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My name is Stu and I am here to share what I can.

7:52 AM

Are You Covered?

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Are You Covered?

by Stu Mark

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Can I pull on your coat a bit?



I realize you and I don't know each other, but I've seen you swallow up more than a few rock-and-ryes, so maybe you'll be in the mood for a story.



Well, it's not really a story, more like a confession.

Y’see, I’ve been doin’ somethin’… well… it’s bad, for starters. I mean, there’s a moral code we live by, right? A way of being, a set of natural laws, right? No hitting, don’t take nothin’ that don’t belong to somebody else, keep your mitts off your buddy’s wife’s knockers, stuff like that, right?

Well, me, I try real hard at that stuff. I really do, no shit. I am a true-blue kind-of-a-guy. Hell, I don’t even jaywalk, not even when other people are doin’ it.

You still interested? Yeah? Ok, lemme buy you another… rock-and-rye, right? …ok, good…

So anyway, here I am, this guy, and I’m just a guy, nothin’ more. I’m not sent from heaven, I’m not touched by the good Lord, I’m just a regular, eggs and bacon, coffee black, shirt and tie, in the office by 8:30 kind-of-guy. There’s a million of us on the street, right?

And yet I’m tryin’ to be more. I’m tryin’ to be noble.

And not just now, not just this week, like a hobby, like bein’ noble is some new thing I picked up, like collectin’ coins or doin’ crossword puzzles or joinin’ a bowlin’ league or nothin’. I been tryin’ to be noble since forever, since I was a little kid, since, well, since I can remember, I guess.

I can remember bein’ eleven years old and hangin’ with Mike Kanicky. We went to the Foodtown shopping center after school and after getting’ a slice and a coke from Ray’s Famous, we went into the candy store next to the arcade.

It wasn’t just a candy store, it was like an everything store. I mean, I was eleven, so what the heck did I know, they obviously didn’t have everything, but when you’re eleven… right? It just seemed like everything. They had all sorts of stuff, weird stuff… hair stuff and beauty creams and razors and magazines and boxes for jewelry and scissors and screwdrivers and who knows what else. It was endless, just isles of stuff.

But for me, it was the candy. Most stores, like the Foodtown, they had candy, but just the regular kind. But this store, it was run by some old couple who sold like every kind of candy imaginable. Buttons and wax bottles and cigarettes made outta gum and root beer barrels and abba zabba bars and everything.

Anyway, my buddy dares me to take somethin’ and he’s my best friend at the time… plus I don’t wanna be a punk or anything… So I do it, I actually steal some candy – it was a baby ruth bar – I can picture it clear as day, how I looked around to make sure the ol’ lady wasn’t lookin’, how it slipped so easily into my jacket pocket, like I’d been doin’ it my whole life.

But afterwards, I just felt bad. Mike was jazzed, he’d taken a couple packs of gum, plus he got me to join him… But I couldn’t get happy about it. I mean, I was happy for him, but not for me.

So I waited until he had to go home, and I snuck back to the candy store and I put the baby ruth back in the rack and I left… and that was the last time I stole anything, ever.

Anyway, that’s me bein’ noble. I mean, I’m just sayin’, I been noble ever since then, or at least tried, you know? Obviously I slipped up every once in a while. Sometimes I got scared and lied about somethin’, or maybe I yelled at somebody instead o’ countin’ to ten, stuff like that. But my mind was always on doin’ good, on bein’ good no matter what.

But then this damned depression came and I couldn’t get no work no how. Nothin’, not a nickel. And I’m good at stuff, good with my hands, good with my head… I mean, smart, y’know.

Want another drink? Yeah? It’s on me, don’t worry, I know the bartender, he’s my cousin, he lets me drink for free.

Good stuff, right? My cousin Jackie gets the best stuff in town. It’s tough, this depression, but people always gotta have their booze, so he never worries about money. And he don’t cut it neither. What’s in your glass is what’s in the bottle what comes from the factory.

Smooth, right?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, right, me and work.

I been lookin’ for work for about six months now. Readin’ the paper every day, walkin’ the streets, bangin’ on doors, pretty much beggin’ for a decent job.

But there’s nothin’ out there. And what jobs is out there is taken up by younger guys, guys like you. Me, I’m old already, and nobody wants to hire an old guy when they can get a young guy cheaper.

And that ain’t it either, really. It’s not about bein’ cheaper, it’s that they can boss around a young guy, tell ‘im when to jump and when to take a piss. Me, I’ll yell right back if I get yelled at. Nobody’s gonna stomp on my head and call it rain, that’s for damn sure.

Anyway, so here’s the thing. I’m stuck. No work, no money, and my wife and kids need to eat and whatnot. I mean, I love ‘em and they’re sweet as apple pie, even when they ain’t got nothin’. And they never get after me ‘cause I ain’t got work. They treat me like a king, I tell ya what. Some days I think I don’t deserve ‘em.

