"We don't need no stinking dialogue tags," he aggressively grunted.

Fred must have had the day off. Jake was manning the register himself. He looked at me, squinted, and cocked his head to one side.

“Nicholas? Is that really you?”

“It’s me.”

“Holy guacamole. What happened to your hair, son?”

"I got bored and shaved it off.”

“Shit. I thought maybe you was getting radiation treatments or something.”

“Nothing like that. Anyway, it’s chemotherapy that makes your hair fall out, not radiation.”

He pressed a knuckle against his lips and nodded thoughtfully. “I see you found yourself a guitar. Nice one.”

“We both know it’s a piece of shit, Jake. I’ll give you thirty for it.”

“Shit. That’s a fucking antique, man. I been thinking about keeping it myself. But since you’re a friend and all, I’ll knock off ten percent. Thirty-six even and it’s yours.”

“I’ll give you thirty for it.”

“Thirty-four-fifty and I’ll throw in some picks and a strap.”

“I’ll give you thirty for it.”

“Damn it, Nicholas, you never was any fun to dicker with. All right, thirty fucking dollars. I ought to have my head examined.”

He pulled a silver flask from his back pocket, twisted the cap off, took a slug. He politely tilted the bottle in my direction.

I shook my head. “I need a favor.”

“Sure. You waltz in here and practically steal one of my fine musical instruments, and now you want a favor to boot?” He rolled his eyes in a faux expression of disgust.

It’s always tricky with alcoholics, but I could tell I’d caught him in a good mood.

“I need a fake ID. Just a driver’s license and Social Security card, but it has to be something that’ll pass a background inspection.”

He took another belt of bourbon. “Ah. That’s why you shaved your head. You’re going incognito.”

“Nah, I did it because chicks dig bald guys. Can you help me or not?”

“That’s illegal.” But he was already flipping through his old Rolodex. He penciled a telephone number onto a greasy Chinese takeout menu that happened to be lying on the counter. I paid him the full forty bucks for the axe, and then left the store...

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"You made me laugh!" she said with an ironic, Sarah Palin-like wink.
Thanks, Ann. I love to make people laugh.
"Holy guacamole"?
Have you ever tasted really good guac, John?
It does my heart good to see someone with the good sense to refer to a musical instrument as an "ax." Thank you for rekindling memories of my misspent youth. And young adulthood. Military career. Early married years.

Thanks, Dana. Nice that someone gets the reference.


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