GIVETHEREADERSWHATTHEYWANT!
One writer's experiment to tackle any subject his friends come up with.
9/19/11-REGINA HALCOMB SUMMERS

Depth Perception

 

So it’s five to three, Josef is making me wait while he does his thing, and his man Tyrone is talking. Tyrone is always talking. One of these days it’s gonna put somebody in a mood, and they’re gonna tell him, tell him hard. I don’t wanna be around when it happens; I like the guy. He wears me out sometimes, but when it comes to getting in front of any unpleasantness directed at Josef, the man’s got a talent.

“I’ve been thinking about that view, Mr. James,” he says in that absurd tenor of his, gesturing at Josef’s window and the Strip beyond. I glance out at the same statues and buildings that are alawys there, and give him the polite nod, like I’m thinkin’ on it.

“It’s sort of unnatural, isn’t it?”

I give him the other look that sometimes gets him to go quiet again. “It’s Vegas, Ty. Nothing natural about it.”

“Well, yeah, I know all the usual reasons. There’s something more than that, though.” I’m all a-tingle to hear. Tyrone’s mental exercises can’t help but broadcast themselves, and I’m thinking of that dog with the record player when he says “Everything’s out of scale, aint it?”

“Mm-hmm.” Watching an ex-fullback pontificate on life’s esoterica has its moments.

“I mean like, really, you got these huge places like the Luxor with almost no detail, they look like they could be two stories tall and a block away. And then there’s these replicas like the Statue of Liberty you think are way bigger than they really are. Messes with you.”

The man has a point. From this angle, if I didn’t know the Eiffel was a mile in front of Caesar’s, I’d think is was about twice as big.

“And the way the place is all laid out on this flat desert, we don’t have any hills to break things up, or even to show up in the background.”

Another sound observation, if a little obvious. I do him the courtesy of expounding. “Yeah, kinda like everything’s foreground,” I nod, checking my watch.

“Yeah!” I may already be regretting the encouragement. “It’s all on top of you, right?” His boyish brick of a face is alight with epiphany.

I chuckle an “I guess so,” and reach for a smoke. Josef’s plumbing aint what it used to be, I wonder. De Luca’s just a few floors down, but it’s already five past and we haven’t left yet. As a younger man, Josef never would have stood for this kind of wait to keep him from business. Meticulous to a fault, keeping every appointment in that little black book of his, along with every contact, every business deal, every favor owed and every debt to be collected.

Tyrone’s squeaky tenor interrupts my ruminating. “Yeah, it’s kind of amazing that a place this big and open can feel so… immediate.”

My eyebrow goes up before I can stop it. I never had a poker face. That is some damn fine thinking, though, coming from one of the fellas usually hired post-head trauma.

“What really makes it all so clear, though, is,” Tyrone’s words fail him. “Well, how clear everything is. All this dry heat, we got no haze in the distance.”

The man has been taking his Ginkgo Biloba. All this talk reminds me of my first job here, and I’m starting to wonder why this stuff hadn’t occurred to me before. Maybe Tyrone’s smarter than I give him credit for. Or maybe he doesn’t have anything better to think about. Seems like lately he’s with Josef twenty-four seven; he’s probably spent a helluva lot of time looking out that window. At any rate, I’m feeling sociable enough to share my own insight.

“You know, I came here when I was just seventeen. Grew up in Appalachia, believe it or not.”

This gets an honest, surprised “No foolin’?” from Tyrone.

“Yeah, but I started getting sick of life in the hills about the time I hit puberty. One night I caught ‘Casino’ at the local drive-in, and that was it. The next day I was jumpin’ trains, and a couple weeks later they brought me here. One of Josef’s boys found me before I starved to death, and gave me my first job: this simple courier run, just a couple doors down at the Bellagio. I figured a cab would be a waste of time and money, thought I could pocket the petty cash myself. Course, ‘a couple doors down’ turns out to be about eight football fields. After jogging a half mile in the midday sun, I was a sweaty mess, and so was the package. I was lucky they let me in, the way I looked.” I take a long pull off the dart and smile. “I was real lucky Josef gave me another shot. Took about two years before the guys stopped calling me ‘Hayseed’. But I figured Vegas out quick: Everything’s right out there, in your face, but you don’t look any deeper and you’re done for.”

