I’m not looking for Hurd at all when I find him at Wendy’s after I cash my unemployment check. My benefits are running out and I am dangerously close to having no income at all. After a week of eating pork and beans and unleavened biscuits I am ready to get a triple cheese burger with 1250 calories and 52 grams of fat before I buy groceries for my wife and kids. And there he is behind me circling like an unwanted rescuer or prescient vulture.
In line behind me, Hurd’s face is flushed in perfect health, nothing at all like the limey sallow color I see when I look in the mirror. No doubt he is the beneficiary of a good breakfast and a chilly morning. He sizes me up after we say hello and I’m sure it isn’t hard to tell I’m not doing well. He asks me what I’m having and when I say a cheeseburger he says he’ll buy me two if I’ll sit and listen to him.
What RU doing for money? He says.
I say, I wait every morning on the corner off the square where they line up. A truck comes by and picks up anyone who wants to get paid in cash for a day’s work. That and unemployment.
He whistles. Sucker, he says with satisfaction.
It might turn into something permanent, I say, fully aware of how lame I sound.
Sure, he says smugly. And by that time you’ll be in a bigger hole. You think anybody’s gonna cut you a break? People look after their own these days.
I don’t have any family, I say. Neither does she.
He shakes his head.
What about you, I say, eager to change the subject. You ever see Dupree anymore?
He snorts. That dickhead, Hurd says. He’s hired muscle now for some mob guy. All he’s good for. I’ve got no use for anybody like that. But I could help you out if you want some quick money.
Is it dangerous?
Shouldn’t be. Not like what had you worried last time. It’s not strictly legit but it’s better than working. Faster.
Let’s just say it involves crossing the border.
The Mexican border?
No, the Canadian border.
That’s federal time if we get caught.
We wont. There’s nothing to it. You can do this every two weeks and be out of the hole in no time.
This is Federal, Tim, I say.
Look, I only asked you ’cause you look like you needed a break. I’m getting tired of doing all the driving. You can be my relief on the road. We’ll be back in three days.
Cant or wont? Harry…
Okay, I’ll do it, I say, thinking about starving and living on the street.