It’s probably because I’m fat.
Yeah, I’ve got broad shoulders and enough suppressed anger towards life that my face can contort into a “Piss Off!” billboard in a flash, but truthfully…I think it’s because I’m fat.

My company sends me out to collect bad checks, in person, because they know I cast a wide shadow through any door and that may cause the rubber check crowd to second-guess giving me an excuse. My boss did once admit to such thinking, albeit vaguely.
“Well, Duffy, you do have a way of letting people know you don’t give a shit, much…”

I said, “Thanks, make sure that’s on my quarterly evaluation eh?”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’m sitting outside the store reading a Raymond Carver story, listening to The Beatles and hoping Bubba the Wonder Bum doesn’t hit me up for a dollar. I’ve been there about ten minutes waiting for the owner, Joey, to show up. When I’d first gone in two Middle Eastern guys were yelling back and forth. The little bell rang as I entered.
They stopped yelling. One sat down on a stool covered in lottery stickers and opened a book from the wrong end.
The other guy looked at me,
“How you doing buddy?”
“Are you the owner or manager?”
He shook his head no and looked down.
“I’m John from Golden Teat Dairy. I need to talk to the owner.”
“He’s not here now. Is it about a check coming back or something like that?” The guy looked over at the reader.
They both looked disgusted and embarrassed.
“Yeah. We gotta check back.”

He picked up the phone and dialed some numbers. I looked around at the Malt Liquor posters, lottery ads, and the limitless varieties of flavored, but cheap, cigars. The place was long with two large plate-glass show windows on either side of the door. At one time, it was probably a shoe store, or dress shop. Back when this part of Richmond was booming and thriving. Now it was run-down and smelled of incense and cooked grease.
The guy was talking on the phone, swinging his hands at Allah knows what, when he suddenly slammed it down. He pointed at the reader guy, spoke and then pointed at me.

“Joey will be here in ten minutes.” he told me. “You can wait outside.”
“I was going to get a drink…”
He nodded no.
“Joey said to wait outside.”

A red minivan pulled up and a chubby little Arab cat gets out. I turn my car off, put the book down, and get out.
Chubby gets in the store before I do. When I walk in, all three of them are yelling back and forth swinging their hands around and rolling their eyes. It’s like a pentecostal revival starring Muslim convenience store clerks. I think for a second someone’s gonna start fanning themselves or roll around on the floor hollering, “Wildfire! Wildfire! Wildfire!”

Chubby walks around the counter and then spots me.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m John from Golden Teat Dairy. I need to speak–”
“Me! You need to speak to me. I’m Kahleeb, but everyone calls me Joey.”
I stick out my hand. He looks at it with disdain.
“I’ll have you money next week. You need to come by on Thursday at 1 pm to get your money. I’ll have it then.”
“Sir, we’ve tried to collect this check for two weeks now. Each time I call no one knows where you are. We’ve had the driver stop by three times and each time he’s told to come back later…I need to pick up that money today.”
“What will you do? Burn down my store like your KKK?”
I laughed.
“No, sir. I’m just trying to collect the money owed my company.”
“You have no company. You are just a manager. No owner. No owner of nothing. I come here two years ago and make more money than you Americans friends.”
“But, you can’t get a check to clear, or pay me the money owed today?”
“What?” He face bloated up.
“I asked if you are so much richer than me and everyone else why can’t you pay me now, or better yet, not have your checks bouncing everywhere?”
“Get out of my store. You. YOU! You are the terrorists, not me!”
“Next time someone asks about this check, it’ll be the Richmond City Police Mr. Kahleeb.”
“You call me Joey. You don’t call me by my real name!”
“No problem.”
I walked out as the three of them resumed shouting.

I got to the car when the Reader comes out. He’s running at me.
“Mr. Golden Teat Dairy! Mr. Golden Teat Dairy!”
I stopped.
He came up next to my car and reached in his pocket.
I thought he was pulling a knife. I opened the car door.
He reaches me in time to grab the door.
He speaks, “I’m sorry sir. My boss, Kahleeb. His business is failing quickly. These people in this neighborhood, they have no money for nothing but beer and lottery and drugs. I’m sorry sir.”
“It’s not you buddy. Your boss is–” I said.
“Look” he said. “Here’s some money. How much is the check?”

I looked down. In his hands was a wad of hundreds and fifties.
He flipped off several hundreds.
“The check is $351.15 with the fee.”
He hands me the money, pulling some change and a One out of another pocket.
“Buddy, I have to ask. Why do you have all that money when you work for a broke man?”
“Where do you think they get the drugs?”
He smiles and walks away. He waved at a congregation of people on the opposite corner.
None of them waved back.
When I got back to the office I pulled up the account and closed it.

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