Friday, August 20, 2010

magpie tales: don't look back

the rush of water into the bathtub, a gentle roar, provides a nice soundtrack to the end of the day. my fingers work the buttons on my shirt, letting it fall to join the tie, and slacks, once pressed, now wrinkled and soiled, in a pike on the floor. pausing at the mirror, i run a hand down my face, pulling the skin, to stretch my eyes. what a day.

water seers, my legs bursting with sensation, spreading as i lower myself so all that is below my neck is massaged by its warm wet fingers. scratches on my arms and legs, sting at its touch and the day slowly leaks out of my pores, allowing me to breath once more.
~~~~~
hugging the curb, we sit as comfortably as possible, seats reclined in my car, just enough that we can keep an eye on the house. my partner chews the end of one of the thin cigars he likes to smoke when we are on break, but he won't light it, giving away our presence.

earlier we spoke to neighbors, casually, gaining information about the family we were looking for. you would be surprised the information a smile and a helping hand with the groceries will get you. Mrs. Kelly, two doors down from their house, would have given us their genealogy, as well as their schedule, if we would have let her.

in the rear view mirror, a black SUV rolls the corner, the heat off the asphalt smearing the license plate, until they get closer. my partner groans, shifting his cramped legs, returning circulation, in case we need to move quick.

as the vehicle passes, they are smiling, talking, perhaps returning from the grocery, or a kid's soccer game. we watch them pull into the driveway, unbuckling kids so they can chase each other into the house. the husband takes his wife's hand and they disappear through the door.

we are moving, shoes scuffing the sidewalk, closing in on the door before a neighbor can call, telling them two suits were asking about them. climbing the three steps to the stoop, my partner stretches out his lanky arm to knock on the door when it swings open.

a little boy, maybe seven, stands there looking us over, measuring us. trailing from his fingers is a red leash, attached to a black and brown Rottweiler that must weigh as much as me, outweighing him, four to one.

my partner turns on the the syrup in his voice, "hey buddy! is your mom or dad home?"

his eyes travel our length, the breathing of the dog deafening, and the boy smiles and says, in a cool even voice, "sic 'em."

the dog launches from his prone position, a buzz saw of teeth and fur. i flip over the railing backward into the bushes, sharp prickly limbs scratching furrows in my shins and arms as i eat dirt, ears ringing with growls and snarls. finding my knees, i see my partner on top of the car, the dog's nails peeling ringlets on paint and it scrambles for purchase on the hood trying to get at him.
~~~~~
really i am little better than a thief, scoping out houses, talking to neighbors, finding people who would otherwise want to be left alone. if you want to play, you got to pay though, or they send me to take it away. the looks on their faces when they realise i am there to repossess their things, you can tell i rank a little bit above the crap they scraped off their shoes after walking their dog.

some days, that is how i feel, especially when they tell me how hard they are working, all the troubles they are having, as i watch the baby dangling from a mothers arm, while dad tweaks his thousand dollar stereo, working up enough steam to tell me off. it's my job though, and some days it sucks, when the answers seem obvious, but they don't want to listen.
~~~~~
the dad calls 'sampson' from the door. sticking his tail between his legs, he heads toward his master, checking over his shoulder at the tall man in a suit cowering on the now concave roof of my car. we get the keys, after the obligatory shame and blame and i follow the black SUV, driven by my partner, out of the neighborhood, eyes only on his tail lights.
~~~~~
the water is cold, all warmth stolen by my mental confessions. i try not to think of the little boy, the babies...but this baptism rarely works as well as i hope. rising i work a coarse terry cloth towel across my body, then wrap it around my waist and go in search of something to eat. tomorrow is a new day, and i will need my energy, if nothing else to keep looking forward, and not look back.

This is a Magpie Tale. It was also inspired by Betsy, who wrote about her experiences repossessing people's stuff, which brought back memories of the days I spent doing the same.

102 comments:

secret agent woman said...

I couldn't do it. I understand why it needs to happen, but I still couldn't.

PattiKen said...

