Though it wasn’t the “Good morning” Neil expected, I doubt I dampened his spirits one bit. His gap-toothed smile held its rigidity between dimples and unnaturally pink cheeks. I swear, if they auditioned for a remake of Howdy Doody, this guy would get first dibs at the lead.
I hated asking him for a ride to work, but my car was in the shop and Vince and Marla relocated to separate branches where they couldn’t sustain their intra-office affair. Which left me with public transportation, or Neil Halloway. I should’ve opted for winos and urine-stained bus benches.
How many times could this **** honk out shave and a haircut before one of my neighbors shot him? I knew Mel was part of some hunting group. Then again, Mel was probably used to waking up before 5:00 in the **** morning. Not me. My workday started at 7:00 sharp, and the odds of me getting there before 6:59 were zero in a zillion.
“You got kids, Neil?”
“The good Lord hasn’t provided Nancy and I with any bundles of joy yet.”
“Then why the **** do you own a minivan?”
It was my own stupid fault for asking him a question. Raw meat to a bear.
“If nothing else, you’d be amazed at the respect it merits from my subdivision’s community development board. The extra space is fantastic, for church picnics and whatnot, and when we chaperone my nephew’s mixers, it provides a safe haven for teenagers who might otherwise ride with someone less desirable. You know, some hooligans get intoxicated at those gatherings.”
I closed my eyes and pounded my head against the window with slim hopes of knocking myself unconscious. Even so, the mini-concussions provided less of a headache than my present company. Bang.
“Anytime you need a favor, friend, feel free to call on me.”
The way he sing-spoke it, there was little question it was something he’d repeated many times before. I suspected good people like this existed, but I had the good fortune never to encounter one firsthand. Bang.
“What the **** name inspired you to come by so early?”
“The earliest birds eat the best!” He offered a donut. Plain. Not filled, not sprinkled, not even glazed. Plain. What the hell was I supposed to do with this? Bang.
“You’re going to hurt yourself, Jackie.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“It’s your name, isn’t it?”
“My friends call me Jackie.”
“Good sir, you asked me to - and I quote - give you a lift this week. That’s what friends do, right?”
“We all make mistakes. What time is it?”
“At the sound of the tone, it will be five-oh-four. Boop.”
His smile hadn’t faded one bit, and I wondered if there was a ventriloquist somehow shoving a hand up his ****. At that moment, I’d have paid good money to make Neil’s lips stop moving.
“Jack,” Neil grinned, “I do have one stop to make before we get back to the daily grind.”