The Smart One
A Wapakoneta Novel
Wapakoneta, Ohio as seen in this novel is an alternate universe, entirely fictionalized version of an otherwise very fine and beautiful community. It is not their fault that I fell in love with the name.
“Hey, lil’ bro. What you doing here. I thought you were a WalMart kinda guy.”
Dink rolling his eyes. “Go away, Brad. I’m busy.”
“Haven’t seen you in weeks.” Eyeing Dink, his hands on the long line of shopping carts. “What, you work here now?” Laughed.
“What are you doing here? You’re the WalMart guy.”
Brad smiling. “Check this out.” Pulled a wad of bills from his pocket, handed them to Dink. “We made these at Zach’s work.”
Dink unwrinkled one of the bills and looked at it, biting the inside of his lip. The thing was so bad in so many ways. Hoping that Brad didn’t say–
“Um, this is the wrong kind of paper.”
“We know. That’s why we wadded them up. Make them feel more used. Zach says it confuses people’s fingers.”
“A ten, stupid.”
“The person on this bill is–”
“Davy Crockett. He’s an American hero. Like Harriet Tubman.”
Dink sighing. “Brad, this is the guy who played Davy Crockett on TV.”
“Yeah,” Brad said. “That’s the picture of him we found on the Internet. So we figured that people would think that’s what he looked like, ’cause they’d find the same picture.”
Dink wishing he were anywhere but standing here with his brother right now because the day kept getting worse. Albanee on his case and Paulie Spittle on his case about Albanee and now Brad with one of his stupid ideas and he wouldn’t listen to reason because it was his idea, and he always thought his ideas were genius, and now that light mist of Ohio rain turning into big drops, that cold fall rain that jolted you when it hit, plipping as it hit the paper in his hand.
He looked down at the paper as the rain hit it. The drops were making little explosive Os, soaking right in, turning the image on the page into a smear of runny red and green and black teardrops.
“Dammit, Brad,” he said. “Look at this. Real bills don’t run like this when water gets on them.”
Brad yanked the fake ten out of his hand, tucked it into his shirt pocket. “Dummy. People don’t use them out in the rain. They use them inside a building, in a store. Were you born stupid or what?”
“Sometimes people spend them outside in the rain.”
“Oh yeah? When?”
Dink shaking his head. “The monster truck rally,” he said.
Brad taking a moment to digest this.
“You know, last year, we paid the guy who ran the parking lot with a ten, and what was it you said to him? ‘Stay dry, bro.’ You thought it was funny as hell because thirty seconds before we parked you’d said, ‘Look at that idiot there working in this miserable piss of a rain, no way you’d catch me doing that.'”
Brad still not saying anything, Dink knowing that sometimes his brain took a long time to send a signal to his mouth.
Brad said, “Well, I wouldn’t spend this at the monster truck rally rain or shine because it’s my favorite sport and I couldn’t do that to them.”
“Whatever,” Dink said. “They need work.”
“Speaking of spending–” Brad holding out a fist now.
Dink glaring at him. “What?”
“Take these before they get wet.”
A roll in Brad’s fist. Supposed to be like the rolls that big spenders in casinos would peel bills off of but this one was really pathetic, not much big around as a cigarette.
“I don’t want them.”
“It’s ninety bucks. Take them to customer service and tell them you want five twenties.”
“You’re stupid. And you’re ten short.”
“You’re the one told me not to use the wet one.”
“I do that and they’ll know something’s up.”
“Then go buy a couple six packs of beer. Get change. Maybe some Cheese Curlies. And circus peanuts, but just the orange ones, not the multi colored ones.”
“No,” Dink said. “Old man Spangler trusted me enough to give me this job, it’s the only one in town I could get, and I need to keep it so I can show long term employment and get rid of some of my resume stains.”
Brad still holding out the fist with the fake bills sheltered from the rain. Dink standing there getting wet, not able to believe Brad had two years on him.
“You do it.”
“You know I can’t. I’m not even supposed to be in the parking lot.”
“Then I suggest you get out of here before old man Spangler sees you.”
“Take the money, puss.”
“Go spend it at Walmart, you think it’s so hot.”
“They got security cameras all over. Learned that the hard way, remember?”
“You said you wouldn’t get caught.”
“We need to test it first.”
“You’re not testing it here. Go test it in Lima, at Rancho Muchacha. Put it in someone’s g-string, see how far it gets you.”
“How ’bout I put it in Albanee’s g-string, see how far it gets me?”
“Leave her out of this. I can pin you, I’ll hold you down until a mud puddle forms.”
“You’re a puss. Albanee’s got you whipped, boy.”
Dink felt the color rise in his face, the words forming there on the back of his tongue, yeah and why don’t you just grow up, I.Q. 82. He could even sing it, the I.Q. 82 song, the one he’d sing so Brad would hit him and get in trouble while he got ice cream, but it wouldn’t matter now because Brad was out of shape and Dink had been able to take him for years. But he wouldn’t do that because he promised himself he’d quit doing that years ago. Their dad lecturing him one of the few times he was around, “You’re the smart one and shouldn’t have to do that, use your brains to solve instead of hurt.” He’d ignored that for a while because Dad had vodka breath when he said it, but one time he’d tried it and it worked better than he expected. And Brad didn’t look so hurt about it at the end of the day, hadn’t even realized that he’d had something put over on him. Didn’t have that lingering sad look like the I.Q. 82 song gave him.
So he looked at Brad, blinked drops of water out of his eyes, then looked past him at the doors of Spangler’s Market.
“It’s old man Spangler,” he said under his breath. “He’s coming.”
Brad’s eyes getting wide at this, he stuffed his hands in the pockets of his coat and went toward the street, against the angle of the parking lot.
Dink sighed. Turned back to the line of shopping carts, and as he did there were a handful more out there now, loose, waiting to be rounded up. That sissy man’s task, never ending, keep rolling those carts up the hill.
He trudged over to get them, rounded them up and cradled them, one, two, three, and on the way toward the fourth he heard a metallic rattle.
“Liar! Lying puss!”
Brad at the big line of shopping carts, leaning into it as he pushed them, aiming them at Dink. The line rattled toward him and he stood there, immobile. Not stunned but realizing that the line of carts was going to miss him by a country mile, the natural curve of the loosely linked objects pulling away from him and aiming for the back corner of the parking lot.
The runaway train rushed right past Dink. He turned to Brad, who was hightailing it away from there, and opened his mouth to shout an insult, but then he realized the line of carts was heading for the back corner of the parking lot. He swore and broke into a run, caught up with the escaping snake easily, grabbing it by the handles of the rearmost cart.
The snake shuddered and lurched. The cart in Dink’s hands came away with two others attached, and the rest of the thing just kept going, plastic wheels making an unholy racket on Spangler’s asphalt.
Dink still had grip of the handle of the three carts when there was a loud metallic crash, and Paulie Spittle’s cherry red ’73 Ford Mustang wasn’t quite so cherry anymore.