Friday Night Teens Gone Wild
We set up on the corner under the largest tree. There was a comfy bench and from there we could see the park and all four cross streets.
For the first thirty minutes, I felt like an idiot. Manny and I’d set up here, and we’d seen only a few people walking their dogs, returning home from work or whatever else it was they were doing. None of them pinged as customers to either of us, and we just sat there, ignored.
Manny’s grumbling was getting a little louder when the first group of teens came into the park. There were only three of them—two guys and a girl. They looked about our age, either in high school or just out of it. The girl was pretty, a slim white girl with long black hair and a dazzling smile. The two guys both looked pretty average, although one of them stood out by virtue of having added a purple streak to his blond hair. The other guy was just pretty unremarkable, only standing out because of a slightly surly expression on his face.
They sat in the grass near the monkey bars, and broke out beers to start drinking. Both of the guys looked our way but they didn’t say anything.
“Now what? This was your idea, Bro,” Manny reminded me.
“Let’s just try to use customer ID on them.”
Manny and I sat there spamming our terrible Customer Identification skill, trying to get it to work for a few minutes.
“The kid with the purple hair isn’t interested,” Manny reported.
I’d been alternating my ID attempts between the group of three kids and the occasional person wandering by. I’d been failing over and over. I was about to go back to to straight up guessing and cold sales when I finally had a success. The girl with the long, black hair wanted some weed.
“Girl’s a customer. Stay here and I’ll sell,” I said to Manny. He nodded.
I walked across the park, trying to seem non-threatening. I knew I had a head start on that since I was dressed like a weed clown and all. Even so, I was in the shadows so I couldn’t be sure how they’d react.
As soon as I was within range I identified all three of them. The surly looking kid and the girl were related. Brother and sister?
|Juliette Louis, Student (F2)|
|Harnett Louis, Student (F2)|
Harnett and Juliette had both ranked up their student Jobs. I doubted you could earn much money as a student, so did that mean they had rich families?
The kid with the purple streak in his hair was the odd man out, both with his Job level and not being a part of the family.
|Jason Dean, Learner (F1)|
Their conversation stopped as they say me approaching. I made a point of not hurrying, relishing the awkwardness for some reason.
When I got within fifteen feet, Harnett spoke up, his surly expression mostly under control.
“What’s up, dude?” he asked, his voice polite, but firm.
“Not much. I’m just here to sell some weed. It’s called green monster, and it’s fine. A smooth, mellow high with no paranoia. How much can I get for you guys?”
Juliette squealed in delight. “Oh, I was so wanting to get high! Beer just doesn’t do it for me, you know that, Harnett.”
“Jules, you know you get stupid when you smoke.”
The kid with the purple hair, Jason, had been closely watching this exchange and spoke up.
“How much for the weed?”
“Fifty bucks a dime,” I quoted.
Harnett scoffed. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Come on, Harnett! I want to smoke. I’ve got papers in here,” she said, patting the fashionable little purse on the grass next to her. “Please, Harnett? I didn’t bring any cash.”
Harnett was shaking his head, standing firm against his sister’s whining.
“No, it’s way overpriced. If you want we can get some tomorrow from my regular guy.”
“But I want it now,” she whined.
It didn’t work on Harnett, but Jason was ready to help. “I’ll get us some weed, Jules.”
She squealed in joy and pounced on him, hugging him close. He smiled and looked a bit dazed.
After she calmed and let him go, Jason turned to me. “Two bags, please.”
When he pulled out his wallet I was surprised to see just how much cash was in it. He pulled two fifty dollar bills free and barely made a dent in that stack. I took them from his hand and gave him two little vacuum packs.
“Pleasure doing business with you. We’ll be here a while, and we’ll be back tomorrow. If you want some more, you know where to find us. Enjoy,” I said.
The next few hours were a blur. More and more teenagers came into the park in groups of two to four. They formed a rough ring around the monkey bars. They’d laugh, drink beer and toss the empties into the center. People would flit from group to group, talking.
