New York, 1987.
I was a messenger for Empire Messenger Service.
To their surprise, it turned out I was a reliable employee, and so far nobody had complained about me. That made me unique at Empire Messenger Service, so I could work as many days and as often as I liked.
But no matter how many days I worked we never had enough money. It went through my hands like water and Suzie was no better.
We were just a couple of fools in paradise, I suppose.
“Hey Flasher! Put down that book! I’ve got a job for you!”
It was the boss, out of his office and looking excited, puffing up a storm on his foul smelling, cheap cigar. “Hurry up! Goddammit!” he barked at me, “I don’t mean tomorrow!”
I closed my book and rose from the hard bench where we messengers waited.
“Okay, okay,” I called back. “Keep your pants on, mate!”
“That’s a fine way for you to talk, Flasher!”
Since my first day there, the boss at Fourteenth Street had called me Flasher. The big boss at Headquarters up on Thirty-fourth Street who had hired me must have passed on his belief that I was a past flasher to my new boss.
Hence my messenger name, Flasher.
The boss ushered me inside his office and shut the door, not the usual procedure for a simple delivery job. Usually, he just yelled ‘Hey you!” through his open door, you were handed the package to deliver, and off you went.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We got a situation,” said the boss.
“What do you mean, we?” I replied.
“One of our messengers,” said the boss, ignoring my comment, “Javier, a new guy, has gone goofy or something and he’s holed up in a customer’s apartment over on Irving Place. I want you to get over there and talk him into coming out.”
“Me? What about the customer?” I asked. “What’s he doing about it?”
“Exactly!” answered the boss. “Goddammit, Flasher, you’re a smart one! That’s what I like about you.” He picked the phone up and held it out for me to hear. “Only it’s not a he,” he said. “It’s a she. She’s on the phone from a neighbor’s place right now.”
Sure enough, I could hear high pitched metallic screeching from the earpiece as the boss held out the phone. It sounded like an angry hornet trapped in a tin can. The boss held the phone up to his own ear for a second before shouting down the line, “Okay, okay! Take it easy, will ya? I’m sending over our best man. What? Yes! He’ll be there in five minutes.”
He slammed down the phone, causing the stacks of papers on his desk to rustle, before barking, “Javier’s locked himself in her apartment, the meathead! Gone crazy or something. She hasn’t called the cops yet, says she doesn’t want no trouble. I want you to get round there and fix it up!”
“I don’t know how to deal with crazy people,” I claimed.
“Yeah? You’re an artist, aren’t you?”
I was about to protest, but the boss interrupted.
“Besides, you’re all I’ve got. Now get going!”
It was a nice building about halfway up Irving Place. I took the elevator to the second floor, arriving to a crowd of gathered tenants. I was looking for Mrs Harp, apartment 2C. From down the hallway came the sound of a little dog barking.
No, not one dog. Two dogs, maybe more.
“You a cop?” asked somebody in the crowd. “Where’s your badge?”
“Do I look like a cop?” I answered. I was flabbergasted to think that I could be mistaken for a cop. “I’m from the messenger company. Please, where’s apartment 2C, Mrs Harp’s apartment?”
“Down there,” pointed an elderly woman, “at the end of the hall. She’s pretty upset.”
“Where’s your badge?” repeated the voice. He was probably the cranky, crabby, self-appointed busybody of the building. “You got a warrant?” he added. “Where’s your badge?”
I started down the hall in the direction indicated.
To be continued…