Next Page Previous Page First Page Page:  Library Library Help

Depression Is More Than A State of Mind

By Marian Mendez
Page 2 of 4

"I think Communism is a ridiculous system, bound to fail, and vulnerable to worse excesses than the ridiculous system known as Capitalism. The rich deserve to keep their money as long as they can hold onto it. Until someone cleverer or more ruthless relieves them of it."

"I see," Rog said. "You're an Anarchist, then."

"I don't belong to any pin-headed organization." Avon swayed and Rog stepped forward to catch him before he could hit the floor.

"Interesting man," Rog said to Cally over a cup of Mission 'coffee' after depositing Avon back in the cot in the back room.

"I recognize that look, Rog. Don't try to recruit him."

"Why not, Cally? Are you staking a claim?" He grinned as the woman ducked her head. "You're blushing."

"It is very hot in here," Cally said with dignity. "And of course I am not claiming him. The man is impossible. He's arrogant, the most decadent materialist I have ever met, selfish, vain, sinfully proud..."

"You've been thinking about him a lot." Rog stopped teasing Cally and turned serious. "He's familiar to me, somehow."

"Perhaps you met him at a political rally while you worked for, that doesn't seem likely, does it?"

Rog gnawed on a finger while he thought. "We've never met. I could hardly forget him. But I have seen him. He has a rather unique profile, wouldn't you say?"

"I wouldn't know," Cally lied. "I didn't look that closely."

Blake grinned, then slapped his hand down on the table. "Got it! Back before the crash he embezzled five hundred thousand dollars in securities, and got away with it, too. He was in all the papers. It was a nine-day's wonder. They couldn't understand how he did it, or how he got away."

"I remember now," Cally frowned, "But wasn't it five million? It doesn't look as though he got away with anything, though."

"Even if he doesn't have the money, he still pulled off something remarkable. A man with that kind of brain can be very useful to me."

"Except that he doesn't like you- either of us-," Cally added.

"I don't think he likes starving in the street, either. I can talk him 'round."

"Well, I want to be there when you try. It's bound to be entertaining."

"How come y'don't like Rog?" Will asked, as he moved his knight. Avon was the first man he'd met in ages who could give him a decent game of chess, and he also enjoyed the man's barbed wit. In the two weeks since they met, he'd grown almost fond of the insults, which became more inventive as Avon regained his strength.

"He is a do-gooder, damn near a saint. Being a mere imperfect mortal myself, I find him irritating." Avon's proposed move was cautious, perhaps too cautious. He considered a moment, then made it anyway.

Will crowed in delight, and ended the game with a move that Avon really ought to have seen coming. "Checkmate!" He began picking up the worn pieces to put lovingly back in their faded,velvet-lined box. "Your mind wasn't on the game tonight. That was too easy."

"Maybe I'm tired."

"Maybe you're thinking about Cally?" Will gave Avon a nudge in the ribs, ignoring the affronted glare that produced. "She's been thinking about you, I'll wager."

"I won't bet with you," Avon said automatically. "Not only do you cheat, you welsh."

"Never with friends," Will said. "C'mon, tell me about you and Cally."

"There is nothing to tell. She is...charitable," Avon spat the word out. "Nothing more."

"I could do with a bit of charity from that lady, eh?" Will smirked, then wiped the expression from his face, as Avon frowned, apparently not appreciating the joke. "Well," he continued, "if you don't want to join up with Rog, maybe you could work with me and Olaf."

"Work? Is that what you call it? Petty thievery and simple-minded con games are not my style."

"Don't tell me you're an honest citizen. The shock would kill me."

Avon grinned. "Well, now, that might make it worthwhile. As you are well aware, it is not the morality of your 'work' that offends me, it is the disproportionately small reward and high probability of being caught. I've been in jail once, thank you, that was quite enough for me."

Will took a swig from his bottle, enjoying the smooth taste of real whiskey, then wrapped the brown bag tighter around the bottle. Prohibition hadn't been over long enough for him to erase the feeling he was doing something furtive and illegal. "How'd you get out? Professional curiosity," he added, quickly. "C'mon, I told you how I broke me and Olaf out of the chain-gang."

"Yes, and Olaf gave me the true story later. I was impressed by the part where you got the bloodhounds drunk, but you left out the drainage ditch by the fertilizer factory."

"Wouldn't you?"

"On due consideration, perhaps I would." He stared at the peeling wallpaper for so long that Will thought he'd fallen asleep with his eyes open. "I don't recall the details of my escape very clearly. I had been wounded, and the sadist who captured me was taking advantage of my weakness to interrogate me about my accomplices, and the whereabouts of the money."

"Did you tell him? Is that how you lost the money?"

"No, I didn't tell him. I might have, if... no, I didn't tell him. I was in the back room of a stationhouse, locked in alone when he went out for a break. I don't think he told anyone who I was, wanting to keep the reward for himself, no doubt. Things were rather... hazy. A man in police uniform came, and dragged me out. It was one of my 'friends'. He told me that - the other- was dead, shot down by a bullet meant for me. He'd buried her in secret, and come to rescue me, but he wanted all the money in return."

"All of it? What a greedy bugger."

"Yes. That sums up Tynus." Avon shrugged. "I wasn't in a position to argue. I told him where the money was hidden. He got me to a doctor who didn't ask questions, then shoved me into a boxcar of a freight train heading west."

"We could put a bit of the black on ol' Tynus," Will suggested. "He can't turn you in without getting himself in it up to his ears. That ought to be worth a few thousand, at least."

Avon grinned. "I'm afraid that's out of the question. Tynus put all the money into the Stock Market."

"Oh." Will sighed. "Pity. All that lovely loot wasted."

