“Mr. La’Far, I wanted to thank you. For putting me up like this. Especially on such short notice. Means a lot to me.”
“Was the least I could do.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“I was trying to be modest. Besides, extenuating circumstances… its a shame what happened.”
Harmon said nothing and looked out the window of La’Far’s small, kitsch-covered apartment. Harold stood a moment, backlit by chinsy memorabilia, unsure if he should disrupt the younger man’s reverie. After several seconds the security guard blithely encouraged his guest to make himself at home and left for work. Harmon watched the battered pickup clatter down the gray gravel drive, past a group of young lovers, waltzing arm in arm, cackling with the sun shining off the ivory of their teeth, and vanished into the effulgence of the horizon, as if swallowed up in some other world.
His phone rang. He didn’t recognize the number.
He flipped open the machine and gingerly pressed it to his ear.
“Heya Harmon. Its Daryl. From work.”
“Not really. You got a moment to talk?”
“Yeah. What is it?”
“The reason we were fired. You know it?”
“No. I didn’t know you were fired too.”
“Swain axed everyone. One a his pals, name of ‘Coats’ – though I doubt that’s his real name – is bringing in folk across the border, folk that’ll work for fewer scraps than us. Scraps Swain can throw under the table. That’s why he fired us. Figured you’d wanna know and that’d I’d better tell ya seeing as Swain sure as hell aint gonna.”
“Thanks for letting me know.”
“You sounded more surprised by me calling than by finding out why you were fired.”
“I didn’t think you liked me.”
“I don’t like most people. But I ain’t never had no problem with you. Its that shithead friend a yours that I can’t stand.”
“Why’d you think I had something against you?”
“Other than the fact you ‘don’t like most people’ you mean?”
“Swain. Told me as much.”
“Fuck him, man. That’s his MO.”
“What do you mean?”
“He likes pitting people gainst each other so when they need to talk, they go to him. The sonofabitch likes that kinda shit.”
“Anyways, I gotta git. Sorry you got canned. Sucks.”
“Yeah. Take care, Daryl.”
“You too, man. And say hello to that pretty gal a yours for me.”
The line went dead.
“‘Pretty’…” Harmon muttered aloud as he pocketed his phone.
“You’re mistaken Daryl. She’s the ugliest person I’ve ever known.”