Call Me Pussy by Brian Beatty

The summer before my senior year in high school I got this job working for a used car lot owner/slumlord who didn’t think twice about sending some kid who’d just wandered in off the street looking for easy employment to go collect three months of overdue rent from a stripper and her prison parolee boyfriend.

“Those crazy motherfuckers might try giving you shit,” my new boss explained. “Just tell them I’ll repossess that junker Chrysler of theirs so fast their heads will spin. Seriously. They’re insane, but they’re not ignorant. They know better than to blow my money on drugs.”

Driving over I wondered what a stripper would look like in person. I’d sneaked my share of peaks at Playboy centerfolds, but I’d never seen a woman undressed and unfolded in the flesh, except my mom once by accident, which I never wanted to think about again, thank you very much.

Hopefully I’d catch her practicing her act and her ex-convict love interest sleeping off last night’s partying. That’s why Kenny sent me over at 9:30 in the a.m. Safety first, he’d said.

I pounded on the front door. Nobody answered. I squinted into the dirty yellow windows to look for signs of life and possible nudity, then banged some more. What I did not do was shout that I was the police and I had a warrant, which Kenny had suggested I try if all else failed.

I was only seventeen years old, but that sounded like the dumbest idea ever in the history of “safety first.”

I was about to give my knuckles another rest when this mess of a woman emerged through the doorway wearing a bikini not quite big enough for her, but not in a hot way.

Her crooked mirrored sunglasses reflected my fright and disgust back at me.

I couldn’t fathom what kind of dude paid money to see this woman wearing less than what she was barely wearing now. I didn’t know it was even possible to get boners from stretch marks, acne-scarred cleavage or bellybutton hairs.

“I was in the back yard working on my tan,” she said. “You’re lucky I came inside to take my meds.”

I forget her name. For the sake of this story, let’s call her Skank.

Cigarette smoke emanated from Skank in such a fog that I choked as I introduced myself and explained that Kenny had sent me for the rent.

The first of the month did seem like just yesterday, didn’t it? The first of last month and the month before that, too, etc, etc.

By then I was doubled over coughing, so I failed to notice the arrival of Skank’s boyfriend: a jittery, gangly dude with blue-black tattoos that perfectly matched his handgun.

“I told that asshole he’d have our rent next weekend!” the boyfriend shouted. Then he nodded in the direction of my car. “Get out of here. Unless you mean business.”

Skank frowned. “You’re scaring the boy to death. Put that away before someone gets hurt!”

“I’m not shooting anybody, I promise,” he said. “I’m just trying to make a point.”

I doubted the gun was even loaded. What kind of moron stands outdoors in ragged silk boxer shorts waving around a loaded gun?

I found out soon enough. The boyfriend shot my car’s back tire and gave me a look. “How fast can you change that?”

I’d never changed a tire before, so it took me almost an hour. The entire time, Skank and her beau watched from their porch like Norman Rockwell’s worst nightmare come to life.

“For god’s sake, quit crying,” one of them shouted at some point.

When I got back to the car lot, I recounted everything exactly as it had happened — in case my boss wanted to call the real cops about his tenants.

But he didn’t want to hear a word of it. He was clearly disappointed with me. “I bet you didn’t even tell them that I was coming after their piece-of-shit car if they didn’t pay up. You didn’t, did you?”

“He had a gun!” I pointed at my wounded station wagon out on the used car lot. “That spare tire could have been me!”

“Bullshit,” my boss said, reaching into his desk drawer. “Now you’ve got a gun, too. Take that with you when you go back. Or are you some dumbass little pussy who can’t run a simple fucking errand?”

Driving back over to the rental property, I looked tough into my rearview mirror as I rehearsed exactly what I was supposed to say this time: “My boss says if you don’t hand over twice what you owe him in weed right now, he’s repossessing your car. Then he’s calling your probation officers. And if you’re not selling weed for a change, which he says he can’t believe, he wants whatever it is you idiots are pushing. Not this afternoon. Not this weekend. Right now. Is it me or do things seem a lot different now that you’re not the only asshole with a gun?”

Twice the amount they owed in pot or whatever the renters were peddling was totally my idea. I deserved a cut — for my time and trouble. Though I didn’t have the first clue what I’d do with my share.

I couldn’t really imagine myself as a drug dealer — not even just for a summer job.

So when I reached the street corner where I needed to take a left to go finish my first simple fucking errand for Kenny for the second fucking time, I turned right instead, then drove until I found a pawnshop on the edge of downtown.

What I got for Kenny’s gun paid for a retread tire for my car, a warm case of beer and a teetering pile of porn that I was pretty sure wouldn’t get me killed.

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Brian Beatty has published his articles, jokes, poems and stories in a wide variety of print and online publications. He lives in Minneapolis with his girlfriend and their dog.

3 comments:

Christopher Pimental said...

"For the sake of the story, let's call her skank."

Funny stuff. I like the moxy of that 17 year old kid. Makes me want to watch porn.

Rey A. Gonzalez said...

I like what Christopher said. Growing up, I knew someone actually named Skank. Well, it wasn't exactly on her driver's license, but it was what everyone knew her as. Skank. She even introduced herself as Skank. "Hi, I'm Skank."

I miss Skank.

Liam José said...

Nice stuff. Love that ending!