Jared Lipof
| Fiction

Dodging puddles down Beech Street, it occurred to me that our predicament with the reward money was not unlike that of the NFL players trying to get a proportionate slice of the financial pie they risked injury, week after week, to produce.

Benny said, “I give your performance a B.” He paused and added, “Minus.”

“What? We know he’s home.”

“We know he’s not working. Why, in the name of Yoda, did you not simply call him?”

“You’re like the mayor of duplicity! I’m following your lead.”

Benny shook his head and we climbed the front steps of Uncle Stan’s house and rang the doorbell. “If he’s not home I don’t know what we’re gonna do.”

But Uncle Stan opened the door.

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite nephew and Little Lord Shortpants! Come on in.”

Still a bachelor, Uncle Stan’s place suffered, both decoratively and olfactorily, from a lack of female inhabitance. Wrinkled pants lay jettisoned across furniture. Mismatched shoes rested wherever they’d been kicked off. Across from the couch, a recliner was aimed directly at the television instead of at an angle that promoted conversation. The whole place smelled as if someone had just prepared French onion soup, in bare feet, while farting nonstop. Benny, who was accustomed to a meticulous organization of toys and regularly vacuumed rugs and a rigidly charted rotation of Minuteman Candle Company fragrances at his apartment, now walked into my uncle’s house and sat down and said nothing. It took me a moment to realize he was holding his breath.

Uncle Stan fell into the recliner. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

I said, “We’ve got some information. Kind of a lead.”

“Go on,” said Uncle Stan.

Not sure how to proceed, and getting no help from Benny, I said, “Well, there’s this house across the street from our school.”

My uncle said, “I’m with you so far.”

I turned to Benny, who only nodded.

“The one with the pizza place and barbershop.”

“I’m familiar with it,” said Uncle Stan.

Beside me, Benny began to turn blue.

I said, “We think Mickey Thurston is hiding out there.”

Benny’s withheld breath exploded in a great salivary wheeze.

“No! Not like that!” he cried.

“Take it easy!” I said.

Benny let out an animal wail as if his brain had short-circuited. “Goddamn it! You dangle the information! You don’t come right out with it!”

He gasped for air and said, “Mr. Zinn, are you running a dog kennel in here? Or maybe you’ve got a barrel of vinegar fermenting in the kitchen?”

“Well, well, well,” said Uncle Stan. “If it isn’t Woodward and Blowhard. What makes you think it’s him? I mean, hiding out this close to Walpole seems reckless, even for ol’ Mick.”

“That’s what I said!”

But then we told him about the bandages and the raccoon eyes and the lingering in a third-floor window all day and pacing the sidewalk as if his getaway were imminent. Uncle Stan scratched his chin and got up to fetch a beer from the kitchen and Benny lunged for the window and sucked the outdoor air. When he came back into the room Uncle Stan told us to run on home, that he had some things to look into.

Jared Lipof is a sound engineer for documentary television programs. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He lives in Tallahassee, where he is at work on a novel.

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