Half lit from the street lamp the cat stared back at Jim. Startled Jim almost did a nose dive off the roof. He leaned back quickly and secured his butt to the shingles. When he peered again the cat was gone. As if in a dream Jim tried to steady himself he was dizzy but he was also laying on the roof and not concerned about falling. While the spinning slowed Jim looked behind him and saw the cat on the peak of the roof. Another noise in the alley, Jim decided it was getting too busy and it was time to go in. He awoke with a start, almost like someone was talking to him, he realized that he was wrapped tight in a blanket. There was something or someone else in the room. A cat was staring at him, the cat was sitting on his chest. Another noise the cat looked away and jumped. The knocking grew louder. Once again asleep on the floor. What a life. Between knocks he heard talking behind the door. He laid there hoping the knocking would stop and they’d go away. After a few minutes Jim pushed himself off the floor and dragged his way to the door. As he got closer he heard the growing conversation but couldn’t make the language. When he finally opened the door he was confronted by two men in their late 40s; one introduced himself as the manager and the other as the fixer. His apartment wasn’t big and these guys filled it up immediately. Jim felt dizzy. He wasn’t sure how to deal with the influx of energy into the room. The fixer headed to the kitchenette and the manager sized Jim up with a critical eye of a man who had contempt for everyone. Jim had never seen these two before. While the manager stared the fixer opened the small refrigerator and scowled at it’s lack of content. The manager looked for a safe place to sit and not finding any once again stared at Jim and started to speak.
“We know you’re some sort of loser looking for work.” The manager couldn’t tell you why he instantly hated Jm. He always hated that type of guy. Someone who seems to float along and may not live very well but things fall into place. An easy life. The manager never had an easy day. He always took the responsibility and lost hundreds of hours of sleep. Those who knew him could barely tolerate his presence. They started calling him the manager in high school and now that’s just what he did.
Jim looked around for his cigarettes, he saw them on the table but before he could get to them the fixer grabbed the pack and took one out. He lit it and put the pack in his pocket. Jim knew right then that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit.
“Gimme one.” He told the fixer who begrudgingly gave him one. Jim couldn’t keep his eyes on both of them. The manager still had something to say. Jim knew the next insult was ready for delivery and looked casually at the manager. Jim tried to reestablish some sort of authority, but the fixer and the manager were totally oblivious to his attempt.
“I was told that I could talk to you and you’d keep your mouth shut!” The manager said. He had the look of a man who wanted to slap someone. Jim felt a little queazy and fell toward the bed.
The fixer laughed and put his cigarette out on the wall. Jim sat down with a fall. The manager stared disbelief and disgust grew on his face. Jim tried to crawl under the covers then realized that two strangers were in his apartment. When he turned over the fixer was leaning against the wall smearing the ash around and the manager was trying to hold back his anger.
He said, “Look Jim I need you to do something for me. Don’t have any misconceptions Jim. I don’t like you. I wouldn’t be here but a friend said you don’t have any friends and no one likes you.”
“Fuck you.” Jim was able to mumble before the fixer hauled off and slapped him. “Show some respect.” The fixer said then cocked his arm back for another swing. The manager moved in between them and held back the fixer with a look. The manager said, “Jim I don’t want to have to pay this guy to work right now. How about you just tell me you’ll do this thing for me.”
Jim pulled his face from the head board and said, “Who says I don’t have any friends?” “Shit” the manager said as the fixer’s hand made contact with Jim’s face again. “You know it costs me 75 bucks every time he hits someone? The fixer ain’t cheap but he’s efficient.” The manager sat next to Jim. Jim immediately fell to the floor.
The manager’s impatience was beginning to show. The fixer was looking bored. Jim wished they would leave.
The manager slid to the floor next to Jim. He said, “You want us to leave, we want to go. Here’s the deal. My best friend is missing and I want you to find him.”
Jim didn’t understand. “Why? What?” Slap! The fixer groaned bending back up after the low swing.
“Focus. Jim, you idiot!” The manager leaned in and with a conspiratorial, panicked whisper said, “You’ve got to find Cuddles.”
Next week Page 3