SOME PEOPLE YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT
STEVE CHANG • FICTION
I’m not here to have opinions
I keep thinking, Rib-eye steaks, and what do you know? Lil’ Spanky actually comes by. “Just Billy now,” he tells us, shaking Thomas’ hand. “But look at this! Big boss right here!” he says.
Thomas shrugs. He’s in a rayon shirt and cuffed slacks he ordered from a back-alley tailor in Little Saigon.
Billy’s still holding Thomas’ hand as he says to me, “Back in the day this fool was at a Motel 6! Running fingers through the carpet for rocks!”
“Yeah,” I say. “That probably explains a lot.”
“Shit,” says Thomas. He laughs and flings Billy’s hand away. “Let you tell it,” he says.
And Billy says, “I did.”
Now, someone walking in might think, “What’s this all about?”
But ask me?
I’d throw up my hands and say, “All I know is—who isn’t trying to live out here?”
Thomas taps out a foil packet on the glass. Tinkle, tinkle. He looks to Billy, who says, “Tomorrow, I got the kids.” Okay. He looks to me. And the both of us think, at competing volumes, “What do you got?”
Ay, you heard what happened?
They’re talking about so-and-so from back in the day, taking turns catching up and pulling ahead. “Wow,” I say, as Billy talks. “That’s crazy!” They’re swelling, two ticks sucking away at the past, as Thomas builds up to his plan and reveals it.
Maybe he talks about some goldsmith and his girl, about zip-ties and some duffel bags. And maybe there’s no mention of a .38, stubby, silver, and nosed like an imp. Would that be so wrong?
Billy stops him. “That’s twenty-five to life these days.”
“Nobody’s getting killed,” says Thomas.
Like you can afford to look that far ahead.
After Billy leaves, Thomas kicks off his crackly old Oxfords, the nap more dust than suede. He flexes his feet. He massages them in gold-toe socks.
It’s back to me and Thomas again.
He’s sitting in the armchair, smoothing his hands on his slacks. The foil stays crumpled in a ball. It’s a Sputnik skidded out on the glass. The sun rises in the curtains and flecks them gold. The VCR insists it’s 12:00.
He says, “Amy.”
And what are we supposed to do now?
I try it. Amy. I feel the truth of the word.
“Yeah, Amy,” he says.
That Amy was the one.