“I need Jack to fix me up with some heavy shit for this weekend. Let him know I want to meet up after school.”
Sam shuts his locker and looks at the hulking six-footer standing in front of him. He tries not to feel too intimidated.
Brad Mulligan. Senior. Movie star looks. Quarterback for the Greenfield Coyotes. He’s just another kid trying to arrange a deal. That’s how Jack said you had to think of all of them. He’s only another customer.
Sam is still not used to all this attention.
Other kids seem to know him now. Guys come up to him during study hall or try to score some drugs while he’s taking a piss in the bathroom. He even gets random texts from kids that he doesn’t even know most days. A person like Brad would never have acknowledged Sam’s existence only two weeks ago. It really is crazy the way things can change in such a short span of time.
“I’ll tell him. For sure. Is there anything specific that you’re looking for?”
“I’ve got stuff from him before. He’ll know.”
Brad heads down the hall without saying anymore and Sam wonders once again how he got involved in all of this.
He had thought Nadine and Jack were messing with him that night in Wally’s Pizzaria. They were actually serious about the whole thing. No fucking around. Jack told him about how great a racket it was and how much money they could bring in on a given day. He went on to add that they didn’t just let anyone in on their little business operation. They had seen great potential in him for a while now.
It was actually pretty easy work. Jack always gave him a cut. He was nothing but their middle man. Sam never carried any shit on him. It was totally risk free on his end. Sometimes Jack asked him if he could store an extra backpack in his locker for a little while and Sam didn’t ask questions about what the pack contained and it was usually gone by the end of the day anyway. Also, it was just nice to be around Nadine a lot more. She did seem to be impressed by his loyalty to both of them.
He sends a quick message to Jack on his way to class.
Brad Mulligan wants 2 meet up after school. He says U know his shit. He wants it ASAP.
I got hired at Stroud’s Market towards the end of that school year.
I was sixteen and had my first real job. This was in April. Big John wasn’t exactly thrilled about my recent employment – he didn’t want my grades to suffer, and he truly did not want me to feel burdened by our current financial situation come June while I was supposed to be enjoying my summer vacation – but I could tell he was proud of me when I bought home a paycheck at the end of the week, even if I was only making minimum wage. I didn’t mind the job. The work was easy and the hours after school were pretty reasonable. As I look back on everything, I like to think that I was helping out in keeping the two of us afloat in some small way.
I worked as a stock boy. Nothing glamorous. My boss was Mr. Gumpenberger, an overweight man with gingivitis and a fondness for sweater vests. No wife. No children. He lived with his frail ninety-year old mother in one of those old Victorian houses up on Shoreby Hill and was always dashing home on some emergency. Mother had taken a fall. Mother had a slight fever. Mother thought she smelt smoke up in the attic. It was always a dire situation that called for his immediate attention. He usually left me by myself, throwing on his coat as he walked briskly up to the front exit as I continued to fill the shelves with soup cans and boxes of sweet cereal.
It sounded like a terrible life that Mr. Gumpenberger lived. I kind of felt sorry for him.
It was during one particularly busy Friday evening, soon after I began work at Stroud’s, that Sam’s mother started to talk to me.
I was rounding up shopping carts out by the loading dock. Mr. Gumpenberger had rushed home hours ago (after yet another frantic phone call from his mother) to see about a “weird noise” coming from the boiler in their basement. His mother was afraid that the house could blow up at any minute. I was once again on my own.
“It’s David, isn’t it?”
I looked at her. “Yeah.”
She was sitting on some old wooden crates and smoking a cigarette. “I thought so. You looked familiar. We met before at that Chinese restaurant downtown.”
I could hardly remember our brief encounter. “Oh, yeah. You’re Sam’s mom.”
I struggled to recall her name with no success.
“Christine. You s...