Tidbits from Gary

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ploy

"The Ploy"
a short story
Gary Baker, October 2012

Jeffy looked up, staring cross-eyed at his companion, Kher, on the other side of the stone table. The sun was bright, lending a warm glow to most of the urban park around them as the morning dew evaporated into nine-a.m. fog. Kher just watched the table, longingly, as if in deep thought.

"You want some Skittles?" Jeffy shook a king-size red bag in his hands loudly. The small flattened spheres of fluorescent sugar inside tacked around and against one another, echoing across the desolate morning scene.

Kher finally reached his annoyed glare up to Jeffy. "No, I don't want some Skittles." The young Turkish man tightened his black P-coat around his chest and dipped his scruffy chin back into the high collar.

"Suit yourself," Jeffy scowled, making the bag disappear into his blue puffy windbreaker, only to pull out a long rectangular draw of yellow and green. He pinched his fingers at one end of the package and acted as though he were about to pull it open. "How about some Starburst's, then?"

Kher glared angrily, though a peek of a grin revealed an ulterior motive. "No, I would not like any Starburst's either." He looked away longingly then, pushing his black eyebrows together in obvious contemplation.

"Doughnuts, then?" Jeffy offered, "I can call in some doughnuts if you'd rather have some of those?"

The Turk shot his Caucasian friend another death glare and leaned back in his chair with a grin. "I know what you are doing, Jeffy, and it won't work."

Suddenly it was Jeffy's turn to act coy. He leaned back in his own chair as if watching a bird fly by with intricate words embroidered in Hindi over it's belly and wings, leaning, leaning, until at last it appeared as though his back would give and his chair would topple. As if hearing a mostly inaudible echo, Jeffy tilted his chin toward Kher. "I'm sorry?" He batted his eyes and rolled them slightly in an obvious move to feign ignorance. "What did you say?"

"I said 'it won't work', Jeffy."

"What won't work?"

Kher waved a hand in Jeffy's direction. "Yes. This. You cannot fool me--I know what you are doing." Crossing his arms, Kher tilted his own chin in a mirror image of Jeffy. "It cannot work."

Jeffy smiled deviously. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am sure." Kher leaned forward over the table with care and shifted his eyes to and fro as if wary of wandering ears as he whispered. "I swear to god, that there is nothing you can do to stop this."

The Turk reached a hand out, hovering, placating mistrust. Jeffy's eyes went wide with shock, then fear, then quivered with a final lust for future revenge. "You wouldn't!"

"I would!"

"And just where might that get you?!" Jeffy exclaimed as Kher began to dramatically lower his hand between the two companions. "Stop!" Jeffy was panting, Kher holding his signature Cheshire grin, and the world took on an ominous tone to the pale-skinned, blonde man's eyes. "Now, now, Kher, let us not be rash, now, shall we?"

Kher twinkled his eyebrows and smiled even brighter. "Name your price, then, and we shall talk."

With Kher's hand in retreat, Jeffy found himself sighing with relief. But the question still hung in the air: what was Jeffy willing to give up that might further delay the heinous act of some ancestral easterner from overseas? Certainly he had plenty to give, but what was worth the cost of saving another life on the field? He could easily give up some specific idols of lost ages, but he was just as sure that Kher would never take such a small prize for this.

"I'll give you anything in my possession that is not safe-insured." Jeffy finally declared, hoping, wishing, that his friend would take the bait.

"Hrmm," Kher rubbed his chin with the vile hand that had almost taken another life just moments ago, "did you say 'anything'? or am I hearing things?"

"Anything." Jeffy assured.

"Anything, meaning... anything?"

"So long as it is not marked with my safety-insurance code, yes."

"Not good enough." Kher suddenly reached forward and replaced an item on the table, causing the most important life to be taken with villainous ease. As he leaned back with a smug look, he crossed his arms again and cracked his neck. "I think I'll take that original, vintage, signed Spock poster after I get off work later tonight." He paused, mocking Jeffy's desolation, "to give you two some time to say goodbye, that is."

Jeffy's eyes still held on the table, reviewing and rethinking what had been done. When he finally understood, he looked to Kher with a glint in his eyes. "You crafty bastard!"

"Hey, what are friends for?"

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