The Man

No, I’m not talking about the man.

My friend and I owned a computer store and we had a customer (let’s call him Brian; the names in this story may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent – which may or may not be me). He was, shall we say, somewhat less than reputable. He managed a pawn shop and had several “side businesses” one of which was selling used computer systems out of his trailer house. To get the idea of what kind of guy we’re talking about, he once was offered “relations” with a guy’s wife as payment for a computer system he had built; he gleefully told us he had accepted the offer as payment in full. One day, he calls to find out if we had any used sound cards in stock. I told him we had several and he said, “Alright, I’ll send my man over to get one.” This is the person my friend and I started referring to as “the Man”.

First, a brief description: The Man was pretty short, 5′ 4″ maybe 5′ 6″, but he was stocky. Less in a chubby way and more in a muscular wide-built way. Shane, my business partner, said that he looked like one of those old depictions of an Aztec god; real short and squat and wide. He had dark hair, a dark complexion, and his face was scared by what had to have been the worst case of acne of the twentieth century (it looked a little better than the surface of the moon). He was usually dressed in sweat pants or cut-off shorts and a tee shirt. In fact, the only time I saw him deviate from the sweat pants/cut-off shorts/tee shirt combo was the time he came into the store without a shirt at all (agh. I just threw up a little). He rarely spoke and when he did, it was in a voice so quiet that one had to strain to hear it. If you met him and heard him speak without knowing any of his back story, you might think of him as a nice though shy, unassuming person that was a little down on his luck rather than an unhinged maniac that could blow at any minute.

The first time Brian mentioned the Man, it confused me a little since I had never known anyone outside of a character in a book or movie to have a “man”. So, I inquired who this “man” was. And thus begins our sordid tale.

Brian had been out driving one day and had hit the Man with his car while the Man was crossing the road. I imagine that one or both of them was in some advanced state of inebriation. Somehow he managed to convince the Man that the best thing to do instead of calling the cops and/or going to the doctor, was to come home with him. At some point they struck upon an arrangement that suited both of them. Brian would provide the Man with room and board and in return the Man would sign over his monthly social security checks to Brian and run various errands for Brian.

There were a couple of things that Brian thought that we should know about the Man. First, he was an avid nudist (agh! I just threw up a little bit more), but that we should never mention the fact in the Man’s presence because he didn’t want his mother to find out. Now I though this an odd prohibition since a) I didn’t know the Man’s mother and b) even if I knew the mother of an avid nudist I could never conceive of a time when I would casually say “So, what do you think about your son’s avid nudist ways.” The second thing we needed to know was that the Man had a bit of a hair trigger temper. Said hair trigger temper could be unleashed when the Man was nervous, anxious, embarrassed, in unfamiliar surroundings, in times where he felt he might be being laughed at or mocked, or really, anytime at all. An example of one of those times was when the Man had wrecked Brian’s old trailer house when a buzzing fly was annoying him. Now you might think that maybe he broke out a window or two trying to get the fly with a rolled up magazine. Or you might think that he used several cans of bug spray filling the trailer with noxious fumes and toxic residue. You’d be wrong. The Man dispatched the pesky little fly with a twelve-gauge shotgun, reloading several times before the fly met it’s ultimate and grizzly demise.

My most harrowing encounter with the Man was on a bright sunny morning. I was at the store alone because Shane had gone to the bank to make a deposit and get some cash for the petty cash box. Actually the anticipation of the encounter was worse than the encounter itself. Brian called on the phone and the conversation that ensued went something like this:

Brian (very casually): Dude, we’ve got a little bit of a problem.

Me: What’s wrong.

Brian: Well, I sent my man over to get those parts we talked about yesterday…

Me: No problem, I’ve got them all together and ready to go.

Brian: Yeah, well that’s good, but my man is already on his way over there and I forgot to give him cigarette money.

Me: So.

Brian: Well, when my man doesn’t have his cigarettes he gets really agitated and nervous.

(my mind immediately flashed back to the hair trigger temper speech and remembered “agitated” and “nervous” being mentioned, then it flashed back to the fly story)

Me: Dude! Holy shit! What am I supposed to do?!

Brian: Well, just tell him that I called and give him some cigarette money, I’ll pay you back.

Me (my voice is rising in pitch and volume): Dude! I don’t have any cash on me! Shane just left for the bank to pick up some petty cash! What if he’s not back by the time the Man gets here! Oh man. Is your gun in your car?!

Brian: Yeah, its in there. I don’t know what to tell you dude.

Me (Yelling): Oh, come on! you don’t know what to tell me? I’m gonna die today because you sent your crazy-ass Man over here without cigarettes and now he’s gonna freak out all over my store! You suck, man! You suck! (just then the door ringer chimes, indicating that someone has just walked in) Oh, shit! I gotta go…I’m going to kill you if I get out of this alive! Don’t ever do this again!

I slam the phone down.

My heart is racing a mile a minute and for a few seconds I freeze. I’m panicked. Nervous. What am I going to do? Time is standing still. Ages seem to pass. Should I go up front? Maybe its a customer. There’s a door at the back of the store. Maybe I could make it out that way before the Man sees me.

Then I see the doorknob to the office door slowly start to turn. My life flashes before my eyes. I think of all the things I haven’t done. And now, to die like this. The door slowly opens…Shane walks into the office. I slump down in the chair, relieved with the fact that I probably won’t die today. As I’m explaining the situation the door chimes again. I grab a $5 bill and go out and there he is…the Man.

I say, “Hey, Brian just called and said he forgot to give you cigarette money. Here’s a five.” I held out the $5 bill and he just stood there staring at me. Immediately I started to sweat. Did he feel like I was mocking him? Was I making him nervous? Was he going to freak out after all. After a few seconds, which seemed like eons, he took the five, and walked out the door. We didn’t see him again that day. Evidently, he went to the store around the corner and got his cigarettes but forgot to get the computer parts. That was fine by me.

And some day boys and girls, if you’re not good, I’ll tell you another story about the Man.

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