14 Stories
you at least get him with your club?”
    â€œHe didn’t even raise it,” the saleslady says.
    â€œI didn’t think to,” I say.
    â€œIf a guy’s holding me up,” the owner says, “and he doesn’t see you right behind him, would you think to?”
    â€œThat’s a different story. Sure.”
    â€œNah, you wouldn’t, and I’d be robbed and besides that word will get around I’ve a pushover here and then they’ll be no end to thieves. No offense, but I’m phoning your boss. This might be a nice avenue, but I need a real tough son of a gun as a guard.” He makes a call, speaks for a while on the phone, then puts me on. “Tom, what’s with you?” Mr. Gibner, the man who hired me, says. “I know it’s not easy using a club, but that was a situation where he clearly deserved it. You’re supposed to make us look good, not bad, though I do give you credit for at least standing up to the punk and trying. How’s your face? Think you can last out the day with that welt or do I have to hassle myself finding a replacement?”
    â€œIt’s going down already.”
    â€œThat a boy. He never would have hit you if you had raised the club over his skull or gotten him first. Anyway, the owner wants you taken off and a new guard put on. I’ll have you switch places with the guard who’s in a shoestore two blocks north of you, number 575 . I’ll call him. He’ll know when you get there to come straight to your store, as the owner there always wants a guard on at all times.”
    I go to the shoestore. As the guard’s about to leave I ask him “Much trouble here?”
    â€œNothing big. But one guy today, bam, I really slammed it into him when he wouldn’t put down the shoetrees he wasn’t going to pay for and then pulled on me a knife, though it turned out to be keys. Bam, bam, I did. He crawled out in all the confusion here, but will have as a reminder those two dents in his head the rest of his life. When they pull anything on you, like keys—you know, between their fingers into your face—swing now, talk later, when you get them back awake. That’s what they can expect from me, and Gibner tells me to impress on you the same. You don’t, all us guards will look to them like potatoes, which’ll make our jobs even harder. Half of what we got working for us is their fear of our clubs, you hear?”
    â€œGot you.”
    I work the rest of the day. For my breaks, because they always want a guard here, someone brings me coffee and cake for free, and I have to sit in the back watching the front of the store through a big peephole. During my lunch, one of the salesmen puts on my jacket and cap, though doesn’t want the club because he says he doesn’t want to risk getting killed using it, while I go outside for my half hour.
    Nothing worse happens the next two days but a man screaming at the cashier all sorts of curse words. I walk over to him and say, with my club at my side, “Anything wrong, sir?” He looks at me, then at my club, says “Don’t bother yourself,” and leaves. The cashier says “He came in just to use the bathroom and when I told him it was for employees only, he laid into me that I was a whore and liar. Thanks, Tom, because I think he could have become much crazier.”
    There are no incidents at all the next week for a couple of days till a customer gets up from his seat, starts walking around testing the shoes the salesman just fit him with and then heads for the door. “Where you going?” the salesman says.
    The man keeps walking to the door.
    â€œGuard, stop that guy. He didn’t pay for the shoes he has on.”
    I grab the man’s hand just as he gets it on the door handle and pull him back. He throws a punch at me, I duck, grab his other hand and flip him to the floor and sit on him. He’s maybe fifty pounds

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