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Chapter 19 – Taking More
I started to see Jimmy’s truck missing from his driveway more often in the mornings, usually only a few hours after I’d left him late in the night and I wondered where it was that he was going, why he would need to leave the still-warm bed we had shared, the one I had just left. Was he waiting for me to leave on those nights? Was he jumping up right after he heard me back out the driveway? It bothered me that Jimmy was doing something that I didn’t know about and I struggled to think of a way that I could ask him without making him mad. I didn’t think it was right that he was doing something that was in the middle of the night but I was afraid to ask because I worried that Jimmy was going off to see someone besides me.
I didn’t like thinking that Jimmy might also be involved with someone else. When I’d drive by and see that he was gone from his house, I could almost feel myself falling from the view of our future, where I was perched and only waiting for Jimmy to give me the sign by joining me. I had been working so hard towards this goal and I felt a queasy mix of worry and fear, wondering if once again I would be left alone.
I thought of Mom. What exactly did she do that was good to cope when Dad and then Stevie left? Besides cleaning the house and getting a job, what had gone inside Mom to direct her through the emptiness? I suddenly felt ashamed when I realized that I had always thought Mom was weak. She cowered, I remembered, she cried, she withdrew around me and Stevie and then just around me. Then she became fixed on keeping me from going the wrong way or from leaving her.
But Mom, I realized, was doing what she could do to make it. She had no one to lean on. She found a way, despite my scorn. I started to understand that Mom had a good job after all, that we lived in a nice house. I knew Dad still sent us money, but I wondered how much. I realized Mom was working harder than Dad to support us because she was here doing the job and he was just sending a check.
I wondered if she was happy. We never talked about our happiness. We existed together but I had done my best to avoid Mom. I tried to brush off a feeling of guilt and I wondered what Mom was doing at that moment, what she was thinking.
I hadn’t told Jimmy about Stu. I was afraid of his reaction. Maybe he would think I had asked for it. I still thought I could handle Stu, as uncomfortable as I was around him. He had only kissed me after all and I talked myself into believing that I was the reason he stopped. I could handle Stu.
Jimmy and I took a ride to the lake one night after work. It was one of those early summer nights when the sun’s warmth pulls everyone outdoors and strangers, when they catch each other’s eyes, share the unspoken happiness that comes with the carefree feeling of getting something good out of a work day. We drove out there in Jimmy’s truck, blanket and a six-pack in the back.
The sun was close to setting and I spread the blanket at the edge of the water. We sat and Jimmy handed me a beer. Jimmy was the one who suggested we go to the lake that night. I was glad to get out of my house, and glad to have Jimmy to myself, without worrying that Stu would be around.
“It’s nice here tonight, isn’t it, Jimmy?” I asked.
“Yup,” he answered and before he had even finished his first beer, he was grabbing the next and opening it. I was quiet. I figured he was still trying to shake off his day. I sat and sipped my beer and looked out on the lake which was quiet, with a glass-like stillness.
“Jes,” he started. The voice that I loved had a strange tone to it and it startled me. I wasn’t sure I knew it. I was afraid to look at him. I wondered how the tone of Jimmy’s voice, one word spoken, my name, in fact, how this alone could create a panic in me, with no warning. I got the courage to look at him and when I turned I saw that his eyes were wet and glassy.
“Jimmy, what is it?” I asked. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t know what to do to brace myself for what would come next.
“Jes, I’m in trouble and I don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean, Jimmy? What is it?” It was suddenly worse not knowing. “What kind of trouble, Jimmy?”
“I’m in way over my head and I don’t even know how to begin to tell you. I don’t even know if I should tell you because I’m afraid you will hate me if you know, but I can’t keep it all in anymore.”
I couldn’t stand it. “Jimmy, what is it? Tell me what it is.” I was sure he was going to tell me that he was leaving, that there was another girl, that she was pregnant.
Jimmy started his story in a babbling, unorganized confession. He swore to me that he didn’t know he was going to get as deep into things as Stu. He only wanted a little extra cash. He didn’t think what he was doing was so wrong, but now everything was going so wrong. And he didn’t know how to pull out of it. And Stu was putting on the pressure to do more.
