Mike the Scavenger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find Mikes Dumpster Diving Videos here

These videos were the main influences for my two stories - this and the earlier one Dumpster

Watch Mike's videos and see if you can find some of his catch phrases in the story - then go and buy a tee-shirt here 

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Fuckin' Fat Boy

Dumpster 2

TRY ANOTHER SHORT STORY

Fuckin’ Fat Boy stared at me over the plastic cup of whatever shit he was sucking up through a purple straw. Each puckered suck relaxed into a smirk of superiority as he was thinking I was now in his debt. I knew it. Not that I could see past the black pupils that looked out through the crease in his face caused by his fat cheeks and somewhat low Neanderthal forehead tryin’ to meld together, but I just knew that fat fucker’s mentality. He would try to work the situation to his benefit.

Okay, I know, I should be grateful. He probably saved my life. I‘d been bouncing around in that fuckin’ dumpster waiting to be squashed like a June bug on a windscreen. Against all the odds the Korean geek had looked up from his phone and wondered what that large infrared blob was doing waving at him. His one job that day was to monitor the feed from the security camera inside what was about to become my tomb––if only until I was poured out into an anonymous landfill out in the boondocks somewhere in the Philippines. Fortunately, for me he did, and now here I was, covered in dumpster juice, watching him suck gelatin balls up that purple straw. 

Chul stopped sucking, and withdrew the straw from his mouth.

 

“Eh, Danneya, wha’ you doina in dumpstera dude?”

 

As the straw re-entered his fleshy lips, his gaze moved back to his phone, already bored with me. Having to listen to his occasional attempts at conversation over the past six months working part-time at Walmart had attuned my ears to the lingua franca he called ‘merican. 

I could tell him that a dumpster diving score had got me mixed up with some chink stiff I’d discovered in one. That, I had lifted one or two choice objet from the deceased’s pockets, making sure I stayed away from the blood draining from the three bullet holes in his chest before I called the cops like the good citizen I was.  Unfortunately, the dead dude’s sister tracked me down looking for some memory cards I’d stashed before her heavy knocked me unconscious. Then, in a totally ironic dick move, they stashed me in a hydraulic crush dumpster outside of my place of work. But fuck that. 

 

While I appreciated the irony I didn’t appreciate the casual attempt at wasting me. And I wasn’t gonna’ fess up to fuckin fat boy. 

 

“Yeah, ya’ know Fa… Chul, that’s a long story.” I checked my watch, “er, thanks an’ all man for pullin’ me outta’ the hole, sure ‘preciate it. I owe ya’ one dude, but like, I gotta’ move on, things to do buddy…” 

 

I turned to walk out of the cupboard the Walmart asshats that call themselves managers designated as the security room. This is where the big red button that started the dumpsters hydraulics was located. One press and the machine smashed the waste food and returned goods into a rancid pulp. It was standard practice before pressing the button the designated operator checked the infra-red feed. Mainly, this was to stop wayward raccoons from crossing the rainbow bridge, so not much attention was paid to the screen – because basically who gives a fuck? I was fortunate, because for whatever reason, today was the day Fat Boy broke the mold and glanced at the screen.

I was half way out the open door before Fat Boy spoke again.

 

“Youa fuck wi’ Chinesea, they fucka you goo’”

 

Fuck.

 

I turned and looked back at Chul. He sat, like an inscrutable Buddha on a tall stool, his expressionless face pointed at the iridescent screen of his smart phone.  The flick of his thumbs was the only indication he was sentient. 

 

“What you say Fat Boy?” I forgot to be polite. 

 

“No goo’ people Chinesea,” his eyes still fixed to the screen, “too much dlug, likea dolla’, wanna’ be rich fucks.”

 

I stepped back and stood in front of him.

 

“How you know so much about the chinks and me huh, Fat Boy?”

 

I saw a flash of white through the gap where his eyes were buried. He’d rolled his eyes like a fifteen-year-old prom queen being told her skirt was too short by her mom.  He swiped a finger across the greasy screen in his hand and sighed, his black eyes glinted in the harsh neon of the room. 

 

“Youa tink I stoopid huh? Youa tink I Fat Boy, noa nuthina’, see nuthina. Stoopid gook huh? 

 

Yeah, I did, but I wasn’t about to admit it was I?

 

“What d’ya think ya know Fat Boy? I think ya know nuttin’ right.” 

 

I looked at the bank of security monitors flickering along the wall. The cameras covered the car park, the entrance and exits to the store, and the loading bays. What they didn’t cover was the dumpster areas. He’d probably seen something and was now putting two and two together to see if it made four and if it could be turned to his advantage and some ready cash off yours truly.  

 

He flicked his phone back on, the light illuminating his shiny broad features.

 

“Youa be careful Dannya eh? Youa mi frien’ Youa rememba Chul huh, if you have pro’lem with Chinesea huh? 

 

His thumbs started flicking and his head dropped as he stared at the flashing screen in his hands.

 

I waited for a moment, opened my mouth… Fuck it, I needed to go home check my place, I left Fat Boy oblivious, immersed in some virtual world where he probably some handsome Kung Fu dude or whatever. 

 

*****

 

My crib’d been tore to pieces. Fucking Oddjob, the dragon lady’s sidekick must’ve gone through the place like a fuckin’ Mongol raider.  Everything was fucked up, broke and trashed. Fortunately, most of it was trash in the first place.

 

Ya know I’m a dumpster diver right? You’ve seen my vids? On YouTube, on my channel? Instagram? That's what people do nowadays. It’s my fifteen minutes. Warhol would have loved it man. I go out and scavenge all the good stuff that people throw out. I have my routes, through the industrial districts, around the student accommodations and down the residential streets.  I collect metal, electronics, and all the good stuff people with more money than sense throw out. 

