THE HORNSWOGGLING OF SWEET MEAT AN EXCERPT OF “AS TOLD BY SHOE SHINE BOY”

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ON MY FIRST DAY BACK  AT THE PARLOR, I GAVE MR. LEE THE BAD NEWS.  HE SEEMED A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED BUT HE TOOK IT IN STRIDE.  I WORKED FOR HIM PART- TIME FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS.  ONE OF THE BENEFITS OF WORKING AT THE PARLOR WAS THAT I HEARD STORIES FROM EVERYONE THAT CAME THROUGH THE DOORS.  SOME OF THE MOST ENTERTAINING TALES CAME FROM MR. LEE HIMSELF.  HE TOLD ME A STORY ABOUT ONE OF HIS BEST FRIENDS THAT HAD A KNACK FOR FINDING TROUBLE WHEREVER IT HID.  THIS FELLA WAS NAMED FRANK,  BUT EVERY ONE CALLED HIM “SWEET MEAT“.  NOW YOU ARE PROBABLY THINKING THE SAME THINGS THAT I THOUGHT WHEN I HEARD THE NAME FOR THE FIRST TIME.  I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW WHERE AND HOW HE GOT THE NAME, BUT MR. LEE TOLD ME ANYWAY.  HE SAID THAT WAS HIS CB HANDLE .  BUT WHEN HE TOLD ME WHERE HE GOT HIS NICK NAME,  IT BEGGED ANOTHER QUESTION.  WHO WAS THE ONE WHO TASTE TESTED  THE MEAT,  TO FIND OUT IT WAS SWEET?

ANY WAY, MR. LEE TOLD ME OF THE VARIOUS EXPLOITS OF THE GREAT SWEET MEAT.  I THOUGHT THE MOST COLORFUL OF HIS ADVENTURES WAS THE TIME HE BOUGHT A BETA-MAX VCR FROM A GUY SELLING THEM OUT OF THE BACK OF HIS BUICK.  THE GUY WAS A STRANGER TO FRANK,  AND FRANK WAS VERY CAUTIOUS ABOUT HIM,  BUT FRANK COULDN’T RESIST THE NEW ELECTRONICS STILL IN THE BOXES.  THIS CON MAN HAD OPENED ONE BOX OF EACH ITEM SO THAT THE CUSTOMER COULD SEE THE MERCHANDISE,  HE SAID THIS WAY,  HE DIDN’T HAVE TO OPEN THE BOX FOR EVERY LOOKIE LOU THAT SHOWED INTEREST.    HE HAD HI-FI PHONOGRAPHIC STEREOS,  COLOR TVS,  AND OF COURSE THE BETA-MAX VCR,  ALL FOR REALLY LOW PRICES.  SWEET MEAT ASKED HIM WHERE THEY CAME FROM,  AND THE SALESMAN SAID THAT THE TRUTH WAS THAT  HE GOT THEM OFF THE BACK OF A SEMI-TRAILER TRUCK PARKED IN FROM OF THIS PROSTITUTE’S HOUSE.  HE LOOKED AROUND AS IF HE WAS EXPECTING FOR THE COPS TO SPRING OUT OF NOWHERE AND PUT HIM IN THE HANDCUFFS.  SWEET MEAT HAD JUST GOT PAID AND ON HIS FOURTH BEER WHEN HE MET THIS SLICKSTER.   “I SELL THIS CASSETTE MACHINE FOR SEVENTY- FIVE DOLLARS”  THE GUY SAID.  SWEET MEAT SHOOK HIS HEAD AND REPLIED  “ THAT’S TOO RICH FOR MY BLOOD, BUDDY.  I WORKS FOR A LIVING.”  THEN THE GUY SAID  ” MAN DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS EQUIPMENT SELLS FOR IN THE WHITE MAN’S STORE?  THIS IS FROM JAPAN!  IT GOES FOR AROUND SIX BILLS!  I’M GIVING IT TO FOR 15 PERCENT OF WHAT IT COST.  LOOK IT EVEN COMES WITH A REMOTE TOO!”  SWEET MEAT SAID FLATLY ” THE BEST I CAN DO IS FORTY DOLLARS!”

MR SALESMAN LOOKED AROUND AGAIN AND TURNED BACK TO FRANK.  HE SAID ” I TELL YOU WHAT, IF YOU GIVE ME FIFTY,  YOU GOT YOURSELF A DEAL!”  FRANK FISHED THE MONEY OUT OF HIS WALLET AND PAID THE DUDE.  HE WAS ABOUT TO TAKE THE OPEN BOX WHEN THE MAN STOPPED HIM.  “HOLD ON PARTNER,  LET ME GIVE YOU ONE OF THESE,  THEY ARE STILL WRAPPED UP AND THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE INSIDE. ”  HE HANDED FRANK A BOX FELT ABOUT TWENTY POUNDS AND WALKED WITH FRANK TO THE BACK OF THE CAR,  SWEET MEAT HAD TO HAND HIM THE BOX BACK TO GET THE KEYS OUT OF HIS POCKET TO UNLOCK THE TRUNK.  AFTER FRANK PUT THE BOX DOWN,  THE GUY SAID HE HAD TO GO,  BECAUSE IT WASN’T A GOOD TO SIT IN ONE PLACE TO LONG.  SO HE BID SWEET MEAT GOODBYE AND HEADS OUT TO PLACES UNKNOWN.