When I read your comment on Betsy's blog, I had a feeling this was coming. You both are far braver than I.

Years ago, I worked on the school census for my town. House after house, ring the doorbell, get a count of kids and their ages, and on to the next house. Then at one house, I climb the steps to the porch, ring the bell, and no one's home, except the Rottweiler that comes snarling and slobbering around the house to trap me on the front porch. He kept me there for two hours until someone came home and rescued me.

Helen said...

Brian, I know nothing of your background, education or plans for the future. But, one thing I know with all certainty !!!!! You CAN write!

Maha said...

I ADORE it! I just love how you split stuff and always manage to make a mystery which unfolds at the last lines.

ladyfi said...

Oh gosh, how sad - both for the person who has to repossess and for the families losing their stuff.

Jannie Funster said...

The blame and the shame, liked that line.

LOL on Mrs. Kelly. I can see her.

This is so GOOD, Brian!

xo

Lori said...

I don't think I could do this for a living. Sad for the families. When it gets down to things like this it doesn't seem like anyone wins. Great writing Brian! Happy weekend to you and yours. :)

Deidra said...

A repo guy, huh? I have a cousin who does that. He actually enjoys it I think. Or maybe that's all an act...

kathew said...

Great Magpie....a far cry from a sudsy tub! Remember the movie "Repo Man"?

ModernMom said...

Have you written a book yet? :)

Tattered and Lost said...

Oh geez, I'm really glad I got my last car payment in a few months ago.

This was great fun.

signed...bkm said...

I could not do it either...some jobs are not happy, I am thankful that most of my jobs have been pretty happy ones with happy endings....nice magpie ...bkm

Angie Muresan said...

Wow, you are good!

Repossessing peoples' things must be so difficult. Didn't you ever just want to tell them to keep whatever it was you were there to get, run away with it, or something?

adeeyoyo said...

What a lousy job but I suppose someone has to do it... Brian I just adore your descriptions, 'and the day slowly leaks out of my pores...' - wonderful!

Cinner said...

It would have been a very hard job, glad it is in your past. I would have a rough time with the little boy faces, and the anger from the people that would be upset...too stressful for me....memories Brian, beautiful post. always take us somewhere, thought provoking. smiles

Claudia said...

this was fantastic brian! first i thought you make up a special agent story - sitting in the car with your partner - and then i remembered your comment on betsy's blog as well….wow…you are such a talented writer - you create such an atmosphere with your words..

JeffScape said...

Good story. No need for the guilt, though... that's on the repossessed. ;)

nana_ang_poppaphil said...

Great story. What a job, I don't think I could do it..

Bernie said...

I once worked for a large corporation which had a repossession department, I had to notify these people who, where and when to repossess a car, tractor, boat, motocycles etc....some of the stories they would come back with had to be true, no one could make them up. We had some scares and also many laughs. Some people were so original and creative to try and hide or keep these items.
This brought back memories of that time.......:-)Hugs

Valerie said...

A thankless task but one that has to be done. You described it so well I felt fearful over that dog!

She Writes said...

Brian, this would be TOUGH to do!

Brian Miller said...

it was pretty tough...and pretty funny at times...maybe in a sick kinda way...i had forgotten about this mostly until betsy wrote hers and we started emailing silly things we did as repo people...never had a gun pulled...but my partner did...

Tabor said...

You kept me glued to the page. I was whiplashed by the time the dog had been called home. My son turned off the gas for the gas company to those that didn't pay bills. It also was not the nicest job.

slommler said...

What a heart wrenching job! Though some do enjoy it...it still has to be hard. I worked in collections once; didn't like it at all. Heard every excuse and story known to man. Ha! Some made me cry!
Great story Brian. Love how you build!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Deborah said...

Brilliantly written!!

jabblog said...

It's a horrible job and I don't envy those who have to do it. Well written and neatly wrapped.

Birdie said...

what a suspense ... that's what I call an exciting job :-) great read Brian!

rel said...

Brian,
You put us right there on the porch; my heart jumped into my throat with the rotty lunge!
Not a job I could do. Now that I've read your mag I know it for sure.
rel

Nessa said...

