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Thread: Henry Pockets

  1. #1
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Henry Pockets

    Henry Pockets

    Working on Sunday stinks. I could have phrased it more delicately for the lady readers but the sentiment would have remained the same. Working on Sunday stinks. And that’s what I had to do, work on Sunday.
    There were only two things about it that were good. One, I didn’t have to dress up. No stupid tie, no suit, no brown shoes. Second, the ride would be good. No traffic, no congestion. Sunday was like anti-histamine to L.A. traffic. It wouldn’t cure it but it would certainly help. It would let you breathe easier. I gulped my coffee, and as I turned off the T.V. noticed it was opening day at Hollywood Park Race Track.

    That’s right across from the office. The racing fans would clog our parking.
    But it was not to worry. I’d park in the back, under a tree. I’d have it made in the shade. I grabbed the keys and was out the door. I smiled immediately upon seeing my ride. Wasn’t she a beauty!
    It was a BMW 6501 coupe, silver with cobalt blue trim, comfortable with its solid sound system and leather upholstery. It was the finest car I’d ever owned. Funny, because just a year earlier I was on the skids. Now with a change in luck I had it all, the job, the car, the everything. I was lucky and I knew it.

    I reached the 91 almost immediately, but the cars were stacking up making a left onto the freeway onramp. I counted twelve. About four would make the turn at each green signal. A man was standing near the ramp hitchhiking. The cars all passed him up. I knew how it was. They were pretending they couldn’t see him. I’d been there myself. The cars, especially the big ones, would pass by even with one driver and four empty seats. A rust bucket with four kids and a dog would stop. That’s how it is. I felt sorry for the guy. It was getting hot. The next four went and still nothing, just passed him up. Then it was my turn. He was holding a sign. “Hollywood Park” it said. How could I pass him up? I couldn’t. I slowed and opened the door.

    “The races?” I asked.

    “Thanks” he said with a smile, “I needed that,” and hopped in.

    He reached over and put out his hand.

    “Henry Pockets,” he said, ‘pleased to meet you.”

    In 1900 they would have said he was “well mannered”. Nowadays we say he’s got “people skills”.

    I introduced myself and looked him over. He dressed well and was loosening his tie. He was a large man, definitely Hispanic both in color and features. His eyes were dark and close set, his nose insinuated Mayan. His hair was as close-cropped as his goatee. I noticed when he unbuttoned his collar, that on his neck, were tats. Jail tats. He was that rare species, an ex-jailbird with excellent manners. He looked around.

    “Nice ride,” he said, “nice sounds too.”

    “Thanks,’ I said. I was proud of both. “Going to play the ponies? It’s a nice day for it.”

    “Me, bet on horse racing? Not on your life. I don’t like taking chances. I’m a professional. Got to keep up my image. Got to have standards.”

    That’s all he said for a while. Maybe he was listening to the radio. The song was Tom Petty’s Runnin Down a Dream. Maybe it was his favorite song. I’d rather listen to Tom myself than have inane conversation just to pass the time of day. Maybe he just wasn’t a talker.

    “That AC feels good,” he remarked.

    He sank into the leather seat soaking up the luxury. He adjusted the AC port until it hit him full in the face. It was then I noticed his fingers. They didn’t match the rest of him. They were long and delicate. Perhaps he was a sculptor or a brain surgeon. A brain surgeon with tats. I couldn’t resist. I had to ask,
    “What do you do?”

    “Oh, I’m a professional, what do you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”’

    “A pretty good one too, to afford this,” he said looking around, “It runs real smooth.”

    “The AC or the car?”


    He sat up a bit and looked at the speedometer.

    “It says 140. Will she do it?”

    “I’ve never tried her,” I said,” But I’m sure she can.”

    I’m not sure why we were calling the car a she, as if “she” were a yacht and were yachtsmen, but we were. Perhaps were being pretentious. A BMW will do that.

    “You sure?”

    “I’m sure.”

    “Then,” he said, ‘put the pedal to the metal.”

    On any other occasion I wouldn’t have. But here was a beautiful afternoon, no traffic, a new car, a song meant for cruising. I couldn’t resist. I was curious myself. I changed to the speed lane. Within a second we were at 90.

    “That’s more like it,” he said, “don’t give up now.”

    I pushed it down. Nearby stationary objects became a blur. I was getting a rush. The car was smooth as a Teflon baby’s ***. We passed a red truck carrying Coca Cola as if it was standing still.

    “Floor it dog,” he said, “Don’t be a *****.”

    I pushed it down as far as it would go. We were having fun. Fun up to a point. The point was the one I saw in my rear-view mirror, the one with the flashing lights. As I slowed down the point took on certain details. It was a black and white point. A CHP. I pulled over to the right.

    He pulled up in front of us, kicked his kick-stand down and swung his right leg over nice and slow. Cops know they have your attention. That’s what I don’t like about them. Everyone’s a drama queen. Everyone’s a performer. They make me cringe.
    “Can I see your license and registration?”

    “Yes Officer.”

    “Have you got proof of insurance?”

    “Yes Officer.”

    His uniform was so neat and crisp you knew he starched his shorts. He was so clean he squeaked.

    “Do you know why I pulled you over today?”

    I’d been waiting for that one. What was I going to say? That I didn’t know I was going over a hundred? That I did know I was an idiot? That I didn’t see him? No matter what the answer I’d look like a fool, so I said something foolish.

    “Could it be I was going too fast officer?”

    “About 110 on a road clearly marked for 65,” was his answer. “I expected to hear you were late to work, or that you were driving your friend here to the hospital.” He looked over at Mr. Pockets, and scribbled something down.
    “The judge will probably throw the book at you,” he said with authority, “You’ll probably get time and lose your license too. Sign here. It’s not an admission of guilt, just a promise to appear.”

