His name was Dick.
That wasn’t short for Richard or anything, it was just Dick, because his parents had apparently been seers of the highest regard, wielding the ability to gaze far into his future and understand exactly the type of person he would become.
Actually, they’d both been long-time potheads living alone in a cabin out in the Colorado mountains somewhere; far removed from humanity, civilization, and more importantly the county sheriff, who was known to have a nose for the home-growers.
Thus, Dick was brought into this world one autumn evening in eighty-three, the result of a heavy snowfall that had kept Momma & Pops Pothead locked inside those hand-hewn timbered walls the previous winter. That whole myth about male Mary Jane users having slow swimmers might be true, but if you’re pounding away daily for a couple of weeks straight you gotta figure that the odds of a lucky one getting through skyrocket appreciably.
Dick hadn’t had any friends growing up. Hell, the next closest neighbor lived well over eight miles away, and he was an old Vietnam vet turned doomsday prepper; one of those types who had signs up all around his property with clever statements like, “NO TRESPASSING – We Have Guns AND Shovel” and “If You Can Read This, You’re In Range.” Dick had been out hiking and exploring one day when he’d stumbled across the place, and being a curious youngster, had opted to squirm under the barbed wire fence and get closer for a better look. He’d made it no more than twenty feet when a shotgun blast had resounded through the forest, splintering the opposite side of the tree he’d been hiding behind and giving him the scare of his life. Retreating back at a full sprint the way he’d came and diving headlong under the barbed wire, the razor-sharp metal tore a long and ragged row through his shirt and the thin flesh of his back. He’d carry the scar the remainder of his life.
Still, it was better than being peppered with buckshots.
At sixteen, Dick made up his mind to leave home, make his way to the big city (he’d been there a few times with Pops for groceries, fertilizer and parts for the still), and start building his own life. The very day he’d returned to the cabin, intent on today being the day, with the entire conversation visualized in his head (I’m sorry Momma, but I can’t stay here no mo’, I’m a man and I’ve got to go do man things) he’d found the front door open and Momma and Pops dead on the floor. All the weed crop was gone, the still was smashed, and Pops’ teeth had all been knocked out of his mouth, lying scattered on the cabin floor like popcorn after the main feature on a Saturday night. It might have been that the sheriff had finally found out, the Feds maybe, but more likely it was somebody that Pops owed money to; maybe a dealer he’d tried to screw over on a purchase.
Dick had hastily thrown some clothes into a backpack, taken the eighteen-hundred dollars Momma had stashed under the laundry pile (Pops would never EVER look there, Momma knew, but Dick had accidently discovered the hidey-hole one afternoon while self-flagellating over a pair of her silk panties), then hightailed it into the woods as fast as his legs would carry him. Contacting the sheriff or anyone else never crossed his mind. He was well and truly on his own now, which was fine because he’d planned on doing it anyway.
It hadn’t been easy for him at first, but he’d managed to stay off the streets, having landed a job, just six months after leaving, at a gas station off Highway fifty outside of Montrose. The owner had been kind enough to let him sleep in the garage at night, and provided partial payment for services rendered, tax-free of course, during the day.
He’d continued to work odd jobs around town for a few years before heading south to Ouray and then on to Silverton not too long after his twenty-second birthday. Right along with him went a reputation; hard worker, but otherwise pretty much an overwhelming a-hole. He was known around town as that guy; the one who always had the better story, who’d been-there-done-that (even though he hadn’t), and even worse, he was that guy at the bar who just wouldn’t shut the hell up, especially after knocking back a few drinks.
It was there in Silverton that Dick and I crossed paths.
I’d arrived via the usual tourist route, having ridden the Narrow Gauge Railroad train up from the depot in Durango. A monstrous old coal-fired steamer, it had been running since 1882, first hauling loads of raw gold and silver ore as it was torn from the flesh of the mountains, and nowadays relegated to hauling families eager for a glimpse of the past and a chance to experience how their forefathers might have worked.