 

I stood an’ grimaced at the detritus of what was once my life. I didn’t shed too many tears. All the good stuff and my personal items were safely hidden in a lock up downtown.  And the rest? I’d find it in the trash. Need a 40-inch flat screen TV? You’d not believe how many in working condition I find. Computers, phones, clothes, its an avalanche of stuff and I make a nice living off it, thanks so much.

 

This hiccup with the Chinese mob, if that’s who they were, was a lesson to be learned. If I find a stiff in the trash, next time I’ll leave well alone. The kicker was the cops kept my video too. I hoped it’d go viral and make me a pretty penny with the ad revenue. Bummer. 

Anyways, onwards and upwards. I needed to get back on track and put that shit behind me. I had a livin’ to earn. Over the next few days I cleared my apartment and got it back to some semblance of order. My cat slunk back through the flap in the door a day later giving me the sort of WTF attitude cats live by.  Yeah, I found her in a dumpster too.  I call her Shadow as she’s as black as the night and I’d almost missed her deep in a dumpsters shadow­­––just a small pitiful mew gave her away. 

 

She grew up to be a pain in the ass with an attitude to boot. She sat on my fuckin’ keyboard as I accessed the copies of the sim cards and the 128g SD card I had taken from the dead chink. I’m not stupid, I knew these motherfuckers were into something illegal. Why else would you end up face down, leaking your life blood into the murky gumbo at the bottom of a dumpster?  I gotta’ live right? I’m a scavenger–– its fair game and I might make a nice score out of it if I could find the right people to sell the information to. 

 

If I stayed alive. 

 

I know I was sailin’ close to the wind but I let that Chinese bitch get the better of me and I guess I’m lucky to still be here. But what’s that sayin’? Somethin’ about having the last laugh? I shoved Shadow away from the screen and started to scroll through the contents of the SD card. How dumb are some of these shits? It wasn’t even encrypted––not even password protected. Fuck. They deserve to get ripped off––I ain’t got no qualms.

I opened a spreadsheet and boom, a list of names and numbers. Customers, suppliers, who gives a fuck?  It was the accounting that made my eyes water. They make that much money? And log it on a fuckin spreadsheet, on an SD card? Where these people idiots I asked myself?

 

The next file answered that question. Yes, they were. 

 

These geniuses had filmed themselves while packing drugs, into those plastic eggs kids love. I say they filmed themselves, but they didn’t seem to notice as they weren’t playing up to the camera or mugging into the lens. They just got on with the job.  The dead guy, Sonny, was there large as life, next to his maniac sister Dragon Lady. Oddjob waltzed past, obviously on security detail as evidenced by the AK he was toting. Their faces were clearly visible in the video so who the fuck was taking it?  And it wasn’t just their faces – the camera man, who ever the fuck it was, captured the front of the house, the street number and a parked car they all piled into later. I recognized it as the 1980s Plymouth Gran Fury they stuffed me into two weeks ago.

 

I opened another file, yeah, I’d sure hit pay dirt. This was the mother lode. Picture after picture of young Asian looking girls huddled in shipping containers guarded by young guys posing with guns. Even images of the ships having containers loaded onto them. Other shots taken inside the containers showed portable fans powered by car batteries to help the women breathe, I guess. Another picture showed Oddjob and various random chinks lounging around a stack of of water bottles, packs of biscuits, dozens of blankets, and the drums the chicks probably had to shit in. The gang bangers in the wife beaters had smirks all over their faces––except Oddjob of course. He was one hardhearted motherfucker alright.  

 

I’m not stupid, this was people trafficking. I’m not a moron, I have a heart and morals. My moral boundary might be weak but I ain’t up for knowing about shippin’ young women around the world to be someone’s ho and just ignore it. These hos really were in the trash can. Someone thought these young chicks were no more than human garbage, disposable like a used tissue. 

 

The drug story? Well, that was gold. It’d get me a million hits on YouTube but also an early grave, which I wanted to avoid if at all possible. I was acutely aware, unlike my cat, I didn’t have nine lives, and the one I had, had been severely under threat lately. No, I had to search out a more… suitable and safer buyer.  I needed to think seriously about what to do about the girls.

 

I was pondering on all of this, flicking through images, which got me to wondering just who had ventilated Sonny and dumped him in my dumpster?

 

And why? Drugs or girls or both? Hmmm.

 

Yeah, MY dumpster, y’all picked that up, yeah, all mine. Dumpster diving is a cut throat business ya know, especially in a shit hole town like mine. Y’all better not be stickin’ your snout in my trough buddy or you’ll be getting the short end of my pickin’ stick up yo ass, mother fucker. I leave the large stores to the ladies who go for the out-of-date bath bombs, last year’s make-up colors, and past the sell-by-date chips and cookies and think they scored big.  I am hard core. You know me. Brass, Aluminum, Copper cable and the precious metals in them electronics that's what makes my palms sweat inside my blue Mechanix Wear leather gloves––I go after the big game, y’all. 

 

An’ what I was seeing in front of me was the elephant in the room. The biggest game of all, knowledge, pure information. Someone was gonna’ pay top dolla’ for this in a sweet deal. I would be gone out of this dirt hole town, away to some warm beach with senoritas and cold beer­––hell, I’d even heard good things about a place called Thailand and them Far East places. Nah, second thoughts, fuck that, I cain’t stand that foreign food shit. I’ll stick with the chimichangas and tacos down south.

 

My dreams of a warm beach and a soft ass disappeared as someone started hammering on my door.  My new door, I’d had to pay good dough to get a joiner in to fix the mess Oddjob left behind. I’d paid premium coin to get the extra security steel reinforced door and nothing was coming through it unless I unlocked it. I clicked my screen through to the security cam. Paranoid? Me? Nah. Just staying on the safe side ya knaw? 

 

A moon shaped face stared up at the camera, the LEDs around the lens reflecting off the dark Ray-Ban Wayfarers he was wearing. Fat Boy. What the fuck did he want? Why the fuck was he wearing shades at…checked watch…. 11:30 in the p.m.? And come to that how the fuck did he know where I lived? I knew I hadn’t ordered Korean in, I’d kick started my craving for Mexican with my daydreams.