As the teenagers flooded in, so did our customers. That first group of three was our best advertisement. The strong smell of the marijuana filled the little park. The teens came over to us in ones and twos, buying and buying. Soon the party was roaring, dozens of buzzed teenagers enjoying life. Some of the heavy smokers even came back for seconds.
“This is crazy,” Manny said, under his voice.
I could only agree. Manny had given me an ounce that morning and my pockets were feeling fairly empty. I was pretty sure I’d sold almost all of it.
“If we keep on like this, when Leo comes to see us next week, we can just pay him outright.”
Manny shook his head, dumping cold water on my optimism.
“Nah, Bro. It’s Friday night. These kids can’t legally drink, so they come out to party here in the park. Maybe it will be good tomorrow night too, but then Sunday’s a school night. It’s a good spot, but I’m thinking weekends only.”
It made sense to me. I’d been getting a little ahead of myself. Even so, a weekend spot this hopping was a good start.
It wasn’t quite eight o’clock when I sold my last dime bag. Manny had run out ten minutes earlier.
“That was my last one,” I said, patting all my pockets to make sure.
“I only brought a half ounce. I didn’t expect to sell even that much,” Manny said.
The wad of cash in my pocket was feeling heavy. I really wanted to count it, but it was too big for Fast Count and counting my money in the open didn’t feel right. I’d been feeling a tingling in the back of my head for a while now, and when I scratched at it, it showed me what I had expected to see.
|Fast Count Leveled Up to 3/7|
“A good day. I’m starving, man. What about you?” I asked.
“Hell yeah, Bro. Let’s go get some food.”
We waved to the partying teens, who cheered at us, and whistled. I had to wonder what the people in the surrounding houses thought of this teenager party in the park, and our role in it. Luckily, no one had called the cops. Soon, we were back in the Regal and on our way.
I started to count the take while we were driving, but the burger joint was close and before I’d even got halfway done we were pulling in to the lot.
I looked up and laughed nervously when I saw the sign over the restaurant. The painted face of a clown stared down, his beady black eyes seeming to follow me. Bright red makeup was caked around his open mouth, the lips parted slightly. The clown was frozen in time, just about to take a bite of the oversized, double cheeseburger gripped in his white-gloved left hand. The perfect white of the glove was slightly stained by the red of what might have been ketchup.
Over this horrific, fascinating example of branding was the name of the restaurant in a bold red and yellow font: “Bad Clown Burgers”
I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. If you could take the image at face value it might have been innocent. After all, at one point in living memory clowns hadn’t been scary as shit. This could have been that kind of image, an echo of a more innocent time. It really didn’t feel like it, though. The black eyes, the red mouth and the lack of a natural expression were all super creepy.
“Yo, we’re here. Let’s go,” Manny said from beside the Regal, breaking my reverie. He’d already turned off the car and climbed out.
“Seriously? We’re eating here?” I asked. I was still having a hard time believing this was a real thing.
“Yeah man, these burgers are badass.”
Manny didn’t seem to find anything weird about this. Maybe on this world, clowns were still a source of laughter instead of horror. For myself, I’d never really thought of myself as afraid of clowns before, but seeing this one made me realize that I just hadn’t seen the right clown yet.
I stuffed my cash back in a zippered pocket and climbed out of the car. I checked to make sure my pistol was still in place before squaring my shoulders and following Manny inside.
The inside was almost disappointing. It wasn’t some horror show, instead it was just another fast food place. The restaurant was fairly busy, but the service was fast and efficient. In almost no time we’d ordered, paid our eight dollars each and been given a plastic stand with the number 19 on it to place on our table.
I spotted a free booth on the other side of the room and we headed that way.
“That was a hell of a good day, Bro,” Manny said.
I nodded my agreement, but I was distracted from the conversation by the reaction we were getting. The joint was full of families, all happily eating away. That is, until they saw us. The young kids would stare openly, until Mom or Dad stopped them. The adults generally avoided eye contact entirely. One family’s pretty, teenage daughter looked straight into my eyes for a few long seconds, until I smiled at her. Then she blushed and turned away.
Manny was completely oblivious, continuing to talk as we got to our booth and sat down.