"Yes." Avon's eyes went distant again. "It was a pity. And a great waste."

"Avon." Rog Blake had gotten into the habit of addressing Cally's reluctant guest the same way that Will did. It started out as a joke, but now it seemed natural. "Why are you here?"

Avon's head came up, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. He put down his tools neatly beside the disassembled typewriter he was investigating. "Cally asked me to see if I could repair her machine. It seems little enough repayment for her hospitality."

"Cally and I both run this mission."

"Fine. So is there something I can do for you?" Avon held up a hand. "Something that does not involve joining your cult."

"We're not a cult. Cally and I just want people to learn to live together in harmony. We don't ask your politics, or religion."

"That's fine, because I haven't any. But I do have a defective typewriter, so if you don't mind..."

"You didn't answer my question. You've been here for a month. You were well enough to leave in a week, but you stayed."

"I have gone over every inch of this rat-infested building, fixed your boiler, your wiring, your stove and..." Avon was getting louder and sharper with each item.

Rog interrupted, "I didn't say you hadn't more than earned your keep, man. I just want to know why you've stayed. We need you."

"Oh, yes, I'm useful," Avon said bitterly. "I imagine that's why you didn't turn me in to the police. You knew who I was from the beginning."

"Yes, I knew." Rog gave Avon a sympathetic look. "I remember the story. You were tricked into committing that crime. That woman, Anna..."

Avon stood, and growled, "Don't you say anything about her."

"You aren't an evil man, just misguided. You don't belong in prison. Why, with your skills and intelligence..."

"I can go far? Not likely. I am on the run. If there were any jobs to be had, a man with no recommendations or verifiable education would be the last to be hired. Did it ever occur to you that I am still here simply because I have no place to go? Because I honestly don't care what happens to me anymore? I'm just another derelict, looking for an easy meal and an opportunity not to have to think beyond tomorrow."

"No, actually, that never did occur to me. You still care."

"Suit yourself." Avon turned back to the typewriter. "Believe in Santa Claus if it makes you happy."

"You'll never make a lay missionary out of Avon. He's a tough nut," Will said, shaking his head. "Sorry, Rog, he's more my kind'a guy than yours."

"Then why hasn't he gone on any 'jobs' with you?" Blake said, genially. Will was such a friendly, genuinely likable, fellow that you overlooked the fact that he was also a sneak thief. Totally incorrigable, but he regularly donated to the mission things that had 'dropped off the back of a truck'.

Will's face fell. "He says it's because I don't think big enough. I think big. I just don't want to get too popular with the cops. "

"Maybe it's because he's basically an honest man?"

After Will stopped laughing, he told Blake, "If I told you half the schemes he's come up with... one day he's going to clean out Fort Knox."

Blake sighed. All he wanted to do was help people, and it was obvious that poor, cynical Avon needed his help. He could envision a bright, wonderful future, where all people were able to live up to their full potential. FDR's New Deal was a step in the right direction, but no one was addressing the problems of government corruption, and abuse of authority. Every man, woman and child should have certain rights. Now, more than ever, human dignity should be respected. Avon had listened to Rog's theories and commented that all people wanted was a full stomach, and the hell with human dignity.

Cally was the only one who really agreed with Rog. It was a pity he hadn't fallen for her instead of Jane. Cally warmed his spiritual side, but Jane- ah, there was a woman for you. He still remembered the day they'd met. It was so hot in the back seat of the checkered cab he'd hired to take him to the mission that he'd taken off his hat and opened his shirt for relief. He had been hot under the collar in more than one sense.

He'd uncovered discrepancies in the records, and innocently brought them to Mayor Grafton's attention. The man had been shocked. And even more shocked the next day when 'evidence' turned up in Rog's desk, in a fair copy of Rog's handwriting. He wanted to dispute the accusation, but he was privately shown other forged papers which implicated him in far more serious crimes.

A prison term would have wiped out his chances of ever holding political office. So he swallowed his pride and mouthed the lies about taking a sort of semi-religious sabbatical, to better learn the needs of the people by taking charge of a soup kitchen. It was that, or leave his native city entirely. The injustice of it all had him fuming.

So when he looked up, feeling someone's eyes on him, and caught the cabdriver staring in the mirror at Rog's chest, he was in the mood for a good, knock-down-drag-out, bare knuckles bout. Only the driver had laughed and taken off 'his' plaid cap to reveal a wealth of golden blonde hair, and a wicked sense of humor. He'd lost his heart in that instant.

"Rog? Rog!"

"Um? Yes, Will?" With an effort, Blake brought his attention back to the man sitting opposite from him. "Sorry. I was thinking."

"About that rat who double-crossed you? Give it up, Rog. You can't beat city hall."

"No, actually I was thinking about Jane." Rog's mouth curved.

"You're not the only one," Will muttered.

Rog looked up, startled. Will sounded upset. "What's the matter?" Rog asked.

"I don't know as I ought to say..." Will squirmed, then blurted, "I saw her with Avon. Yesterday, when you were late meeting her. "

"So? I know they don't get along, and I asked her to try to be a bit more tolerant."

"This was maybe more tolerant than you had in mind."

"What? What did he do, Will?" Now that he thought back, Jane had been flushed, and embarrassed last night. She said it was nothing, but if Avon had made a pass at her, Rog was going to kick the ungrateful wretch out on his backside.

"Weeell, I could have made a mistake." Will had never seen Rog really angry. It frightened him. "It was kinda dark in the corner there, maybe... er, maybe they weren't really ...."

By this time, Rog's imagination had filled in more details than he could stand. "Avon!" he roared, kicking over his chair as he rose.

Rate This Story: Feedback to
Marian Mendez

Next Page Previous Page First Page Page:  Library Library Help

Back to B7 Top