 

I let the Korean in.

 

He sauntered through the doorway as he sucked on a bucket size soda, the smirk he wore a few days ago played around his puckered lips.

 

“Dannya.” He nodded as he took in the room. “Nice prace.” 

 

He wandered round like he was in a museum or art galley, he stopped, he looked, he tilted his head. At half slurp he paused to poke at the cat, who ignored him, but I could tell she was pissed by the irritated twitch of her black tail. 

 

“You duna it op nicry huh? I hear some bad preoprle paya youa wisit yeh?” 

 

He turned his Ray-Bans towards me, obviously knock offs, the glass was brown not Ray-Ban green. His Kim Jong whatshisface haircut glistened with too much gel. 

 

“Whadyawant? It’s late. An’ how t’fuck did ya find me?”

 

He waddled over towards me and stuck his fat face right into mine. I could smell his sweat. 

 

“Ah Dannya youa still tink I stoopida huh? You comea wid mea huh, you frind ou’.” 

 

I took a step back and readied ma kicking foot. He push it another inch and he be coughin’ up his balls. 

 

“Nah, buddy, I’m stayin’ here, it’s late I need to hit the sack, man.”

 

I maneuvered round him so I could shepherd him out of the door. 

 

“We’ll catch up tomorrow, at work, right?”

 

Okay, yeah, I paid big bucks for my security door, so you’d think a contentious and paranoid homeowner, such as myself, would make sure the fucker was shut when he let in random Korean dickheads, wouldn’t you? Right?  It’s surprisin’ how light on their feet the two other fat fuckers were.  I never heard them before they grasped hold of my arms with vice like grips and dragged me downstairs. I copped to the worst case of déjà vu ever as my feet bounced down the iron steps––for the second time in as many weeks. 

 

“Hey, you fat fuck,” I yelled towards the obese shadow standing in the yellow light illuminating the fire escape, “feed the fucking cat and lock the doors fer Christ’s sake.”  

 

Priorities right?

 

This time I wasn’t shoved into no trunk. I was the Danny between two mute garlic reeking tree trunks in the back of a black SUV with tinted windows. I sighed and threw my head back against the leather headrest. More clichéd wanna’ be gangsters who’d watched too many two bit movies on those streamin’ websites. I was pretty sure it was a GMC Denali or some such. Big, powerful, black, with enough room for six to eight bodies in the trunk or ten suitcases of cash or gold slabs, whatever. I was along for the ride. 

 

We didn’t have to go too far. Remember I tole you about China Dream,the take-away down town full of Korean chefs? That’s where we went. Fuckin’ Fat Boy was waiting outside when we got there. How he got there so fast I didn’t know cos we’d come the fastest way – straight down Main Street. He’d even scored a box of noodles he was scarfing into his fat face, his chin greasy from the sauce. 

 

“Hey, Dannya,” he greeted me, as I exited the automobile, as if two goons hadn’t just kidnapped me and manhandled me into their SUV. 

 

“Youa eat ye’? This goo’ shit.” He poked around in the box with the chopsticks, forking up a twisting plait of the unctuous noodles which he slurped down his throat.

 

“Fat…” I remembered my manners, helped along by the fingers tightening into my arm muscles as my minders helped me towards the side door of the takeaway. 

 

“Chul, buddy, What’s going on? Who are these guys? Where we going?”

 

“Don’ rorry Dannya, youa jus’ talk to Uncle Koo, he nice guy. You rike him, yeah? Have noodles yeah? Eat dinna, drin’ some soju, hav’ ni’ time.”  

 

He nudged my elbow as he slurped another shiny twine of noodles into his mouth.

 

‘Mebbe fin’ you ni’ Korea gurl huh, huh?” 

 

He coughed, as he choked, splattering noodle debris and sauce across my face. I spat, making sure none entered my mouth.

 

This was the most I’d heard Fat Boy speak in the six months I’d worked with him. In the rest room he usually sat with his face in his phone as he played some moronic game or jabbed away at some colored tiles. I didn’t pay much heed. Why he worked there I didn’t know and didn’t particularly care. I only did a few part time shifts for the easy cash to supplement my scavenging.

 

We walked through the building, the air scented by the cooking spices from the kitchen, they tickled the back of my nose and drifted down my throat. My eyes watered from the piquant aroma, as powerful as a squirt of tear gas. Fat Boy still slurped at the noodles.

 

“Hey, Chul,” still being polite, “You feed the cat? Shadows’ sorted, right?”

 

He poked around the takeaway box with his chopsticks and pulled out a piece of meat. He waggled it in front of me before he shoved it into his mouth and chewed noisily. 

 

“Yea, sorteda, delicious too, Dannya,” he didn’t laugh, he gurgled deep in his throat, like a drain dealing with an extra large turd. 

 

That fat fuck was going to get his. I made myself that promise. If he’d eaten Shadow, I was going to force feed him his minute cock and balls.

*****

In the back room Uncle Koo sat at a large table. A couple of his goons lounged around, smoking, picking their teeth and generally living up to the gangsta scenario they were trying to replicate. I just saw more gook dickheads. Whitewall shaves upside their heads, bouffant styles on top held in place by wax, spray, the congealed fat of dead puppies, a couple even had on flowery tee shirts, all the better to see their tats––but gay, right? Anyhow, what the fuck do I know about this crew?  The tats were impressive, Asians sure know how to do a good tat, I’ll give ‘em that. 

 

Uncle Koo looked up at me as I was ushered into the room. His age was indeterminable, like a lot of these Asian guys he wore his age well. His hair was jet black, probably dyed, because if nothing else I knew they were a vain lot. I dived the dumpsters behind the strip where this joint was located regularly. Their dumpster was usually full of rancid rice, slimy noodles and sometimes half a dozen empty boxes of black hair dye, that's how I know. 

