Story: Crazy Eddie

Drinking was kind of new to me, and when I’m just getting into a hobby I tend to go at it with gusto. So when my roommate told me I “couldn’t” drink an entire fifth of vodka by myself I felt I had no choice but to slam the entire thing then and there, like, that’ll show you!

Blinking my eyes, I was standing in the middle of the street looking up at an old clock tower. I really don’t know how I got there. It was about 1:00 in the morning, according to the tower, and I was feeling charitable, according to the homeless guy standing next to me.

“You got an extra smoke?”

This man had a calming presence. He appeared to struggle to keep his slim frame upright, leaning just slightly to one side with a hand on his thigh like a support rail. I had never spoken to him before, but I knew him as “Crazy Eddie” because he was the only homeless person in Chilliwack and everybody fucking knew who Crazy Eddie was.

“Not really,” I said, but handed him one of my last. There was no reason I deserved it any more than he did, and I’m a pretty great person when I’m drunk.

“Man, thanks man,” he said as he flicked his thumb clumsily at a lighter. He seemed genuinely relieved of at least one worry by this small gesture. “Really appreciate it,” he went on, “I’ll spot you a couple if I score a pack.”

“No big deal, can always buy more right?” I said with a regal wave of my hand. At some point I was going to have to quit, and this seemed to be the night. I didn’t have a dollar to my name.

Eddie smiled at me oddly as he took a long drag and exhaled high into the night. “Well, hey, let’s hit the dep.”

I didn’t answer. I had become entranced by his fingernails, as they were periodically illuminated by the cherry of his cigarette. His hands were callous and filthy, as might be expected, but his nails were remarkably clean, cut short and smooth.

“Hey?” He prodded. “Just a few blocks away.”

I had to ask, “What’s a dep?”

“Pardon my French. Like a corner store.” He was smiling again. “I came out here from Quebec.”

Friends are hard to come by, so I decided I would follow Eddie to the dep and protect him from non-existent ne’er-do-wells. Plus, he’d turned out to be a Frenchman, which made this an important diplomatic mission.

The lights inside the convenience store were so bright it felt like midday. Places like that must be designed to make people uncomfortable, as if they did a study on criminal underworld types and found them less homicidal and larcenous in unflattering light. But if I stared straight down at my feet, it reminded me of being a kid and going to the gas station in my neighborhood for Pixie Stix and Spiderman comics. I began to daydream. Then, I heard a sharp whistle and saw my cohort standing awkwardly at the far end of the aisle with his hands shoved down deep into his pockets and his head ducked. He appeared impatient. All I really wanted to do was stand near some junk food for a while, but he was pacing and, as I looked toward the counter, we seemed to be bothering the kid working the register.

The two of us met up and stood across from the clerk, saying nothing. Both looking past him, to the tobacco cabinet. Both apparently waiting for something.

“Uh, how can I help you?”

We remained silent. I looked at my comrade and found him looking back at me in much the same way. Our eyes turned, in perfect unison, back to the kid, who swallowed hard and averted his gaze. Speaking to the lottery tickets under the counter, he asked, “Do you w-want something?”

I thought about whether I’d like a job like his. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s preferable over just going pro with the whole homeless thing, and it certainly looked difficult as I watched the kid sweat and fidget. I have to keep in mind that my friend and I might have been exceptionally awful customers.

Breaking the silence, Eddie said, “I think we wanted a pack of smokes?”

I nodded. It sounded right. However, both of them were staring at me. I winked at the clerk, hoping to make him uncomfortable enough to fix his eyes back on the scratch tickets. Though successful, this only solved half of my problem.

“Okay, no trouble,” he informed the glass display as if telling it a secret. Brave enough to look at my left hand, he asked, “What kind?”

I turned to my partner, passing the question on. He shrugged and told me, “Up to you man, I ain’t got no money.”

Oh, right. I guess I was buying, and take note that this is what you get for showing generosity. This irked me, especially considering Eddie had been the one to suggest we come here. Letting my mood show, I said, “Well, I haven’t got any money either.”

He squinted his eyes and ground his teeth. I kind of snarled back at him. The kid behind the counter was drawing breath at what I would consider to be an unsustainable rate.

“S-so…” he choked, “Just a pack?”

“Yeah,” my better half responded firmly. “We’re out of smokes.”

The kid walked backward into the tobacco cabinet, pressing himself against it as he opened it up wide to present the full menu. “W-what, uh, what kind?”

“Menthols,” said the man I will hereafter have to refer to as my accomplice.
“H-how many?”

My brother in arms turned to me and asked, “How many pockets you got?”

“Just one.” Aside from the other five.

“We’ll take a carton.”

The next time I would steal from a store would come only about a year later. I had need of a pen to write down a girl’s phone number, after pretending to enter it into my MP3 player so she wouldn’t know I didn’t actually have a phone at the time. I repeated the number in my head as she got off the train, but I wouldn’t be home for another forty minutes and couldn’t risk finding myself distracted and forgetting. She had a pierced eyebrow. I got off at the next station and ran into a department store, all the while chanting the number in my mind. For lack of any kind of plan, I grabbed a shopping basket and began loading it up with a random selection of items. Milk, socks, two coloring books and then a pen. That makes sense, I thought, people buy things like this. I purposely stood in the longest of the checkout lines, sighing exasperatedly as I picked at the packaging. Once the pen was loose I placed the rest of the basket on the floor and loudly said something like, “Ain’t nobody got time for these lines,” and walked out the door looking positively dissatisfied while I tapped the pen on my thigh. Everything went perfectly well, but I realized I had forgotten the number.

As for that night with Eddie back in Chilliwack, I took the two smokes he had promised me and decided we should part ways there, not yet ready to commit myself to a life of crime.

But my night wasn’t quite over. That will require another entry.

Irreversible Mistakes