Chop Shop by Yves Jaques

Page Three


The boy sings it slow.Time stops. When he's done I see that Toady's eyes are rolled back in their sockets, his head thrown back. He's a sucker for a crooner. The man gets goosebumps whenever he hears Nat Cole.

"Get in," rasps Toady, his glass eye wetter than ever. His head rolls my way and he says, "Look what we found Jimmy. Look what we found by the side of the road. Looks like we found us a boy toy. Oh joy." "I don't know, he seems a little weird." I say.

Toady gets in my face, says, "Don't try and pick for me. You know that. Don't fucking try and pick for me! I pick. You drive. Deal?"

At least Toady never saw me as a toy. Well, something to use, sure. But he uses me good. Anyway, I'm not skinny enough. I'm not dirty enough. And Toady likes to have a driver. He found me two years back, the Summer I was working at Earl Scheib doing ninety-nine dollar paint jobs. There were five colors to pick from, and if you ended up with some over-spray, well tough shit buddy. One year later it'd be peeling, you'd be back in for another. It was the K-Mart of car painters.

Toady was in there because his painter was in the hospital on account of a pair of busted flippers he'd got punching holes in his girlfriend's apartment walls. Pissed because she told him maybe it wasn't his baby. Toady said about it something like, "Punching through plaster walls and look what it got him, plaster casts." I thought Toady was kind of funny. I remember thinking what a dumbshit the painter must have been. Usually the girl tries to convince you it's yours so you'll give her money for an abortion or worse, child support.

This kid we got in the back looks like he could be costing somebody child support. He's sweet sixteen if he's a day. We're shooting back up the state route through the late afternoon sun. I ask the boy his name. He doesn't answer. Toady says, "I think 'Boy' would suit him fine."

The Benzo is filling up with sweet cigar smoke. And between puffs Boy starts it up again, starts singing. Really slow now. One line at a time, "Two hundred dollars gets each of you, a pot of dirt to get dirty your -- big bamboo."

I cock my head back, one eye on the road and say, "It's just him. Not me."

And Boy puts out a hand and ruffles my hair. "What's the problem girlfriend? Daddy won't share?" He laughs.

"He's just the driver," says Toady. "I don't like to share."

"Where are you driving us? Home James?" says Boy.

"It's Jim." I say. "And I'm not a fucking chauffeur."

"Well you ain't wearin' the pants. I can see that." He flops against the back seat and sucks noisily at his cigar. "What'd you have to do to graduate to driver Jimmy boy? You the muffin man?"

"I didn't do shit you little asshole." I reach an arm back and catch a lapel of his stinking leather jacket. I'm trying to reach the other lapel with my fingers when the kid sets his Swisher on the back of my hand. I jerk it forward. "That son of a bitch just burned me." I yell.

"Lay off the boy," says Toady. "He's just kidding around."

"Just kidding around. Fuck you. He fucking burned me."

"Relax Jimmy," says Toady. He stubs out his smoke and turns to Boy with a smile. "We work at the chop shop. How would you like to do a little chop, chop, chop?"

Boy swings his Swisher through the air like a cutlass. Smiles. Smokes.