 

Here’s a clue people, don’t put your personal stuff in the dumpster. I’ve lost count of the confidential and personal papers I’ve found in dumpsters. Check books, credit cards, bank statements, legal papers, all manner of useable and saleable material. But yours truly don’t want to stiff the ordinary joe so I mash em up in the jungle juice at the bottom of the bins, crack the credit cars in half, fuck the chip up. Now, gift cards are a different matter they are as good as hot cash to a guy like me.  Heads up guys, buy a good shredder. 

 

Koo said something sharp and loud to the guys at the table. They jumped like startled rabbits, stood as one, and grabbed their phones and cigarette packs before moving out. They shoved past me, their black eyes staring into my face. I almost choked in the cloud of garlic stink that enveloped me.  

 

Koo turned his gaze to me “Sit.” He said.

 

I didn’t so much sit as be eased into a sitting position by my attendant goons. Fat Boy took a chair near to, but not next to, Uncle Koo, who I noticed, gave him the evil eye. Fat Boy looked uncomfortable but lowered his eyes and sucked on another large container of pop. I was beginning to think the jerk had mummy issues. 

 

“Thanks for joining us Danny”

 

Koo smiled, his face collapsed into the wrinkles that should have been evident if he looked his age. His English was good, no trace of a Korean accent, unlike the Fat Boy currently busy with his substitute tit. 

 

“Did I have an option?” 

 

I glanced around at the black suited tree trunks behind me, hands clasped in front of their balls, blank moon faces staring over my head at who the fuck knows what?  

 

“Whadya’ want anyways?” 

 

I’d never seen this guy before and I’d lived in this town all my life. Everywhere I went I saw familiar faces, old school friends, guys from down the bar, I tried to dodge the girls I dated, fucked, and dumped, and their old men. This was a small town, everyone knew everyone, and this guy was new to me.

 

So I asked. “Who are ya anyways, not from around these parts are ya? You Fat… Chul’s kin?” 

 

At the sound of his name. Fat Boy stopped slurping, belched and smirked at me, the shit. 

 

“Forgive me Danny.” Koo steepled his fingers and looked over his manicured nails. 

 

I glimpsed the blue lines of a tattoo running up into his jacket sleeve. 

 

“No, I’m not from these parts.” 

 

His accent was refined, citified I guessed, with a tinge of English, British English that is. Strange to hear it coming from a garlic muncher. 

 

“We’ve travelled down from Baltimore just for this little tête-à-tête.”

He must’ve seen the puzzled look cross my face. I told ya, I don’t do foreign, that’s food and languages.  

 

“Meeting, Danny, this little meeting. Can I offer you some food? I must say the Bulgogi is rather spectacular here.”  

 

He poured some clear liquid from a green bottle into a glass and pushed it over to me. 

 

“Have some soju, wet your whistle.”

 

I sipped at the liquid, tasted it, before tipping it down my throat. It was sweet with a slight after burn, not as strong as my normal hit of Stoly of an evening but good enough. It warmed my belly and settled the butterflies that had been fluttering around.  Yeah, okay, I was scared and nervous. I thought I was home free after surviving the crazy dragon lady and Oddjob, but now I’d simply fallen out of the pan and into the fire.  I was going to have a reckoning with fuckin’ Fat Boy, if I ever got out of this.

 

Uncle Koo sat and watched as I drank. His eyes were bright behind the oriental folds of his eyes, taking everything in. A skinny Asian chick placed a plate of food in front of me. The Bul… whatever. Steam rose from the plate of what looked like a turd pile. The aromas of garlic, onions and soy sauce wafted around the room. The long haired waitress slapped down a pair of chopsticks wrapped in paper.  I left everythin’ just where it was remembering’ what Chul had said about Shadow my cat. I’m not the trustin’ sort – ya feel me? 

 

“I hear you had some dealings with the Chinese.” 

 

It wasn’t a question more a flat out statement. He wanted me to know he knew. I grabbed the bottle of sujo and poured myself another two fingers, hell no, I filled the glass to the brim and gulped it down. 

 

“Yeah, Yeah, some crazy fucking dragon lady, but it’s cool now, it was just some crap stuff?”

 

“You found Sonny’s body right?”

 

I nodded and emptied what was left in the ridiculously small bottle the liqor came in into the glass.  The was a waft of air as the Korean chick placed another one in front of me as she removed the empty. Okay, great service, I’ll remember that when I review the place on Trip Advisor. 

 

“And you took some things from him. Right?” 

 

This time there was no mistaking this was a question. 

 

What to do? What to fuckin’ do? 

 

How much did this Uncle Koo know? Was he in cohorts with the chink chick? So many questions. 

I shrugged. 

 

“This and that. Look it’s my job, I’m a scavenger right? If’n it’s in the dumpster, it’s fair game. Just earning coin, man.”

 

“You got his phone?”

 

Ah, strike one, Uncle Koo wasn’t as clued up as he thought he was. There was no phone. 

 

“Nah, no phone man, just his watch.”  I shrugged again. “Nice Rolex, couldn’t just leave it there.”

 

“We need that phone Danny. You got to give it to us.”

 

I put on my best convincing face, the one I used with the chicks, to get ‘em into my bed. 

 

“Man…, Uncle Koo,” I remembered my manners. “I promise you there was no phone. Yeah, I took the guys watch, but no phone. No phone…” 

 

I raised my hands in front of me in Buddhist prayer gesture. I’d seen someone do it in a film recently so I thought I’d see if it worked. I rearranged my face into what I hoped resembled that of an honest and trustworthy dog. 

 

Koo Koo Katchoo, some old lyric rattled around in my brain as the old man reached into his pocket. He flung that very watch onto the table in front of me. Since leaving me it had suffered. The crystal glass was smashed and the stainless steel back was missing. It’d been gutted. I almost sobbed such was the shock of seeing $24,000 worth of bling reduced to so much scrap. As I turned it over in my hands I had a horrible feeling my buddy, the fence, might have suffered the same fate. 

