by Thomas Davidson
I’m a blue-collar connoisseur of bad behavior. I had the privilege of growing up in Detroit, the Athens of Attitude and Impropriety. I applaud a special sub-class of bad behavior. Its practitioners are nonviolent criminals who bring an array of comedic skills to their criminal activity.
Fortunately, bad behavior is like air pollution, it’s everywhere. I now live in Boston, where it’s pronounced “bad behave-ya.” Today I’d like to share a story concerning a couple of bad-boy all-stars from New England, and nominate them for keys to the city of Detroit. A guy from Eastie (East Boston) told me about these entrepreneurial visionaries. “My girlfriend’s two brothers are junkies. Straight-up, smacked-out skeezers. Wait, this is dead awesome. I swear on my mother’s eyes.”
Anyone who can swear on their mother’s eyes is a straight-up witch doctor and deserves my straight-up full attention. If Eastie swore on his mother’s eyes in Detroit, he’d be viewed as a voodoo worshipper or Branch Dravidian, and would be beaten with a tire iron.
Well, here’s the saga of Rusty and Joey Nuckles (almost their real names). Think of them as Botch Cassidy & the SunDunce Kid—with needle tracks. Their areas of expertise: narcotics, shoplifting (and sprinting). In terms of outbound supply chain management and product flow, they recycled their stolen goods to a variety store owner near Boston, who, in turn, re-wrapped and sold the inventory.
These two legends were particularly fond of The Home Depot. They frequently relocated store merchandise into the parking lot without setting foot into the check-out line. In short, they streamlined distribution by eliminating the middle man (the cashier). The boys’ crowning achievement was the day they boosted a toilet bowl, replete with price sticker, and returned it hours later for a cash refund. Bravo, boys!
A stolen toilet? Goodness gracious, that’s inspired thievery. So I’ve stitched together an almost-factual story, starring Rusty and Joey. About 75% of the story is true, including jail, a halfway house, and a supermarket takedown. However, the dialogue is my inspired creation. At any rate, for all you predatory capitalists, free-market Robin Hoods, and bad behavior buffs out there, here’s a little Rusty and Joey movie for the mind.
Botch Cassidy & the SunDunce Kid
(a Christmas Crime Wave)
Russell “Rusty” sat behind the wheel of a stolen car — a lemon yellow VW Beetle, the one that came equipped with a flower vase — and watched his gutless, punk-ass brother, Joey, creep out of the giant supermarket empty-handed.
Joey stopped by the driver’s window and shivered in the snowy wind. “I couldn’t do it. I saw two cops inside.”
Rusty slumped in the seat, desperately needing a muscle upgrade, a Mustang or F-150 pickup truck. They had already pissed away the previous hour looking for a car to boost. Now this. Each time he glanced at the flower vase, he felt his testicles shrink.
Rusty faced his brother, the runt of the litter. “Follow the plan, numb-nuts!”
THE PLAN: Drive to The Food Fort. Rusty parks the car near the front of the store and waits with the engine running. Joey slinks inside the store, grabs an armful of DVDs, bolts through the exit and dives into the car. They shoot across town and sell the DVDs for five bucks apiece to Nickie Wickett, owner of Wickett World, a combination video-and-variety store. Saint Nick resells the DVDs at 5% off retail, thus spreading joy to the world across his customer base.
“Too many cops,” Joey repeated in the chilly wind. He checked his stolen watch. “We still got time. Let’s hit Homey Depot. I can do it this time. I won’t mess up.”
Rusty looked up at the bright red neon sign, The Food Fort. He told his younger brother, “Get back in there, you pussy!”
Rusty’s morose disposition brightened one early November afternoon during his residency at a halfway house for pharmaceutical free-lancers (Physicians’ Desk Reference scholars with uncommon talent for forging ‘scripts). Mr. X — esteemed colleague and habitué of high society, property redistribution specialist, and frequent lecturer on abstract ethics and other ethereal constructs — commented during lunch: “Homey Depot? I’m down with the Depot. It’s the Fort Knox of Home Repair. And I got a Homey Depot grift that keeps on giving.”
Rusty’s radar picked up the signals. “How’s it work?”
Mr. X looked up from his plate of hot dogs and rice pudding. “Homey Depot allows cash returns, not credit. No sales slip needed, just picture I.D.”
“You’re a rookie. A novice. It’s your first time. You steal, say, some electrical supplies. An outlet. Just rip off the bar code, put it in your pants. Then go up to the cashier and say, ‘I’m an electrician and I overstocked.’ She hands you cash, but puts your name on the Homey Depot computer. See, you can only come in and return items five different times. After that, you have to go to a different Depot, different location. Or get somebody else to step into the store and make a return. You just approach people in the parking lot and cut ‘em in for half the cash. Include family members. Ask your moms. Shit, boy, be creative.
