Monday, December 21, 2015

A Knife Fight on Christmas Avenue

“I’m gonna cut out your fucking eye,” Ricky Timmons said with a growling smile, red and green blinking lights reflecting off of the blade in his hand.

“Come on, asshole!” Isaac Claudio answered.  “Give it a try – Just give it a fucking try!”

Ricky and Isaac had never been friends.  They grew up a few blocks from one another.  As adults, they ended up living on the same street just two blocks apart.  Their meager lives had been crisscrossing since the third grade.  They had a lot in common – low grades in school, little ambition in life, an underlying obedience to short cuts.

But they’d never been friends.

“You need to understand,” Isaac said, switching his knife from hand-to-hand.  “There’s an asshole in Missouri who walks with a limp because of me!”

Ricky’s smile grew.  “There’s an asshole right in front of you that doesn’t believe your shit.”

When Ricky came up with his plan to break into Barret’s Jewelry Store on Christmas Eve, he knew he couldn’t do it alone.  He needed someone with a car to act as both look-out and getaway driver.  He ran into Isaac at Plato’s Pub, a neighborhood bar, and after a couple beers the two started swapping stories.  As Burl Ives encouraged everyone to have a Holly-Jolly Christmas on the juke box, they talked about the neighborhood, dickhead bosses they’d had, and what they were both not doing with their lives.  After twenty-three years of missed intersections, they were finally hitting it off.

Seeing a kindred spirit, Ricky decided Isaac was the perfect candidate for his plan.

Christmas Eve came and Ricky was proven right – the robbery went off without a hitch.  With the jewelry store alarm screeching into the silent night behind him, Ricky climbed into Isaac’s car with a plastic Kroger bag full of diamond rings, emerald earrings, and bracelets made of sapphires and rubies.  A couple of miles south of Barret’s, Isaac pulled into an alley so they could divide the take.

Instead of playing one-for-you and one-for-me with the jewelry, Ricky pulled a switchblade.

“What the fuck?” Isaac asked.

“Sorry,” Ricky said.  “My idea, my plan, my take.”

Ricky let himself out of the car.  The alley smelled of piss and garbage.  He ran toward the street in the crisp December air, hearing Isaac’s door open and close behind him.  Just as he was about to make it to Broadway, he slipped on a patch of ice.  He didn’t go down, but it was enough of a hindrance for Isaac to catch up to him.

And Isaac had brought a knife, too.

“I thought you might try something,” Isaac said as the former partners-in-crime started circling each other in the softly falling snow.  “I came prepared.”

Words were exchanged.  Insults traded.  Threats unleashed.  The light poles on Broadway were decorated with garland and candy canes and angels blowing horns.  Under these festive ornaments, menacing swipes and intimidating gestures were made.

Finally, Isaac stopped moving and lowered his weapon.  “Look, man,” he said “Ain’t neither one of us got it easy.”

Ricky stopped moving as well.  “No,” he agreed.

“Keep your damn jewelry.  I just want to get back home to my kid.”

Ricky let down his knife, he felt something crawl in his stomach.  “You got a kid?”

“A little girl,” Isaac said with a half-smile. “She’s nine.”

Sweat broke out on Ricky’s forehead despite the temperature being in the low-twenties.  “Are you fucking with me?  You didn’t say anything about having a kid before.”

“I don’t bring my daughter into conversations about criminal activity.”  Isaac turned and started walking back toward his car.  “Merry Christmas,” he muttered under his breath to no one in particular.

The bag of stolen jewels in Ricky’s hand suddenly felt heavy.  Too heavy.  “Hold up,” he called after Isaac.

Isaac stopped.  “What?”

“Can I get a ride home?”

Isaac thought for a moment.  “You done pulling a knife on me?”

Ricky looked at the blade in his hand, then closed it and put in in his pocket.  “I believe so.”

Isaac gave him a “Come-on” gesture and Ricky followed him to the car.