The last Tuesday of Story A Day May 2018. Our prompt today was to write the story that’s been nipping at our heels, wanting to be written. I don’t have one — or, rather, I have a world of books and stories backed up, milling around, waiting for me to say, “Form a line” so they can duke it out until only there’s only one left standing. Then another one will trip that one on its way to me, and I’ll go play Minecraft.
ANYWAY, we all know who’s always ready to have a story told about him. Yes. Him. Bud Blossom.
The Golden Vow
by Marian Allen
My friend — and I use the word loosely — Bud Blossom called me for advice.
Now, the six of us that play poker every Tuesday night call each other for help moving heavy objects, recommendations on who to get for handyman projects we can’t handle ourselves, and so on. I’ve helped Bud bolt down new tables on the deck of his houseboat restaurant, The Golden Lotus, and he’s helped me get my little cruiser into and out of the water, come spring and fall.
The other five of us might call one of the other five of us for advice, but Bud is out of that loop. Never calls to know what to say to his wife or his teenager, because he doesn’t have a wife or kids or significant others of any description. Never needs help firing an employee, that’s for sure.
So I was surprised when he called me on Tuesday morning and said, “Dwight, my man, can we talk? You’re good at that, right? Next best thing to a bartender, but you don’t expect tips?”
You don’t want to let Bud get into the habit of expecting anything for nothing, so I said, “Come in at 9 and knock on the back door. Haircut is ten bucks, talk is free.”
The best investment I ever made was a roller shade for the front door; if it wasn’t for that, people would be wanting to drop in for a quick trim or a long chat any time they saw a light on in the shop. That’s why I wanted Bud to come to the back door — to keep anybody lounging around the town square from seeing him come in and following him over.
When I opened the back door, the summer sun picked out his Chinese features and yellow skin and reminded me how, American as he is, he looks like he’s from somewhere else. Which was a weird thought, because two of my great-grandparents were from Germany, and my other folks were from Ireland, Scotland, and someplace else I don’t even know about.
So, anyway, I got Bud settled in the chair with the Sanex strip and the cape fastened around his neck.
“Just a trim? Want a shave, too?”
“Just trim it up and keep your sharp objects away from my neck, Sweeney.”
Trust Bud to know about Sweeney Todd, “the demon barber of Fleet Street.”
“Gotcha,” I said. “I’ll call the wife and tell her it’s vegetables for dinner, then.”
I wasn’t about to ask him what he wanted to talk about. With Bud, that would shift the whole thing to me asking him for something. So I just cut his hair and waited.
I’d gone over his whole head once, when he said, “This guy died.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, as if that had told me something. “That dead guy.”
“Wise ass. There’s this guy I know. He died.”
I didn’t say anything. I knew damn well Bud wasn’t wanting me to put his dead guy on the church prayer chain, Bud being about as religious as a hog. He’d get to what he wanted, or he wouldn’t, but he’d do it on his own.
He said, “I made him a promise last year.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. I stopped working so I could think while I talked. “You mean that guy who moved back home here opened the houseboat restaurant just down from the Lotus? I remember you had words with him.”
“He said he would close me down. I said, ‘You will fail and you will die, and I will put a pebble in my shoe and walk to your funeral.'”
“And he did fail, and now you say he died? What — you think you cursed him?”
Bud gave me A Look. “Grow up. No, but….” He shifted in the chair, the first time I ever saw Bud uncomfortable. “I just feel like … like I have to do it. I mean, like, it’s gonna happen. Like I’m … bound to do it. Bound, like in hogtied to it, you know?”
I’d made promises like that before — well, not like that particular promise, but promises I felt bound to keep, so I said, “Yeah,” and went back to cutting.
“But here’s the thing,” said Bud. “He isn’t having his funeral here. It’s where he lived before he came back here. Like out of state.”
“Well, you don’t have time to walk that, unless his funeral isn’t until next month.”
“It’s day after tomorrow.”
“So that’s that. Can’t do it.”
Bud got all stiff, and his yellow cheeks pinked up. “I have to! Have to! And that’s my problem. Besides the problem of walking at all with a piece of rock in my shoe. Damn!”
“And you came to me, because why?”
“For one thing, you got a brother-in-law works at the quarry.”
I stepped away from his head with my sharp object and laughed until my eyes watered. I blew my nose and said, “I’ll call him right now.”
So Thursday, I left the shop in the hands of Sheila, my second-in-command, and drove Bud to eastern Illinois. Bud had me drive back and forth and around the block of the funeral home until he was just barely far enough away that it felt right. Then I handed him a square of cheesecloth, and he tucked it into his loafers below his instep, where he had cut a piece of the insole just big enough to hold the square.
Inside the square was a pebble my brother-in-law had brought me from work. It was a smooth fragment of creekstone two millimeters in diameter, the smallest fragment that would still qualify as a “pebble,” anything smaller being classified as a “granule.”
Bud straightened his tie and got out of the car. “I owe you,” he said.
I didn’t want any obligation between me and Bud, no matter which way it went. “Just bring some of the Lotus’ handmade potato chips for Tuesday, and we’re even,” I said.
I settled down to read my Yesterday’s Barber Today magazine, while Bud walked to his enemy’s funeral with a pebble in his shoe.
I’m posting today at Fatal Foodies about Charlie’s idea of what pizza should be. It isn’t mine.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: A late man, a bag of chips, and a pebble in a shoe…