Ace In A Hole

After working undercover for the third or fourth day and night in a row, he met
me later, still in disguise and in dire most need of a shower and a change of
clothes. I walked right past him and recognized not even a trace of his voice
hidden in the thick whatever-kind-it-was accent that was complimenting me while
I looked around the room in the shot and a beer bar for him. I really wasn’t
listening closely.

“Are you talking to me?� I asked the stranger with the black rimmed, thick
lense eye glasses.

“Well, I’m not talking to Lucy and Ethel over there,� he said referring
to two burly bikers at the other end of the bar.

“Of course, I’m talking to you.�

Next thing I knew, the man, who appeared to be in his late 60s or older, stood up
and moved himself with a limp and his army green duffle bag down a few bar
stools to park himself closer to me.

“Give the lovely lady whatever she wants to drink on me,� he told the
bartender in a voice imitating John Wayne the actor.

“Do you have any money, Pilgrim?� the bartender asked him. The man was
drinking water.

“Sure, just because I like to drink water, you think I’m broke? A
deadbeat? I have money. I want to buy that angel a drink and 10 more if she
wants them,� he told the bartender.

“Is this enough to get her a drink and pay for my water?� he asked and put
down a crumbled $20 bill.

“What will you have?� the bartender asked me
.

“Diet coke, but I prefer to buy my own,� I said to both of them.

“Oh, but that offends me,� the stinky stranger said and moved yet another
stool closer.

Really, I was in
no mood for this. He kept going on about how he just knew a
woman with big dark eyes was going to walk in and make his day... how he was
certain if he came in there precisely at 8, I’d be there.

“Have you ever seen me before?� he asked the bartender who shook his
head no.

“See, I speak the truth. I knew you would be here. Have you ever been here
before?� he asked me. No.

“Are you on crack?� I asked. “Or maybe Xanax, Risperdal, Thorazine or
Clozaril?�

“No, are you? Should I be? Should we all be?� he asked and started to
laugh hysterically, showing me several rotten teeth in a full smile that definitely
was sight that I wouldn’t forget for a while.

“ I don’t want to be rude, but I just want some quiet time here alone to
unwind and wait for a friend,� I said politely.

“Really, no offense,� I told him, although I wanted badly to comment about
his offensive body odor permeating my breathing space.

Lucy and Ethel another 6 or so bar stools away were picking up the scent too
when the furnace blower kicked on. I did laugh when Ethel reacted by smelling
him own armpits. I turned my focus to the television and almost didn’t hear
the stinky stranger when he started talking again.  

“Yes, I imagine your day at your office was so unkind to you. Such a shame.
Those people you work for are simply nuts. You were probably subjected to all
kinds of petty bullshit, harassment from a few bosses, maybe some inappropriate
sexual and personal innuendo by the woman who asked Lucy over there the
minute she met him what kinky things he used to do with his wife...�

When I interrupted him to ask
what he was talking about, he continued with,
“
You know who I mean, the one who is vulgar, subscribes to witchcraft
magazines and sold her babies.�

“Actually, she put them into foster care,� I started to say. How did
he know?

“Same difference. The evil woman practices witchcraft, teaches Sunday School
and destroyed those two children,� he said in his own broken English as I
started to become scared. His accuracy was unnerving.

When I was about  to ask next whether Smoking Rod Serling was about to show
up from the grave to announce the start of another “Twilight Zone� episode
featuring me, I asked what he said his name was.

“I didn’t tell you yet, sweetheart,� he answered imitating James Cagney,
moving another barstool closer. He went off on a tangent about some basketball
game on television that surely was fixed, then dramatically grabbed and held on
to the end of the bar with both hands with his head lowered above his hands, as
though he were going into a trance or was about to pass out. Instead, he said he
was psychic and had to warn me that my right front tire was bald on my car.

“No, my driver’s side rear tire is bad. I’m getting new tires tomorrow,â
€� I offered. “Any other revelations for me?â€�

He sat up straight again, shook his head to indicate no, then put his right hand up
in the air and closed his eyes.

“Yes, the man you’re waiting for will not show up here tonight. No, he
won’t come, and it’s a shame because you drove, what? 60 miles to get
here?  He is what, a lover?â€�

There was a delayed reaction on my part answering him, because this unkempt
stranger with a funky smell obviously did have the gift of reading strangers. Iâ
€™m not often or easily shocked, but was there in the presence of him, Lucy and
Ethel.

“No,� I answered that the one I waited for was a friend.

“A good friend, a so so friend? How long have you known him?�

“A good friend, I suppose, of about 15 years,� I said, actually getting scared
at that point that this bizarre soothsayer of sorts was going to tell me that my
friend was killed in a drug bust gone bad or in a wreck chasing criminals. Why
would he be late?

“I’m unsure. Maybe he just forgot about meeting you tonight...no, no, he
wouldn’t forget,� he said.

