New Britain

          Al woke and laid around his apartment.  It was a mess.  He killed time until lunch picking up and sorting the detritus of bachelor life.  Pizza boxes and disposables in one plastic bag, laundry in another.  He hauled the trash to the dumpster and tossed the bag of laundry into his back seat.  He drove to the laundromat and watched his clothes take a ride.  He kept one eye on the Lido across the street.  Manny would stop there for lunch.  While his clothes dried, he spotted Manny shuffling down the sidewalk.  He pulled his stuff out of the drier and stashed the bag in his trunk.  Cars were broken into here.  The junkies who patrolled the strip mall stole randomly without any thought to what they were getting.  Al trotted across East Main and into the bar.  He could barely make out Manny who had a booth and was sipping a draft.  Al slipped into the booth and made small talk while the bartender put a sandwich in front of Manny and a bottle of Bud in front of Al.

        “You got what I need?” He asked.

         “Yep, and I got something else you might use. I’ll throw it in free.”

        “This package’ll get you the rest of the ID with no sweat.”

         Manny pulled out an envelope out of his jacket pocket and slid it across the table.  Al picked it up and looked inside.  There it was.  The yellow birth certificate with the embossed stamp.  There were a few sheets of paper with it.

         “What’s the paper?”

         “Tax papers I got from a buddy in the Assessor’s Office.  It seems your boy went delinquent on property taxes a few years back and disappeared.”  Manny said through a mouthfull of roast beef on rye.

           “I figured he was hiding from something.”

           “No problem, they filed him in the delinquent file.  He owes maybe a hundred bucks.  Drop by the office pay it and your clear.”

           “This guy is costing me money.  All I wanted was his name.”  Al said finishing his beer and sliding out of the booth.  “Might as well get it over with.”

            Al left the bar and crossed back to the parking lot.  He couldn’t believe he picked a deadbeat.  Another stop at the ATM and an afternoon dealing with City Hall.  Social Security would have to wait until tomorrow.


         Woody had been sober for three days.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying to get loaded.  He wound up at the Loaves and Fishes shelter.  He’d been talked into staying at the shelter and cleaning the dorm and helping out in the kitchen.  The manager didn’t preach and the work was easy.  He finally decided to cut loose and hit the streets because he really wanted to get drunk.  He found a place near Main without any cops and bummed enough for a pint.  He wanderded around buzzed and found his way to the shelter on Sigourney.  He got a bed and finished his day wondering about getting a job.  Usually when he had these thoughts he let them pass. 

         He woke the next morning with a headache.  He washed, dressed and headed for the diner.  Gus or Chico would give him at least a cup of coffee, breakfast at best.  The walk was a battle against the cold.  His coat didn’t seem to protect him like it used to.  When he got to rhe diner he went around back and went into the kitchen.  The warmth and the aroma wrapped around him and he wanted to stay.  It was like home.

          “Hola Woody” Chico said looking up from the griddle.  “You need work?  Gus just fired the kid who he hired when Rene quit.  He was no good.  Didn’t like the kitchen.”

          Chico plated the meals and had the waitress to get Gus into the kitchen.  When he came in he smiled.

         “You need work?  I’ll give you steady work. Five days a week, Saturday and Sunday off.  Six fifty an hour plus meals.  Off the books if you want.”

         “Sure, can I start now.  I’m kinda short.”

          “No problem I’ll take care of you at the end of the shift.”

          Woody changed into whites and cranked up the dish machine.  He scraped plates and fed the machine from breakfast through lunch stopping only for an egg sandwich and a coffee.  When the night shift showed, he was sore and tired.  Gus came back and slipped him twenty.  Chico gave him a sandwich on the way out.

         “Rene was a drunk and pissed Gus off when he lied to him about being sick.  The kid was too good for this place.  You want to work and you play it right you got a steady job.”

          Woody would’ve run long and hard if somebody told him that a week ago.  He needed this.  He pulled his coat tight and headed for the Armstrong.  Maybe with a stop for a half pint.