a nasty motorcycle wreck, so I had something. The blood work was normal for a fellow of my experience, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, and a liver enzyme level of, well, not crisis level – yet. It was enough to corroborate my tale of fluctuating agony.
The doctor initially suggested a hyper dose of Tylenol, but any good drinker knows that’s a bad combination with Jameson’s – and hey Doc – look at those enzyme levels. He decided on Tramadol, which isn’t like the Oxy kings, but could be hustled, and it was a start. I could always cry – no effect – still hurting – killing the pain with whiskey! That always scares them, but you had to be careful. It was a fine line between cries for help and cries that sound like you need help. I added the Tramadol to my array of products.
By my fourth visit in six months, my knowledge of Hannah had grown more personal. She had Dr. Antonelli’s trust, but she resented his flirting and innuendo, and was smarting from her divorce. Her Ex chiseled her for alimony and stuck her with an expensive car payment. She loved the car and was saltier about writing his check. I sensed a vulnerability, which meant an opportunity. I found out that Nurse Hannah was far from vulnerable. I would have known that if my powers of perception weren’t scrambled by those feline blue eyes.
“How we feeling today, Pete?” she asked, as I sat in the exam room, delicately pitched forward, with a practiced grimace.
“Not too bad. It’s been worse.” I said.
“I bet. How much have you been drinking?” She asked as she sat on a chair across from me. Her red hair pulled back, showcasing her delicate face.
I laughed and said, “How much is OK?”
“I usually double whatever someone tells me, but in your case, I’ll need an abacus.”
Again, she made me laugh and I went all floaty inside. I hate that! Not really – I crave it – but I know what it will do to me. I’m like a little bunny, percolating bliss and harmony and nibbling clover, unaware of the razor talons of the hawk, inches away. I don’t have quick reflexes, but I do have skin like a crocodile.
“Now that’s not fair. You have a face that makes me want to tell the truth.” I said, as she gave me a long stare, a slow blink and a “Uh-Huh.”
Then she said, “On a scale of one to ten – one being nothing and ten being unbearable, how bad is the pain?”
“I would say a solid seven, ten would be when I lost my sweet Marie. Nothing has ever hurt that bad.” I said, dipping my head and looking away from her.
“When did your wife pass?”
“Two years and eight months ago.”
“Pancreatic cancer – bam – she went quickly – thank God.” I said. Still not lifting my head as I gave my shoulder a little more droop.
“She must have been on some hardcore pain killers.”
“Yeah – but you know, that’s like giving peanuts to an elephant, hardly even dulls it.”
“You would know – right?” she said easily, but it felt like a pub dart in my forehead.
“Well, yeah, she’d still cry and beg for more.” I said, bringing my hands to my face for emphasis.
“How many were you stealing?” She asked.
Her intuitiveness was freaky – and bold. I had revealed a trigger that set her scam alert off, and she revealed her suspicions. Accusing a man of pilfering medications from his terminally ill wife was a daring move.
I had two options, I could have cried foul, shrieked outrage at her baseless, callous and insensitive accusation, or – I could do what I did.
I pulled my head up, leaned back in my chair, met her gaze and said, “All of them.”
A crooked smile lit her face and her eyebrows raised as she said, “I assume she didn’t mind.”
“Yeah. She was a good sport,” I said and returned her look. Damn! We were soul mates.
Hannah was also schooled in the nuances of hogs and pigs. She liked to nibble and was wary of the feast. She upped me to Oxys and would covertly slip a pad under the doctor for signature and I’d distribute them to my trustworthy clientele. You had to be careful with pharmacies as they’d red flag scripts within a certain time, but everyone knows about cats and skinning methods.
And this is how she came into Arnie’s one hot day as I was sipping a beer. She needed me to front her some money for new brakes on that expensive ride. She arrived, had the gin and tonic and I discreetly slipped her a few hundreds, and she left.
When I returned to Arnie’s after my offer of the wager, he was curious, but not hooked.
“I don’t believe you’re tapping that, but what do I care?” he said.
I stirred my rum and coke and said, “Cause you’re jealous.”
“Of what? You’re a freakin’ bum, plus who knows, maybe you did get lucky – once – even a blind squirrel can find a coconut.” He said. I reclined, folded my arms, and was amazed at how his fork ever found his mouth.
“I’m a bum, huh? Well, at least I ain’t a pussy.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” He said as his face tightened into a catcher’s mitt.
