A Foe Worth Fearing

I’m waiting.

I’m waiting for a man named Sam to knock on my door and ask me, “Where is my fucking money?” Sam speaks clearly. He annunciates every word as if he’s talking to a non-native English speaker, which I gather he often does.

He’ll take off his hat, but have no intention of accepting an offer to come in. I have no intention of extending that offer, but considering that we’ve both dealt with each other in a relatively cordial manner up until this point, we’ll pretend that between us still linger the rules for upright citizens. We are Americans.

Sam is not a man you want to “mess” with. I should have known better. It’s not my first time in this situation. The last time he came by looking for his money I was panicked. I knew the day would come, but still I wasn’t prepared. I had spent the morning shopping for a bison skin laptop case. The nice thing about bison skins and why I value it over say cowhide, is no skin is the same. Each pebbled hide carries the scars of that prehistoric animal’s life with on the range. I like carrying the personal history, the power, the spirit of an animal that lived so long and continues to live on with me—in cafes and dog parks…

A minor detail worth noting about bison skin is that it can cost you a pretty five hundred thousand pennies. Now it’s not everyday I go shopping for bison skin products, but the night before my horoscope said something about somebody being in the house of free spending and tomorrow was going to be the day to indulge. Well, I’m no fool! When my horoscope talks—I listen. So I indulged! I bought the bag. Two months rent, three months of car payment—all for a bag that cost more than the MacBook Pro inside of it. Did I mention the interior is lined with cashmere?

My spirits had been high that morning. I set the bag in a chair across from me in my living room. I admired it. I obsessed over it. There had been a buzzing at my door. I figured it was the UPS guy downstairs. You know how they push every button until someone buzzes them in? Well, it wasn’t the UPS guy. It was Sam and I almost shit myself when I saw him at my door. He didn’t say anything. I slammed the door and ran to my kitchen where I dug my checkbook out of a flower pot. I quickly wrote a bad check and ran back to give it to him. I knew he wouldn’t cash it until the next day or maybe even the next week so I went to see my uncle Fast Eddie who loaned me enough cash to cover the check.

“Nice bag,” Uncle Eddie said smiling, his gilded front tooth glimmering.

“Thanks, Fast Eddie. It’s a bison—“

“Pay me back in fifteen days or the bag’s mine.”

I got Fast Eddie the money. It took some work. I lost a girlfriend and a three-foot boa constrictor named Clifton in the deal, but I got the cash. This time when Sam came around would be different. The lump sum I owed him was larger. The consequences of running a hustle on Sam twice were infinitely greater. Since August I’ve hardly left my apartment. I spend most mornings staring in between blinds looking for a man with a white billy goat beard who knows damn well I owe my some serious amounts of la plata, la lana, la feria—me entiendes?

When I do leave, I don’t come back for hours. I scout my block. I’ll walk around my block three or four times just to make sure he’s not hanging around. When I finally make my way to my door it’s with my head down and my key in my hand. So far so good, but I’ve been waiting for months and it’s weighing heavy on me. Paranoia is rotting my mind and this is a mind that can’t afford to rot much more. Part of me wants to believe that he’s forgotten—maybe even forgiven the debt. Although I know this to be impractical because nobody forgets the second time, nobody forgives the second time. It doesn’t work like that. If anything, one is far more willing to forgive the first offense—to take it easy on you. As for the second? That’s when lessons are taught. This is how I imagine Sam teaching me a lesson.

“Sit.”

I sit on my couch while he leads in a team of moving men. Three twenty-something Greek brothers with bushy eye brows and shaved heads. They’re nice, but they still take everything. I even see one of them walking out with my electric toothbrush, which after the bison skin laptop case is my most expensive possession. (Full disclosure: I rent a furnished apartment and everything the moving men are hauling out in fact belongs to my landlord, which makes me chuckle a bit.) After they’ve taken everything I’m left sitting on the floor with Sam standing over me. He’s wondering what’s so funny. Nothing, I say.

He grabs me by the hair on my head and tosses me through the window and over the fire escape. I fall four stories and land nose first on the sidewalk. Tragically, I’m fit as a fucking fiddle and I survive. The damage is enormous and I am relegated to a hospital bed for the rest of my life. The only music that they play is Kings of Leon. I’m like the guy from The Diving Bell and The Butterfly except I don’t have a beautiful wife, mistress and child to come visit me. My story will make no one cry. I haven’t even done enough to be sorry for anything. I’m a marginalized member of society—a low level miscreant with noteworthy taste and a negligible income.

A few weeks after the fall they move me to a hospital in Bakersfield. There I live surrounded by former gang members and people who smell like they’ve spent a lot of time in Bakersfield. It’s utterly devastating. I live the next sixty years of my life listening to the same Kings of Leon record. My olfactory glands never adjust to the smell of Bakersfield. I wish I could cry, but my tear ducts are busted from the fall so I just sniffle a lot. It’s pathetic.

Do you now see why the prospect of a confrontation with Sam so frightens me?

The moral of the story is of course this: Nothing in this world is free. Not even if it’s coming from a seemingly well-intention man with a white beard named Sam. Sam is out for blood. It’s tax season.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

*As any longtime reader will be able to tell–this is all hypothetical. The Neapolitan Mastiff fears nothing. Fear is not even in his vocabulary. Although he does get a bit squeamish around ferrets and open cans of tuna.

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