Tyrone’s face was split wide with a grin. “Face value’s for suckers. Gotta know where to look, under all the distractions.”

“Exactly.” I checked my watch again and frowned. “Josef feelin’ alright today? Mr. De Luca and the boys don’t cotton much to waiting on people.” I wince internally at my choice of idiom.

Tyrone’s frown echoed mine, and, still facing me, rapped the door lightly with the back of his hand. “Everything okay in there, Mr. B?”

No response. I added my own request, louder than Tyrone’s. “Josef. It’s three ten. De Luca’s gonna start asking questions.”

Still nothing. After exchanging glances, Tyrone and I reach an understanding. I try the door and find it unlocked. My hackles are already primed when I poke my head in and see the man himself, dead on the throne. Guess the plumbing was worse than I thought.

Then I see it. Crushed between the fat fingers of the dead man’s hand, its shape and color so familiar to me, its inner pages forever secret. The black book, that ridiculous throwback that belonged somewhere with rotary phones and inkwells. I told the old fool a hundred times to get himself a digital planner, something he could encrypt, but he was happy sleeping with this leather-bound anachronism under his pillow. Well, he was sleeping for the long haul now, and somebody else may as well put this little treasure map to good use. De Luca could go blow; this was a whole new game. But first I needed to get cool and let Tyrone play Samaritan. I kneel down, blocking the book from view while shouting “Go get a doc, quick!” over my shoulder.

But then the mean, deliberate click of Tyrone’s Beretta nine being cocked behind me says it’s not going to happen that way. I turn my head slowly until my eyes find the barrel and cinch the deal. I look up at the man, affable as ever, a friendly freight train in a three-piece suit. “Tyrone? What’s going on?”

“Ah, come on, Mr. James. You and I both know the most important thing in our little world right now is that black book of Mr. B’s you’re trying to pinch.”

I manage an “aw, shucks” grin and continue my downplay. “Well, you’ve got me there. I just figured I was the next in line, you know? It wouldn’t change anything for you, Ty. In fact, things might be a lot better. I know you’ve been a little stifled in your current duties.”

Tyrone tilts his head and wiggles the gun a little, all ‘comme ci comme ça’. “As far as being the next in line, things might not be lined up the way you were hoping. Mr. De Luca and me’ve been talking already, planning for the worst, and, well, he was always afraid you might show your true colors someday.”

“True colors? Ty, I’m just trying to put everything back in balance. We’re going to meet De Luca anyway, let’s take it to him.” I’m starting to sweat bullets and hoping Tyrone’s not inclined to start dispensing them. “Come on, Tyrone, put that heater away.”

Now Tyrone is just humoring me. He smiles, looking down, and says “Well now Mr. De Luca is on his way here.” He pulls out his phone by way of illustration. “He got the message on Josef soon as you did. We’ll let him figure out what needs to happen next.”

I’m a doe-eyed schoolgirl. “Since when are you and De Luca cozy? How much of this did Josef know? How come none of it came my way?”

Tyrone’s looking at me like I’m a chihuahua going up against some Bully Kutta in the ring. As the door’s opening in the next room, he says, “Like I said, Mr. James: Face value’s for suckers.”

 

Copyright Cole Bennett, all rights reserved.

 

 

3 Comments to “9/19/11-REGINA HALCOMB SUMMERS”

  1. Cole Bennett says:

    Regina, a very rich photo, layered in physical and metaphysical depth. Thanks for submitting such a powerful photo!

  2. Pat Bennett says:

    Not my favorite genre but you are so good at those twists! I never see them coming.

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