|by Mark Finn|
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
D.J.'s bed was shaking. He smiled in his sleep; he was back in San Francisco. No, the bed wasn't shaking, he decided. He was being shaken. He opened one eye.
Larry stood over him, dressed in his construction worker get-up. "Deej," he said in a loud voice, "come on, man, get up."
"What time is it," D.J. mumbled.
"Seven-fifteen," said Larry. "We're going to go sit down and eat breakfast in our disguises, to prove to you guys that they'll work."
"Brilliant," said D.J. He turned over, away from Larry. "Let me know when you get back."
"Oh no," said Larry, rolling D.J. back over. "Come on, get up."
"Dammit, Larry, let me sleep."
"Deej, you're always the first one awake at conventions."
"We're not at a con, asshole." D.J. pulled the blankets over his head.
Larry leaned in real close. "Ah, but there's where you're wrong. We are the con. The con-artists." He stood up and yanked the covers completely off the bed. "Now get the hell up."
D.J. sat up quickly to hide his morning wood. "Croft," he said, "when this job is over, I'm going to kill you."
Larry grinned. "Hit the showers, tough guy."
While D.J. was in the bathroom, Larry repeated his alarm clock performance with Burt and Turk.
"Why the hell didn't you wait until D.J. was out of the bathroom?" asked Burt, his face a mask of hatred.
"Because you two aren't taking showers."
"Uh, come again?"
"You said yourself that you two would be the rough and tumble hired help. Well, you need to look dirty and smell bad."
Turk rolled out of bed. "Look, Larry, I appreciate your efforts to, uh, motivate us, or whatever, but I can promise you, I'm going to take a shower. We'll all look plenty dirty by the time the job goes down, so relax, man."
"Yeah, Lar, you're wound pretty tight," said Burt.
Larry stared at the two of them. "I cannot believe the lack of professionalism in this string!" He stomped out of the room and slammed the door behind him.
Burt looked at Turk. "String?"
Turk shrugged. "Must be a crime thing."
By the time Larry had returned, everyone was dressed in their costumes, and Turk was deftly applying stubble to his face with a black stipple sponge. Burt was trying to help.
"You look totally gay," Burt said.
"Shut up," said Turk. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"It doesn't look like stubble," Burt said.
"It will." Turk put the stipple sponge down and picked up a powder puff.
"You look gay."
"Up yours," said Turk, as he powdered his jaw line furiously.
Burt backed away coughing. When the powder cleared, Turk turned around and said to the group, "What do you think?"
D.J. peered intently. "Wow, that's pretty cool."
Larry nodded. "Looks good," he said.
Turk stared. "You look like one of the Village People."
"I could do you one," said Burt, reaching for his make-up kit.
"You touch me, and I'll scream rape."
"Guys?" Larry was standing by the door. "We have to leave, right now. Breakfast first, then we check out the site." He said it quietly but firmly. Something in his tone of voice made them look around. Larry had never looked more determined, standing in blue coveralls with that scuffed yellow hard hat on his head.
"Game time," said D.J. He gathered up his stuff in his arms.
"I am a construction worker," whispered Turk. "I am coarse."
"Oh, stop it," said Burt.
They had cleared the room in five minutes.
Breakfast was at a Waffle House, which was near the hotel. There was palpable tension when they walked into the diner, shuffling nervously to the first empty table in sight. The waitress, however, didn't bat an eye.
"'Mornin' fellahs," she said, dispensing water glasses, paper-wrapped forks and knives, and menus. "Y'all want some coffee?"
"Yes ma'am," said Larry, before any of them could answer, "and four large orange juices."
"Coming up," she said, hurrying off.
None of them spoke; instead, they glanced uneasily around. The diner was three-quarters full of old people, young couples, and the occasional bleary-eyed family. The guys were routinely ignored, in the way that people ignored each other at restaurants; a passing glance, and nothing more. No one gawked or stared.
"Guys, look at your menus," said Larry. "She's coming back."
After coffees and orange juices had been distributed, the waitress took their order and vanished. Larry sat back, smiling. "See? No one gives a shit. They take one look at the hard hats, and suddenly, we're second-class citizens. They'll go out of their way not to look at us."
D.J. was looking around with more confidence. "Maybe you're right," he said.
"Of course I'm right."
They ate breakfast with gusto, buoyed by their successful deception. Burt and Turk were even cracking jokes by the end of the meal. The waitress dropped off their check, and they ciphered it out at the table before walking up to the register to pay with a handful of bills.
As their waitress was ringing everything up, she asked, "So, what are y'all doing, working on a Saturday?"
D.J. blanched. Larry smiled at her. "Hey, the boss wants to pay us overtime, we're not going to turn him down, you know?"
She laughed. "Tell me about about it!" She took the offered money.
They joined in, laughing with her. "So, what are y'all gonna be doing today?" she asked.
The guys looked at Larry, who answered, smooth as you please, "Grunt work. Digging a foundation." He took the offered change.
She tsked. "Whoo. Y'all be sure to drink lots of water, now."
"Oh, we will," said Larry.
As Burt, Turk, and D.J. walked back to the van, looking at Larry with newfound admiration, Larry said, "Water. Shit. Why didn't I think of that?"
Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents