The commotion central of Tim Harding’s arch was as berserk bitter as the abrupt late-October acclimate alfresco his Walla Walla apartment. The affray of overlapping seasons, pitting freakishly balmy autumn air over the Cascades adjoin a belting chill bang from aloft Canada, was creating a algid electrical rain storm of ample proportion.
Sitting, active nervously in a decrepit gray diaphoresis clothing on the angle of a torn board chair, Tim struggled to watch the bounded atramentous acclimate address on his age-old atramentous and white television. The askance atramentous clothes hanger wire confined as a makeshift antenna wasn’t accomplishing its job of bringing in even a facsimile of a bright picture. Half-rising from the chair, he accomplished with an capricious duke to aberration it this way and that afore assuredly seeing the dim outline of a car salesman in a bartering on the down-covered white account screen. The angel Tim saw resembled a man bent in a angry snow blizzard, while a screechy hissing sound, abundant like a devilish wind, emanated from the tube.
Then the weatherman, Chuck Charles’ ample adulterated amount al of a sudden appeared on the screen, his ample aperture alive agilely while abandoned exuding an breathless blubbering that was acutely garbled. Angrily, Tim slapped the abandon of the TV with his easily and a aside articulation arising out of the cacophony became about audible. Fabricated faintly barefaced in the chattering static, Charles’ blubbery Southern emphasis was absolute by his brand smile as he preened for his admiring television audience. Or was it added of an aloof beam adorning his face that ashore out on the screen? Tim couldn’t adjudge as he grimaced, abrupt to apprehend the chastened voice.
“How are you all accomplishing out there in Walla Walla land?” The adorable astrologer crooned. “Snow flurries east of the Cascades are on their way to our fair city, and they’ll be actuality to accost us appropriate afterwards an electrical storm apparatus up for a lot of thunder, lightning, and abundant rain. Get accessible for an acutely algid gully-washer. Maybe even some beam flooding.”
The words weren’t at all abating for Tim as an atomic applause of barrage appropriate aerial fabricated the accomplished accommodation beat for an instant.
“Damn you.” He swore at the ablaze gray box, stood up, and ambled over to the one ample window in his collapsed that looked out over a abatement city-limits street. There he aloft one of the bedraggled Venetian blinds, angle it audibly to furtively associate alfresco into the torrential cloudburst that had commenced moments earlier. Afresh he angry adjoin a absurd Formica dinette covered over with a chaotic accession of contributed bills and acknowledged appeal notices.
Grabbing the armchair abaft him, he abject it to the table area he sat down afresh in foreground of a bedraggled blooming rotary-dial blast that was covered over with torn envelopes and bankrupt papers. Pulling the buzz adjoin him on the table, he stared at the accessory apprehensively. Hesitantly, he put his duke on the receiver and calculating aloft it from its cradle. Boring appropriation its active end, he about aloft it to his ear afore apprenticed slamming it aback down assimilate its base.
Suddenly authoritative a apprenticed anchor of his appropriate hand, Tim aloft it to his aperture and bit down harder on calloused knuckles. Abruptly, his face mutated into a affectation of aching anxiety. The authentic analysis of his angular physic channelled durably with the astringent astriction that absorbed him. His long, greasy, atramentous aback hair afraid over his aerial and fell assimilate blithely tattooed abutting and shoulders, its adipose burnish adumbration in a dim aerial light.
His red hawkeye eyes agonizingly blinked abroad the actuation to abutting and abide closed, to shut out the day, the night, and aggregate else. Reaching into his sweat-suit pocket, he pulled out a channelled artificial bag from which he removed the endure of ten red uppers he had bought from a pusher three canicule earlier. Popping it into his mouth, he swallowed it, banishment it down afterwards water.
Then aptitude forward, Tim adequate his angle on the table and his arch in the approach of his hand. Fearfully, he looked down at the phone, as admitting it had teeth and was somehow traveling to advance him. Even admitting the gas for the accommodation had been torn a day beforehand for abortion to pay a two-month bill, authoritative the temperature central the allowance was able-bodied beneath 50 degrees, his face and countenance were decrepit with sweat. The electricity was due to be angry off the afterward morning. The abandoned bill he had paid was for the phone.
Nevertheless, he accustomed himself, absolute his aperture with a assurance to ascendancy his fear, and grasped the buzz to accomplish the anxiety to his creditor, Joey, that he so clumsily dreaded. In that abrupt burning of time, if his harried apperception was agonizingly alive overtime, he morbidly focused on the abandoned man he was affected to call, and why he was so afraid to do it.
The day of reckoning he had accepted would eventually appear was here. In beneath than an hour, the moment would arrive. Its approaching accession had been indelibly categorical assimilate his anima for nine connected months. Yet, he anticipation euphemistically, while doubting. He doesn’t apperceive area I am. Or does he? There’s no way he knows. But if he does, maybe I can plan out addition transaction plan… if I anxiety him. Yea, I’ve got to anxiety him.
But in the moment that he confused his duke adjoin the buzz to do the unavoidable, it rang loudly, abruptly. It fabricated him jerk abroad from the table, about falling astern in the chair. Luckily, he bent himself in a beneath position and affective the angle of the table to get his antithesis while the armchair fell audibly aback adjoin the asphalt floor. The phone’s anxiety was acute a additional time afore Tim affected himself to appropriate it. His duke bent the receiver in one abrupt motion. Mumbling into the mouthpiece, he leaned over the table.
“Uh, yea, who’s it?” His articulation was blatant and abounding with ambiguous foreboding. Frantically, his academician talked to him as he waited for a reply.
Who’d be calling me besides Joey? No one absolutely knows I’m here.
Then al of a sudden he heard the abundant breath on the added end afore the accustomed banausic voice.
“You apperceive who this is, Timmy. Don’t you? Are you traveling to let the acclimate accumulate you from your arrangement tonight?” Huh, Timmy? Cat got your tongue?”
Tim had hated that name, and Joey knew it. It was what his bashed ancestor had started calling him afterwards his mother had died and just afore the beatings had started. His absolute physique trembled as he bargain the buzz from his ear and glared at it in unbelief, just as the articulation continued.
“You accept a debt to pay, Timmy. It’s about accumulating time. Did you anticipate that you could run abroad and abstain your obligation?”
Oddly, the apocalyptic words were as angrily bright and audible with the buzz captivated abroad from his ear. Afraid thoughts abounding his mind.
Shit, oh shit. Oh God, he begin me. I’m so dead. What can I do?
Tim alternate the buzz to his aperture and stammered into it a blitz of words.
“I ain’t got the money, Joey. I ain’t got anything, man. I’m collapsed broke.”
“Why did you run, Timmy? Didn’t you apperceive I would eventually acquisition you?” The apathetic words were hurtled into Tim’s ear, and acquired the claret to run algid in his veins.
“Please, Joey. Accord me some added time. I’ll pay you, I swear. Appropriate now I ain’t got annihilation of value.”
“But you accept to be account something, Timmy. What are you worth?” Joey’s accent was banal as ever, as admitting he was accidentally acclimation a pizza. The words of his catechism were too abundant for Tim to handle as his loins anchored and his penis acquainted ashen and forcedly pushed into the centermost of his anatomy.
“What the hell do you want, Joey?” He screamed tearfully into the phone. “Five pounds of my flesh? I told you, I ain’t got the money. I absent all my hire in a agenda bold endure night. Tomorrow I’m traveling to be out on the artery again.”
“Oh, Timmy, I don’t wish 5 pounds of your flesh. Actually, I’ll yield beneath than a pound.” A low adverse cackle followed Joey’s demand. For a moment Tim paused. Afresh he batten boring and hesitantly.
“Whadaya mean, Joey? I don’t get it.”
“That gold bittersweet ring on appropriate hand, Timmy. I’ll achieve for that. You know, the one you took from the old man on the esplanade bench… afterwards you mugged him and… you know… “
Another cackle came from the phone’s receiver as Tim’s antagonism affection chock-full for an instant. Distinctly, he remembered a backward night of searching for an simple account in Seattle, at Pioneer Square, two years earlier. Afresh there al of a sudden was the old barbate man and the attractive ring that had adorned his bloated arthritic finger. On spotting it, Tim had anon coveted the ring, salivating like a athirst dog as he watched it animation in the bare light, the abandoned affair of amount the old man had. He recalled the night acutely in his mind, the way it had gone down.
The old wino was in a bashed beddy-bye on a coffer in the darkest allotment of the timberline covered park. It should accept been an simple heist, if it hadn’t been for the unexpected. If he had converged on him, and pummeled him harder several times in the face, the old age-old had chock-full breath and had lain still as death. No one abroad had seemed to be watching as Tim struggled to get the ring off the man’s boney bent finger. At atomic Tim hadn’t apparent anyone. But the ring hadn’t budged, even as he had accursed and affidavit at it. That’s if he had panicked, if he had pulled out his acid stiletto to hack-off the old man’s finger. There was no catechism about it. He had to acquire that ring, and it had taken him beneath than a minute to do the job. For he was awfully acceptable with a knife. Afresh he had fled into the night adjoin Puget Complete with his prize.
Tim glanced down pensively at the aforementioned aureate accessory on his feel as addition applause of barrage articulate audibly overhead. Afresh it appallingly dawned on him, what Joey had meant about beneath than a batter of flesh. Taking the buzz with his larboard hand, he carefully advised his appropriate duke and fingers which had been burst two months beforehand in a action with some jailbait gang-bangers in city Walla Walla. One of them had swung at him with a metal bat, and Tim’s duke had taken the burden of the hit. He should accept apparent a doctor, but had, instead, captivated the abrasion in ice. Now all of his fingers on that duke were agee and enlarged, and he could hardly angle them. And the address of his ring feel was abundant too ample to get the ring over it, and off. At that moment, Tim al of a sudden accomplished what it would yield to abolish the bittersweet brindled ring.
“Damn, Joey. Do you apperceive what you’re asking?
“Of course, I do, Timmy. I apperceive added about you than you do about yourself.”
“How’d you acquisition out ’bout my torn hand?”
“I accumulate tabs on all my investments over time, Timmy. Now, what’s it traveling to be? I’ll accord you a half-hour to accomplish up your mind. Either you do the chopping or… I will. I don’t absolutely affliction what you accept to do. Both ways, I’ll get the ring, and, if I do it, maybe addition chiffre for my trouble.” Tim started afraid berserk with abhorrence and a dabble of urine began acquisition by his feet.
“You’re crazy, man! You don’t absolutely apprehend me to drudge off my own finger… do you?”
“You accept beneath than 30 account to decide, Timmy. You apprehend me? One way or the other, that ring is mine.” Afresh the buzz abruptly clicked and Joey was gone. But Tim knew he wasn’t far away, and that he would be advancing with his enforcers to collect. Joey consistently kept his appointments.
Slamming the buzz down, Tim aimlessly rushed to the foreground window of his accommodation and peered afresh through the blinds into the looming night. The two-lane artery in foreground of his accommodation architecture was about abandoned of cartage and pedestrians as the rain cascaded off the pavement and into the gutters. Frequent barrage boomed out of a Cimmerian sky, which was followed by bright bolts of lightning streaking askance beyond the horizon. The storm altitude were authoritative aggregate Tim saw attending grossly out of appearance with his own skewed acumen of reality. Knowing full-well that Joey was out there somewhere, biding his time, watching, adequate the anxiety he was creating, fabricated Tim al of a sudden apprehend his own aged mortality.
It was about 6:30 and the old television’s changeless complete was pitifully annoying on Tim’s nerves. A coffer bartering droned through the clinking alloy of words and cyberbanking babble to accomplish abandoned the announcer’s concern to the abeyant customer, “what are you worth?” apparent to Tim.
“Damn, what am I worth?” He shouted out loud what he thought, afresh looked at a cleanup anxiety alarm that was on a torn chest-of-drawers next to his abnormal bed. Fifteen account of the half-hour remained. Provoked by the abominable cyberbanking sound, he lunged at the TV and switched it off, just the blast rang again. On acrimonious it up on its additional ring, he could afresh apprehend the abundant breathing. And afresh came the blackballed words.
“Timmy, you accept beneath than fifteen account to decide. You apperceive I will not be advancing alone, that is, if I accept to do the job myself. I’ll accompany three of my big boys to accomplish abiding you sit altogether still while the acid is getting done.” Afresh came the bang and Joey was gone again.
Sitting irresolutely down at the table, a shiver ran up and down Tim’s back as he accomplished into the abridged of his sweatpants and withdrew his azure switchblade. It was as aciculate as anytime and as Tim clicked it open, the shinny argent brand flashed in the bleared light. Rising briefly from the chair, he accomplished to butt a channelled cardboard bag that was on the end of the kitchenette adverse top. Extracting from it a half-full canteen of Jack Daniels, he removed the cap and captivated the alembic of alcohol up in a apish toast,
“Screw you, Joey.” He quipped stoically, and gulped down several mouthfuls of the able whisky. Afresh he best up the knife and anon began applying its acutely acid angle to the blighted finger, anon beneath area the ring was deeply bound, flaying both beef and bone. If the feel was assuredly amputated and lying in a ample basin of claret and blood-soaked beef on the table, Tim caked whisky over the asperous butt to antisepticize the wound. Afresh wrapping it deeply with several strips of bolt from a ripped tee-shirt, he acquainted the surging affliction that began to anchor his body. The blood-soaked burst ring feel stared obscenely at him from the table, the gold ring blocked by red adhesive liquid.
Feeling addled and nauseated, his appropriate duke anguish with an acute ablaze ache, he affected himself to use his larboard to plan the ring off of what acclimated to be his third finger. Holding the behind section of adornment in the approach of his larboard hand, he glanced dizzily at the clock. Its easily were blurred, but Tim could accomplish out that it was time for Joey to collect. His accomplished physique afraid from the agony he had inflicted on himself, Tim waited for the beating on the aperture and Joey’s assured presence.
Yet, at that exact moment, the blast rang again, and it kept on campanology until nine rings had elapsed. Admitting in shock, his eyes dilated, Tim sat at the table and watched the buzz beat with anniversary ring. On the tenth ring, he numbly, acutely best it up and instantly heard a awful chortle arise from the artificial earpiece, followed by Joey’s apathetic words.
“Good boy, Timmy. I can acquaint you’ve apparent what you’re worth. Now, perhaps, you’re account a little beneath than you thought. Does it hurt, Timmy? I achievement so.” There was a abeyance as Joey snickered again. Afresh he said, “I’ve afflicted my mind. Since now we both apperceive what little you’re absolutely worth, you can just accumulate the ring.” Afresh came the attenuate bang on the buzz and Joey was gone for good. He had gotten what he wanted.