The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 77

The Hustle

Rich racked the balls.
“Barkeep!” Butch said. “How much is left in that bottle?”
“Almost empty,” the bartender said.
“Bring it,” Butch said.
The bartender brought it to him.
Butch held the bottle up to the light. “Just enough to steady my nerves.” He said to the bartender pointing to the pile of money on the table, “On your way back take out the money for the bottle.” He looked at the crowd around the table. “Consider it an investment to assure your winnings.”
Claw had a good break and sunk a striped ball. He sunk three more before missing. Butch studied the table and sunk two and missed. Claw pocketed one and missed his next shot. Butch smiled and ran the table.
Butch walked over to the table where the money laid. He picked up the keys to the jeep and tossed them to Rich. “Get the motor running.” He looked at Rudy and Gordy and motioned with his eyes to leave.
As Rich, Gordy, and Rudy exited the bar Butch stuffed the money inside his shirt.
“You hustled us,” Claw said as Butch slung his jacket on.
Butch said nothing and walked to the door. Two of the lobstermen stood in his way. Butch quickly dashed for the side exit and burst through it. He circled around the building and jumped in the jeep.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Butch said.
Rich jammed the jeep in gear and drove over the sidewalk and into the street. He turned toward downtown and sharply on to side street. The fear they had at first turned to uncontrollable laughter.
“Somebody take a look and see if we are being followed,” Rich said.
“No,” Butch said, “but we’re leaving a long enough yellow streak to follow.”
As Rich turned quickly down an alley he said, “The movies lied. The reporters are always tough guys. They never run from fights.”
“Maybe they should teach karate and judo in college and you can’t get your journalism degree until you take ’em,” Rudy said.
“It don’t take a college course to teach you how to use a beer bottle as a weapon,” Butch said. “However I never knew how to use one as a weapon until I attended college.”
They drove toward Thomaston.
“My brothers,” Rich said to them all. “Our brother and friend, Butch, is a teetotaler.”
“My secret is out,” Butch said.
“What secret?” Gordy said.
“Tell ‘em,” Rich said.
“I bring a empty bottle of whiskey and fill it with tea. The bartender dabs a little whiskey on his finger and rubs it along the rim of the glass. It smells and looks like whiskey.”
“So the bartender is in on it,” Rudy said. “I owe him $20.”
“How does he know when to do it?” Gordy said.
“Clever,” Rich said. “Every time you call him barkeep.”
“That’s the cue, lad,” Butch said.
“I hope those guys don’t come looking for us,” Gordy said.
“Yeah,” Rich said, “I don’t think this thing will do over 50 with four people.”
Butch counted the money. “$437,” he said. “That’s a hundred each and we’ll give the barkeep $37 for an unusually profitable night. In fact, that is my best night ever. This is just one of the many ways I worked my way through college.”
“What was another?” Rudy said.
“I ran a term paper exchange and was stripper in gentleman’s club one summer,” Butch said. “I started late in the evening when all the girls wanted to go home and all the customers were too drunk to tell the difference. To this day every time I hear Night Train I start peeling off my socks.”
Rich drove every one back to The Beacon.
Gordy got out of the jeep and walked to his car. “I got to get bigger friends.”

Rich drove back to his apartment. He pulled the jeep behind the garage so it couldn’t be seen from the street. He trudged up the two flights of steps and into the apartment. He spent three hours at the typewriter tapping out the night‘s events on paper. He laid down in bed and chuckled quietly before going off to sleep.