The delight that consumes the desire.
The desire that outruns the delight.
- Algernon Swinburne
Palm Gordon stepped out of his vintage Studebaker Golden Hawk. He adjusted his tie and shook out the wrinkles in his gabardine suit jacket. When the traffic cleared, he walked with intent to the other side of the street toward Mora's Café. He caught his image in the glass door as he pushed it open and it pleased him.
Inside the small eatery sat a handful of people sipping coffee and eating eggs.
"Hey, Palmy, where you been? Ain't seen you in a coon's age. You dodging the bail bondsmen?" inquired Sammy Flynn, his thick fist wrapped around a white cup.
"You get uglier every time I see you, Sammy. That on purpose? How you doing?" replied Palm, taking a stool at the counter next to his friend.
"I been better and I been worse."
"You look on the worse end this time."
"Getting over the flu. Had me on my back for a week. Crapped and barfed off ten pounds."
"Hell of a diet."
"You ought to try it, Palmy. You could use a fin off your gut and a saw buck off your ass."
"Keep your eyes off my ass or you're going to lose more than ten pounds, you frigging fruit."
"Nice talk, Palmy. You're a real gentleman."
"Yo, Mora, my love, you got any fresh Joe in this joint?"
"No, honey, you know we only serve week old coffee here," replied the middle-aged woman hanging between the two swinging half-doors leading to the kitchen.
"Well, give me a cup of the mud, and I'll have some white... no, make it rye toast."
"Getting daring in your old age, Palm? You never ordered anything but white toast before you disappeared. Have a life changing experience?"
"Naw, just thought I'd break out of my slump."
"Good for you. Change is great, but don't get too crazy. Tomorrow you'll want a scone or bran muffin, and we don't got them."
"He's back here," answered Mora, jerking her head toward the kitchen.
"Tell him I got to see him, sweetie. Would you?"
"Anything for you, Palmy. You know that."
"Yeah, right. Could you get me some coffee while you're at it?
"Anything else? I live to serve you."
"Well, now that you ask," said Palm, eyeing her vast breasts.
"In your dreams," shrugged Mora.
"Yeah, you're in them a lot, sugar," winked Palm.
"Hey Mack, the Boss of Beeker Street wants to see you. Put down your spatula for a minute and get out here."
Palm Gordon had come by his dubious nickname at eighteen when he stole three cars in one day from the busy thoroughfare. The locals admired him more for the two years he spent in prison than for his ability as an auto thief.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in. How you doing, Palm?" said Mack, emerging from the kitchen. The two men shook hands and went to a nearby booth.
"I'm surviving. What about you?"
"Prostate has me crazy, but otherwise, I'm existing."
"She's doing fine. Better every day she don't see your ugly puss."
"Don't worry, I'm staying clear of your little girl, Mackie. She deserves better than me. That's for sure."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. It just didn't work out. Shit, I ain't held on to nobody since Mary died. She was the only one could put up with me."
"Yeah, Mary was a keeper. So was your kid, but I screwed up as usual."
"You did big time. Took her awhile, but she's back on her feet."
"So what brings you back here? Thought you left Rochester for good."
"That was the plan. Look, Mackie, I need a favor."
"If I can do it, I'll do it. You know that. I owe you."
Lone sharks had threatened to break Mack's knees if he didn't pay off what he owed, and Palm had bailed him out.
"I'd be making hash from a wheelchair if it wasn't for you."
Palm detailed his favor to Mack.
"Jeez, Palm. That ain't gonna be easy. You know that. Little close to home."
"Hey, maybe it's too much to ask. Forget about it, Mackie."
"No, no! Let me figure it out. I'll do it if I can. You got a number I can reach you at?"
Palm gave Mack his cell number and left Mora's Café.
Shit, of all the Goddamn things to ask me to do. I could get in deep trouble for this, thought Mack. But I owe him and got to make good.
Two days later, Palm got a call from Mack telling him to meet him at Mora's.
"I did what you want, but it wasn't easy. And I don't feel good about it, I can tell you that," said Mack, handing a package to Palm.
"You know I appreciate it, Mackie. I needed it bad. Wouldn't have asked if I didn't. It's what brought me back to this burg. The craving had me nuts. And you were my only hope. No way I could get it on my own."
"So we're even now, right?"
"Yeah, you don't owe me a damn thing anymore."
"Well, I hope you enjoy my daughter's special apple cranberry strudel, because lying to her makes me feel like crap."
Palm held the foil-wrapped package close to his chest as he left the restaurant.