 

“Now Danny, let’s cut to the chase. What did you do with the phone?” 

 

I shrugged and pushed out my bottom lip. 

 

He glanced to my left and nodded slightly. That nod caused the branch of a tree or some other similar, unforgiving, hard object to crash into my head.  One of the tree trunks picked me up off the floor. I wasn’t seeing stars but my tinnitus was really loud – Marshall amp 11 loud. 

I shook my head––gotta be strong. “No phone.” I gasped. “Took his wallet too” No profit in lying to these motherfuckers. And I’m all about the profit. 

 

Koo let fly with a staccato of Korean at Fat Boy who almost choked on his suck. He put his drink on the table and stood with his eyes down as his Uncle continued with what sounded to me like a mighty dressing down. It was my turn to smirk. While eyes were turned to watch Uncle Koo yelling at Chul I twisted the cap of the sujo bottle and necked half of it before anyone had the chance to stop me.  Not that anyone seemed to notice as they were all eyeballing the main event––Fat Boy’s bollocking.  What I noticed, was the sujo bottle was thick glass, and might come in useful should things get any heavier than they were. 

 

Koo stopped his tirade and turned back to me. 

 

“Wallet? You took wallet? What in wallet?” His English had reverted back to it’s roots. 

 

“Coupla’ hunnered dollars.” I shrugged, keeping it as vague as possible. It was obvious now they didn’t know as much as they thought they knew. They wanted a phone and I never had a phone, honest, that was the truth. The thousand-dollar question, which was the number of the bills actually in the wallet, was, did they know about the SD card and the sims?  

 

And was I going to tell them?

 

“Yeah, that chink bitch and her muscle came after me for that wallet, right. They took it from me, beat me up and shoved me into that dumpster unconscious. 

 

That's right huh?” I looked at Fat Boy. He was stood looking like the naughty boy who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar––prob’ly a familiar experience for him.  

 

‘That right, Chul? You tell your Uncle here that y’all saved my ass when I was in that dumpster, hey, Chul, buddy, you tell him, right?

 

Uncle Koo spat some more words at Fat Boy who nodded miserably. Somehow he’d fucked up, which was no surprise. It’s not like he lived most of his life in the real world. All he did was eat, drink and finger his smartphone. I’m not even sure what he was doing at Walmart or how he managed to score a job there, unless Uncle Koo and connections, right? 

 

“Mai Hai-Ching took the wallet from you?” 

 

He had retained his linguistic fluidity again, but I’d seen under his lizard skin, he was still just a gook at heart. Maybe a tough connected gook, but still a gook.  Pete, the pizza guy, had given me the skinny on gooks––he’d seen enough of ‘em in the Nam and Korea before that. Killed himself a bushel too, so he told me, I believed him too, more so after he showed me an old tin can full of what looked like desiccated figs, but he swore were gook ears took as souvenirs.  

 

He was one of the lucky ones. My Gramps never made it back from the frozen Chosin––the fucking gooks and chinks seen to that, he was a Marine though, an’ I was proud of that. My Pa served an all, Marine Corp, Afghanistan, Iraq, he came back alright, but was fucked up and I ain’t seen him, not since he took off, that was fifteen years ago, who knew? Right?”

 

“Yes sir,” I looked the old fart right in the eye, Marine respectful, but direct, Pa taught me that. 

 

“Ms, Hai-Ching was very insistent I returned her brothers property. Which I did forthwith with my condolences for her loss. Whereupon, for reasons I cannot ascertain, her butler, for that is what I believe he was, rendered me unconscious and secreted me in the dumpster outside of my workplace. I can only assume that they had no intention of harming me and were aware that your good nephew and my friend Chul would be there to rescue me.”

 

Yeah, it were bullshit of the first order but the old man was nodding and taking it all in. Fat Boy sat down on a wave from his uncle’s hand and shot me a glance across the table, there might have just been a glint of gratitude in his black eyes but his Neanderthal forehead got in the way. Moron. 

I took another breath.

 

“And on my honor, as an American, Sir,” 

 

I placed my hand over my heart, ignoring how fast it was beating, and continued, “there was no cell phone, as I live and breath, no Sir.” 

I had a faint memory of standing in front of my father swearing it wasn’t me who had taken the ten bucks out of his pocket as he lay drunk in the front room. But my mom needed to buy us food and didn’t want another black eye when she reminded Pa of his responsibilities to us. 

 

Uncle Koo sat back in his chair and fixed his black eyes on my face. Nobody moved.  In the distance I could hear the faint clattering of the cooks in the kitchen as life outside this dark room carried on. I was hoping to re-enter that place in one piece soon.  I held my tongue, which was hard because I can be a mouthy sob at times. I let the old man put two and two together and hoped he made five and not four.

 

“No cell phone,” he nodded, and forced his face back into a genial smile. 

 

‘Okay, Danny, I believe you. And the wallet? Why did Ms Mai go to all that trouble just for a wallet, you said there was just a couple of hundred dollars in it?”

 

Damn his math was good. 

 

“Anything else?” He raised his eyebrows and looked to the right this time. 

 

I braced for another smack upside the head––it didn’t come. What did come was the colon loosening feel of cold steel against my throat. I could feel my ass pucker.  This shit was real. A glanced up at the guy holding the blade. His eyes were blank, set deep into an expressionless face, and I knew that he would just as easy slit my throat as snub out the cigarette butt that dangled from his wet mouth.

 

I couldn’t move for fear it would be my last movement and for once I was speechless. 

 

“Danny, look at me…” I heard the words. 

 

It was then I realized my eyes were squeezed shut and I had forgotten to breathe. I was concentrating hard on not shitting myself. 

 

I opened my eyes. Uncle Koo wasn’t looking like the nice uncle Fat Boy had told me about. Uncle had a murderous look in his eyes.

 

I took a breath and swallowed hard, hoping my Adams apple wouldn’t get sliced off in the process. 

 

“Anything else?” He reiterated.