When he shifted his body on the stool, he brought his left foot into view. I
recognized the shoes that the stranger wore and played along. I looked him
straight in the face in total disbelief.

“Actually, you know, he’s not really a good friend. He’s more like a
pain in the butt friend... Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like the guy, but I think
he’s in deep seeded denial over some serious emotional issues....possibly latent
homosexuality issues among other things...and then there’s this insatiable
urge of his to be everyone’s ace in the hole. He so nosey. He drives all of us
crazy. He doesn’t at all respect my need for privacy. He’s the best birth
control on the market because he calls or drops by at all the wrong times...I could
go on...oh, and he has these really distinctive shoes that he bought in Mexico, oh,
they’re just like yours,� I said when I could not keep from laughing
anymore.

“Jeez, you’re in disguise again...When are you going to quit doing this to
me? And when am I going to stop falling for it?� I asked, laughing, laughing,
laughing.
“ And for God’s sake, when is the last time you had a shower?�

He moved over the last bar stool between us and wanted a hug. “No way!� I
protested.

“It’s really not body odor. I had to climb down into a garbage dumpster  
to find a gun someone tossed...yeah, I’m reeking,� my friend explained.

“Are any drug lords going to come in and mow you down in front of me?
Should I move WAY over there?� I asked, pointing to the opposite end of the
bar.

“Nah, we were back home working and we got all the bad guys tonight,� he
said proudly. “Every single one of them! Had to get a bus to take them all in.â
€� He then downsized the size of the needed paddy wagon to “three squad
carloads� when I smiled and gave a look of disbelief about the bus.

“Please, please say that there is a change of clothes in that duffle bag,� I
said, covering my nose and mouth. There was.

He minus the limp stood to walk to the restroom to change clothes, brush his hair
and wipe off. While he was in there, I wondered why he still obsessed a few years
later about my one boss giving up her kids to foster care. He didn’t know her,
but he would never forgive her or forget. Christmas was coming, so I started to
understand and consider that he wasn’t as healed from his own losses as we
might have thought.

When he returned from the bathroom, he smelled considerably better and looked
20 years younger. Lucy, Ethel and the bartender kept looking towards the
restroom door and back at my friend who now appeared without the goofy
glasses, dirty clothes and limp. Yes, now he was someone you would want to hug.

“May I borrow that dental prosthesis for Halloween or my next dental
appointment? That’s so awesome!� I said. If it weren’t for the shoes, I
could’ve gone home having not a clue that this old vagrant in the bar was my
friend. He was a master of disguise and had to be for his job.

We bid Lucy, Ethel and the bartender goodnight and walked down the block to
see a movie. He stopped at his car to throw the duffle bag in the trunk. He teased
the whole way about how easily I believed that the old stinky man was a psychic.
He loved that I did not recognize him. Before we got to the movie theater,  he
stopped walking and took out his cell phone.

“Almost forgot. Look what I have for you. Is this your lucky day or what?
Look who just happened to be coming out of the police station last night with a
towel wrapped around her because she was taken in wearing a teddy?� he said
laughing.

“No way!� I said looking at the shameful photo of another one of my
bosses. He said her spouse showed up while she was having a tryst in a car outside
a bar where one of her teenage children worked bussing tables. Apparently, her
son called his dad to say that good old mom, in between stops at church for
confession and communion, was in a car with some man. A fight broke out. She
called her embarrassed sister to come get her at the police station. My undercover
pal recognized her and snapped the photo when she was leaving the police station
where he had the area staked out for h
is suspects.

“Stupid bitch!� he called her. “She almost blew my whole stakeout
because she wanted to shove her saggy boobs in someone’s face.�

“I can’t believe this!â€� I said holding the phone displaying the photo. â
€œHer mother used to do this kind of stuff. But how could even she do this with
her son working inside bussing tables?� I wondered aloud to both of us.

My friend said that he was told the woman knew she could have an uncontested
divorce only if the spouse stuck her. She used her child and did this to provoke
the spouse, my friend theorized.

Then it hit me. Again, it was significant to my undercover friend only because the
woman’s underage son witnessed it, took off and couldn’t be found for
hours while he got drunk. Another incident of cruelty to one’s children is why
this was most disturbing to him. His stakeout was secondary.

“You never know when you’ll need this!� he said laughing about the
photo. “Speaking of aces in the hole, you were just kidding back there about
me thinking I’m everyone’s ace in the hole, weren’t you?�

“No,â€� I replied laughing at him for bringing it up. Then teasing, I added,  â
€œbut you really do worry me when you think you have to be everyone’s
Superman. You don’t. We love you even when you are just a mere mortal
among us. And I worry, too, because everyone seems to have Kryptonite on sale
these days. �

He once told me that the first time someone called him his or her “ace in a hole,
� he wasn’t really sure what all it meant, so he looked up the definitions for
the term: a hidden advantage or resource... Trump card. No, he didn’t like
that one, either. He would’ve preferred to be called someone’s Ace or Ace
Beaucoup.
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