“Do more what?” I yelled. I was starting to get scared.
“Oh Jes. We are deep into layers upon layers of burglaries, of stealing computers and other crap and unloading it for cash. At first I thought it would be just one time, but Stu, he’s such a greedy shit, he said it was so easy the first time we should just keep going. I didn’t know what to say because he was right, it had been so easy and it was quick and we all got pockets full of cash. How can you say no to that? It’s not like we were hurting anyone, we were just taking stuff and making a profit so we could get ahead in the world. That’s how Stu put it.”
I had been expecting such a completely different story that I didn’t know how to react to Jimmy’s confession. My head was spinning, half with relief that I wasn’t losing him and half with the cloudy confusion of trying to understand his complicated story in such a short period of time. His rambling had just spilled out and was hard to follow and I was just beginning to put the facts together.
“Jimmy, you have to get out of this. Just tell Stu you want to stop. Tell him you’re out.”
“Jes, it’s not that easy. You don’t know Stu very well. He’s my brother, but he’s a real bastard if he doesn’t get what he wants. And Gene, he’s got Gene right under his thumb and he’s barely seventeen. Says he’s teaching him the deck business but that’s all a bunch of bullshit. He’s got Gene working for him making decks, sure, but he’s teaching him how to steal on the side. Me and Stu, we’ve never gotten along and I thought I had gotten out of his reach by doing my own thing and my job at _____________ has been a good one. I thought I could break away from him. Ever since Mom died, Dad hasn’t been right, he’s been helpless in fact and he’s pretty much left us to take care of ourselves. And Stu stepped up as he always puts it, but all he’s ever done was order us around.”
“Jimmy, then how the hell did you get pulled into this in the first place?” I asked.
“I’m so stupid sometimes, I don’t know when to shut up. I had come home from work one day and I was so excited because my boss was getting ready to send me to one of his corporate customers, to work there for two weeks and do a bunch of repairs on-site. I was bragging, I guess, trying to show Stu that I had a job that was making some money. I didn’t notice Stu’s face when I first started telling him about my new assignment, but by the time I had finished talking, he had a hungry look in his eyes and he looked like was working a plan out in his head. At first I thought he was thinking about something besides my bragging, but then he started to tell me what a great job I was doing. He was really buttering me up, I guess, telling me how important I was. At first I thought he was just being sarcastic, telling me for the thousandth time how inferior I was, but he actually sounded sincere and I was so fucking excited about my job that I kept on talking about how I would be going there starting the next Monday, how it was a real swank office, full of fancy computer equipment and, Jes, I didn’t realize that Stu was making up a plan to steal that equipment right out of the office where I was getting my first important assignment at work.”
“Well before that night was over, Stu had me agree to make an inventory of what was there, which offices had the best stuff, and told me to figure out the best way to get in there after hours. He told me we could make a shit-load of cash from just this one job, that he’d already pulled a few other burglaries like this and with Gene and me helping him out we’d be able to get a good profit from just one job.”
“I had told him I was afraid of getting caught and losing my own job, but Stu started being real nice to me and acting like he had changed his mind about me, telling me I wasn’t the stupid little brother that he’d always said I was and that we had to pull ourselves out of our shit-hole house since Dad wasn’t good for anything anymore except drinking to escape to some other place.”
“And Jes, it was easy, just like Stu said it was going to be. We didn’t take too much at first. We took a couple things to test out our plan and then we went back three more times so it wouldn’t look like a huge robbery, like maybe a bitter employee was sneaking stuff home piece by piece after work, not us. And we didn’t do it until a month after my assignment there, but I had been lucky enough to steal a key-card, the kind that disarms the alarm when you enter the building.”
“Oh Jes, I don’t know what to do. I’m so deep into this and I don’t want to be. And I’m fucking scared of Stu. I told him a few weeks ago I just wanted to work at my own job, that I wanted to get out of this other crap and he actually slapped me across the face and told me I’d better shut up and do what he said.”
I was astonished at what I was hearing. I sat there on the blanket and felt Jimmy’s panic. I looked at him and said, “Jimmy, you’ve got to move out of there, now.”
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