Volume 43, Issue 11 - November 2008

Such a Deal
by Lyle R. Hill

The early morning tranquility that had settled so gently upon my office was abruptly shattered as the phone on my cluttered desk came to life with an unexpected clang.

… Dr. Lydia Moore, my sophomore-year creative writing professor, would love that sentence. “Set the scene early” she would say. “Draw a word picture for the reader so he can quickly see where he is and what’s going on.”

Before the phone could ring twice, I picked it up and was somewhat surprised to hear the voice of my lifelong friend … that’s going too far … let’s go with “lifelong acquaintance” … Jungle Jim Bruney. 

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like Jungle Jim; it’s just that he’s dangerous. You see, he’s not only unbelievably brilliant, but unbelievably lazy as well. Always in search of a shortcut, and then unhappy because the shortcut he finds is still not short enough, he will resort to any and all manner of skullduggery to get what he wants when he wants it.

… Professor Moore’s son Woody and Jungle Jim were friends during their college years. They were both involved in motorcycle racing. Jungle Jim built them and Moore raced them. The name Woody Moore is still well known in certain racing circles and he was always quick to give credit for his success to the mechanical genius of Jungle Jim Bruney.

“Jungle Jim,” I began, “how’ve you been? I was actually thinking about giving you a call to see how Johnny ‘The Mooch’ was doing. I heard he was involved in some type of an altercation.”

“Yeah, Hill, he got banged up pretty good. He’s outta the hospital but it’s gonna take some time for him to fully recover. I don’t know all of the details but I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later.”… Woody ultimately graduated from college and joined the Air Force because he wanted to become a pilot. His poor eyesight kept him from his goal, but he had a distinguished career nonetheless, and I’m told that there is an air-to-air missile still in use that was named after him. “So what prompted you to call Jungle Jim?” I asked. “You’re not looking for money are you?”

“No, Hill, nothing like that. I was just wondering if you saw the story in the Sun-Times the other day about the drug dealer who got caught after his customers ratted him out.” … Jungle Jim ultimately dropped out of college and made his way back to his old haunts on Chicago’s West Side where he more or less distinguished himself as well. In fact, all kinds of things that were either blown up or burned down had Jungle Jim’s name attached to them.

“I don’t think so, but what’s it got to do with me?”

“Well, Hill, I think you’ll get a kick out of it but, before I tell you the story, I’ve gotta ask you a business question about glass.”

… Professor Moore would love this. The reader is being drawn in further by being told that there is more than just one storyline being developed. An old ploy that almost always helps keep the reader interested.

“OK, Jungle Jim. What’s the question?”

“Well Hill, I want to know if there is any truth to this glass shortage rumor that’s going around. At first I ignored it, but now I’ve heard about from a few different people and one of them works for one of the big manufacturers. So I’m starting to think maybe it’s true.”

… Once, after I had written what I thought was a particularly intriguing tale of my life as a child growing up on Chicago’s mean streets, Professor Moore called me in for a meeting. “Now Lyle,” she began, “I don’t usually like to get involved in the personal lives of students I come in contact with, but I’ve decided to make an exception. So I’ve taken the liberty of scheduling an appointment for you to meet with Dr. David Anderson, head of the Psychology Department, tomorrow morning at 8:30.”

“Listen Bruney, I’ve heard those same rumors. Read about them as well. And based on the flurry of sales and marketing activity going on with some of the suppliers these days, I just don’t buy into it. Besides, you’ve got to ignore the rumors that float around the glass industry. They’ll drive you wacky. Now what was the story you had for me?”

“It was in the Sun-Times on the 18th… About the big time drug dealer in Indiana who got set up by his customers. I can’t believe you didn’t see it.”

“You know, I do vaguely remember reading about it and I think I heard a couple of guys talking about it as well.”

… I met with Dr. Anderson as Professor Moore had requested. Kind of a strange guy. Asked a lot of questions, but there wasn’t much I could do for him. His marriage had gone sour, his dog had run off and he wasn’t happy with his job either. Sad case really. 

“It was a great story, Hill, so I think if you read it you would have remembered it.”

“OK, I’m pretty sure it’s the one I’m thinking it is, but from the tone in your voice, I’m guessing there’s something I may have missed.”

“Well Hill, after I read the story I made a couple of phone calls because I have certain contacts who are familiar with certain people, if you know what I mean.”

“I think I know what you mean, Bruney. Go ahead.”

“OK, as you may recall, the cops busted this pretty big-time drug dealer over in northwest Indiana after a couple of his customers turned him in. Actually, drug users worked with the cops to set him up.”

“But why would his customers turn on him, Bruney? Was he selling them bad stuff?”

… At the end of the course I went in to see Professor Moore because she had given me a C- and I was convinced that I had pulled down at least a solid B if not a wobbly A. After all, on several occasions she had complimented me on my creativity and it was a creative writing course. And hadn’t I even gone to see the psychology guy like she asked me to? It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t help him.

“Well, Hill, as the article in the Times stated, he had guaranteed his customers a price of $215 for a 7.2-gram bag of cocaine. It was the going price and so they would show up with their $215 dollars in cash and he would hand over the goods. Then all of sudden, he starts demanding $250 and the users were pretty unhappy about it. This was an up-charge of more than 16 percent with no warning. Naturally, they paid it because they had to have the stuff, but they felt cheated because they thought they had a deal so they found another source and turned this guy in to the cops.”

“I think there is more to this story Bruney. Where is this going? ”

… “To begin with, Lyle,” Professor Moore began, “I gave you the grade of C- for three reasons. First, you missed exactly one third of all of the scheduled classes. Secondly, not one of your assignments was received on time. Some came in a full week after they were due. And lastly, Lyle, while you exhibited some creativity, you never seem to be able to make a point. I can never figure out where you’re going.”

“Hill, the cops said that the users turned on him because he had raised the price … hadn’t kept his word … broke faith with them. So the cops asked the dealer why he did it. Why he raised the price after making a deal with the users. And you know what he told them?” 

“What, Bruney?”

“He told them it was an energy surcharge.”

… Looking as dejected and disconsolate as possible, I explained that I was probably off being creative and most likely lost track of time on those occasions when I missed class, and that my lack of promptness was totally driven by my desire to turn in only superior work, which often required more time than had been allowed. As for sometimes lacking a point, I argued that significance is often a matter of perspective and that the sole reason I had signed up for her class was to learn how to develop and express meaningful and insightful perspicacity. I closed my commentary with a tearful appeal to change the C- to at least a B.

“You’ve gotta be kidding, Bruney.”

“It’s the truth, Hill. It’s right there in the Sun-Times. The dealer said the extra $35 was an energy surcharge that he had decided to impose on the users.”

… “You’re not thinking about pursuing a career in journalism are you, Lyle?” she asked me while squinting both eyes slightly. “Absolutely,” I quickly responded. “Tell you what I’ll do,” she continued, I’ll give you the B but only if you will agree to pursue another course of study and promise to abandon any thought of a career in journalism. 

“That’s incredible, Bruney.”

“Not really, Hill. According to my contacts he got the idea from his brother who works for some glass company near Indianapolis.”

… I took the deal—and got my B. 

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