All around– the city coughed up scorched reminders of life’s inevitable costs. The walking dead. The rag-tag homeless. The diseased and displaced stationed themselves strategically at major corners– and watched the miserable faces of the business suits as they scurried about in the broiling hot sun. New York City rush hour–only the tourists were seemingly immune to the heartless magnetic draw of the subway staircase as they stopped to hear a tale of woe and fish through their pockets for change.
Peter Grey was beaten but not bowed. He could feel the ache of a torn rotator cuff and the holes in his one pair of good shoes. Business had been slow. Everyone always says it’s slow during the summer. They were all assholes and losers who said that, of course. Things are only slow when you are dying on the vine or giving up. In business you need to constantly be moving forward– like a shark–sniffing for blood in the water. Always searching for new opportunities.
For Grey Associates, the nitty-gritty was down to the bone. In the red and underwater, ducking bill collectors and filled with self-doubt–the shithouse was literally going up in flames before Peter’s blood-shot, crud-caked eyes. It never ends well. If Peter’s back was any further up against the wall he would be a light socket. The more desperate the situation got–the more Peter tried to slow things down. Almost like calling time outs at the end of a basketball game that can’t be won. It all seemed utterly futile. How many times over the years had he been in similar straits–too many. Why didn’t he just give up… and do what? Work for the Man. Uh, don’t think so.
They met at a greasy spoon diner on Delancey Street.
“Got any gum?”
“Uh, no sorry”
“Trying to quit”
“um yeah…so how does this work”
“So how does this work?…yeah well, first things first, let me get a fucking coffee- if that’s alright with you, that is.”
“Yeah, yeah of course.”
“So how much we talkin’.”
“That’s more than I heard”
“Yeah well–things are pretty bad.”
“Cry me a river pal…(to waitress) yeah sweetheart– just a large coffee with 5 sugars, thanks…and if you got a donut that’d be great….”
“So, is 200 a problem.”
“Is 200 a problem? do you think 200 is a problem?”
“I don’t know”
“Listen, here’s how it’s gonna work- you’re gonna get that–but you’re gonna owe this”
He made signals with his fingers almost like a baseball coach.
“what’re you a lawyer now?”
“no, but if I’m agreeing to something I should know.”
“it just what it is—what it’s gonna be –and what it’s always been– like death and taxes — that’s it.
“That’s just seems kind of extreme… isn’t it”
“So’s life pal–so do you want the deal or not”
” I guess I’ve got to take it.”
“Alright then– at least we’re not asking for your soul, like the bank, right.”
“Yeah, I guess so…so when do I get the money”
“so when do I get the money?…How’s next Friday –we’ll meet here–that quick enough for you.”
“Glad you approve.”
“Well, thank you”
“No, thank you— you business guys make me shit my pants laughing”
“Yeah, why’s that?”
“Forget it pal…(to waitress) Hon…let me get another donut willya.”
The week went quicker than expected for Peter Grey thanks to three large bottles of whiskey and multiple visits from a high-class escort service.
Hope has a way of washing away all past sins.
“So I pay back the principal and interest by the deadline and we’re all good”
“yup–simple as that…try not to fuck it up though–cause the collections part of the deal is– how do you say–irrevocable.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny if you ended up working for me one day?”
“That’s what youse guys all say… before you end up going to pieces –literally.”
“Yeah, well, maybe we won’t see each other ever again”
“Yeah, I’d be fine with that…but that’s up to you, shitbird.”
“Yeah don’t I know it.”
“Hey– cry me a river…(to waitress) hey sweetheart…more coffee, huh?”
Banner Image : Adam Kluger artwork