Pass Without Paying ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Lester Fane had been to the store to buy a couple of items that his mother simply couldn’t do without. He was on his way back home, worrying about what other jobs she might decide to make him do, when he spotted Jingo Lanky and his homely sister, Lynette, standing on the street corner up ahead. He was going to turn around and walk home a different way, but he knew that Jingo and Lynette had spotted him so he kept on going.
Jingo Lanky was only a couple of years older than Lester, but he seemed much older. He was as tall as a grown man and he had whiskers and bulging biceps. He smoked cigarettes that he rolled himself; he was said to drink beer and even whiskey and do other adult things that Jingo had only a vague knowledge of. He lived in a falling-down house on the edge of town with his hag of a mother and his eight miserable brothers and sisters. He had been expelled from school and had been in jail more than once for drunken and disorderly conduct and for shoplifting candy and cigarettes and other small items that he attempted, not always successfully, to conceal in his clothing. Everybody who knew him believed he was on his way to living a useless and crime-ridden life and would one day end up in the state penitentiary.
Lynette was about twenty and had been in girls’ reformatory. She had pale, pockmarked skin and orange hair that could only come from a bottle. She wore falsies because her breasts had never developed the way they were supposed to and tight denim skirts that showed the contours of her buttocks.
Lester put his head down and walked faster, believing he could get past Jingo and Lynette without having to speak to them or even look at them. Maybe they wouldn’t even notice him.
“Well, well, well,” Jingo said, grabbing Lester by the upper arm and stopping him. Where in the hell do you think you’re going, you little punk?”
“Let me go!” Lester said.
“I asked where you’re going, you little turd.”
“I’m going home. My mother is waiting for me. She’s sick and I’ve got to take her some medicine.”
“She’s probably been sick ever since she gave birth to a little freak like you.”
“I’m not a freak!”
“What have you got there?” He pointed to the paper bag Lester was carrying. “You got anything to eat in there?” He grabbed the bag and unfolded the top and looked inside.
“Give me that!” Lester said. “It’s none of your business!”
“What is it?” Lynette asked, trying to see inside the bag.
“Looks like…toothpaste and some kind of pills,” Jingo said.
“It’s roach paste and suppositories for hemorrhoids, if you must know,” Lester said.
“What the hell?” Lynette said. “That’s some weird shit!”
“Hey, man, that’s disgusting!” Jingo said. “Who goes to the store and buys stuff like that?” He threw the bag back and Lester caught it.
“Ask him what his mother uses the roach paste for,” Lynette said. “Does she use in cooking when she wants to poison somebody?”
Lester started to run but Jingo grabbed him by the shoulder and held him. “You can’t go until you give me a dollar.” He squeezed Lester’s upper arm painfully.
“You’re hurting me!” Lester yelped. “I don’t have a dollar!”
“You don’t pass until you give me some money.”
“You don’t own the street!” Lester said. “I can pass without paying if I want to.”
“Leave him alone,” Lynette said. You’re going to make the poor little thing cry.”
“Hah-hah-hah!” Jingo laughed, shaking Lester by the shoulders. I wouldn’t want to make the little girl baby cry. You aren’t going to cry now, are you, sweetie pie?”
“You’re a dirty pig!” Lester said.
“Hey, man, you hurt my feelings. Why do you want to go and do that?”
“You’re hurting me!” Lester said. He squirmed to get loose, but Jingo held him immobile.
“Hey, man, do you want to have sex with my sister?
“Oh, come on, now,” Lynette said. “Don’t you think he’s a little young?”
“She’ll have sex with you if you pay her.”
Lynette laughed. “He wouldn’t have enough money to make me want to have sex with him,” she said.
“Let me go!” Lester said.
He saw an old man open his front door, look out, and close the door quickly.
“I’ll bet you’ve got some money,” Jingo said. “Don’t be stingy with an old pal.” He wrapped his arms around Lester and slipped his hands into his pockets. When he saw that his pockets were empty, he let him go. “Hey, you really don’t have any money, do you?” he said.
Lester tried to kick Jingo in the leg but missed. Jingo laughed and held up his hands in surrender.
“Come back in about ten years,” Lynette said haughtily.
“And next time you’d better have some money,” Jingo said, “or you don’t get past. Remember that.”
“Go to hell!” Lester said.
“Is that the best you can do, tough boy?” Jingo said.
“You’re a shit-faced hog and I hope you go to the electric chair!”
“That’s pretty cruel,” Lynette said. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself for speaking to people that way.”
Lester was trying to think of other names he might call Jingo, when a white car came around the corner very fast and pulled up at the curb. Lester saw right away that it was Harry Harris, the town sheriff, driving the unmarked patrol car. When Harry Harris jumped out of the car without turning off the engine, Jingo Lanky started running.
“Hey, you!” Harry Harris yelled. “Come back here! I want to talk to you!”
Moving with surprising agility for a man of his years, Harry Harris began running after Jingo. In the middle of the next block, just as Jingo was about to cut across somebody’s lawn, Harry Harris overtook him and tackled him, knocking him face down on the ground.
Lester and Lynette watched as Harry Harris cuffed Jingo’s hands behind his back, jerked him to a standing position and brought him back to the patrol car. Lester thought he would enjoy seeing Jingo handcuffed and in the custody of the law, but he didn’t. Jingo was out of breath and his face had suddenly gone white. His nose was bleeding and starting to swell. He had the look of a trapped, injured animal.
When Harry Harris opened the rear door of the unmarked patrol car and began to push Jingo into the back seat, Jingo twisted around toward Lynette.
“Tell mother what happened,” he said, blood pouring from his nose into his mouth. “And tell her I don’t know when I’ll be home again.”
Lester suddenly felt sorry for Jingo and was sorry for what he had said about the electric chair. Maybe he really would go to the electric chair now.
“What did he do?” Lester asked Lynette as they watched the unmarked patrol car speed away.
“What didn’t he do?” she said, shrugging.
“I wonder what they’ll do to him,” Lester said, believing for the first time that maybe Jingo wasn’t so bad after all.
“I’m sorry for what I said about your mother poisoning people,” Lynette said. “I didn’t mean it. I was only making a joke.”
“That’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it. I’m sorry I called your brother a dirty pig.”
“It’s not the first time he’s been called that. Do you want a cigarette?”
“No, I’ve got to be getting home.”
“Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”
“Yeah,” Lester said. “Maybe so.” When he turned to look at her he saw she was crying real tears. “Can you make it home all right?” he asked.
“What other choice do I have?” she said, cupping her hands around a match to light a cigarette.
Copyright © 2011 by Allen Kopp