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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 5: Kickin’ Back

Odd, how old habits can be affected by new faces.

Crawford Liquors, Maggs Williams, Red Harper, Russian Mafia, Dwight Elsworth, or dead girls in a metal coffin were the last things on our minds as the late-afternoon summer sun slanted in the front window of Moriarity’s bar, highlighting the back bar, thick with police memorabilia and cop logos. The clientele was all cops or cop groupies.

Washington and I were standing at the bar. He was sipping a beer. I was sipping the drunk’s punishment: a ginger ale.

“Hell of a bust today, guys.” A tipsy, husky, gray-haired detective clapped us on the back.

“Bet that Russian is about to crap a gold brick. Buy y’all a drink?”

I shook my head no.

Washington placed a hand over his glass, smiled. “Olympian McCoy ran the guy down. Looked like a world record 800 meters.”

“Why the gorilla suit?” the detective asked.

“Dwight Elsworth’s uncle runs that deli on Industrial Boulevard. No place to hide,” Washington pointed. “Stone-eyed, McCoy stood there waving a sign, ‘Help the Homeless’. Academy-award stuff. Collected forty cents and one sorry dope dealer.”

The detective walked away, laughing, then turned back. “Hey, McCoy, how you doin’ on your program? As you see, I fell off the sucker. You sneak a taste?”

The comment irritated Washington, but he ignored the drunk cop. “We gotta go, McCoy. Early baseball practice in the a.m.”

“I’ll be along in a minute.” I studied my ginger ale.

He shot me a “listen to mother” glance, then put a hand on my shoulder. “McCoy, we go now,” he said firmly.

I wasn’t intending to take a drink. I didn’t think I was but, as usual, Washington was right. I sat the ginger ale on the bar and followed him out into the simmering heat. Several cops slapped us on our backs as we left. Every cop in town had heard about the gorilla-suit chase.

I competed for road space with a hundred thousand other commuters and pulled my battered GMC pickup into a well-manicured apartment complex. The scorching sun had dropped below the western horizon, but the sticky heat remained.

Tim, my girlfriend’s son, was bouncing a rubber ball against an outside wall. “Hey, Mr. McCoy,” the kid called out. He was ten, blond, full of himself, and I’d grown very fond of him... and his mama, too, for that matter.

“Be okay if you just called me McCoy, Tim.”

“Okay, Mr. McCoy.”

“Hey, dude, run and get the gloves. Maybe we can throw a few while there’s still a little daylight.”

The kid was up the stairs and back with gloves and ball in seconds. We were playing catch in the fading light when Tim’s mother, Janet, appeared on a balcony above.

“How ya’ doing?” she smiled. At 32, in shorts and halter top, she was as sexy a number as I’d ever met, including my wife and soul mate, now dead over a year from breast cancer. The thought brought me a sliver of guilt.

“Great, now I’ve seen you,” I grinned upwards, trying to quench my mind of guilt for feeling attracted to another woman so soon. Surely that was no sin... surely.

“Can you handle spaghetti again?” she called down.

I mock-grimaced, holding my stomach. “Best offer I’ve had.”

“She cooks spezzgetti every night, Mr. McCoy,” Tim whispered.

Janet, an Electrical Engineer for a huge defense plant a mile away, with a Master’s degree in electrical engineering, was no gourmet cook. But in the bedroom, she was the chef supreme of world class artistry. And all that with a body which would knock out the lights at Cowboy Stadium.

I spent the evening playing scrabble with Tim, who won every game. I slid into the king-size bed in Janet’s bedroom at 10:30 pm. “Gonna have to work fast, babe. Tomorrow’s Saturday. Baseball practice early in the morning.”

“Well, Tarzan” — she slipped in next to me in the raw, then snapped off the table lamp — “you may have to make do with a tad less sleep. Sure you feel okay? Oh, God, you’re just fine. Don’t stop.”

* * *

Washington, the head coach, didn’t seemed to notice how ragged I was the next morning. He reminded the team we were playing the Muskrats the following Tuesday night.

The next day, Sunday, Janet, Tim and I were guests at Milt’s house for afternoon burgers. Milt and his wife Elaine and their children were sitting around a shaded patio table. Elaine was slender, attractive, outgoing. Their son Trey, 18, had just accepted a baseball scholarship to a major university. Their daughter Chloe was 15. On account of my earlier bout with the bottle, only soft drinks were available.

As we left, Milton buttonholed me at the back gate. “That’s a fine lady you’ve got there, with a great kid. Is it serious?”

“Aw, hell, I really like both. It’s only just over a year since Mary died... Maybe a little early. Wish we’d had kids.”

“If I was smart enough to offer any sane advice, I’d do it.” He tap-punched my shoulder as I walked out.

Proceed to Chapter 6...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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