“It means you’re afraid to lose and find out I AM tapping that. And you’d feel even worse having to slink back home to your box of Kleenex.”
“Whatever.” I chuckled and went back to watching a curling match. He never moved, sizing me up the whole time. I knew I had his goat.
“Wadda ya wanna wager, Loverboy?” he said.
“I don’t know – a hundred bucks,” I said, knowing that sum would insult him.
“Nah – that’s boring,” he said, as I mashed my lips and made weird faces.
“OK – I got it – my three hundred against free drinks.”
He threw his hands in the air and said, “Fuck that! You’ll blow through three bills in two days.”
“Yeah – but it’s not really your money. It’s a business expense – and just me, no riders.”
His lips pursed, and he squinted his perpetually blood shot eyes and countered with, “OK – just beer though – no hard stuff.”
We then engaged in a more difficult debate. Verification. He was a distrustful bastard and words meant nothing to him. He finally said, “How about you let me in to your place before you get there, I’ll hide away in the closet, and watch.”
I tried to hold back the Ewww, but it must have been obvious as Arnie backpedaled and tried to cover his creepiness with, “Yeah – that’s probably not a good idea – you might not have a closet.” I shrugged and blinked past that, but his lust for voyeurism gave me a wicked idea.
“How about photographic evidence? That work for you, Tom?” I said.
He gave me a quizzical look and said, “Who’s Tom?”
“You – ya pervert.”
“Well – yeah, I’d like to see that broad getting a high hard one.” He said as a greasy smile began to expose his gums that were in dire need of periodontal attention.
“That might be a little impractical, as well as physically impossible. I’m gifted, but not that gifted.” I said. “How about some photos of a personal nature, but not triple X.”
“Like what – nudes?”
“I dunno, you could fake those, and I didn’t get a real good look at her face when she was in – I was kinda distracted.”
We agreed that I’d bring Hannah back in for Arnie to imprint in his lascivious mind.
I saw this as an opportunity to give Hannah a reason to lower her armor plating. I had made great efforts to steer the relationship in a more carnal nature, but she remained all business. I hoped that in a spirit of competition and camaraderie I’d break through. But I was also nervous she’d be offended by the suggestion. I needn’t have worried, as she laughed and said, “OK. I’m in.”
“My place, say nine tonight?” I asked.
“OK – your place then.” I said and was met this time with a hard cooked stare and an icy, “Not happening.”
“Alright then, I’m open for suggestions.” I said, sighing as I watched my dreams evaporate.
“Let’s go have a chat with Arnie and see what we can sell.” Hannah countered and I reluctantly let her take the reins.
Arnie and I were in the midst of a mind-numbing conversation on the merits of the designated hitter, when Hannah slinked through the door. She was wearing yoga pants, white sneakers, no socks and a loose fitting, button up blouse. Her auburn tresses done into a ponytail. Fetching, but playful.
Once I saw her those floaty feelings in my stomach returned and I got dreamy. She gave me a more intimate smooch and sat down, and she put her hand on my thigh and I hoped my approval wasn’t too noticeable.
Arnie ate up the act faster than free wings. She ordered her gin and tonic and he gave her a sizeable dollop of booze. Hannah and I giggled and cooed. It was quit the show. She turned to Arnie and said, “Hey, do you know anything about tattoos?”
He shook his loose jowls and said, “No – except I like them – on women.”
“Me too. I’m thinking about getting another one, and Petey here doesn’t want me too.”
“Who the hell is Petey?” Arnie said with his ever-present look of bewilderment.
Shit! I wasn’t worried about Arnie – but Hannah – she’d be far more challenging. I had to trust her improvisational skills.
“That’s her pet name for me – you know – like honey or lambchop.” I said, as I squeezed her hand.
“Oh,” was all Arnie said.
“Yeah – what do you think – should I get another one?” she said, never skipping a beat, proving my faith in her correct. But I also knew I’d have some ‘splaining to do later.
“I don’t know – let me see the ones you got.” Arnie said, as he refocused on the bright and shiny ball.
Hannah leaped off the stool, took two steps backward, put her thumbs in the waistband of her tights and pushed them down to mid-crotch level. Her hip bones and the string on her skimpy thong panties made my imagination take off at warp speed. There were only two other patrons in the place, and they had their eyes on the TV screen. Arnie’s eyes were laying in the olive tray.