 

Okay, I fessed up, I realized the old boy knew what he was after, and I didn’t want my throat slit. I told him about the two sim cards and the SD card.

 

“So Danny, did you look at what was on those cards?” 

 

“Nah, didn’t have time, what with havin’ to straighten my place out n’ all,” I lied.

 

Big mistake.

 

Uncle Koo sighed and flapped his hands at the tree trunks. The knife was removed from my neck. It was like they had choreographed this whole thing, no words were spoken, I wondered just how many people had been on the receiving end of Uncle Koo’s malevolence. Hands grasped me under the arms and I was held, unable to move.  I thought about tryin’ a Kung Fu move I’d seen in a film, but fuck it, I didn’t have that much of a death wish. 

 

Koo mouthed off at Fat Boy.

 

Fats got off his fat ass and ambled over to me, he got into my face again. This close up I appreciated just how big he was. Solid, despite the diet of fast food and cola. Was he the Prince in waiting I wondered?

 

“Ah Dannya,” he breathed spices into my face…”

 

I winced, but didn’t turn away from the rancid stink coming from his pie hole. 

 

“You my fliend, Dannya, Youa owe me, I sraved you rife, rememba?” 

 

The fuck reached forward, and poked my head, poke, poke, poke. What was it with these gooks and pokin’ people?  That crazy chink was the same, I was jus’ grateful that Fat Boy chewed his nails. 

 

He did have a point, I may be some sort of lowlife dumpster diver, but y’all know I have morals and a code I live by – that’s what ma Pa taught me. I did owe the dude my life that was indisputable, but I wasn’t quite ready to cash the favor in right now. I had things to do, places to go and some chick had been givin’ me the glad eye down the bar for a week or two now. I wanted to see that through y’all.

 

Chul looked me in the eye, “I kno’ youa, I watch, Chul see you busya, bustin’ you ass for tha shit in dumpstera. Vely drity bidness youa in Dannya. You wanna’ make some dolla here?” His voice hard, he was in control here, he was making that plain. 

 

I bucked up a little at the talk of money––I’m nothing but mercenary, me. I nodded my head, glad it was still attached to my bod, and tried out a smile. 

 

“Sure, Chul, I’m all about the dolla’” 

 

He turned and looked back at Uncle Koo, the rolls of fat on his neck undulated, rippling down into his collar.  Koo waved his hands again allowing the dance to continue.  Before I grasped the meaning Fat Boy swung around and punched me hard in the stomach. 

 

The heavies let go of me dropping me to the floor gasping and retching, the drinks I had earlier poured out of me.  I curled into a ball, dang it, Fat Boy had a punch on him, maybe all that Kung Fu fighting on his cell had taught him somethin.’ 

 

He bent over me. “So solly, Danny, thi’ is importan’ youa gotta’ listena to Uncle Koo ri? Youa ready listen?’ He said this in a quieter voice, almost imploring me to agree.

 

I coughed, spitting mucous out of my mouth. Fuckin’ Fat Boy wasn’t as dull as I reckoned. I rolled in my own puke and pulled myself up.  The cute Asian chick was there offering me a paper cup. I sipped, no booze, just warm water. I took a mouthful and swilled it around my mouth. I spat, tempting as it was to splatter Fat Boys expensive kicks I turned my head away.

“Y’all stop beatin’ on me and yeah, I’ll listen to ya,” 

 

I was in no position to face these guys off.  I looked across at Uncle Koo.  He did some magic with his fingers and the tree trunks stepped away from me. They ambled through into the corridor, but left the door open. I could still smell them. 

 

“Danny, let’s be straight, we’re your friends here, we’re on the same side you and me.”

 

I rubbed the lump on the side of my head and then tried to wipe myself down. I raised my eyebrows at him.

 

“Uncle Koo, I’d sure hate to have ‘y’all as my enemy. Phewee, I must be stinkin’ the place up sure ‘nough. I apologize fer that.” 

 

Although why I should be doin’ the apologizin’ escaped me right at that moment. 

“Yes, well, it is I, perhaps, who should apologize to you, old habits and all that. I’m a businessman and I’m afraid these Chinese are hurting my business. And I need to find a way to stop that and I think you might just have the means to do it.”

 

“Maybe you could have sent a text or tweeted me instead of sending that moron and his boyfriends?” 

 

I glanced towards Fat Boy, ignoring the irritated muttering going on about five feet behind me. I tole you I had a big mouth. 

 

“You made copies of those files?” Koo leaned forward a look of expectation on his face. 

 

In for a penny. 

 

“Of course.”

 

“You will give them to us?”

 

“For a price.”

 

At this he sat back in his chair, a surprised look on his face.  

 

“You think you can negotiate with me?

 

“Why not? Y’all said ya were a businessman,” I pointed out, “let’s do bid’ness.”

 

“Ah, you miguks,you all the same, all you think about is money,” he spat.

 

“What else is there?” I asked.

 

“Perhaps we just go to your apartment, take your computer, and…” He spun his index finger in the air next to his ear. 

 

He didn’t have to finish the sentence, I was getting the picture, and it probably involved me and another dumpster

 

“You have nothing; we can take what we want.” Koo continued.

 

I got all riled up at that. I often do, ferget my place an’ all, it gets me into a mess of trouble, too much trouble, if truth be told.  

 

“Please do, come on let’s go right now,” I challenged. I turned and made for the door, lookin’ over my shoulder as I spoke 

 

“I’ll give you my laptop fer free, I found it in a dumpster anyhow, it ain’t worth crap to me, and if you think I store anything on my hard drive ya must think I’m as stupid as your nephew.” 

 

His face hardened again. “Okay, mebbe’ we’re not friends. Mebbe’ you want to do this the hard way?”

 

I walked into a meat wall. The tree trunks. I raised my hands in supplication. I turned and looked back at Koo. 

 

“Okay, Uncle Koo, let’s not be so hasty. You’re a businessman right? Ya said it yourself, so let’s do it, it’s the easy way, the ‘merican way. I thought you people knew that?”

