“Son of a . . . ”
Splitting a knuckle open, Jess Dixon grunted through gritted teeth. Working to get the rusted wheel nut loose, it had come undone too fast as she wrenched on the tire iron. Her hand banged onto the edge of the wheel well.
Ignoring the pain, she hurried and got done removing the slashed tire and put the spare on and secured it in place on the hub. The spare was not in good shape, worn smooth on one side, the steel belt underneath just about exposed. She didn’t dig her job but she couldn’t be losing it either.
She got her car going and drove to work, hoping she wouldn’t have a blowout on the lousy tire. Because she got up early each morning, and knew how to change a tire and a few other car repairs from her Uncle Hank showing her,
“Am I stutterin’, son?” the green-eyed pleasant-looking man with the perfect teeth said to the tall newcomer standing by his table. Around them the din of the eatery seemed to recede. “There’s no DeMarkus around here.” Like his displeasure, Teaflake made no effort to hide the butt of the Glock sticking out of his waistband.
The young woman sitting with Teaflake smiled understandingly, like she was ushering a patient in for a tooth extraction, Joseph “Little Joe” Dixon reflected.
“Didn’t mean nothing,” he said. “Heard you two was boys is all.” He wasn’t about to back down but wasn’t looking to escalate matters either.
“Who are you?” Teaflake said, his voice low, his enunciation clear and concise, a sharp contrast to the way the usual street hoodlum swallowed vowels and ignored tenses.
Little Joe said, “I’m the new fitness director at Water Stones.” The multi-purpose center was Waterston but everybody called it by its mangled nickname.
“You don’t know what the hell you sayin’,” the red-eyed man blurted. He came off his barstool too fast, knocking it over as he did so. Drunk, he teetered over to Hank Dixon, who’d turned on his stool toward him but remained sitting.
“Best slow your roll, Al,” the one-handed bartender Pierre Gaston said languidly. He took hold of an empty glass between the pincers of his prosthesis. Behind him and above the bottles on a flat screen TV, played a near mute newscast about a truckers’ job action at the port.
“Oh, I’m’a slow somethin’,” Al Griffiths sneered, ignoring the advice. He stood close to the stockier Dixon; Griffiths’ beer and vodka chasers a heavy aroma in the other man’s nose. “You didn’t go around with Juanita. She wouldn’t have had anything to do with you, toilet seat fixer.”
Dixon squinted at his accuser as he sipped on his beer.