“Cheese reminds me of a fat blob, Lenny. A big yellow hardened piece of globulus butt fat,” I tell him, “Everybody crumbling little cellulite chunks off here and there. Walking it to the table with crackers and wine, nibble nibble mother fucker … No thank you. I can’t eat it anymore, I really can’t. Don’t miss it. I’m surprised by that. But here I am, like forty-two seconds cheese free and I’m feeling better about myself already.”
Lenny’s not paying attention anymore. His face fixed wide open. Mouth a gape like a natural reaction to a surprise. Eyes almost bulging out of their sockets staring blankly straight ahead.
I might as well be talking to Jesus, sign the cross, “Lenny, thanks for doing your part in all this.”
There’s a knock on the door and I stop breathing for a second before big bad ass Bernie comes crashing through it like it was a paper banner at a high school football game.
“You stole my hit,” he says all pissy, “Papa Jack told me to come over and make sure it got done right.”
“You’re too late,” I say.
“It’s done then?”
“Lenny kept a lot of secrets. It was personal for me. Maybe Papa Jack thought I couldn’t do it,” I tell him.
“Personal? Don’t ever make it personal kid.”
“I needed to hear his side of a story,” I say.
“Did Papa Jack tell you to listen to a fuckin’ story?” Bernie says back, and I can feel the contempt, “You get told to do something, you do exactly that.”
“Bernie, I’m done. Out of this game, one last thing I need to clean up,” I tell him.
“Yeah well we all get tired once in awhile. Drink latte’ and get over it,” Bernie says. And I’m sure he’s got to be wondering, what the hell?
“What the hell, Lenny? I’m thinking it too,” I say out loud, “We’ve come to a bend in the road.”
Lenny here knows what the hell I’m talking about. He maybe seeing the error of his ways with a slightly different view. But the story he told was exactly the one I needed to hear.
“A life well spent, Lenny. You’re the company line through and through,” I say, “You aimed to high though didn’t you? You poor bastard.”
I bet Lenny wishes he had lived life with less greed. Not just physically lived but metaphorically too, deeper, with more meaning and passion and all that shit. Lived to see the retirement community. Sponge baths, bedpans, relabeled baby food jars of smashed peas and applesauce.
“How does that sound, Lenny? Grumpy orderlies with soft hands. Old Ladies Gone Wild, syphilis,” I say.
Bernie’s looking at me like I’ve fucking lost my shit. His eyes are squinted in tight and scrunched around the brows.
“Lenny would agree, if Lenny could speak,” I tell him.
If only the shit had zigged instead of zagged. If I wasn’t looking through a very large hole in the center of his chest. If only minutes before we were just having a normal conversation. If only two barrels never spat fire and condemnation.
A life wasted. Had everything laid out in front of him and threw it away. All that hard work. And for what?
“The beach, eh, Lenny? Coconuts. That’s a nice life. A life worth living. Tropical island dream house. Palm trees, white sand. Sit back and relax. Good plan,” I say.
“What the fucks wrong with you?” Bernie says.
“Breathe, Bernie,” I say, “gonna pop a blood vessel and stroke out on me before we’ve had our day in the sun.”
I know why Bernie can’t relax. He’s wondering what Lenny told me. He told me everything. Business is business I suppose. But there’s no way Papa Jack knew this shit.
Twelve kids, fourteen by now I don’t really know for sure. Sex addict comes to mind.
“How many kids you got, Bernie eighteen?” I say.
“Huh, Lenny was half right.”
“Are you almost done with your mental break?” Bernie says.
“Grab a hold of yourself man, I’m nearly there.”
“It’s freezing in here lets go.”
“Should have worn warmer clothes,” I say.
Lenny knew to wear something warm. A jacket. Wool. Natural spun. No additives. Mass marketed dark gray, “Yes, I’ll have the Yuppie please, 46 long. Thank you.” Matching scarf- with turquoise and crimson highlights. Presentable. Modern chique’ for the man on his way up. The Jones’ and the Smith’s, and Lenny. Seconds watchers. Schedule makers. The power suited crowd. Shielded by the armor coated silk threads of Armani.
“You gonna be able to do it, Bernie? When the time comes I mean,” I say.
“I’ve never had any trouble before,” Bernie says.
“Yeah but we’re close now,”
“I’ve never liked your punk ass,” he says and it wouldn’t have mattered if he did.
“He’s just a boy, Bernie. They all are. You fucked up.”
All the while I’m talking to Bernie, Lenny has been laid up nice and pretty where I’ve left him draped over a mostly all white desk.
“Yeah well no one’s ever going to hear that story,” he says.
“Good news and bad, Bernie.”
“I’m glad we can do this face-to-face.”
“So what’s the good news?” Bernie says.
“That was the good.”
“Then what’s the bad motherfucker? Are we playing games here?”
“Lenny got me back to even with Papa Jack. You really should’ve wore something warmer. We’re heading upstairs.”