Now and on Earth

Now and on Earth by Jim Thompson Read Free Book Online

Book: Now and on Earth by Jim Thompson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jim Thompson
Tags: Crime
lewd and ashamed.
    There is no beauty in it. It is ugly, despicable. For days I will be tortured, haunted, feeble, inarticulate.
    And yet, even during those days. Even tomorrow morning when I first awake. Yes, even an hour from now…

    I didn't get paid Friday.
    About two o'clock in the afternoon, Gross asked me if I wanted to get in the check-pool. I asked him what it was.
    "Check poker," he explained. "Each check has a serial number on it, and the man with the best serial-the best hand according to poker rules-wins."
    "How much does it cost?"
    "Two-bits. There's about a hundred in our pool-in this stockroom, and Sheet-metal, and Sub-assembly, and Receiving. Better come in. You might win twenty-five dollars."
    "Can you wait until I get my check cashed?" I asked. "I don't have any change."
    "Yes, we can do that," he said.
    He started to walk away, hesitated: "Say, you only went to work here Monday, didn't you?"
    "That's right."
    "Well, hell. You won't get any check today. They hold back a week on you."
    I couldn't believe him, reasonable as it was. Probably because I needed that money so badly. I asked Moon about it.
    "No, you won't get any today," he admitted. "The time is always made up a week late. You'll get paid for this week next week."
    My face must have shown my feelings.
    "What's the matter?" he said. "If you absolutely can't make it, Personnel might advance you five or six dollars. They don't like to, but they will sometimes."
    "I guess I can make it," I said.
    "It seems kind of hard, now, but it's a good thing in the long run. It's pretty nice to know that you've always got a week's pay saved up."
    I hated to go home that night. More than usual, I mean. I knew no one would blame me; that is, I couldn't pin them down to blaming me. But there would just be general hell.
    When I turned the corner at Second Avenue, I saw a car I recognized sitting in front of the house. So I slipped across our neighbor's yard and went down the driveway until I came to our bedroom. I scratched on the screen, and Roberta came to the window.
    "Is that the landlady in there?"
    "Yes. Did you get your check cashed?"
    "I didn't get any check. I-"
    "You didn't get it! Jimmie! Didn't you tell them-"
    "Look," I said. "Now stop shouting and listen a minute. They hold back a week's time on everyone. There's nothing I could do about it. It's a company policy. The question is-"
    "But didn't you tell them you had to have it? They can't expect you to live on nothing!"
    "They don't give a damn whether I live or not. Now the thing to do is go in and tell the old girl what's happened, and that we'll pay her next week."
    "Oh, I can't do that, Jimmie!"
    "You put her off once, didn't you?" I said. "You rented the place from her. She's never met me. If I go in, she'll think it's a run-around sure enough."
    "How are we going to buy groceries?"
    "Let's not worry about that now. Go in-"
    "But we don't have anything for supper, Jimmie. I don't know what we'll do-"
    "Are you going in there and tell her?" I said.
    "No, I'm not," said Roberta. "Tell her yourself."
    "Well call Mom back then and have her tell her."
    Roberta's face hardened. "I'm not asking Mom to do anything! She's already taken my head off once today. Just because I said Frankie didn't wash the bathtub out-and I wasn't mad at all, Jimmie-I was just as friendly as could be. I just remarked that it would make things so much easier on all of us if each one would-"
    "Roberta," I said, "are you going to do what I asked you to, or not?"
    "No, sir, Jimmie. I am not."
    "That's fine," I said. "See you in the morning, maybe."
    "Jimmie! Jimmie! Where do you think you're going?"
    "What's it to you?"
    "Jimmie! You can't-"
    "Good-by," I said.
    "You can't do this, Jimmie!"
    "See if I can't!" I said grimly.
    And Fate accepted the invitation.
    Mack, Jo, and Shannon came roaring around the corner of the house and threw themselves upon me.
    "Daddy!" they shouted. "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Did we get paid? Can we count

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