I used to know some guys who had a repossessing business. They were very nice and funny and some of the most dangerous men I've ever met.

Vicki Lane said...

Great description. But what an awful job to have to do.

Fireblossom said...

I've been visited by a process server or three in my time, sent by my creditors. "Sic 'em" seems the logical response, indeed. I love how evenly he said it. Go, Sampson! My hero!

Lyn said...

All I can say, is "sic 'em"!! As they say, it's a dirty job..
but anyway, Brian, you never cease to surprise me..classy writing!

Daniel said...

Powerful stuff here. A very strong piece from you. Very strong.

Paul C said...

You take us beneath the skin of a repo guy. Thoroughly engaging narrative.

Mighty M said...

It would be hard to be in that position......your story was mesmerizing. So many people are so bad with money......I at times am no exception. But it's crazy how much stuff people can get their hands on when they can't afford to have it in the first place.

Eva Gallant said...

That was excellent!

Betsy said...

"The check's in the mail", right? :)

I had forgotten about the slumping down in the car waiting..spent lots of time like that. haha. You have a softer heart than me. I only felt bad a couple of times.

Still upset you had a partner and I had to go it alone! LOL!

TechnoBabe said...

I really like this story. You write with a smattering of humor and a taste for horror with a little distress thrown into the story. Great writing.

only a movie said...

My brother did some repo work in college. He's a cop now. Go figure.

steviewren said...

Fantastic story Brian! I can tell you really lived it. This is one of my favorite lines, "the day slowly leaks out of my pores, allowing me to breath once more."

I worked in collections for the last year at my former job. It is not easy, whether you are talking to people who are genuinely having a hard time or to people who just don't care if they ever pay you. I don't see how someone does that kind of work for a lifetime. It's hard.

DJan said...

Yes, your writing skills are amazing, Brian. I enjoyed your writing of this story but feel terrible about the fact that some people have to do a job like this. I couldn't sleep at night if I had to do it.

McGillicutty said...

wow... another powerful story...I like to set my shih tzu's on people who come knocking at my door!! generally the UPS man. lol.

Betsy said...

Didn't you pull your car up to block their's in the driveway? I learned the hard way on that one and had someone run out and drive it away as I talked to their spouse! LOL!

Raven said...

That would be a hard job to have...great magpie tale, I love how you develop his character in such a short time, giving us a peek into his psyche. Great writing.

Steven Anthony said...

Ok now I know your writing is brilliant, youneven made us feel for the repo man...wow

Steven Anthony
Man Dish~Metro Style

sage said...

Wow, what a story.

When I lived out west, I was friends to a banker who told me about his first position, right out of college. He was sent out to a ranch to repossess cows and the rancher said, "there they are, go get 'em," with his arm sweeping over the valley. Next thing he knew, instead of a suit, he was hiring cowboys and riding a horse.

Tracy said...

Brian, you have led/are leading quite an interesting life! I did love the way you used time in this story: present to past to present again. Whatever you do, "Don't open the trunk!" :-)

Brian Miller said...

sage it is funny you say that...pulled one file they sent me after and the daft loah shark had secured it with a donkey...no way was i trying to get a donkey in my vehicle...just shaking my head...

Magpie said...

This is funny and sad all at the same time. Reading your stories is like watching a movie...your words do such a great job.
Once when I worked for a bank, I had to drive a repossessed Corvette back to the impound lot. Thought I would be cruising in style - what a hunk of junk! Most people don't take such good care of a vehicle they know is going to be repossessed.

Sam Liu said...

Brian, this is tragic, heart-rending, poignant and so sadly true. Honestly, I was gripped by every word. As Maha said, you only reveal the mysteries of your tale in the closing section, which is one of the things I love about your writing.

I could never, ever do that to anybody, no matter what the law stated. I just couldn't. The socialist in me is inflamed by stories like these...surely there is a better of way living.

Paul Andrew Russell said...

Nice Magpie, Brian.

