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Helping the Nice Guy

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Nice is as Nice does - Editor

Helping the Nice Guy

by John Wiswell

Inning waited in the booth, looking out the window while hunched so that others might not see him through it. His Christian name was Inigo, but everyone had called him Inning on account of a childhood aspiration to play pro ball. Apparently he lacked the hand-eye coordination for it and three years of failed tryouts broke his spirit, but the nickname lingered.

Inning only relaxed when he saw Aldo’s red Mercedes pull up. Aldo emerged, all three hundred pounds of potential cardiac arrest stuffed into a tweed winter coat.

Aldo didn’t look at him through the window. He didn’t even look for him as he entered the restaurant, choosing instead to order his midday steak sandwich at the counter. After a minute of small talk with the pretty teen waitress who showed more interest in her cell phone, he waddled down the row of booths until he found Inning.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “Thank you for inviting me to lunch. It’s been a while.”

“They set my car on fi—”

Aldo thumped his hand on the table to stop him.

“Good afternoon,” he said again, then wedged his girth into the booth. His belly caught in the table and rose like bread dough.

“Good afternoon,” Inning said.

The waitress finished texting and brought over a house beer. Aldo thanked her and she scampered to the back to make his order. The restaurant was suddenly vacant.

Aldo said, “I presume this is about the nice guy.”

"They set my car on fire, Aldo. I didn't even know Families did that this century. They burned up my ride all over some pick pocketing. You can make this go away, right?"
"You don't understand. You picked on the nice guy."

"So what if I steal a wise guy's wallet? They're loaded. They can swallow the loss."

Aldo held up a finger. "Firstly, a wise guy kills people who steal his wallet precisely because he's a wise guy. Families don’t respect a lazy wise guy."

Before Inning could complain, he held up a second finger. His middle finger.

"Secondly, I said 'nice guy.' An innocent in this scum hole. They are the few people who get invited to Family weddings that never realize the deals being made around them. They always go to dinner and they never pay. They don't steal. They don't sell merchandise. They don't do hits. Their worst activity is unwittingly carrying something in their luggage once or twice in their lives. They do it unwittingly because they'd never agree to do it consciously."

Inning shook his head. "So I pick pocketed a dumb ass?"

"You pick pocketed a guy so friendly that hardened criminals pay for his dinner. And to do it while he was Christmas shopping for his kids? Come on."

"So they burned my…”

The door behind the counter opened. The waitress trotted out with Aldo’s food. An instant of assuring her tip later, she was gone.

Aldo bit in, taking a fifth of his long sandwich in one bite. Inning had ordered the same sandwich an hour ago and more of it still sat on his plate than Aldo had left in his hands.

“They can't possibly go after me over that. It’s just a wallet. How did they even figure out I was the one who took it?"

“Using his credit card was a bad idea,” Aldo replied around a mouthful. “You think just because it’s shipped to Sherry’s loft that they’re not going to figure it out?”

“But he’s just some dumb ass.”

"You're not listening, Inning. When your first baby is born, the first person you call is a guy at the hospital. The Family has connections and he'll make sure everything God didn't make rough Himself goes smoothly. The second person you call is your Ma, because she'd never forgive you otherwise. The third person you call is a nice guy, because he's the first person who comes to mind. That is who you stole from. You are lucky you did not steal his cell phone. The numbers on there?" Aldo's eyes lolled around in his head and he mopped his brow with the remains of the sandwich, as though the idea had given him a sudden fever. "Oof."

"I still wouldn't light a car on fire over that."

"That's because you're a greasefingers. You're not in a Family business. If some moron wronged one of my good friends, I would shoot him straight in the chest."

Aldo gestured at Inning’s chest with his sandwich. A bit of steak fell out of the tip, plopping onto his plate. It dribbled brown juice.

Inning grumbled. "Well I appreciate having you on my side."

"That brings us to this."

Aldo shifted. One hand secured the sandwich so he could continue feeding, while the other reached into his coat. He produced a black Beretta, placing it flat on the table. His fingers spread over its side, index away from the trigger, but near enough.

“You see, I know this dumb ass.”

Inning tensed, hands moving to his sides. He didn’t bolt from the booth, but looked ready.

"Don't be stupid, Inning," warned Aldo. "You know his name and address because they were in the wallet. So was a week's pay, cashed just an hour before you lifted it. Since you already know where he lives, you're going to go give it back and apologize."

The pickpocket remained tense. He looked like a deer immediately after hearing a rifle shot, trapped in that instant before leaping. Since he didn’t speak, Aldo elaborated.

"If you do that, no one else will put a gun on a table near you and the next car you lease will be less flammable. I make you this offer because you are my friend. Now are you going to give him his wallet back?"

Inning pressed his lips together.

"Yes."

"With two weeks pay in it?"

"I thought it was one weeks pay."

"Two weeks pay, plus what you spent on his cards. You hand it all to him and say you found it under a bench in that mall.”

Inning looked at the black gun, then to his old friend.

"Aldo, why?”

“Why did I beg them to wait until you left the car to torch it? Or why am I giving you such stellar advice when I could be bored at home?”

Inning didn’t answer. Aldo finished the sandwich, licked his fingers and took a long pull on the beer.

“I am doing this because when Aldo Junior was born, this dumb ass was the third person I called.”

Inning wiped the sweat from his palms, then put them together like he was praying at the fat man.

“I’ll go today. I’ll go to the bank first, then to his house. I’ll tell him I found it in the mall bathroom, next to the toilet. Things fall out of pockets in there all the time. I only opened it to find the owner. I hope everything’s in there.”

"Thank you, Inning.” Aldo gathered the gun into his coat. As though answering either the prayer or the departure of the gun, the front door jingled with the first true lunch hour patrons.

“You can go now if you want. It’s a long walk. I'll pick up the check."

©2010

 

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