Ok, one more drink and then I’ll finish my story, ‘k?

Good.

And I’m right, right? My cousin serves the best booze on Broadway, right? Right?? Ya damn right I’m right. He’s a class act my cousin. He could water it down, but he don’t. And it’s easy to water down booze and get away with it. Ya just open four bottles of scotch, pour it equally into five and add colored water to fill ‘em back up, neat and tidy. Nobody’d know. Plus, when you pour the suckers their first drink, you pour ‘em a good, pure one. But after that, they can’t tell the difference.

But not my cousin, he’s straight, up and down, left and right. He’s a good egg.

Y’ok there fella? You look a little wobbly. Well, geez, ya musta had six or seven since I been jawin’ at ya, so, no wonder, right? Right? Yeah, but you’ll be ok. Just hold steady to the bar and let me finish this story. We’re almost done.

Anyway, back to my cousin. He’s a good egg, like I said. Loyal. Blood thicker ‘n anything, that’s what he says. He’d give me the shirt off his back if I needed it, and the hanger it came on.

Well, the other day, I came to him, and even thought it pained me somethin’ fierce, I asked him for his shirt. Well, not his shirt. Somethin’ harder.

And he said yes.

See, I got me an idea. It was two weeks ago, two weeks ago last Thursday. I was readin’ in the paper about a guy who poisoned his wife for the insurance money. Except he got caught, ‘cause it was his wife, so they suspected him right away. They tailed him for a while, checked his comin’s and goin’s… guess what? He had a filly on the side, and she shows up with a new fur coat. So they snoop into his apartment and find the poison – arsenic I think, and bam, the guy’s gonna hang for it.

And at first I felt bad for the guy. But then I realized he was a dummy, getting’ caught like that. He shouldn’t a poisoned her, he shoulda had somebody else do it, away from his place, so it looked like he couldn’t had anything to do with it.

And then I got to thinkin’… How hard would it be to poison a stranger for insurance money? Sure, there’s the nobility thing I been talkin’ about, and that’s been my code all these years. But I keep thinkin’ about my wife not havin’ new clothes and havin’ to hang on to every penny so that my kid has a green vegetable with every dinner and, well, it tears me up inside. And I’m not so sure where morality stands when it comes to that kind of pain. Right?

And so I ask myself, just how hard would it be to rig up an insurance policy on a stranger, get him to sign a form so’s he thinks he’s signin’ somethin’ else, but it’s insurance papers that make me the benefiter… then just poison ‘em and get the money… Right? I mean, how hard could it really be? I mean, there’s paper’s to sign, but maybe you can rig it so the guy you’re killin’ thinks he’s signin’ somethin’ else. Right? Like, what if somebody else at the bar came to you a month ago and bought you some drinks, got you good and liquored up, and went on about some injustice in the world, and convinced you to sign some petition about some-such thing goin’ on at City Hall? You’d do it, right? It’s just a petition, right? You fill out your name and your address and it’s done.

Y’ok there fella? Lean on the bar a little, you’ll feel better. Y’just had too much to drink is all. It’ll pass.

So you fill out the petition, ‘ceptin’ it’s not a petition, it’s just made to look like a petition and really it’s insurance papers.

Life insurance.

You wouldn’t know it, ‘cause you were drunk. In fact, you got so hammered, you don’t remember much about that night. ‘Cept maybe now you remember my cousin was the one pourin’ yer drinks. And maybe you kinda remember me sittin’ at the other end o’ the bar.

Yeah.

See how it works? See how easy it is?

And the best part is the killin’… You fill out the insurance papers, the one’s that name me as the benefitter or whatever ya call it. Then you stop in for your regular Thursday night drink. ‘Cept after the first couple of real drinks, my cousin starts addin’ antifreeze to your glass, a little at a time. And you get drunker and drunker and he’s givin’ ya more and more antifreeze, and you can’t taste it, ‘cause you’re already pretty well soused. And in the end, it’s good night sweet prince. You’re just another drunk who got too friendly with the spirit and died from alcohol poisoning. No special clause in the insurance papers about that. Dead is dead, and I get my money.

I know, I know, it’s terrible. I’m supposed to be noble and all, but Christmas is comin’ and I just can’t face my wife and kids without a tree and a big fat turkey for the table. So yeah, I’m not so noble now. And I gotta live with it. Right?

That’s kinda funny, me sayin’ “live with it,” right? Right?

Right.

Now just lay your head on the bar and close your eyes. The rest is easy.

2 Comments:

Suldog said...

Tremendous! Like something out of the old Hitchcock show, Stu. Oh, and remind me never to let you buy me a drink when we meet someday, OK?

A said...

Stu,

An awesome story .... reminds me of O'Henry.

Your cuz (who is not a bartender),
----allen

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