“I thought for sure that park was going to be a waste of time, Bro. Nice work.”
I wrenched my attention back to our conversation. “Uh, yeah. It worked out, but I guess we’ll need another spot for the weekdays. We can hit that one again hard tomorrow, though.”
Manny looked a bit stricken. “Oh, shit, Bro. I forgot to tell you I can’t sell tomorrow. It’s my grandma’s 80th birthday, and I’ll be at my aunt’s house all day. Sorry!”
“Your grandma’s birthday is an all day affair?” I asked.
“Yeah, Bro. When she’s this old it sure is. The whole family’s going to be there. It’s a big deal when you’re Vietnamese, respect for your elders. My mom’s going to be there cooking with her sisters, and she’s told me my presence is not optional.”
“Okay, but how am I going to get some weed?” I asked.
A young guy in a Bad Clown Burgers uniform set down two trays in front of us, smiled and hurried off. It smelled great, and I picked up the drink and took a sip of ice-cold cola.
“I’ll try to get Mom to swing me by the Maximarket to drop some off. Call me in the morning and we can figure it out. You’ve really got to get a car, Bro.”
“Yeah, I know.”
We both dug into our food. The burger really was amazing, juicy and delicious. The fries were good too. I hadn’t really been eating that well lately, and that meal disappeared like water into a dry sponge. Manny was a little slower, so as he was still eating I pulled out my roll and did a quick count in my lap, out of sight.
$1,540. I smiled. It really had been a good day. I didn’t even have to use my AK. Which was good, as I didn’t have one. Yet.
Manny had slowed down, eating one of the last remaining fries and sipping on his drink. His burger had vanished. He gave a deep belch and smiled.
“I love this place. You ready to go?”
I was, so we got up and walked outside. Manny’s Buick was waiting and we were back on the road a minute later. The gun digging into my back reminded me of something.
“Hey, did you talk to the shop teacher about gun lessons?” I asked.
“Shit. Sorry, I forgot. I smoked some of the weed after I got to school and I was a little baked during shop class. My bad, Bro. I’ll ask one of my uncles tomorrow. They’ll know.”
“Alright. Hey, drop me about a block away from my house. I’ve got to get changed. My clothes are still in the trunk, right?”
“Yep, still there.”
It didn’t take long to get back to Martin’s neighborhood as traffic was fairly light. Manny stopped a block away and I got out. I ran to a convenient, nearby phone booth and changed back into my jeans and t-shirt. The booth stunk of piss, but I wasn’t in there long. Before I exited I stepped back into the light and stuffed my weed-clown outfit into a plastic bag that had been rattling around in Manny’s trunk.
My cash and keys got moved into my jeans, and I tucked the gun back into its familiar spot.
Manny was leaning against the Regal nearby, waiting for me to finish. “You want me to hold on to the gun for you?”
The smart answer to that question was ‘Sure, Manny. You keep this gun where my uncle Martin will never be able to see it.’
That wasn’t the answer I gave.
“Nah, I’ll keep it.”
A few times that day, I’d felt like I could have used it if I needed to. Like even if everything went sideways, I still had another option. That was a good feeling.
“Cool. See you tomorrow, Bro.”
I gave Manny a bro-hug, and twenty seconds later he was gone. The Regal left with a squeal and a slight cloud of exhaust.
This time, the lights were still on. It was a bit after nine o’clock, so I was still late. I entered the side door, and Martin was sitting at his coffee table, drinking something out of a coffee cup.
“You’re still late, but better. Were you at work all this time?” he asked.
“No, I hung out with my friend Minh after work.”
Martin nodded and pointed at the plastic bag with my weed outfit in it. “What have you got there?”
“Oh this? It’s my uniform.”
“Feel free to use the laundry facilities if you need them. Well done on your first day. You’d better hit the sack, lights out in fifteen.”
I nodded, and went downstairs.
I stashed my gun and cash and just had enough time to get undressed, lie down in bed and read the first few pages of my book when the lights went out. I sighed, set the book on the bedside table and went to sleep.