05 May, 2013

On the Clock

Less than a minute later, we were in the Task Force Tank. It was kind of freeing to be able to say that a significant portion of our job, Diego and I, was driving a modified golf cart for the better part of a day. The family wasn't too happy, but I don't really give a damn what they have to say about-

"Jesus Christ!" Diego shouted. "Look out!"

I yanked the wheel, cutting the Tank back across the street, tires squealing. We rocked to one side before straightening back out, shooting down the street at a breakneck 20 miles an hour. I hoped none of our neighbors heard that. The last thing I need is for them to come out at 430 in the morning to discover that we've been drinking.

"Hah, sorry, dude."

"Just keep your eyes on the road. That harpy of a woman, Mrs. Fournier, doesn't need more of a reason to hate us." Diego stood up and looked around at the darkened houses for the sudden appearance of wakeful light in the windows. I chuckled to myself.

Appeased, he sat back down and took a gulp off the whiskey, and looked off, almost wistfully.

"How late do you think Sal'll be today?" I barked out a laugh.

"Hah! That's what's on your mind? You looked almost like you were having a thought for a second there."

"Well, if we ever decide to be honest to his folks...." He let the end of the sentence hang in the air.

"If we were ever honest with his parents, I think they'd string you and me up before he got into any trouble, so let's not go down that path, eh?" He seemed satisfied by my answer, so he just sat back in his seat, and took another drink, starting chatter about his usual early-morning topic: which, of two, celebrities would win in a fight.

Several minutes later, we pulled up to our maintenance shack beside the guard gate. There looked to be a man in the shack next to it, asleep at his post, and leaning back in his chair and feet up on the desk. I parked next to it, got out, and rapped on the glass window.

"Wakey, wakey, Cliffy-boy! Rise and shine! It's your favorite duo, reporting for duty!" He jumped awake, smiling as we stood outside, waiting for him to come outside.

"Ahh, children. Good to see you. How late will the boy be today, hmm?" The three of us lit cigarettes as we thought about it. Cliff, or Clifford to those whom he doesn't care for, was probably the only person, next to Tilly, who didn't look at us like he just stepped in shit. He was a middle-aged black man, graying at the temples, and treated Diego and I as his children, having none of his own, despite having sometimes overwhelmingly powerful paternal instincts.

"Why are you in a towel, son? Is life really so short as to not allow you the opportunity to put on pants?" Diego and I just laughed.

"Hey, heads up, guys. Someone's coming. I wonder if Sal finally got his license." I pointed at the headlights approaching.

"Damn. Not even half done my smoke," grumbled Cliff as the SUV lights stopped before the gate. It was Sal's mom's car. I really hoped he got his license, as I didn't want to have to deal with her right now.

Cliff opened the gate, and Sal, driven by his mom, unfortunately, pulled into a parking spot next to our golf cart. As she got out, unusual by itself, and walked around the SUV, I could tell by the look on her face that she and I realized the same thing at the same time: I still wasn't wearing pants. Swearing under my breath, I took a step forward and greeted her, pretending I didn't notice.

"Good morning, ma'am. To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?" Sal rolled his eyes as he got out. Ahh, teenagers. How I don't miss being one.

"What sort of operation is this? Just what, aside from yourself, are you exposing my son to?" Uh-oh. This was going to turn ugly. I just knew it.

"To the best of my knowledge," I began, "Diego and I run the best lawn-care company this neighborhood has seen in at least a decade. Drive through once the sun is up, you'll see that we're second to none."

"Be that as it may, Mr. Dillinger, I think you should go put some pants on before we continue." Sal was enjoying watching me get scolded by his mom, trying not to laugh, while Diego stood at my side, trying to look sympathetic, and Cliff pretended he wasn't watching.

"Ma'am, our house is on the other end of the community, and we have a lot of ground to cover, if you'll excuse the pun. No one is awake, and the three of us are wholly dedicated to our work. Our craft, even. Blood, sweat, and tears go into creating such beauty." I took a step past Sal's mom and swept my arm over the sleeping houses before spinning back to face her.

"Also, I spilled my coffee on my pants less than a minute before you drove up." She turned to look at Diego, who pretty much looked like he just got out of a pool with that towel, for agreement.

"Is this true?" She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Uh, yes, ma'am," he responded, leaving it at that.

"Excuse me, miss?" came Cliff's voice from the doorway to the shack, joining us for the first time since she arrived. "I can prove it to you." With that, he produced a damp pair of pants from behind him, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Oh. Good." She felt the pants for herself. "Anyway, I was wondering when my Sal would be getting that raise you and I...discussed." She took a step towards me, and I took a step back, only slightly intimidated.

"As soon as I get approval from both the community and the state. Having a juvenile parolee on staff is concerning to the residents, and I have to be pliable, trying to get the best for everyone involved. Sal becomes a model employee, the company indispensable for helping troubled youth, and the community for giving a second chance to those whom society deems irreversibly contaminated." I flashed her my best grin, and she seemed to like that response.

"Well, then. Just see to it that you're not doing anything suspicious." She came up close to me and whispered. "And keep up the good work. The hard work and structure seems to be doing him some good."

By means of ending the conversation, she shook my hand, and just before turning around to shake Diego's, Sal yanked off his towel, and jumped back next to Cliff. She turned just in time to see the towel drop, and fainted.

Diego punched Sal, who was laughing his ass off, in the face, Cliff began scolding the both of them. After catching Sal's mother, I just buried my face in my palm, sighing. Some guys just can't ever catch a break.

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