“This one right here.” She said pointing to a small, though not minuscule, brown tattoo of Jerry, the cartoon mouse, in a cute pose of, “who me?” I laser etched the image before she pulled the tights up.
I was returning from Fantasy Island, when Hannah asked Arnie, “So – another one?”
“Definitely,” he replied and I seconded.
We then descended into talk of images and locations for the proposed artwork.
I could see Arnie struggling to hold back his lurid mind. Hannah gave no encouragement, knowing her mission was complete. She did a quick time check, uttered a short profanity and made her exit.
Arnie wolf whistled, poured two shooters of Jack and we toasted. Then he said, “I still don’t believe you’re hitting that – but I hope she comes back.”
There’s something to be said for Jack Daniels in the proper doses, but mis- proportioned and it’s an uncompromising rude belligerent tyrant. Like my second wife. Jack and his dark hued cousins are a large reason I’ve been shunned from proper society.
After Arnie broke my rule of one, I lit upon a journey of self-abuse. I prefer abusing myself, I know all the short cuts. And preferred methods.
I woke the next morning at a loss for recent memory and my pants. I will never know the truth of how I arrived at being pantless, yet still wearing my shoes. Ah, the sweet mysteries of life. I shook off the Lynchburg virus, ran as much cold water as I could tolerate over my head, and texted Hannah, “Call?”
“Yes. I’ll call you later,” she replied.
I flopped back into bed and pondered less painful means of suicide. Ones with greater velocity than the method I was deploying. Never being a quitter, I got a beer.
Three hours, four beers and a Tramadol later (I know, I know – never get high on your own supply, but this was for medicinal purposes), Hannah called.
“What was up with the strip tease yesterday?” I asked.
“I was showing Arnie the evidence.”
“Huh?” I said, feeling the effects of – well, the last 30 years, but I didn’t want to start feeling nostalgic.
“Are you fucked up?” It’s four o’clock,” she said.
“I was dehydrated,” I said. Hannah batted away my weak attempt and got to her own self-serving point.
“What’s in this thing for me?” she said.
“Knowing that you are on the side of the righteous.”
“Yeah – OK – seriously – why should I help you?”
“Cause I’m helpless?” I said.
“You’re not helpless – you need HELP. I’m a health professional – I know the difference. What’s your stake in this bet?”
“Three bills against life time beer.”
“HA! How’d you get him to agree to that?”
“Talent,” I said.
“No – seriously – was he drunk?”
“No, but a sharp knife he isn’t.”
“I want the three hundred.”
“What? – I might as well lose.”
“You don’t want that – and for Christ’s sake, Pete, or whatever the hell your name is, you’ll drink through three hundred dollars’ worth of beer in three weeks.”
Damn. She was decisive and on point. And those goddamn hip bones. I was awash in floaty things.
“Two hundred,” I said.
And she hung up.
She had me by the shorties. The power of the female form has led many a good man to his demise. Not that I’m in that category, for I’m not good nor demised. But you get the point.
“OK. Deal,” I texted her back.
“What deal?” she replied.
What the holy hell? Fucking greed. It’s the downfall of western civilization.
I stormed into the kitchen, grabbed the fifth of Stoli, and took a throat scorching slug. All the pain from last night had disappeared, but I knew it was only hiding until tomorrow morning. My life was an endless cycle of insanity. But there’s something to be said for consistency.
What to do now? What were my options? Arnie wins. Fuck no! I win – hell yes! Hannah wins – maybe. We both win – impossible yet tantalizing. And it was only $300, I could always pilfer more.
“Sell me,” I texted her back.
“You can only win with me, and you’ll get to see me naked,” she responded. Those were two outstanding points. I love winning, and I love tits.
We made a date that I presumed would be for her to model, and me to play photographer. Yet, once again, I was the stooge.
We met at the Starbucks by her office and settled into a booth in the back. She got down to business.
“I’m going to send you a naked picture of me. I’d appreciate if it didn’t end up on the internet.”
“Well, I guess that depends.” I said. She didn’t say anything, she didn’t have to. I got the message. She hit a button and my phone chirped. I pulled the photo up – and there it was – the promise land in all its glory.
“Why a mouse?” I asked, referring to her tattoo.
“I lost a bet in college, and if we lose this bet, I’ll tell you about it.”
I pushed forward with my plan, which was weak at best. I was going to show Arnie the picture and BAM! Victory.
“OK. Give me two hundred bucks,” she said.
