On the bus ride downtown all he could think about was Old Black Maggie spitting into the river and walking away. He envisioned old Pot floating face down in the river and being dragged out like a bloated dog.
The bus stopped two blocks from Beez’s apartment that was above the Majestic Theater. Gary clung close to the buildings as he stepped hurriedly and jumped over puddles.
He ran up the steps to Beez’s apartment and knocked. Beez let him in right away.
“What’s wrong?” Beez said. “You look frightened.”
“Do you have today’s paper?” Gary said.
“I was reading it when you called,” Beez said.
“Did you read about the guy dead in the river?” Gary said.
“Yes,” Beez said suspiciously, “do you know something about it?”
“It was Old Black Maggie,” Gary said near tears.
“Are you sure?” Beez said. “Did you see her do something?”
“No,” Gary said. “But a few days ago I was eating fish with Pot, that’s the man’s name. We were on the river just down from the railroad bridge over the river. From nowhere old Black Maggie comes down the tracks. Pot hid me in the weeds. Old Black Maggie stopped and looked down at Pot. She gave him an evil eye and spit into the river. He got killed because he helped me.”
“How did he help you?” Beez said.
“I told him I wanted to get away and wanted advice on hoping a train,” Gary said. “He told me it wasn’t a good idea. I told him about Old Black Maggie. When I got back to the tracks, here she comes. I ran back to Pot’s camp and told him Old Black Maggie was coming. He hid me in the grass; he helped me and Old Black Maggie put a curse on him right then and there.”
Beez turned and looked out the window. He scratched his cheek and turned back to Gary. “How close were you to this man named Pot?”
“I just met him,” Gary said. “It was a chance meeting. I was walking down the tracks and saw him fishing. I asked him if they were bitin’ and he invited me to have some fish with him. He even gave me a coke.”
Beez walked over to a closet and got a towel and handed it to Gary. “You’re soaked. Dry yourself off. We have to reason this out.” He walked into the kitchen. “I’ll put on some water for tea.”
While Beez was busy in the small kitchen Gary looked around his apartment. It was richly furnished. Beez had taste and wealth. Two entire walls housed books interrupted only by small mementos from distant lands where he had traveled. Paintings and pictures were on another wall. The furniture was dark leather. The room smelled like leather but had a fresh and clean feeling to it. Beez was meticulous, everything was just so.
The teapot whistled and shortly Beez served a tray of tea, cream, sugar, and lemon.
Gary observed Beez and prepared his tea in the same manner; three lumps of sugar, a dash of cream, and a squeeze from a lemon slice. They sipped at the same time.
“That will warm and relax you,” Beez said. “What are you feeling right now?”
“I’m scared,” Gary said. “I don’t know what to do.”
Beez rested his hand on Gary’s shoulder. “Now look at me, Gary. Look into my eyes. Nothing is going to happen to you, but I am concerned.”
“About what?” Gary said.
“Your emotional wellbeing,” Beez said. “You’re a bundle of nerves. Young people aren’t meant to carry that sort of thing around with them. It is meant for older ones, ones with experience. Your life is meant to be lived carefree and unencumbered by fear and guilt. It is a time for exploration and wonderment.”
“Beez could you take me someplace,” Gary pleaded, “someplace far away. I’d pay you back every dime it would cost you. I promise.”
Beez smiled sympathetically and patted Gary’s shoulder. “I would like to do that, but it would be impossible. I could not take you from your home and parents. You are not ready for that.”
“And neither am I ready for this!” Gary said.
“You are right, there,” Beez said, “but I would not know where to begin.”
“I’ll think of a way, Beez,” Gary said, “but I got to get away.”
They finished the tea.
“Do you want me to drive you home?” Beez said.
“No,” Gary said. “It’s stopped raining and I think the walk would do me some good.”
“I think so too,” Beez said.
Beez walked Gary to the door and opened it. Gary turned to Beez and hugged him.
Gary uttered through tears, “Thanks, Beez. You are the best friend a guy could ask for.”
Beez smiled. “Take care and be careful, young man.”
“I will,” Gary said and slowly descended the steps from Beez’s apartment.