He thought life had turned around, then the loan shark showed up. Borrowed to the Bone.
July 12, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
They built an illegal bonfire in Willy’s yard and burned the bad feed and sacks. The smell of corn burning and rank and soured meal was not as unpleasant as Willy had imagined when Clark started the fire without asking. Colleen hurled the vilest expletives in her limited vocabulary from the porch. For once, Willy agreed with his wife.
“What the hell you thinking, Clark? Neighbors could call the law down on us. How we gonna explain where we come by this feed? Should’ve just dumped it on the way home.”
“And you don’t think a dozen feed sacks feed scattered all over the road or in the bar ditch wouldn’t arouse curiosity? Besides your dumbass neighbors build illegal fires every night.”
Clark used a long stick to make sure a sack burned completely. “Anybody asks, we just tell ‘em that old feed has been in your barn since you bought the place. Time to get rid of it. Plead ignorance about setting fires.”
“We coulda burned it somewhere else.”
“On somebody’s else’s land? You think that won’t get the law’s attention if we’re seen? If brains were pneumonia, you couldn’t catch a cold.”
Trez stood back in the shadows, a wave of depression washing over him. It had been a rough two days. “You about done with me? I need to get some shut-eye. Besides, that damn smoke is ruining my seat covers.”
Staring at the fire caused Willy’s eyelids to get heavy. He felt a sense of calm wash over him for the first time in years. It seemed as if the fire was burning away all of his troubles. He felt flush as he thought of the jewelry stowed safely under the floor of his shop. Even the artwork in Buck’s barn gave him a sense of security. He left his uncle stirring the last of the embers to be sure every last piece of tow sack was gone.
He took his first bath in three days and was relieved when he stepped into the bedroom in his briefs. Colleen was mercifully asleep. The prospect of a full night’s sleep for the first time in days made him almost happy. He looked out at the fire. The embers were cooling. His uncle was gone.
Life almost seemed to return to normal the next few weeks. He did not hear from Clark or Trez and figured that no news is good news. He went back to haunting construction sites to find day work. To avoid his increasingly hostile wife and children, he spent most of his evenings sitting outside his shop guarding his treasure. In rainy or cold weather, he sat inside, his chair firmly over the boards that covered the jewels.
Not having to deal with Mexicans in his yard was almost exhilarating. Clark had shown no gratitude for Willy’s sacrifices, but at least he had put a stop to what had become the bane of his existence.
As time passed, his fear of the Dixie Mafia and the unknown burglar who originally stole the jewels faded. Under the influence of a few beers, he and Trez determined that Clark had made up the connection of Spiva to the King of Diamonds. Though they had read and heard about this so-called king, nobody had ever actually seen him. Either he didn’t exist or the King of Diamonds was Clark himself. Ben Tom had said as much.
And Clark was nowhere to be found. Maybe he had paid the ultimate price and they were home free. But neither believed that. They still had the jewels and art.
Construction jobs for Willy declined as rapidly as the expenses of raising two kids and a wife increased. Colleen had begun self-medicating with whatever Willy could pick up on the streets to keep her barely functional and control her violent outbursts. Willy began to consider fencing some of the jewelry. Just as he was ready to pry up the boards out of desperation, he found a job that would hold him for at least three months.
Full time employment filled him with resolve to turn his life around. He even began refusing invitations from fellow workers to join them for a few rounds after work and headed straight home to face the music. And the music was shrill and loud.
Colleen had stopped keeping house altogether and Willy had to see that the kids made it to school in the mornings. Still, the thought of the waiting treasure in his shop helped him to hold to his sanity. Contrary to his old habits, he showed up for work every day, allowing the skills passed on to him from Ben Tom and Purcell to be finally noticed. It looked as if the temporary job could turn into something permanent.
Then the loan shark showed up.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.