FRANK WAS EXCITED ABOUT HIS NEW PURCHASE AND DROVE STRAIGHT HOME.  HE TOOK THE BOX TO HIS KITCHEN TABLE, HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN GATHERED AROUND AS HE CUT THE TAPE ON THE BOX.  HIS LOOK OF SHEER ELATION TURNED QUICKLY TO AN UGLY ANGRY FROWN.  BRICKS.  COMMON RED BRICKS, SURROUNDED BY STYROFOAM PEANUTS.  “SONS A BITCH!  THAT FUCKER SOLD ME A BOX FULL OF BRICKS!”  FRANK WENT TO HIS BEDROOM AND GRABBED HIS SHOTGUN AND A BOX OF AMMO.  HE JUMPED IN HIS CAR AND PEELED OUT OF THE DRIVEWAY.  HIS WIFE BETTIE MAE SAID A PRAYER FOR SWEET MEAT  AND THE MAN THAT SOLD HIM THAT BOX AS HE PEELED AWAY.

FRANK CAME HOME AT 2 A.M. THAT NIGHT.  STILL HOTTER THAN FISH GREASE,  BUT VERY TIRED.  HE HAD HUNTED THE CON MAN ALL THAT NIGHT, BUT DIDN’T SEE HIM ANYWHERE.  BETTIE MAE TOLD HIM TO FORGET ABOUT IT,  SHE TOLD HIM “YOU STEPPED IN THAT MESS WITH BOTH FEET.  YOU KNOW YOU AIN’T SUPPOSED TO BE BUYING NOTHING HOT!  YOU TOLD ME THAT HE STOLE IT OFF A FREIGHT TRUCK, THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR FIRST CLUE!  YOU ASKED FOR THAT TO HAPPEN.  SO JUST LET IT GO!  FRANK AGREED TO LET IT GO AND THAT HE WAS GOING TO LET GOD HANDLE IT.  BETTIE MAE’S RESPONSE WAS “UH HUH!  I KNOW YOU AIN’T GONNA LET IT GO.  BUT PUT SOME SALT CHARGES IN THAT SHOTGUN SO YOU DON’T KILL HIM,  I AIN’T GOT NO MONEY TO BE TRYING TO GET YOU OUT OF JAIL!”

SWEET MEAT DID WHAT HIS WIFE SAID ABOUT THE SHELLS,  AND THE HUNT CONTINUED ON FOR THREE MORE WEEKS.  SWEET MEAT SPOTTED SLICK’S CAR ONE EVENING,  PARKED ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WITH THE TRUNK OPEN, IN THE MIDST OF ANOTHER CON.  THIS TIME SWEET MEAT WAS IN HIS OLD BEATER, NOT THE FAMILY CAR. FRANK MADE THE BLOCK AND CAME BACK THROUGH A BLIND ALLEY.  THE GUY LOOKED UP TOO LATE AND SAW THE SHOTGUN WIELDING DISGRUNTLED CUSTOMER LEVELING THE WEAPON AT HIM.  THE NEW CUSTOMER STOOD THERE WATCHING SLICK AS HE TURNED TO RUN.   SWEET MEAT WAITED UNTIL HIS QUARRY BROKE CLEAR OF THE UNSUSPECTING DUPE,  AND FIRED AS IF HE WERE HUNTING A COTTON TAIL RABBIT.

THE BOOM OF THE SHOTGUN CAUGHT THE SALESMAN IN HIS LEFT BUTT CHEEK,  JUST BELOW HIS WALLET.  BRINGING HIM DOWN IN A SCREAMING HEAP.  SWEET MEAT WALKED DIRECTLY TOWARD HIS DOWNED TARGET,  THE SLICK SALESMAN SCREAMED IN AGONY.  “DAMMIT NIGGA!  YOU SHOT DONE ME IN THE ASS! SON OF A BITCH!”  SWEET MEAT BROKE THE SHOTGUN OPEN AND FISHED IN HIS POCKET FOR MORE SHELLS, KEEPING A STEADY DELIBERATE PACE TOWARD THE SALESMAN.  HE RELOADED THE SCATTER GUN AND SNAPPED IT CLOSED.  “WHERE MY DAMN MONEY YOU SILVER TONGUE SONS A BITCH?” HE ASKED IN A CALM VOICE.  THE CON MAN LOOKED AT HIM IN CONFUSION, THEN FUMBLED THROUGH HIS POCKET AND FOUND FOUR TWENTIES AND A FIVE.  “HERE!  TAKE IT ALL, JUST DON’T SHOOT ME NO MORE MAN, PLEASE!”   SWEET MEAT BENT OVER AND PICKED UP THE MONEY.  HE COUNTED OUT SIXTY FIVE DOLLARS AND THREW A  TWENTY BACK AT THE BLEEDING MAN.  THEN FRANK SAID  “FIFTY FOR THE BOX OF BRICKS, TEN DOLLARS FOR THE GAS, AND FIVE FOR THE SHELLS.  THERE’S TWENTY FOR YOUR DOCTOR FOR SEWING YOUR SWINDLING ASS BACK UP!  YOU HAVE A GOOD EVENING!”  WITH THAT FRANK TURNED AROUND AND MEANDERED BACK TOWARD HIS CAR, HIS SHOTGUN ON SHOULDER AND RECOUNTING HIS MONEY.  FRANK THREW ONE LAST REMARK OVER HIS SHOULDER AS HE WALKED AWAY “DIDN’T YO’ MAMA TELL YOU LYING AND STEALING WAS GONE BITE YA’ SQUARE IN THE ASS SOMEDAY?”

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