 

I was shoved back towards the table where a chair was pulled out and I was made to sit. Fat Boy stood next to me, his bulk looming, casting a shadow from the single bulb behind him.

 

“Okay Danny, we will deal, but first, let me tell you why I will deal.” Koo ran his fingers through his hair. As I suspected, I could see the first glint of silver where the hairline had begun to grow out. 

 

 

“I am Uncle Koo to many of my family’s children. When I was young I was a bad man, a criminal on the streets of Baltimore, running with the gangs. I was kkangpae, a member of the Seven Star Gang linked to Busan in South Korea.” 

 

He unbuttoned his shirt and showed me his ink––seven stars across his chest. 

 

Wow, I was impressed. I started to understand just how deep a hole I had gotten myself into. As he buttoned up he continued to explain.

 

“We were a big gang, many members and we made much money. I was lucky, I became boss. Some were not so lucky and were killed. It was my responsibility to look after their children. Most we sent back to Busan, to a good school and a good life, away from the crap happening on the streets. As I got older, I got wiser and moved into, shall we say, more respectable enterprises. Now we are in shipping, not drugs or guns as you might expect. 

 

I remained quiet for fear my big mouth might still get me into more trouble. Another bottle of sujo appeared before me. I opened it and rinsed my mouth again. This time I swallowed. Yeah, yer right, I was his bitch now.   

 

Koo continued unabashed.

 

“You’ll understand this Danny, we ship trash. Korea has a massive garbage problem; we’ve run out of space. There’s well over a million tonnes of waste being illegally dumped in South Korea so now we ship it to the Philippines and Thailand. It’s good business Danny, we make money.”

 

I nodded, I could understand that, it’s how I made my living too. 

 

“But now these Chinese they take advantage of Uncle Koo’s good heart. They steal our girls.” He thumped his fist hard on the table “My girl.”

 

A noise from my right. Fat Boy moved, I didn’t realize how noisy his suit was – cheapskate material from some gook tailor no doubt. He looked at me.

 

“My sistera has bin taken, she in a box, them Chinesea fucks takea her at this momenta.” 

 

Fat Boy stared at me, this time I could see the emotion playing across his fat face.  Fuck. These people, it’s so fricken complicated, why couldn't they just come and tell me? Uncle Koo was holding his head in his hands. It was some like some over emotional Mexican TV soap drama.

 

Once everyone’s feelings were back in check, I mean the gooks, of course, by then I realized the pendulum of profit had swung back my way. I returned to my normal chilled self––the soju helped.  The Asian chick was very attentive, but business before pleasure has always been some crap bumper sticker, sometimes you jus’ gotta go with the flow. We worked out a deal whereby I would give them the footage of the potential ho’s in the trash can and they would pay me handsomely. They weren't interested in the drug footage, so I could double up on my profits, if I could find the right buyer before the Feebs got wind of it. 

 

So all’s well that ends well. It's a play by Shakespeare, I’m sure you are well aware of that. I ain’t some dumb fuck out of the boonies. But, of course, it didn’t quite end like that. 

*****

Once the deal was struck, they sat me in front of a computer and I accessed my encrypted files safe in a cloud in some massive storage facility somewhere or other––who gives a fuck? I downloaded the video and saved it to their hard disk. After I had erased all my details off their computer, I ain’t no jerk, I tole you that before, right? I let ‘em into the room, cos, no one was looking over my shoulder while I did the business. 

 

Uncle Koo, me, n’ Fat Boy watched the video in silence.  As the camera panned across the tearstained faces of the girls, Koo hissed a breath out. 

 

“There, stop.”  

 

I paused the movie. 

 

“There she is.” He jabbed a finger at the screen. A young girl sat at the back, wrapped in an orange blanket. She looked to be about fourteen. 

 

“Oh, Si-yeon,” Fat Boy held his hands to his mouth as he breathed her name. “My sista. Oh, Oh. I don’ believe ita Dannya, but now…” 

He stifled a sob.  I glanced at Uncle Koo, tears streamed unabashedly down his face.

 

I clicked the mouse and we watched the film in silence as the boat appeared on the screen. Fortunately, we were able to catch the boats name–– The Chollima. This set Uncle Koo off again, he pulled out his cell and yelled at some poor fuck on the other end. 

 

It turned out the ship, the Chollima, was the pride of Uncle Koo’s shipping fleet, Korean Oriental Shipping, which set him off pacing the room shouting into his cell phone. I could see why he was pissed with the Chinese for shitting on him so shamelessly.  His niece or ward, whatever she was, was en-route to the Philippines, Manila, to be exact, on that boat. Once there, the container would probably be transshipped to another cargo vessel heading to Los Angeles.  Once in the US the girls, should they survive the two or three weeks in the locked container, would be delivered to prison-like brothels across the north.

I span round on the office chair. 

 

“Right, y’all, I’m all done, we finished heya?”

Yeah, y’all can tell I’m all heart right?  But I wanted out, mebbe catch up with my almond eyed waitress fer a little quality time, y’all catch my drift?  This was their problem and from what Koo had been telling me he once was a big man, powerful, he had connections. He didn’t need me no more, that was my thinking anyways. 

 

Uncle Koo held up his hand. He wasn’t waving bye bye. It meant stop. I stopped. He continued with his tirade of Korean into his cell. I waited. Fat Boy rewound the video and sat and sniveled as he watched his sister huddled in her blanket a look of despair across her face. Koo finished and spoke sharply to Fat Boy who disappeared miserably out the door. He then turned his attention back to me.

 

“My niece and the other girls will be rescued. I hope it is not too late for Si-yeon. Thank you for helping me, but I’m so sorry Danny, we are not finished. I need you to do one more thing for me.” 

 

I opened my mouth to tell him no fuckin’ way was I doing anything else, but he beat me to the draw. 

 

“Of course, I will pay you.”

