Friday, April 24, 2020

Pushing Water Chapter One

Pushing Water drops from Down & Out Books on May 4; you can pre-order it any time you want. Today’s blog post is the opening chapter, to see if it piques your interest.



Jacques Lelievre pushed a ten across the bar, tapped it with an index finger.
“Thanks, Larry.” Don Kwiatkowski tipped his fresh beer in Jacques’s direction. Under the impression Jacques’s name was Larry Robinson. A reasonable mistake: that’s what Jacques had told him.
“You ever hear of a guy named Elmore Leonard?” Jacques careful to keep his French Canadian accent under control.
Don swallowed. Showed thought. “He a fighter? Sounds like a fighter’s name.”
“Writer. I think he did some time, though. Writes a lot of books about guys who did time and knows how they think.”
Don swallowed. Set the glass on the bar. “You know much about guys that did time?”
“Got a lot of convict friends, do you?”
“Not a lot. Some.”
“Where’d you get to know not a lot, but some convicts?”
Jacques sipped his drink. “Prison.”
Don took his time with another swallow, cagey like. “So you’re saying you’re a convict. That’s how you know about this Elmore guy.”
“I’m not saying anything. Being a con isn’t the kind of thing you brag aboot.” Jacques flinched inwardly.
Don took a few seconds to really look at Jacques for the first time that night. “Where you from, exactly?”
“Vermont. Way the fuck up by Canada. Got tired of freezing my cock off seven months a year and moved to Florida. Got so hot there I had to change clothes three times a day. Now I drive truck and move around a lot. Get a little of everything.” Jacques really had gotten tired of freezing his cock off, though it had been somewhat north of Vermont.
“What’d you do to get put in prison?”
“Does it matter?”
The pause told Jacques snap judgments weren’t Don’s strong suit. “Not really, I guess. No. It don’t matter at all.”
“That’s good,” Jacques said. “I’d hate to think you were close-minded.”
“Not me.” Don finished his beer. Looked at Jacques’s Crown Royal sitting half-full on the bar. Jacques slugged it back and held up two fingers, pointed to his glass and Don’s. Don said, “I’m pretty liberal when it comes to shit like that. This Elmore you mentioned. What about him?”
“He write a book about a guy who has rules for armed robbery. Makes a lot of sense.”
“You know a lot about armed robbery?”
Don welcomed his fresh beer like a cousin he hadn’t seen in years. “Why’re you telling me?”
Jacques pretended to think about what to say. “You’re on strike from that steel mill across the river, right?”
“We ain’t on strike, goddammit. We’re locked out. The union’s willing to work without a contract while things get settled, but those cocksuckers want givebacks. Locked us out and brought in scabs.” Then, into his beer: “Cocksuckers.”
“Pay’s about the same, though. Locked out or on strike?”
“You just now drunk enough to break my balls, or is there a point here?”
“I’m not drunk.” Jacques gave Don time to make eye contact. “Funny thing, towns without much money usually got plenty of cash. Hard to get credit for people out of work or part-time. People who write money orders don’t take checks. Payday loan places have to keep lots of cash on hand. The less money a town has, the more cash is in circulation.”
Jacques needed Don to be stupid enough, but not too stupid. Not as sure now which side of the line he fell on. “All that cash? It’s not nailed down. It has to be available for people to use. That makes it available for everyone.”
The lightbulb came on over Don’s head. Sixty watts, tops. With a dimmer. “That time you did. Wasn’t for robbery, was it?”
Jacques sipped his drink. Smiled.
Don said, “Why are you telling me?”
Jacques let the anticipation build a few seconds. “It takes two men to do it right.”
Don gave a long hard look. “What makes you think I’m the kind of guy robs people?”
“What kind of guy is that? A guy who robs people. They look different? Have three eyes? Gun permanent attached to their hand? You know who armed robbers are? People who need money. You know anyone like that?”
Don’s beer sat forgotten on the bar. “You didn’t say nothing about armed robbery before.”
“You know another way people give you money don’t belong to you?” Left time for Don to speak up. “I didn’t think so. The difference between an armed robber and any of these doncs around us is ambition. You think there’s anyone in here don’t need money?”
Don looked around at Fat Jimmy’s usual clientele. “Some of these guys do all right.”
Jacques snorted. “They wouldn’t drink in this toilet if they had money to go anyplace else. We been talking here over an hour. You got truck payment, you got child support, you got rent. All you don’t got right now is a job.”
“I got a fucking job.”
“I’m sorry. You got a job. What you don’t got is income.” Let that one lay on the bar to see if Don picked it up. “I got an idea for income. But I need another guy.”
Don turned on his barstool to face Jacques, closing them off from the other drinkers. “I ain’t got a problem with…taking some money. But armed robbery? That’s an extra five years in this state, I think.”
Jacques knew he had a partner as soon as the conversation turned to specifics. “Doesn’t matter. No one is going to give you the money if they don’t think you got a gun, and that’s all it takes. Even you put your finger in your pocket like this—pretend gun—if they think you have a gun, the law says you do. Least that’s how it is in Vermont.”
“Yeah. Here, too, I think.”
Jacques sipped his Crown Royal. “It’s funny, when you think about it. They make a big deal about how much more serious is armed robbery, then they write the law so pretty much any robbery is one. You want to call it just robbery? Fine. I’ll be armed. You do what you want.”
Don’s beer sat unattended, nearing room temperature. Jacques finished his drink. Let the warmth flow down his throat. Relaxed and in his element. Hoped Don asked the question before he exploded.
“How do we do it?”
“The first thing is to always be polite on the job. Say please and thank you.”

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