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Mark Cotton
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ym75swimmer.jpg
Art by Cindy Rosmus 2019

Swimmer

 

by Mark Cotton

 

 

Jimmy wasn’t anything more than a neighborhood wannabe hustler, but he understood the concept of dressing for success. The combination of his heavily-gelled pompadour and the gold sharkskin jacket that he always wore made him look more like a third-class Elvis imitator than a made guy. And, when he opened his mouth, you had no doubt about his status at the lower end of the food chain.

 

“Homes, I’m telling you this score will be big enough that you can quit that job at Muffler King for good.”

 

I didn't break it to him that the rest of us on Delaney Street had stopped calling each other “Homes” in about 1992. He was hard-selling me this crazy suicide mission to rip off one of Valentino Fiorentina’s corner guys, which was the most absolutely batshit idea I had ever heard of. We were hanging out on the stoop and there was that freedom of speech thing, so I let Jimmy run with it while I watched the steady parade of whores and johns in and out of the building across the street. Some of those younger girls hadn’t acquired that rock-hard exterior shell yet. But, they were working on it.

 

I drained the last of my forty and needed to take a piss, so I thought it was a good time to head to my building around the corner.

 

“Think about what I said,” Jimmy told me as I stood up. “I’ll text you with a meeting time tomorrow afternoon.”

 

“Sure thing. See ya, Jimmy.”

 

And, I might have even considered Jimmy’s proposal, if it hadn’t been for the furniture truck. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I never made it home that night. I remember lying in the middle of Brooks Boulevard with more pain than I thought was possible coming from my legs before things went dark.

 

That’s the reason I was sitting outside my building in a wheelchair a week later, with my lower half completely encased in plaster, when people starting coming outside and hauling ass down toward the docks at the end of Brooks. I watched them for a few seconds before starting to roll myself in that direction.

 

There was a solid line of people leaning against the railing along the wharf, looking down at the water. I rolled up as close as I could, trying to butt in enough to see what was going on.

 

“Some swimmer probably got caught in a riptide,” somebody said.

 

Finally, the gawkers in front of me moved, and I rolled up to the railing. There were a couple of harbor patrol boats, and two scuba divers in the water were trying to wrestle a bloated corpse onto a red plastic stretcher.

 

Even from that far away, it was easy to see it wasn’t any swimmer. Not unless they shopped at the same thrift store that Jimmy did.

 

 

 

Mark Cotton is the author of Two Bits Four Bits and Twice the Heist. He lives in central Missouri with his wife and two cats.

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