“You saw me naked. I want my money.”
“I don’t know. I got the bullets.” I said with a little shake of my head. When I looked up I was impaled by the ferocity of those blue eyes and the silent implication of violence. I pulled out my wallet and let two large bills escape.
“Thank you,” she said as she got up and left me alone to ponder my future as I sipped my Americano.
“Yeah – that’s her – wow. Too bad she’s clipped, I wanted to see if she was truly red.” Arnie said.
“There’s fire down below, trust me.” I said. Already doing a backstroke in all that Guinness, but then I reconsidered. I should probably start cheap, go with domestics so he doesn’t get all pissy.
“Yeah – well, so what, you got a nudie pic of her, fifty bucks I could probably get one too.”
“Hey! That’s my woman you’re talking about. I take umbrage to you disparaging her honor.”
Arnie gave me the same look he always does, and he followed it up with the same slow eye blink.
“Irregardless, I’m not paying up cause of that,” he said.
“What the hell – what do you want – me to bang her on the bar?” I regretted that the moment the words escaped. I didn’t wait for a reply. “I think you’re fucking with me. Bet’s off.” I said as I got up and threw him two fins. “I’m going to find some other shithole to defile my liver in.”
I was almost at the door, when I heard, “Hey, calm down for Christ’s sake.”
I stopped and waited, my back still toward him, as a smile crossed my face.
“C’mon, this one’s with me,” he said and I heard the unmistakable sound of a shot glass hitting Formica. He knew my weakness and I was without defense. The Jack flashback was dour and revolting, but I’m a seasoned veteran and I persevered.
“I’ll settle for video,” Arnie said, wiping his fleshy lips.
“Do you think she’s that kind of girl?”
“You’re a scoundrel.” I said, tipping my empty shooter in his direction. He filled it, we clinked, and nodded in agreement.
I was done unloading the week’s pills and went to check if my first payment for my hard-fought mesothelioma claim had arrived. This bet had me twirling. It had metastasized from friendly to obsessive to potentially disastrous. Hannah was into me for two bills, all for a lousy picture. That was something, but not worth $200 and now I needed more. But the thought of going down in defeat to Arnie was repulsive. What were my options? Victory or dishonor? That was dramatic. One had to have honor to have it dissed. I decided on beer.
I met Hannah at our coffee shop and informed her of Arnie’s response to her self-portrait. She slowly leaned back in the booth and gave me an eye blink stutter before she said, “I’m shocked, my nudity usually gets better results.”
“Me too, but he’s a calloused bastard,” I said, as I blew the steam off my Americano.
“Now he wants a porno?” she said.
“And you agreed.”
“I didn’t disagree – let’s say that.”
She was sitting cock-eyed in the booth, drumming her pink fingernails and looking out across the room. She then turned toward me, and the corner of her mouth crept upward to reveal a crooked grin.
“Today, my friend, is your lucky day,” she said.
I smiled and silently said Hallelujah, all my silent late-night prayers have been answered. I once again exposed too much of my inner sanctum, for she pounced and stomped on my joy.
“Not that lucky – Jesus, you have a one-track mind,” she said. I sighed and went back to my beverage, and said, “OK – what then?”
“I can help you – but it’s going to cost.” This went from fabulous, to meh, to excruciating in no time.
“How much?” I asked.
“What? – fuck no!” I said, out of gag reflex.
“Take it or leave it,” she said, as her face hardened.
“For that price I better be the co-star,” I said, as I watched out of my peripheral vision the container of cream headed toward me like a beanball.
“I’m not a fucking whore!” she said, as I licked the dairy foam from my lip like a hungry cat.
“Point made,” I said, “but that’s a little steep, don’t you think? I’m already into you for two hundred…”
“Four hundred – you only paid me two.”
“Right – four hundred – even worse,” I said and took in her calculating stare. “And now you want me to pay you another five? That makes no sense.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Let’s do some cost accounting,” she said. “How much is a beer – four bucks?”
“Yeah – give or take.”
“OK – you drink – what – six a day?” I chuckled and shrugged, and she continued, “I’m sure your consumption won’t go down when it’s free – but we’ll stick with six – six times four equals twenty-four – we’ll round up to twenty-five. Twenty-five dollars per day – and I’m being conservative – right?” I nodded.
