Keeping him out of trouble was a full time job.
January 10, 2014
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Ben Tom stood outside the gates of the auto pound, recalling the time that his assembled-by-hand ’55 Ford Victoria had been inside the chain link fence—how Willy had tried to scale the fence. Now, he was back at the same place driving a new one-town dualie flatbed truck with a car hauler behind it. He wondered how one claims a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run-and-who-knew-what-else without chancing an arrest.
He had decided not to chance it when someone tapped his shoulder. Waylon smiled as he turned. “I figured I would find you here.”
“And how did you get here?”
“I got one or two friends left. Women still like me.”
Ben Tom believed that. Waylon was a handsome man and could be charming to women. “Maybe you could get one of your lady friends to loan you two hundred to get this car out of hock.”
“Hell, they would in a New York minute, but none of my friends got that kind of money. Don’t know why you’re worried about the two hundred. Must be more than four thousand in the console. I’ll pay you right back.”
Ben Tom started to ask how Waylon knew how much money there was, but he already knew the answer. “It’s not the money as much as the chance of getting arrested for something you did last night. How about I give you the money and you go get it?”
“You know I can’t do that. I’m on probation. There might be a beer can or such in there. Any sign of alcohol would land me right back in jail.”
“Then I think we just have to leave it in there.” As Ben Tom turned to walk toward his truck, he saw an arm hanging out the window of a custom black ’58 Chevy pickup. The arm belonged to a dark-skinned man with deep lines and prominent bones in his face. The man was watching them intently.
Ben Tom walked closer. “Damned if it ain’t Deacon Slater. How long has it been?”
Deacon stepped out and shook Ben Tom’s hand. “Too long.”
Ben Tom looked his old friend over. He had aged, the face was craggier, but not by much. He figured he had to be in his seventies. “I ain’t believing this. This is where I first met you when I was just a boy. You just hang out here waiting for folks to come along you can help?”
“You’re not too far from wrong. I heard about the wreck. It’s all over the neighborhood where you used to live. Willy’s son and wife being involved and all. Thought I might just catch you here.”
“Nice of you to come all the way down here just to see me. Wish Willy was here.”
“I heard about Willy. Too bad.”
“Well, seems like I’m stuck in time. I got the same problem I had back when we first met.”
“No money to get it out?”
“I got the money, but I just don’t know if the car is worth it.” He pointed at Waylon. “Waylon there is Willy’s son. Nice kid, but ain’t got a lick of sense. I think the car might be mixed up in some sort of hit-and-run. I’m afraid to claim it.”
“I know the guys in there. Want me to find out?”
Ben Tom paid the tow charge of two hundred plus twenty for storage and another fifty to have the car towed by a union-and-city-authorized tow service to the front gate. He inflated one flat tire on the front using the air tank he always carried on the flat bed of his truck. Waylon watched impatiently. When the car was ready, he got behind the wheel.
Ben Tom twirled the key ring on his finger. “You ain’t driving this thing. The frame is bent, wheels are out of line, and it’s leaking oil.”
“What the hell do you expect me to drive?”
“I’ll take you home. I aim to winch the car up on the trailer and haul it to my place. I’ll check it out. If it’s safe, I’ll bring it back to your mother.”
“And just how am I gonna go get Mama out of that hospital? They said she could go home today.”
“Really? When I called, they told me they were keeping her for at least a week. I’ll have the car back by then.”
Waylon opened the console and reached inside. Ben Tom reached across and grabbed his hand. “Best leave that be. I’ll make sure your mama gets her money back.”
Waylon stepped out of the car, made an obscene gesture toward his uncle, and stalked toward a car parked on a nearby street.
Ben Tom called after him. “Hold up, Waylon.” Ben Tom approached, put a hand in the small of Waylon’s back. He pulled the pistol out of his waistband before Waylon could stop him.
“See you found Willy’s gun. Good. I’ll hold onto it until we get this sorted out.”
“You can’t just take Daddy’s property. That gun belongs to me.”
“Remember? You can’t be caught with a gun. Just looking to keep you out of trouble.”
Ben Tom turned away and walked toward Deacon. “Told you he was trouble. That’s probably his girlfriend over in that car.”
Deacon smiled. “I can see a lot of Willy in him. But I’m glad he’s gone. I got something I want to show you.”
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.