Corners (Part I, Rough Draft)
“What if we dressed up like those Amish fellas, those Jews, whaddaya call em?” Ernie’s wrist rolled lackadaisically as he tried to think of the word. The skin around his eyes pulled tight, accentuating their sunken look — already made prominent by a large forehead and the purplish, insomniatic bags beneath his hazy blues.
Nick leaned back from the table, scratched at his greasy nose. “What like in the movie?”
“Snatch. The heist flick. Brad Pitt.” The words came out in a sort of pastiche of free-association, a scatter shot of language crudely aimed into the nebulous memory of his comrade.
“Shit, I forgot.” Ernie shoved his plate aside and slumped over his coffee, aimlessly stirring the undissolved splenda at the bottom of the mug. “I hate it when that happens.”
“When what happens?”
“When you think you’re the one that thought of something and then it turns out you just saw it in some fucking movie. I was all excited. I thought I had a good idea.” He picked up his fork and poked around at the cold remnants of his omelette. He looked around for the waitress, saw her taking drink orders from a four top that had just sat down.
“Well, it’s not a bad idea just because someone else already did it. It’s just not original.”
“Yeah, but that takes all the fun out of it.” He smirked, briefly.
“We shouldn’t be planning hack job robberies anyway, with Pops locked up.” Nick picked up his napkin and dabbed at the corners of his mouth. “It’s short-sighted.”
“Yeah well, it’s that or it’s H or it’s I don’t pay my fucking bills.” He looked Nick in the eye as he spoke, conveying his annoyance.
Nick’s eyebrows shot up, “See?”
“See what?” Ernie replied dully, exasperated.
“That right there.” Nick pointed at him. “That’s how you get in trouble. Backing yourself up into a corner like that.”
“What the fuck am I supposed to do Nick? Go put in an application at Home DEPOT? Tell them I’m really good with a nail gun and a Fucking Hacksaw?” His voice rose and a couple heads turned their way nervously, eyes darting from food to feud.
Nick spoke almost at a whisper. “You don’t have to be facetious-”
“You don’t have to get cute with your goddamn Uptown vocabulary.”
They were both quiet for a moment. The waitress came over and cleared the plates, left the bill, wordlessly.
“Look,” Nick held his hands out as if they were holding a large basket, “I’m just saying you can’t start thinking like you’ve got no options left. You’ve got options, you’ve just gotta be creative.”
Ernie laughed coldly and his eyes narrowed on Nick. “Well what the fuck do you think I’m doing over here? You think I wanna dress up as a fucking kike to get my rocks off?”
“Hasidim.” He it said without looking at Ernie. He dug into his pocket, pulled out a small roll of bills and flipped two onto the table.
“What?” His face radiated with the perplexity of being slapped by a non sequitur.
“Hasidim. That’s what they’re called, the orthodox Jews. The ones you’re talking about.”
“Hasidim.” Ernie nodded absently.
He shook his head. “I need a cig.”
He got up from the table and walked outside. Some of the other patrons rustled in their seats apprehensively as he passed by them. The waitress came by and collected the check. Nick stayed and waited for his change. The service had been lacking in his opinion, but they had also been less than ideal customers. He left three bucks on a sixteen dollar tab and felt alright about it.
When he walked outside it looked like Ernie was already on his second. The sun beat down on them and he looked out over the partially rural landscape: a stretch of scrubby heath, an abandoned lot functioning as a unsanctioned dump, a boarded up liquor store, a crumbling sidewalk. The diner stood like some strange mecca in this uninhabited wasteland and he wondered for a moment how they had ended up here, how they had ever found this place. He started out of his daze and walked over to Ernie, leaned back next to him against the wall.
“Ernie what’s going on man? Where’s your cool today?” He spoke as a friend though he didn’t really consider himself one.
Ernie took a deep drag and then flicked his cigarette out across the gravel lot. “You know that thing you said? About not getting backed into a corner? My whole life feels like it’s filling up with corners. Like I’m going down this one road and it’s not taking me where I want to be but every intersection I come to it’s dead ends on both sides. Corners.” He spat. “Guys like me, knockaround guys, used to be a dime a dozen. We were the the fucking bricks of organized crime. Now we’re disappearing faster than fucking pandas.”
Nick looked for words to circumvent this reality. “Hey, look bud, you’re not the only one feelin’ hungry right now. It’s been a lean month and we might be in for a few more, but this shit is cyclical. You know that.”
Ernie shook his head. “Easy for you to say. You’re a bookie. A FUCKING HOUSECAT. But there are cycles within cycles. Wheels within wheels.”
He waved his hand, cutting Nick off. “It’s fine, look, I didn’t mean to blabber on like that.” He looked off into the distance, quiet for a moment. “You know what I’m gonna do?”
“What are you gonna do Ernie?”
“I’m gonna go to the florist, pick up a dozen blue irises.” He smiled devilishly.
“Yeah?” Nick’s bushy eyebrows pushed together and his mouth hung ajar in bemusement.
“Yeah. I’m gonna pick up a dozen blue irises and take ’em home to my wife. She loves when I do that. They’re her favorites. I’m gonna give ’em to her and then I’m gonna take her to bed, fuck her brains out. Then we’ll have ourselves a little nap and I’ll wake up and I’ll have fresh eyes on this whole situation.”
Nick crossed his arms and his mouth turned down in a small, unsettled frown.
“That sounds nice.”