“Later, as you advance and sharpen your skills, you start stealing smoke detectors and fire alarms. Work your way up.”
“Hmm.” Rusty, anxious to obtain membership in the Homey Depot Frequent Shoplifters Club, needed a dependable source of income.
Six weeks later Rusty was released from the halfway house. That afternoon, he stood in the parking lot of Homey Depot, tutoring his brother. “Listen, Joey, you grab some electrical supplies. Put them in your pants, not your shirt. I’ll handle plumbing. Meet me back here in the parking lot.”
“Got it,” Joey said.
Rusty headed into plumbing. He lifted a shiny toilet bowl, which was heavier than a bowling ball and worth way more money. He lugged it up the field, past the exit sign at the 50 yard line, straight out of the store, prepared to shake off any employees trying to tackle him in the parking lot. He staggered into the end zone, where he “spiked it” into the car trunk. Touchdown.
He glanced across the parking lot. Where was Joey?
# # # # #
Within ten minutes, an employee wearing a red blazer spotted Joey shoving a smoke detector in his pants. Red Blazer said “We go out back or I call the cops—what’ll it be?” Soon Joey was taken through the back door, behind the building. Red Blazer put Joey up against the cinder block wall, drove his knee into Joey’s crotch, the smoke detector banging his…
Later that week in mid-December, the brothers returned to the Homey Depot parking lot.
“Don’t mess up.”
Within fifteen minutes, Rusty was back behind the wheel with electrical supplies, watching snow fall on cedars, waiting. Getting pissed. Finally, he exited the car, crossed the parking lot, and headed for the field behind the building. His brother was crumpled in the weeds, bruised, a kitchen faucet sticking out of his zipper.
Joey caught his breath and wheezed, “Rusty…I messed up.”
Rusty glanced up at the gray clouds, then down at the dumb ass. “Rub snow on it.”
The following week, the brothers nixed the Homey Depot parking lot. Instead they celebrated Christmas Eve at The Food Fort.
Rusty, behind the wheel of a stolen VW Beetle, faced Joey through the side window and repeated, “Get back in there, you pussy!”
Joey winced, turned, shuffled inside the supermarket. In the foyer, he glanced back at Rusty, his face creased with concern, then stepped waiflike through the electric door.
Rusty watched his sib disappear down aisle three. Tick tock, tick tock. He pictured Joey grabbing a handful of DVDs—The Lion King, Disney, crap like that. Tick tock, tick tock. Suddenly Joey appeared by the store’s front windows. Eyes wide. Arms full of DVDs. Hauling ass. DVDs falling to the floor. Cashier chaos. Two cops and a bagboy in pursuit. Shouts, cries. Joey losing ground. Joey arriving at the electric door. Terrified. Door starting to open…starting to…open…
Bagboy tackling Joey.
Joey on snowy asphalt.
Bagboy giving Joey a beat-down with a butternut squash.
Two cops appear.
Rusty’s foot stomped the gas…whoops…and the yellow VW took off. A rocket screaming across the lot.
Rusty peeked into the rearview mirror. Saw Joey. Joey’s mouth wide open, big enough to form two needlessly loud words: “R-U-S-S-S-S…T-E-E-E-E-E-E-E!!!”
The VW beeped (translation: Merry Christmas). Zoom. It was Joey’s turn to squat in jail.
Rusty had the grim feeling that uninvited guests with badges would be waiting for him back at his crib. At any rate, it was Christmas Eve and he needed cash for the holidays. Hmm.
So he barreled across town and parked at Homey Depot. Now that he was here, perhaps he’d pick up a little something for ma. After all, it was Christmas. Drifting inside the store, he whispered, “Heads, it’s electrical. Tails, it’s plumbing.”
A coin danced in the air.
Thomas Davidson is the author of two quirky thrillers, THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES and PAST IS PRESENT. His nonfiction has appeared in The Boston Phoenix; and is excerpted in the national bestseller Missing Beauty by crime reporter, Teresa Carpenter. His comic fiction has appeared in MudRock: Stories and Tales and The American Drivel Review; crime fiction in A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, and All Things Crime. His literary humor column appeared at The Electronic Drivel Review, ADR’s online supplement. He lives in the Boston area.
website — www.thomas-davidson.com
blog — www.jurassicjim.blogspot.com
twitter litter — @TomDavidson99
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