May 17 2016
CARVED Part 03: Deals on Wheels
The only Scrolls and Pens Specialty Store in the city was about an hour away from Rodolfo Estoque’s house. He left home at 9 a.m. to walk to the train station. The summer sun was burning the puddles away. The uneven mounds of asphalt formed a path for people to cross from one side of the road to the other. Children splashed around in the puddles and teased each other if anyone got their school uniforms wet. Their parents trailed behind, fury etched into their red faces.
The sight reminded Rod of his own days as a schoolboy. Unlike the other kids, he made sure to splash into each puddle that he passed. He would be covered in a thick layer of mud and water by the time he arrived home. His father was still around back then, wearing his officer’s hat and laughing all the while.
The image almost brought a tear to Rod’s eye. How many years had it been since his father passed away? Since his mother had to work extra hours to put food on the table? And here he was, heading to a bookstore on some quest straight out of a book!
Rod stopped on the sidewalk. What am I doing? he thought. He checked at his bandaged left arm. I could be home checking for job openings instead of doing this!
But when Rod felt the bandages, another feeling hit him. This was what I was looking for all this time, he told himself. Adventure, thrills, a change from the norm! A wave of excitement flooded him. He hugged his shoulders to stop them from shaking. No matter how much the existence of those words defied logic, he could not help thinking that there was a deeper purpose behind them.
A car whizzed by, splashing Rod with muddy water. He barely shielded his face on time, but his shirt and pants were drenched and muddy.
The car skidded to a halt. It was a fancy model in a bright shade of red with yellow trim. Its driver opened his door and stepped out. It was a young man in his mid-twenties. His pockmarked face contrasted with his blond dyed curls, smoothly pressed brown-and-white dress shirt, white pants, and brown leather shoes. He took off his green aviator shades and rested them on top of his head.
The young man squinted. Then his eyes twinkled at something he just remembered. “Rod?” asked the young man as he approached. “How have you been?”
Rod screwed his eyes but could not recognize him. The young man must have noticed, because he said, “It’s me, Carlo!”
Shocked, Rod stepped back. Carlo? The scrawny kid with the pimples from high school? He couldn’t be! And yet, when Rod’s gaze lingered on the man standing in front of him, he could not shake the feeling that he was the same person.
“Growing up must have been kind to you,” Rod remarked.
Carlo laughed and wagged a finger. “I knew you would remember me,” he said. “You look the same as always.”
Rod winced. Seeing his reaction, Carlo laughed and clapped a hand around Rod’s shoulder, and shook him back and forth, exclaiming, “Loosen up, man! You really are the same. It’s just nice to see a familiar face in a place like this.”
Carlo stepped back and reviewed Rod’s appearance. He nodded and muttered to himself, and Rod could barely hear him above the chattering of the pedestrians and the vehicles.
Finally, Carlo said, “You know what, why don’t I drive you where you need to go? I even have some fresh clothes in the back. Choose the ones you want. It’s my way of making up for earlier.”
Rod shook his head. “I can’t. That’s not a problem.”
Carlo waved the comment away. “It’s nothing big. Just stop being so serious, bro!”
The next thing Rod knew, he was sitting in the passenger’s seat of Carlo’s car wearing a fitted blue dress shirt with brown chinos and brown leather shoes. His soiled clothes were folded neatly into a pile and placed into a plastic bag at his feet.
The smell of new leather upholstery and plastic made Rod’s temples throb, even though Carlo opened his window to let out the smoke from his lit cigarette. He pinched the bridge of his nose and drew quick, shallow breaths. Carlo was quiet for the past few minutes. The only sound in the car was the soft hum of the engine, but to Carlo it sounded like a raging beast.
It was almost like that night so many years ago.
Rod shook his head. Now’s not the time to think about that, he told himself. Stay cool. Taking a deep breath, he asked, “So how did you get all these clothes?”
“Business,” Carlo said simply. He had one hand on the steering wheel and the other draped over the open window, tapping away the ashes from his cigarettes. “I buy and sell a lot of stuff.”
Rod raised an eyebrow. “I suppose that helped you buy this car.”
“Car, clothes, condo, you name it, I got it from my business. We’re killing the market at the moment. So much demand that we can barely keep up.”
“And what do you sell?”
Carlo motioned to the glove compartment with his cigarette hand. “Open it,” he said.
Rod’s hand hovered over the switch of the glove compartment. A lump formed in his throat. Questions were racing through his mind as his fingers inched closer to the switch. A voice screamed at him to pull his hand away. He squeezed his eyes together. Stay cool! You’re thinking too hard, he shouted in his head. His fingers latched onto the switch and he pulled it open.
A dozen clear plastic bags fell onto his lap. They were all filled with a fine white powder. Rod gasped. He turned to face Carlo, who flashed a grin that spread from ear to ear.
“So, Rod,” he said. “You feeling open minded?”
TO BE CONTINUED
#KJaRt #KJwRite #vonagherrecitystories #KEVTALESCARVED #story #serial #mystery #message #onlinestory #OC