I saw what was left of my friend today. We used to be a team, the best team.
Tim was senior to me. He brought me in. The first time we met was when I stumbled upon him in the middle of a job. He had one of those miner lights on his head without the helmet. His hair was dark, curly, and wild almost like he was making a joke with it. He was tall and wore wire rim glasses, and behind those peepers were a couple of dark shit kicker eyes.
We hit it off, and would freelance together from then on. He talked nonstop and I was always eager to listen, not as the apprentice, but as the admirer. He’d beaten death in the Midwest, headed South for the action, and become a top man in his field without breaking stride. He gave me my first and only nickname, and I never tired hearing it. Sometimes, when the job was closing in and we were beating the clock, I’d turn my back for a moment so he couldn’t see me closing my eyes. I’d listen to his profane chatter delivered in Southern accent with a twang. I knew no matter the rewards of the job, this was why I was here; for the action, for him.
The women. You have to know about the women. We differed in more ways than we shared. Every time we’d see each other again, Tim would ask about the new girls. I’m a firm believer in restricting relationships with the opposite sex to the honeymoon period. The girl never says no, laughs at all your jokes, and always looks her best. At the first sign of trouble, two months or two weeks, I move on to another honey and another honeymoon period.
Tim wasn’t a family man by a long shot, but he believed in relationships. They weren’t lifetime commitments, but they were substantial enough to be chapters in his life. He ran across plenty of flooze balls, and often had the pictures to offer up for illustration. Still, when he was involved with a woman he stuck with her until the end.
There was only one he brought to me, so I knew she was a step apart from the rest. She was an attractive, doughy blond with a calm way about her. Tim, concerned that her full physical prowess wasn’t on display, pulled me aside and assured me of her talents in the sack. They had bought matching Mustangs, neon green and yellow. They didn’t hold hands or blow kisses, but I could tell he liked having her around. We worked together one more time after that day and then I never heard from him again.
Funny that two years after my friend disappeared, I would run into him outside a bank. I was walking out when a familiar voice asked if this branch had been bought out by another bank. I turned and saw Tim, or what had been Tim. He was raggedy, pale, gaunt, but it was the eyes that got me. They were burned out like two dead match heads.
It was the woman; the one with the matching Mustang. She’d had a legitimate job but got caught up in a scandal. Things like shame and public recrimination meant a lot to her, a lot more than Tim knew. She was in the house with Tim and her kid, and left to take a walk outside. When she didn’t come back Tim went to look for her and found her suicided in the back yard. He got her blood all over him.
He didn’t take it well. He drove up to Michigan and back again for no purpose. When he came home the cops were waiting for him. The woman’s family had told them Tim was a danger to himself. They sent him to the nut house. He said guys there were spreading their own crap on themselves. I’m not sure he ever made it out of there.
He’s not top man anymore. His standard is just showing up. He’s found another woman who raises horses. He’s going to quit and help her raise horses. He doesn’t like horses. They’re moving to Alabama. I guess that’s where the already dead go to die. Now he was out of time and had to go ask tellers for money. He turned his back on me, opened the door, and stepped through. Before the door shut I called out to him. I asked him if he remembered what he used to call me. He turned and put his foot in the door so it was just open a crack. I could still see him through the glass.
“Sure, Young Gun, I remember. I remember everything.”