Bring Back That Loving Feeling

imagesCAFCEZIGThis whole thing started the day I knocked over a display of fried pork rinds at a liquor store. Donna and I drove into the parking lot of Al’s Liquor store to find three young men sitting on a curb.

“You’d better come inside with me”

“I’ll be fine right here.” She insisted.

I flipped the locks. “This should only take a minute.”

Bells jingled as I pushed open the glass door.  Beer advertisements with bikini-clad models covered the simulated wood grain paneling. The place was a shrine to immediate gratification – stuff people buy later in the day, explaining why the place was deserted at mid-morning. At the elevated counter, a man popped his head out from behind a case of cheap lighters.  “Hello Boss” he said. Mick Jaggar’s tattooed-covered face glared at me from his black t-shirt. Over a thousand dollars was bulging in my pants pocket and it wasn’t for a year’s supply of Colt 45.

“I need to wire a payment to my mortgage company”

“Sure, partner”

One of the youths outside cupped his hands against the window. My heart began to race.

“Did they give you their account number” he eyed the paperwork in my hands.

Handing him the paper, I nearly took out display of Slim Jims along with the pork rings. My hands were shaking that much. He turned around and pulled out a tiny keyboard sitting atop a rack of magazines offering all things silicone and airbrushed. He hummed a song as he tapped away (I think it was Bring Back that Loving Feeling). I was fighting a dreadful thought – anybody could walk in here and stick a gun to my head and take it all.  If that cash didn’t wire today, the next letter from my mortgage company would be nailed to our front door.

“Will you be transferring this amount, bud?’ He stabbed my letter with his finger.

“Yes.”

His voice boomed: “ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED SIXTY FOUR ELEVEN?”

“Yes….Yes.” My eyes darted about.

“No problem partner, we’ll be done in a sec.” He picked up the phone and spoke into the receiver with a noticeably lower tone. Who was he talking to – a secret partner? I began to sweat.

“Okay Boss” he said, hanging up. “I’ll just need the cash” This seemed routine for him, as if I’d purchased a pack of Swisher Sweets. With clammy hands, I counted out the cash. He disappeared behind his counter. More sweat.

“Just putting the money in a safe place, Boss” Popping back up, he retrieved my change from the cash register.

“Not too often people count back change these days.” My voice was still shaking.

“Kids today, Boss…“ He said walking back to his terminal, “they depend on computers for everything. Here’s your receipt.”

Holding that slip of paper in my hand brought on a gush of relief. I felt relaxed enough to complement his shirt and we even chatted about the Rolling Stones for a few minutes – until I remembered Donna was still in the car.

Outside, the youths were talking to a man in a truck –probably just trying to find work. Donna unlocked my door and I climbed into the front seat. “Check this out” I said turning on the engine. “The guy inside saw the Stones at the Swing Auditorium in ‘64.”

She didn’t respond. In her normally serene eyes, I saw something unsettling. It wasn’t the patient look she’d typically get when listening to me drone on about rock and roll. This look had a noticeable and quite measurable lack of joy.

“Never mind” I said. “Let’s go home”

“I don’t want to go home” she said quietly.

I tapped the brake. ‘Where do you want to go?”

“Just drive.”

NEXT: Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

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