A fine mist dances across the dark street gutters. A cat calls. An angry woman answers it. Besides these, nothing.
Just the way Julias likes it.
He checks his watch, knowing full well what time it is by the nighttime noises; playing at patience in an impatient mood. Where is that boy?!
Just then, in the absence of cat and woman mewls, his keen ears make out the soft pattern of Wal-Mart sneakers on misty sidewalks. He pulls against the cool stucco of the nearby house, pulls out of view of any wandering streetlamp circles.
The sneakers draw closer, stop, scuffle, squeak, scuffle again. Julias hears a hissing, whispered, “Julias?”
Won’t the kid ever use the code names? He steps out; Sneaker Boy nearly yelps out of his skin. Julias gives the youth a look. “Use the names, Squirt.”
A nod, barely perceptible in the drifting fog. “Right.”
Julias sighs, slouches. “Did you get them, or not?”
Squirt grows animated, and pulls a rustling, bulging grocery sack from his jacket. The contents nearly spill all over the dirty, cracked, moodily-lit gutter.
“Shhhhh! Careful!” Julias admonishes, almost losing his normal, chill demeanor. Man, I really need my hit.
“Sorry, Juli- I mean, Sorry, Emperor-Maul-of-the-Alleys.”
Julias stares at the runt for a full five seconds, and then sticks out a hand for the bag.
Gulping, Squirt appeases the empty palm. He watches Julias (AKA Emperor Maul of the Alleys) close his fist on the handle and withdraw his arm. Squirt gulps again. “So… erm, about payment….?”
Julias fixes the boy in another silent stare. The cat and woman from a few alleys over converse again in the silent, swirling air. Slowly, Julias sticks the other hand into a deep pocket. It returns, bearing $40.16. Squirt lifts his own hand to receive it; counts the full amount in the dim lighting.
“Hhh- how’d you know the current exchange rate?” Squirt asks, his voice full of awe.
Julias looks up from rifling through the grocery sack; pauses. “I always do,” he says, in a mysterious way. “Now, get outta here before I use yesterday’s rates.”
Just remembering not to yelp again in fright, the boy jumps and takes off down the dark sidewalk, down the fog-lit alley of night. His retreating sneakers echo a more rapid pace than the percussive song they played at their entry.
Smirking beneath the guise of darkness and mists, Julias pulls out his prizes: 1 packet of Fox’s Glacier Mints and 24 cans of Diet Coke. It’d been a steep price to also pay for the kid’s gasoline, but a man doesn’t haggle when he needs his fix. Thinking on this, he sets the cans and package at his feet and carefully withdraws an empty bottle from yet another pocket.
For the first time that night, he hears only the occasional passing car or burst of wind. The dame and her pet must have gone to bed. Uncapping the bottle and opening the package of mints, he fills one with a few of the other. Next, he removes a can of soda from its plastic ring and tilts the tab till it opens in a satisfying *ptissssh*. He pours the Diet Coke into the bottled mints, caps the top, and allows himself a few seconds’ pause.
With an expression of pure bliss, he suddenly shakes the contents like a madman. He uncaps the bottle and dances, grinning fully, in the sticky shower sparkling down amongst the mists and streetlights.
Laughing, quietly, he dumps the remaining solution down the gutter and turns again to his purchases. One down, 23 to go…
In response to Fractured Faith Blog’s Flash Fiction Challenge.