The Corner: Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Johnny stared at me and then burst into raucous peals of laughter. “Oh shit. Oh shit, son, that’s gotta be the funniest damn thing you ever said.” For some reason there was a wave of relief that washed over me as I watched him laugh and carry on.

“I’m serious,” I said softly. “Keep your voice down and we can talk about it later.” I’d been worried about how to bring him into the plan and having him laugh about it as opposed to dismiss it out of hand made me feel hopeful.

The last of his chuckling was drowned in a wash of beer. “C’mon, how’s a guy like you, a pizza-throwin’ college boy, gonna come up with something like that?”

“Because I’m smart.”

He stopped, glass halfway to the table.

“So what the fuck does that make me, huh?”

“Oh relax, would you? I’m not saying you’re not smart, I’m just saying that I’ve read about stuff like this. Books, novels, heist films, CSI, the whole fucking thing. But you, you have the real world experience. You can tell me what’s real and what’s fake and help make sure that we have the right people for this. You know that aside from thinking the thing up I’m not going to be good for much.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” He shook his head. “This is what you do with all that god-damned free time? Sit around and read books think about how to rob the whole damn town?”

“Keep your voice down, or thinking about it is all we’re going to be able to do.” I looked towards the back of the bar, where there were some high-backed booths that would’ve been a much better place to have the conversation.

“This is bullshit, son. You’re good for a laugh and for beer but when it comes to shit like this, to real work, you don’t have a damn lick of sense.”

“Johnny, what comes up in about two months?”

“Fishing season.”

“No, in the town, what’s going to be going on. Downtown, lots of people.”

He cocked his head to the side, ready to deliver another smart remark, when it hit him. “That Spring thing. The spring festival.”

“Yeah, the Spring Festival. Where tons of dumb ass tourists show up and spend shitloads of money on crafts and dumb shit like that. You know how much cash comes through this town that Saturday.”

“And you’re saying . . . ”

“Take it all. Take every last cent from this place and the get the hell out. New tires will be a drop in the bucket compared to what we get from this.”

“Okay. Okay, pizza boy. What’s your big idea?”

“Well, I’m still working that out, man. I just wanted to see if you were into it before I got ahead of myself. Besides, we’re going to need some help with this and I figure that you’d have some names in that regard, too.”

“Oh, I’ve got some names son, but the question isn’t are they going to want to be down with us it’s are they going to be down with you.”

“Well, geez, Johnny, you’d think you vouch for me or something. I know we haven’t known each other that long but I don’t think I’ve done you wrong.”

He rubbed his chin and studied me like he just found me in a drawer and was trying to determine if I was worth keeping or throwing away. “I know you’ve been through some shit and I know that you’ve always done right by me, but this kind of thing requires a certain kind of . . . I dunno. Something.”

Like the propensity to beat the elderly half-to-death with a bat in the middle of night? “What the French like to call a certain ‘I don’t know what’?”

He cocked an eyebrow at me and I realized I might be heading for the discard pile. “Forget it,” I said, leaning towards him. “Look man, what the hell do you want me to do? I’ve been stuck in this lousy town ever since my kid got killed and here I am with a chance to make some real money and get the fuck out of here. You think Mel is going to take me back at the business that I fucking started? The one that I had all the ideas for, did all the work for? No, the way we left it, she’s got it all and I’ve got shit. What else am I gonna do, huh?”

I sat back in my chair, trying to keep my voice level. “I’ve got nothing else, and this is my chance to stick it to this place and get out before it buries me.”

“Alright, alright, settle down. And you were telling me to not be so loud. Let me talk to some people, okay? We’ve got a little while before we have to commit to anything, so you think up whatever brilliant scheme you have and I’ll let you know when I hear back from my boys.”

He leaned forward. “Now let me tell you somethin’, son. These guys, they’re a whole ‘other level. They are not to be fucked with, and if they don’t like what you have to say they may be upset. You get me?”

“Oh, you’re gotten.”

“Now,” he leaned back and slapped his hand on the table, eying the empty pitcher. “Let’s spend more of that money of yours. While you still have it.”

We drank until one in the morning and when last call sounded we staggered out the door. He offered to give me a ride home, but I laughed until I felt sick. I didn’t need to die with him behind the wheel of a car right when things were beginning to fall into place. He gave me a playful slap that sent me tumbling to the ground and it was all too funny for me to stand. I watched from the gravel as his truck’s taillights weaved down the road away from me and I pulled myself to my feet with the reluctant help of a nearby bush.

I staggered my way down the street and made it about halfway home before I veered off and headed in the other direction down the two-lane state route that served as one of the main drags through town. After about four blocks I found myself at the end of the sidewalk and the outskirts of town. There was a deep rumbling and I thought for a moment that I was going to throw up. I doubled over and with the shriek of a horn and a flash of headlights a semi rumbled past me. The wind of its passage was just enough to encourage me to topple backwards, and I did so with inexplicable delight.

There was a part of me that wanted to stay in the wet grass with branches poking me in the back until morning, or until I decided to just roll out a little further into the road. The way trucks powered down 74 at all hours of the night meant it’d be only a matter of time before I could put that damn corner behind me forever. I rolled over and began to crawl into the woods, knowing that now that things were set into motion giving up and checking out wasn’t an option anymore. There was something out here, something I needed. For some reason I couldn’t remember what it was but I knew it was important so I rolled over and started crawling through the woods.

I’d crawled for about twenty or thirty feet, and was about to give up and try to throw up some of the poison in me and take a nap in my new habitat when I saw something.

For I second I thought it was a shoe. A tiny pink shoe.

I shook my head and wiped away some of the hair that stuck to my face. It couldn’t have been a shoe because there was no reason a little pink shoe should be anywhere except guarding the little piggies, the ones that would make her giggle when you tickled them.

When my vision cleared I saw it was a faded sticker on a small, three foot square concrete column that stuck out of the grass and weeds like a long-dead T-Rex’s snaggletooth. Then I remembered.

I reached down around the broken concrete base of the old road marker. It took me a while to remember which of the loose stones the right one was, but I eventually found it. I lifted the football-sized piece of concrete and felt around underneath it.

Sure enough, the package was there. I may have been too drunk to remember why I was out there, but I’d managed to remember what day it was. I got to my feet and wiped feebly and ineffectively at my pants, which were now soaked through with mud. I turned, hoping I was pointing myself towards the road and walked back the way I came.

As I staggered I realized it was all coming together now. I clutched the package to my chest with one hand and swung the other one wildly to clear the branches from my path. I’d been nervous while thinking about setting the whole thing up but blitzed out of my mind and possibly lost in the woods I knew that it was going to work out.

It had to, because if it didn’t I’d forget about robbing this shitty little town and start burning it to the ground.

Chapter Four


About The Author

Thacher Cleveland

Thacher E. Cleveland is a contributing writer & columnist for, co-host of the Super-Fly Comics & Games PodCast, novelist & comic creator. Originally from New Jersey and previously from Yellow Springs, Ohio, he currently lives in Chicago. You can find him on Twitter (@demonweasel), tumblr, his personal website and even on Google+

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10 2011


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