 

I shut my mouth.

 

“I’m listening.”

 

“I need you to call those jjankke and make a meeting.”

 

“Who? Jank whut?” 

 

“The Chinese, that bitch, Mai. She double-cross me too much and take my girl. She cannot continue with this dirty business.”

 

I had to know.

 

“Hey, Uncle Koo, did you off Sonny, her brother?” 

 

Koo shook his head, “No Danny, we didn’t do that, that was another dirty drug deal gone bad. Those Chinese Tongs are a joke, they play at being gangsta, they go for the easy money, they just wanna be rich. No respect. No care for people. I told you I’m a business man now. Those days are past.”

 

“You know who did it?” I had an ulterior motive for askin’. Maybe they would be interested in the contents of the sim cards. Gotta’ keep on top of the money streams. 

 

Talking of which, Fat Boy came back into the room holding two thick red envelopes. I like thick envelopes. Unfortunately, he handed them over to his uncle. 

 

Koo didn’t answer my question, but weighed the two envelopes in his hands. Then, making my day he handed one over to me. 

 

“Count it” he ordered. 

 

“Nah,” I said, “I trust ya.” I went to shove the envelope into my pocket. 

Count it” he said more forcefully. “Then you’ll know I’m not trying to trick you.”

 

I opened the envelope. It was a thick wad of one hundred dollar bills. I was getting to like one hundred dollar bills flicking through my fingers. Feeling a little like a drug dealer myself under that watchful gaze of Uncle Koo and Fat Boy I counted through them. It took me about five minutes because I kept messing up the count but eventually I got there. Twenty grand. Phewee, a nice payday. And my new favorite uncle had another similar envelope in his hand.

 

“So, whaddaya want me to do?” I had taken the bait.

 

Uncle Koo tapped the envelope against his opposite palm, making sure he had my full attention.

 

“I want you to call Mai and tell her you have the SD card and you know what’s on it and you want money.”

 

“Whut? You want me to to call that chink bitch and tell her whut?  That’s signing my death warrant right there, dude. I was lucky to get out alive the last time, but blackmail the crazy chink, no way.”

 

“We will protect you Danny, I promise. All you have to do is call, that’s all. No harm will come to you.”

 “And you’ll give me that other envelope?”  I asked.

 

I’m so cheap, I disgust myself sometimes.

 

Koo nodded his affirmation. 

 

I thought about if for a few seconds, feeling the weight of the first envelope in my back pocket.

 

“Ok, let’s do it, give me your cell, I’ll do that right now.”  I thought a moment, “if’n you have her number that is.”

 

He did. I didn’t even stop to think why he would even have her number in his cell.  He pressed the buttons and handed me his phone. I heard the ring tone echoing through the ether. 

 

Wey?”  A familiar voice. 

 

I coughed to clear my throat. I wondered if she thought I was dead, assuming the Walmart hydraulic dumpster had turned me into so much dumpster juice and slime?

 

“Er, hi…”

 

She gabbled off in Chinese rattling the unintelligible sounds down the line. I waited for her to take a breath. 

 

“It’s Danny…”

 

Silence… I waited for the penny to drop.

 

Ching… “Stinky puke guy ri’? Why you no dead?”

 

“Long story honey, listen, I don’t have time. You owe me big time and you gotta’ pay up. I made copies of that SD card and I want fifty large or I send it to the cops, right? Y’all hear me, fifty large?”

 

There was a long hissing sound in my ear, and then an explosion of sound.

 

“Mudder frucker, you fuckin’ funny man, yeah? You fuck me aroun’ huh? Wha you wan’? I come reary krill you now.”  

 

She started screaming Chinese away from the phone probably tellin’ Oddjob to saddle up cos they were comin’ for me. 

 

That was the plan. I was the cheese in the trap, the worm on the hook, the… you get the fuckin’ picture right. 

 

I rubbed a little more vinegar into the hurt.

 

“Yeah, you geniuses filmed yourselves with the drugs, the girls, the Fed’s are gonna’ love this. I’ll pro’ly get a re-ward.” 

 

More screaming, then she took a breath. “I fruck you up, you unnerstan’, don’ fruck wi me.”

 

I could hear the menace in her voice. 

 

“Fifty large,” I reminded her, “y’all got twennee four hours, ya’ know where I’m at.” 

 

I cut the connection and switched the phone off. 

 

Uncle Koo nodded, took the cell off me and handed me the other hefty red envelope. He made me count it––again.

*****

Later that night, after more soju with my new best friends, I had a Korean massage from a very receptive chick with long dark hair, almond eyes and a tight body. I left very relaxed and happy, if you get my drift. I wondered if I was at risk of catching yellow fever? I’d never fucked a gook before and you know whut? I liked it.  

 

Fat Boy took me home to get my cat. Chul was like a little kid, asking me this n that about the chick. I guessed he’d never had any pussy, but from what I saw in the takeout, if’n he was Uncle Koo’s prince then he’d end up with a Lambo and a trophy wife on his fat arm, the fucker. He tried to apologize about gettin’ tough on me but I’d had enough of the fat fucks mangled English. I just tole him to shut the fuck up and drive. That was a month ago. I got my cat, threw my stuff in a bag and took a drive. 

 

Cancún, Mexico is nice this time of year. Me n Shadow took it easy. I took my truck down the road a piece and traded it up for a sweet ride in some anonymous city. I didn’t want to make it too easy for the chinks if they got on my trail and I still didn’t trust the Korean gooks either. A couple o’ days of cruisin’ and we made the beach.  I’m sussin’ out the dumpster divin’ opportunities in these parts, mainly around the rich guy’s apartments––ya’ know the type, more money than sense. They trash a lot of good stuff. I’ll be good. Makes no sense to be spendin’ money when people be givin’ it away.

 

 

And Fat Boy? The fuck sent some footage to my email. Infra red from the Walmart dumpster cameras. Two inert red shapes in a black box moving inevitably to a sticky end.

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