Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not my Style

This is an excerpt from "Embrace the Wonder," a collaborative book/music project in progress...

I had never lost my wallet before, but it happened just the other night. After chugging a couple pitchers of tap beer and some tequila shots, I stumbled out the back door of my local dive bar, flat out of my senses. See, Casey and her fancy lawyers had taken everything from me save for the clothes on my back and a pocket full of some worthless change. Climbing out of my twin sized bed each morning was turning into a big production. My car was one speed bump away from total disintegration. Eating out, meant Jack in the Box or Taco Bell. Here I was... a 47-year-old man still living at home in his mother's basement; clinging to a dead end job that offered zero promise of a lifestyle upgrade. So, I began to entertain some pretty crazy ideas. It wasn't like me to drink that much; but I was sitting on the edge, getting ready to leap into some illegal avenue of opportunity. If I could get my hands on a pistol… I thought, the liquor store across the street from the pub would be easy pickings. I could be in and out in thirty seconds with enough cash to set me straight for a while. What the hell was I thinking? It just wasn't me. It's not my style…but it would be easy. I hoped it was just the liquor thinking!

I woke up the next morning with a mother of a Saturday hangover, and those thoughts still on my mind. Saturday night would mean a big score at the liquor store, I kept telling myself. After a quick shower and a dose of aspirin, I realized it was missing! My wallet (with two credit cards and two week's pay) was gone! My heart started to pound as my pulse raced. How could this happen to me at a time like this? I zoomed back to the pub like an Indy race car with a stomach that quivered with fear and nausea. Things were grim right now; what the heck would I do if I were to lose two week's pay?…

Inside the hazy, musty, smoke filled room, I headed straight to the area where I had camped out the night before. The daytime bartender claimed he knew absolutely nothing about a lost wallet. The only other guy at the bar (one of the regular patrons) was hunched over and didn't utter a word. On my way out I realized I only had one option. Tonight would have to be the night. There was no other way!

Back at home, on top of my kitchenette counter, my answering machine flashed. One of my friends from work had left me a message, asking me to call him right away. He said it was urgent!
"Did you lose your wallet last night?" Troy asked.
"Yes." I replied. "Why?"

Someone had apparently found my wallet in the parking lot and Troy's phone number was the only available contact information.
"Carl would be waiting for you and expects a cash reward," he warned.

Again, to the pub I went. I hoped that I would at least get my driver's license back. To my surprise, there he was! Still stooped over the bar as if he were permanently glued to it. Now the bar fly had a name. I briefly scanned him mentally and quickly labeled Carl as one of those losers who spent their entire day at the tavern. There is no way someone like that could hold down a job of any sort. I snubbed. Where did he get the money to drink all day anyway? Maybe he finds lost wallets all the time. I sneered. As I approached him, he snapped out of his zone and gawked at me with a smile.

"Are you here for the wallet?"
I told him my name and he handed me the worn brown leather.
"How about a twenty for my troubles?"
"I'd love to. But where the hell am I supposed to get the cash from? "I snapped, as I opened my wallet to show him my emptiness. However, to my disbelief and relief, my cash and credit cards were still intact. My cheeks flushed. My mini ego popped. I felt small as if I were standing beside the ocean. Not only had I judged a book by its cover, I had totally misjudged this man. Carl may have looked a lot worse off than me but he had integrity. I thanked him; pulled out a twenty-dollar bill from my wallet and handed it over.

"Can I buy you a drink?" He asked.
"No thanks." I replied. "You've done more than enough.”
I took a few steps toward the exit and stopped. I turned to Carl, sitting there looking so hopeless with his ragged clothes and uncombed hair.
"Why did you do it? Why didn't you just keep all the money"?
"That's just not my style kid. It's not who I am. I may be a little down right now, but I can't let hard times change who I am."

Through the window, I gazed at the liquor store across the street and mumbled, "Neither can I Carl." "Neither can I."

- Tony Andrade-


Starfilledwoman said...

I liked it...Good lesson.
Don't judge a book by it's cover!

Ladymars said...

Great story, bravo for Carl.

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