Instead of paying the exorbitant ticket price, I’d lifted mine from some guy not paying attention while arguing with his wife as their kids ran around screaming like under-sized hellion-spawn. As far as I was concerned, if you a.) raise kids like that, and b.) don’t do anything about it, then c.) you deserve what you get.
My plan had been to hang around town for a few days, case a couple of the higher end hotels, restaurants and bars, and maybe identify a few good marks. Summertime in any tourist town is a mecca for guys like me, overflowing with the well-to-do who like to show it off but knowing next to nothing about how to keep it safe. I’ve found that your best bet is to spend no more than a week in any one place, score a few good hits, then move on before the cops can figure out there’s a you in their town intent on relieving folks of their hard-earned possessions.
So, it was that I found myself on a Thursday evening at the Golden Block Brewery, the glass bottom of a Whoop Arse Ale leaving a wet ring on the pocked surface of my small two-person table, sipping and making it last as I observed the local clientele.
Nice shoes, soft hands, herringbone suit, leaves phone on table, hangs coat on hook; businessman, from out of town, doesn’t expect to be picked. Easy target.
Ski pants, boots, gloves; coupla people hitting the slopes, not carrying much, not worth the effort.
Soiled denim, big arms, hard hands, work boots, wallet on a chain; don’t mess with him.
Torn Dolce & Gabbanas half hanging off his ass, white t-shirt under unbuttoned plaid shirt, backwards LA Dodgers hat with a straight brim on his head, sucking down tequila shots with a few hotties in a booth; definite possibility while he’s distracted by the tits on the blonde.
Cowboy hat, flannel shirt, black eye, fat wallet in his back pocket, drinking whatever was on tap twenty-five ounces at a time; he’d be a parking lot mark around closing time, but need to be careful because he might be a fighter.
But above all, most noticeably, there was that guy. Despite the din of voices and conversations, that guy was who you heard the most. He was arguing with the cowboy on his right about politics, of all things, and insisted that he knew better.
I hated that guy.
EVERYONE hated that guy.
“Dat’s bullshit, you know why? You know why? ‘Cause it’s about da money. Dey want your money, an’ it don’t matter none if’n ya want to give it to ‘em or not. Ya gotta, and that my friend is da bottom line. Goddam bullshit politicians and cops, dey all in it togedda, don’ give a good shit ‘bout da families, it’s all ‘bout cash in der pockits.”
You could tell the cowboy was just barely tolerating his drunk ass, nodding his head as he kept going on and on.
“Dey don’ wantcha doin’ nuttin’ in ya own home dat dey cain’t control. Nuttin. Cain’t make ya own booze. Cain’t grow ya own weed. Issa slap in da face ta guys like you ‘n me. Dey da ones dat came ta da cabin en’ took everytin’!”
I didn’t know it, but that guy was Dick. What I did know was that, quite suddenly, a damn-near perfect plan had popped into my head. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
Cowboy looked to be about thirty seconds away from having enough and laying this guy out, the bartender watching the whole exchange very closely. Were it to happen, no doubt the din in the room would rise to new levels as the applause rose to a crescendo while that guy was unceremoniously tossed out on his ass. If I wanted to make a move, I had to do it now while I could still control the outcome.
Pushing my chair back from the table, I grabbed my glass and wedged my way through the crowd, walking up to the bar and filling the empty space to his left. Without hesitation I reached out, threw my arm around his shoulders, turned him toward me, and looked him square in the eye.
“DAVE! Holy shit dude, I can’t believe it’s you! Man, how the hell have you been!”
Dick gazed at me, eyelids half drooping and spilling some of his drink on the bar as he shifted his weight to see who was talking to him.
“Dude, it’s me, Jess! Shit it’s good to see you!”
You could tell he was sizing me up, trying to figure out who the hell I was and where he knew me from. Cowboy took the opportunity afforded by this distraction to pick up his drink and move to another stool further down the bar.
