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August 08, 2007

The Delivery

Bart farted loudly. Nobody reacted. About half a minute later he scratched his rear and laughed a couple times, mumbling something about underpants.

I looked at Arnie, who stood in the corner, smoking a cigarette, staring at nothing. He saw me staring and looked back without changing his expression or blinking his eyes. I looked away first.

"So." I said. Nothing moved but Bart's TV screen and Arnie's smoke.

Bart farted loudly. Nobody reacted. About half a minute later he scratched his rear and laughed a couple times, mumbling something about underpants.

I looked at Arnie, who stood in the corner, smoking a cigarette, staring at nothing. He saw me staring and looked back without changing his expression or blinking his eyes. I looked away first.

"So." I said. Nothing moved but Bart's TV screen and Arnie's smoke.

"So." I said. "Maybe one of you can sign for this, since it looks like Mr. Cooke isn't around."

Again, nothing moved.

I set the package on a workbench near the door.

"Or, tell you what. The signature is just a formality, anyway. Let's just forget it."

No reaction again, so I turned the knob on the door.

"I'll just get back to the office. Take it easy." I turned away to leave.

"Where do you think you're going?" Arnie had glided over, dropping his cigaratte and reaching into his jacket pocket at the same time.
Even Bart looked up from the TV, stretching his fat neck over his shoulder.

"Back to the office. I..." I smelled something hot.

"No you're not. You're waiting here."

I opened my mouth but Arnie interrupted again. "Don't make me wake Bart." Bart lowered his brow at me.

"OK." I didn't have much else to say. The hot smell was louder now.

I looked back and forth at Arnie and Bart until they both looked away again, first Arnie, then Bart.

Arnie and I saw the smoke at the same time. His cigarette had rolled under the couch; wisps of smoke had drifted from in between the cusions.

Bart readjusted himself, and changed the channel.

"Bart! Get up!" Arnie shouted without moving.

Bart turned around and glowered at Arnie.

"Stand up, Bart! You're on fire!"

Bart looked down at his hands and thighs, and a moment later smelled between his knees. He stood slowly, turned around, and looked at the bowl his butt had left in the couch cushion, which was slowly filling with heavy smoke. He looked up at Arnie, then back to the couch. Bart opened his mouth but said nothing.

For the first time, Arnie's face changed. His eyebrows climbed up under his hair and he awkwardly clambered over some chairs to the couch. He stared at it for a few seconds, then reached down and flipped it over on its front, knocking into Bart, who backed up into the TV, which fell to the floor, but managed to stay on. The movement of the couch forced a breeze of air into the smoldering couch and flames emerged where there had been just smoke. Arnie made a choking noise. Bart opened his mouth again. I jogged over to the couch, grabbed some cushions and began smothering the fire.

Arnie saw what I was doing and ran over to the table, grabbing half-empty cups of coffee and threw them at the couch. One landed on my back, one hit Bart in the belly, and the third splashed milk on the cushion I was using to smother the flames.

Despite my efforts, the fire was spreading. I shouted at Bart to get some water, but he didn't seem to understand. Arnie began throwing everything he could get his hands on at the couch, none of which helped.

Finally, he picked up the package I was delivering and got ready to throw it. I saw him just in time and tried to catch it but missed. The paper wrapping broke open and the contents spilled out; thousands of small white rectangles of paper scattered near the widening hole in the bottom of the couch. They were counterfeiting blanks: one-dollar bills that had been bleached white so that the images of twenty- and fifty-dollar bills could be printed on top of them. They began to burn.

I stood up. "Are you crazy!" At that moment, Mr. Cooke opened the door and walked in. He took the cigar from his mouth and looked at me. "Who are you?"

"Uh, I'm uh, the delivery guy."

Without turning away from me he said, "Bart, put out that fire." Bart walked over to a closet, lifted out a fire extinguisher, and put out the fire.

He looked at Arnie. "Arnie, what did I tell you about ashtrays?"

Posted by mslaybau at August 8, 2007 10:43 PM

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