    The idiot was playing tough. I was ready for him to Mirandize us next. So I signed. He walked over to Pocket’s side. He took out another black book.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Henry Pockets. Have I broken any law officer?”

    “What do you do?” he asked.

    “I’m a sod carrier.”

    “A sod carrier? What’s that?”

    “I carry sod. We’re working on the inner field at Hollywood Park, laying new lawn.”

    He scowled, then continued scribbling in his book. After he finished he leaned in, returning Mr. Pockets I.D. Then he walked around, returning my license to me, along with the ticket. He couldn’t forget that.

    I’ll be seeing you in court, and you,” he looked at Henry, “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

    “Have a nice day,” he said, strolling off. I hate it when they say that.

    Motorcycle cops are just bikers with badges. Regular fringies. I started the car again. I knew when I’d been intimidated and this was it. We got back on the road.

    “Don’t worry,” said Pockets, “you won’t get in that much trouble, they’ll probably only fine you a whopping good one. He was just trying to scare you.”

    “But he said,..”
    “He was exaggerating, being a bully. All cops are. So don’t worry.”

    I was in a bad mood now. He was starting to irritate me. I questioned his expertise in such matters.

    “I thought you told me you were a professional like me. Then you told him you were a sod carrier. What’s up with that?”

    “That’s me not telling on myself. And I am a professional just like you. You must be pretty good at it too from the looks of it, with a ride like this.”

    He looked around the car and smiled knowingly.

    “It’s just like a writer to have a nose. I bet you got quite a big one.”

    I’d always been a little self-conscious about my beak but this was a little too much. So I said,

    “What do you mean “A nose?”

    “I mean you’re nosey. You’re just dying to find out what I do. Not knowing is just eating you up.”

    When I glanced at him he was fiddling with something. It was a strip of leather. It was a belt, a leather belt. He’d taken off his belt! What the Hell for? Then I noticed the buckle. He had good taste, obviously, ‘cause it was just like mine. I looked down at my waist to check the similarity, but mine was gone.

    “Hey,” I said, “That’s my belt!”

    “Is it?” he said, “It must have come off.”

    I’d never had a belt do that.

    “What time is it?” he asked. I figured he was trying to change the subject.

    “There’s a clock right there on the dash,” I said with irritation.

    ‘”I don’t trust car clocks,” he said, “they’re not always accurate.”

    To satisfy him I looked on my wrist. My watch was gone. He was holding it in his hand.

    “Look familiar?” he asked.

    I knew something was going on but didn’t quite understand what it was. I was always a little slow on the uptake. I was becoming confused.

    “What kind of tennis shoes are those?” he said looking at my shoes.

    “Oh these are...” I started to say, looked down, and then stopped. One had no laces. It finally hit me.

    “My God,” I said, “you’re a pickpocket.”

    “No way Homie. Pickpockets rob old ladies and drunks. I’m a professional. I’m a Fingersmith.”

    “A Fingersmith?”

    “That’s it. I make my living with my fingers, see?” he wiggled his digits.

    From his pocket he produced my wallet, my cards, my pen, my lighter, even a ring I was sending in to be cleaned. He held it up.

    “Real nice, this one, antique isn’t it?”

    “Yes,” I said, “it was my mother’s.”

    He stacked it all in the consol and placed the ring on top with care. It was becoming clearer.

    “So that’s why you’re going to the races? It’s opening day, lots of crowds, lots of money?”

    “That’s it. I never take from them that can’t afford it. I got my standards. Only from those who win big .I watch ‘em cash in. Slide up next to ‘em. They never know what hit ‘em.

    “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get caught?”

    “Get caught? That’s for pickpockets, not for me. Never have been.”

    “But the tats?”

    “That’s from an earlier offense, when I was a child. That’s before I turned professional.”

    “That’s amazing,” I said, “I never felt a thing.”

    “They never do, Homes,” he said with confidence, “They never do.”

    “But aren’t you worried?”

    “About what?”

    “The cop. He got your name. He wrote it down. Maybe they’ll turn the heat on.”

    “Cops are always writing things down. I never met one yet with a good memory. Most of them couldn’t remember their own names if you asked them. Besides, that guy? He’s got a problem.”

    “What’s that?”

    ”Right now he’s like Little Bo Peep.”

    “How’s that?”

    “He’s lost something and doesn’t know where to find it.”

    I didn’t understand what he meant, so I looked over to read his meaning from his face. But the meaning wasn’t there. It was in his hand. It was the officer’s little black book. He wiggled it at me and winked.

    “See? I told you I wasn’t worried, “he said, “I told you not to worry too, didn’t I? Know why?”

    When I looked again he had the cops’ ticket book too.

    “Easiest job I ever did. Never felt a thing. Say, do you have one of those shredders at your office? You should take care of these.” He gave them to me.

    “I’d be happy to shred them,” I said with utmost sincerity, “Mr. Pockets, you’ve made my day.”

    “It’s always nice to be appreciated,” he said, “makes you feel warm all over.”

    When we pulled off the freeway, I let him out at the track.

    “Even if it is a Sunday,” he said buttoning his collar and straightening his tie, “a professional sometimes has to work. He has to take his job real serious. It takes skill and dedication to be a professional. A man’s got to have standards.”

    He interlocked his fingers, pushed his hands outward, cracking his knuckles, then disappeared into the crowd.

    I couldn’t agree with him more. A man’s got to have standards.

    ©StevenHunley2013 Runnin Down a Dream Tom Petty

  2. #2
    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    Gold Country
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    Lol... Great story

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami


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