“I ain’t Dave. M’name’s Dick,” he blurted out, staring at me. “Who the fuck’er you?”
“It’s me, man! How the hell have you been! Man, I haven’t seen you in, what, three or four years now?”
Dick looked away from me, staring at the glass in his hand; thinking, thinking hard.
“I DON’T KNOW YOU,” he let loose, really loud, garnering the attention of the bartender once again.
I leaned over, talking with a confidentiality that only comes between friends. “As soon as I heard your voice I knew it was you, heard you talking to that fucking cowboy down there.”
“FUCKING COWBOY,” he says, loud as ever.
The cowboy looked toward us.
“Yeah man, I know, heard what you said about the cops and the politicians too,” I whispered. “Fucking bastards, every one of them; holed up with the republicans and the democrats and whoever’ll pay ‘em off. It just ain’t right.”
“GODDAM COPS!” he roared, which really got some attention. A few off-duty badges got up from a wraparound table in the back corner and started heading our way. Time was short now, and timing was everything.
“Fuckin’ ‘publicans pay ‘em off. Damn right. Lousy bastard cops come in and take everytin’!” he screamed, and I threw myself backwards away from him, flying into some military-looking dude behind me, knocking over his drink and pissing him off something awful.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was all it took.
I jumped up off the floor, got right in his face and yelled at him at the top of my voice, “You slept with my fucking wife!!!”, and he just looked at me with this stupefied expression on his face. Well, it was stupefied until the cowboy grabbed his shoulder from behind, spun him around, and punched him square in the mouth.
Dick went sailing backwards right into military dude, who grabbed him on the fly and body-slammed him to the floor. He got in a few punches of his own before the off-duty boys in blue showed up, but by then it was too late, and a full-blown brawl had started, spreading like a chain of falling dominoes from table to table through the room.
I backed out quickly, no intention of participating in this part of the plan. I shifted until I was standing near herringbone, knowing he wouldn’t want to get caught up in this. It was an easy bump-and-lift. The guy never knew his wallet was gone.
Next up was torn Gabbanas and the hotties. He was standing up whooping and yelling like it was a college football game, and while all eyes wereon the mayhem, I grabbed a Gucci bag from the seat below a redhead ass to die for and an iPhone X from a jacket pocket. Score.
Suddenly there was the sound of breaking glass as Cowboy was ejected from the mass, landing in a heap at my feet, now sporting a second swollen and rapidly blackening eye. I reached downed, helped him up, then shoved him back into the fray. Surprisingly, the watch I now held in my hands was a Tag Heuer Carrera. Cowboy must have been doing okay for himself.
Two more wallets (one of them a copy of Jules Winnfield’s Bad Motherfucker; you’d be surprised how many people actually own one of these), a credit card that had been sitting snugly in one of those little plastic check-holder sleeves, a huge gold ring from some guy knocked out and lying face-down under a table, and, the pièce de résistance, a San Juan County Sheriff’s badge apparently dropped by one of those off-duty cops.
All in all, not a bad take.
The exit alarm blared as warned when I leaned on the crossbar, but nobody noticed it over the overwhelming din. I’d been absolutely right about that. The wail of sirens in the cool evening air got my attention, so I slid quickly over the fence out back and passed through the adjoining dirt lot before turning down Reese Street, heading west toward the First Congregational Church.
It occurred to me as I walked, hands in pockets holding everything in place underneath, but otherwise just a gent out for an evening stroll, that you could always count on there being a Dick everywhere you went.
I’d met him many times before, in many places. He always had to be the loudest person in the room, to be heard above everyone else, like he might disappear if he wasn’t. He had an opinion, and dammit you were going to hear it. You could count on that every time. He was a lousy drunk.
Most people don’t like him; me, I’m happy because I know I can always count on him to be … well, to be a Dick.
The moral of the story?
You know it: Don’t be a Dick. But if you are, thanks very much.
Oh, yeah, also ….
Always watch your wallet.