A short story on a public official's "hustling" to make his family happy.
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The Hustling

He had shifty eyes, a face as drawn and narrow as an old man’s even though he was only in his twenties. He seemed to be the type who was always in trouble. Johnson sighed and rolled his eyes. He didn’t not like the looks of this guy but he knew right away that dealing with him would make up for the woman that held out on him this morning.

She was one determined woman he thought again, getting angry again. What the heck is she trying to prove anyway?

This was the third time she came in and did the driving test so she could get her license. Each time she was stuck with him. Of course she was an excellent driver. She knew it and he knew it. But that’s just not how it goes he reasoned, further more she could afford to pay the $15,000, heck the car she rode there in to do the test was worth more than all the instructors at the depot’s cars put together. Then she gave him a cold look and told him “Mr. Johnson I’m a praying woman.”

He knew she didn’t mean she would pray for her license he knew it was more of a threat. He almost gave in too and declare the test a pass but then he thought of Mandy and Simone. Since he had put on so much weight complete with a huge beer belly, which came with many other problems like “getting it up” which was the term Mandy liked to use, it got more and more difficult to keep her happy at home. If she left him he would be a nobody. She was the only reason he got to rub shoulders with the politicians at their cocktail parties and the likes. After all, her dad was the Minister of Transport and that’s why he got his job and that’s why he was able to be an obnoxious jerk at the depot.

He knew everyone hated him there. He wasn’t the boss but he might as well had been. The minister didn’t like him either. He was just tolerated really, so he only felt secure when he felt Mandy was happy. She did love him at one point. But that was when they were much younger and his loud jokes and carefree ways enticed her. She was a rebel, she was sick of putting on a show as daddy’s little girl. Tony Johnson was the perfect way for her to tick her parents off and let them know that at 23 she was a grown woman and could do as she liked. Well when she got pregnant with Simon, Johnson’s carefree ways wasn’t appealing anymore. Mandy would turn up her nose at all the possible jobs he could get, such as being a sales clerk at the hardware store downtown or running the Laundromat for Mr. Chin who was getting old. That’s when he sucked up his pride, what was left of it, and went to her dad.

Simone came to be the joy of his life. Not only was she the glue that kept the family together and gave him the position he had in life now, she was also the only one who he knew without a doubt that loved him. He loved her unconditionally too and as much as he was able, he would keep it that way. Everyone knows how the system goes. If you want a driver’s license you have to pay for it, pure and simple. Never mind the government putting measures in place to weed out what they called corruption. They were trying to make the hustling hard for him. Police were now constantly on the roads checking to see if drivers could read. Each step of the process was done by several different people, which meant that more people had to be paid off, which ultimately and more importantly meant less cash for him. All sorts of damn foolishness he thought and almost shouted till he realized the fellow was waiting on him.

“Man are you stupid or something!” Johnson screamed. “didn’t you just see that big red stop sign” The young man didn’t even blink. He was used to taking insults. “Sorry boss” he said “I have trouble remembering that is di red fi stop and di green fi go.”

Johnson used the foulest language he could think of to curse under his breath. He had a bad feeling about this one, but at least he was sure he wasn’t a spy or some undercover cop. That was his biggest daily fear. He thought about his situation. Christmas is coming up and if he didn’t give Mandy enough money to go shopping with her friends to by gifts for practically everyone they knew or even people they had just met once he would be in big trouble. She didn’t even like picking out gifts, she only wanted to do it because all her friends did. She only wanted to blend it and not seem like she was any less off from not marrying a politician or a relative of a politician. That’s why she never missed a party, that’s why she was at the beauty parlour at least once a week, that’s why she worked out religiously at the gym even though he thought she couldn’t get any leaner or well toned, and that‘s why Simone went to one of the most expensive schools on the island.

Simone, his face relaxed a bit. She wanted a new computer even though the one she has is only a year old. She wanted her bedroom redecorated too and all in time for Christmas. He often thought of starting a business for himself so he could earn some extra income to support their demands. But he never really had any “get up and go” and besides he told himself, Mandy wouldn’t support him in the things he wanted to do. Most of all he wanted a bicycle repair shop because he at least knew that if you operate a business then you should have all or most of the skills you expect your staff to have.

“Damn her, she met him when he was riding a bicycle, what’s the big deal now ?” he thought. It’s not like he would quit his job. It would only be on the side. He thought of the computer again and the yearly shopping spree that even Mandy usually regrets too and seethed, “I hope you realize that you’re not paying regular price for your license seeing as you can’t read, if you can’t afford it stop wasting my damn time right now.”

The man said “how much” and Johnson gave him a sidelong look and said $30,000. The man took the cash from a backpack leaving a significant amount still in there and paid Johnson. Johnson immediately regretted not asking for more. Well ,he thought, if some more like him would come in for the next few days I’ll just about make it. They went back to the depot, the papers were processed and the young man left.

It was Christmas Eve and the brand new computer was wrapped and under the tree along with the other gifts that would sit in the closets for months until they were forgotten and stumbled upon again. He wasn’t completely broke but hated it when his funds fell below a certain point, so he couldn’t wait to get back to work and to the hustlings.

Mandy and Simone were doing last minute shopping and he was home alone waiting for them to come back, especially Simone who guessed that it was the computer that was in those huge boxes under the tree and was being especially attentive to him. He took out a glass of brandy and sat his wide buttocks down in the easy chair he bought himself for his birthday. He switched the television on and turned to the local station. He had only dozed off for about ten minutes when he heard his wife screaming. He felt a chill go down his spine as he knew no one was in the house with him. He looked around nonetheless and finally stared straight at the television set. There was Mandy caught on camera all disheveled screaming for Simone.

Johnson nearly fainted. It was obvious that there had been an accident. There were ambulances and police cars on the street along with a large crowd of onlookers who left off shopping to gape at the two twisted cars that collided. Johnson could not see the reporter but could hear her explain that the driver who caused the collision was fleeing the scene of a robbery. She confirmed that of the two females that were in the blue Honda, the teenager had died. Johnson’s mouth fell open , the empty glass rolled to the floor as he started to get up. He saw Mandy being restrained and put into an ambulance. Johnson’s screams and tears matched Mandy’s as the camera turned full on the face of the driver of the other vehicle who was being led away in handcuffs. He had shifty eyes, a face as drawn and narrow as an old man’s even though he was only in his twenties. He seemed to be the type who was always in trouble.

About the author

SelmaKnowles