I've had some really bad jobs but that sure sounds like a crap one to have.

Got bitten once by a pack of dogs while carrying a metal garbage can full of rubbish from someone's back yard. They were so crafty they got me cornered. (had that job a week lol). Been chased by the familiar rottweiler; I was younger and slimmer, managed to get away that time.

Friko said...

No, couldn't do it. It's a job, it earns a living and I daresay you weren't the kind that threaten people.

Well written magpie, interesting too, something from a world I know nothing about. It's always good to learn something new.

Linda said...

That was a moving story about a difficult situation. Difficult for both the owner and the one sent to retrieve it. Can the bath wash away those feelings?

Dina Spice said...

You did a great job of taking us through your magpie with ease and wonderful (albeit) sad/uncomfortable emotion, Brian.

As the reader, I understood your character had a job to do, and just how he felt about his role.

Superb piece of writing.

- Dina

Sarah said...

wow. very vivid...life. beautiful and horrid at the same time.

The Bug said...

As usual, you pulled me into the story & I feel kind of sad when it's over.

5thsister said...

a wonderfully woven tale of what must go through the mind of people in the most unfortunate line of work. I equate this with those who make collection calls and telemarketers. Some jobs just must really suck. And yes, I used that language.

Brigid said...

Great story, what a tough job some people have to do. Enjoyed this magpie - I agree that your writing has a screenplay feel to it.

The Girl from Cherry Blossom Street said...

"really i am little better than a thief,...
".... you can tell i rank a little bit above the crap they scraped off their shoes after walking their dog"....

Brilliant lines! You had to, wanted to, needed to appear tough because your job required you to be. Yet, your insides writhed in discomfort...

pan said...

Really nice writing, I was totally caught up in the tale.

Carrie Burtt said...

Amazing writing Brian...you have a wonderful talent!...Thank you for all the encouragment over at my blog. :-)

natalee said...

if you want to play you got to pay...so true... i would be the worst repo guy..i couldnt do it.... GREAT STORY!!!

Deborah Ann said...

Nice blog here, just visiting in blogland...

william said...

not the kinda job most folks want but hard jobs have to be done nevertheless, great post mate.

Mama Zen said...

Dangerous work, but it makes an excellent story!

ninotaziz said...

The story of the 1987, 1997 and 2008 financial crisis all over the world.

People. Suits. Nations. All victims of uncontrolled excessiveness. Free flow economy.

Catherine said...

but this baptism rarely works....love that line!

aspiemom said...

A repo-woman. That's very creative! You nailed it too. I lived in a rather seedy apartment when I was younger and one of the tennants was a repo-man. Dangerous work.

http://myscatteredstones.blogspot.com/2010/08/magpie-tales-mag-28.html

Kim Hyland said...

This story was captivating. And sad.
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comment.

Systematic Weasel said...

Really wonderfully written! Excellent magpie!

-Weasel

Elizabeth said...

Brian, at first I couldnl't tell if you were writing fiction or not, then just forgot about that and got lost in the story. Wonderfully vivid details and saving the reality of a repo man until close to the end was a great idea that keeps your reader guessing throughout. Great read and write,

Elizabeth

n. davis rosback said...

:-)

TALON said...

I can't imagine it's an easy or enjoyable job. You could tell you had knowledge of it, Brian. Came right through in your terrific writing.

dana said...

Now THAT is a story that needs another chapter.....All I can say is "Damn, snap, and a bag of Cheetos" Or in my hippy days: "Gnarly dude"!!

Pseudo said...

My brother in law serves foreclosure papers. Rough work.

Selina Kingston said...

You are killing me softly....your post reminded me of a time long back when we were in serious trouble and the bailiffs came and took my husband's car. To be fair to them they were pretty decent but they had a job to do. Trouble is their job made my world fall apart.
I wrote a post about it earlier in the year and it was very difficult to do.
I'm off to have a bath now - your sumptuous writing has made me realise how good it will feel ....

Just Be Real said...

Oh Brian, I could not do this either. I am too impatient in the first place. Although, I would get plenty of exercise walking. Blessings.