“That’s one hundred and seventy dollars per week, we’ll round down to one-fifty to give your liver a day off – that’s six hundred per month. So, in under two months, your initial investment will be paying dividends,” she said, as her eyes expressed her pride.
“I don’t know. Seems risky,” I said.
I explained my reluctance about paying her in advance and that the whole operation hinged on Arnie’s acceptance. She reminded me I was already in for $400 and I needed to cement the deal so I wouldn’t lose my down payment. I stated my worry about dropping more bad money. She shrugged and said it was my decision, but she hated to see that skeesy perv Arnie win. That was the hook.
“Let me hear what you got,” I said.
“I have a video -I used it to get back at my Ex – you know – revenge porn – but I’m not going to show it to you unless we have a deal and I have some cash in hand,” she said.
The curiosity leapt out of me, “Go on,” I said far too enthusiastically.
“He’ll know it’s me, but I’ll crop the guy’s face out. I assume Arnie doesn’t know any – ah – personal details of yours?”
“No,” I said.
“OK – plus – and this is just a hunch, you’ll be viewed as more gifted than you are,” she said, with a sultry smile.
“Oh yeah – let me see.”
“Half on viewing – all before I hit send.”
Fuck! She was a talented saleswoman, and I was racing with desire to see her in action. I bit.
She needed to get her laptop, do some editing, and then she’d be back in an hour. I waited and drank two more Americanos, this time with and added splash of Jim Beam. I was moving and grooving when she texted me and told me to meet her in her car.
I was in the passenger seat when she put her phone in my face. The image was clear and indisputable. A naked Hannah and her signature tattoo. The other participant, his head cropped, was an ordinary gent, with an extraordinary gift. One would have known immediately it wasn’t me if they were a previous paramour of mine, or we shared a locker room. If all else failed, I’d at least be a bigger man in Arnie’s eyes.
“What do you think?” She said.
“I think you’ve been ruined for all other men.”
“Hardly,” she replied with a laugh and eye roll, and then she said, ‘You think he’ll buy it?”
“I don’t know – what if he wants me to prove it?”
“Just reach for your zipper – that’ll slow him down,” she said as she continued to amuse herself.
“Hopefully. But my face isn’t in it.”
“I thought about that. Did you notice that guy’s hands?”
“Umm – no.”
“Well, I’ll show you again – and he was wearing a pinky ring.”
“OK – I’ll focus on his hands – this might take a few viewings though,” I said. She side eyed me so hard it hurt my heart. It took all of my concentration to steer my eyes to the lucky fellow’s hands – and sure as shit – there was a silver pinky ring – unique and noticeable.
“Yeah – so?” I said as she pulled the ring out of her pants pocket.
“Here’s your proof. Start wearing this and say it was a gift from me, and you’ll have his evidence this weekend.”
Hannah’s thoroughness was impressive, and I was cautiously optimistic that there were enough layers to convince Arnie. Worst case scenario? He didn’t buy it and I was stuck with a very titillating video and my legend would soar with Arnie and the local barflies.
I agreed to her terms and paid Hannah, and as I was getting ready to open the door I had one question.
“How’d you get the ring?”
She smiled at me and said, “Really, how do you think?” All I had was a sigh.
I let several days pass, flashed my new jewelry and promised Arnie he would soon have himself a show.
The fateful day came, and I strode into Arnie’s like Patton into Berlin. I pulled out my stool, sat down and ordered two Guinness and two Jameson.
“You pregnant? Arnie asked as he expertly poured the Guinness. The foam was almost an inch – perfect. He slid the whiskey in front of me, and I pushed a beer and a shot back to him and said:
“Cheers.” We touched glasses, finished the shots and let the brown foam cover our lips.
“What was that for?” he asked as I slid a twenty his way.
“The last beer I’ll ever pay for in this place,” I said.
“Oh yeah. Show me,” he said as I laid down my phone on the bar and hit play and slid it to him. He centered it underneath him as I took a long pull on my draft. I savored the taste of victory, knowing it cost me, but sometimes it’s not all about the money. Who was I kidding? Of course it was – and I let out a loud laugh. I pulled myself out of my inner celebration and focused on watching Arnie’s carnal enjoyment. He wore a wicked smile as he watched the phone, but it seemed odd and not purely lecherous. I then noticed his hands that were spread, palms down, fingers flat on the bar. I wasn’t paying attention when he was pouring and serving me earlier. I was too content with my gloating to notice the silver pinky ring on his left hand that was identical to the one on mine.