Cheryl said...

Sometimes the things that need doing are not pleasant for anyone.

Happy Birthday Brian! Word has it this is your day. Make it a good one, unless you've got other plans. -_^

Nessa said...

Happy Birthday, Brian! Have a great one.

Jill said...

What a crazy job! I mean really...an adrenaline RUSH but the unknowns? SO MANY unknowns about how CRAZY people can be when they are threatened!! When Betsy did this I just KNEW that the people were SO UNAWARE cause she is darling and petite and WHO would think she was coming to REPOSSESS their vehicle! THat has some comedy relief for sure!

Aren't you glad you put that job behind you??

annell said...

Very nice written! Thank you.

Mona said...

Hey! Brian!

I heard its your birthday today! Many happy returns of the day! :)

clean and crazy said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Felicitas said...

That would be a tough job - every day! Makes me feel a little better about mine.

I love the way you draw a reader into your stories!

Felicitas said...

Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! And many blessings for the year ahead.

willow said...

Tough work. Poignant Magpie!

Mmm said...

Another former Repo person who is now one of my fave bloggers? no way! Whoa, you and Betsy would swap stories endlessly i am sure. that all sounds very scary actually. Good tie on to the Magpie Tales bath theme too. Great job Brian. Aren't you glad, btw, you don;t do that job any more. Hard.

The Urban Cowboy said...

That would be a hard line of work for anyone. Excellent writing as usual, Brian. A dogs bite has got to hurt.

Stafford Ray said...

I knew you were in deep doggie doo even before the kid said 'sic 'em!'
Great yarn but I might have gone off you a bit. Then again,if it was my money in the loan.... happy birthday!

The Retired One said...

Brian, your life experiences has allowed us to live vicariously through your beautiful writing of them.

Sophia said...

"the rush of water into the bathtub, a gentle roar..." <--I'll take some of that.

And wow! Can you EVER write or what?! Seriously. btw, I could never do that for a living. Sorry. Not for me!

Have a super week!

Tumblewords: said...

An excellent story - I don't imagine I could do that...from either side.

Patience said...

great, well-written story. poor guy, that would be the toughest job ever, especially these days.

RNSANE said...

I always worry this is going to happen to me. Since I lost my job 18 months ago and had to retire on a half time pension, life has been unbearably difficult. With social security and the pension, my income dropped $90,000/year and, with 66 just two+ months away, I am really in dire straights.

Abhilasha-The Desire said...

What a story...next time any one complains about his job should stop and think abt the one u mentioned.
Loved ur line "and the day slowly leaks through my pores,allowing to breathe me once more".. Beautiful !!

Goofball said...

Gosh has Tara never told you not to drop your clothes on the bathroom floor just like that? Geeez ;)


how many jobs have you done in your life? How old are you ? when I read all this I think you must be ready for retirement by now :p

Syd said...

This is a tough one for me. Years ago I had a rental house in Virgina. For several months,the renters didn't pay. The property manager and I talked. I let them slide for months. Finally, he found them another place. I just couldn't get blood out of a stone. It didn't feel good. There are so many dispossessed people now.

Tina said...

Another great tale. I like how it unfolds in parts, and leave the reader guessing for a lot of it. Nicely done. And wow, that must have been a really tough job.

Pat said...

I really enjoyed this. I love how calmly and unexpectedly the little boy said, "sic 'em!"

Another great tale!

daylily (Queenmothermamaw) said...

You need to be writing for a living. I don't know what you are doing now. But writing is your thing. Thanks for dropping by my neck of the woods. Great post.
QMM

kavisionz said...

Gosh...this sounds really really tiresome (in the longest and most truest sense of the word).. And looks like you relived it all, while writing this one...
Cuz the feelings just seeped out of my laptop screen!
A brilliant and almost read, Bri.. but I MUST congratulate you on your excellent writing skills... I was hooked from title to the last word!!!
Keep up the awesomeness, B...
Rock on!
Cheers..

EKSwitaj said...

Powerful.