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Givin' It To Rudy


Harry Buschman

One more word out of Rudy Frick, just one, and Frankie was going to give it to him good. Frankie was just about fed up. Fed up with his crummy job, and fed up with the way his life was going too, but most of all he was fed up with Rudy Frick.

No matter how hard Frankie worked, Rudy complained, and when he did, spittle formed in the corners of his mouth and he became animated. He waved his arms and shouted so everybody could hear. Like tonight -- "I want'cha t'get ahead on  them fries, y'hear me Frankie? The hoods need scrubbin' and we can't shut down 'ceptin we get ahead on them fries." He stuck his head under the hood and pulled it out again quickly.

"Jesus! -- Y'see that crud up in there, dont'cha .... bust into flames in an L.A. minute." He turned to the two kitchen girls at the fry pans. "Them burgers .... get ahead on them burgers, get way ahead, I'm turnin' the gas off at 7 sharp."

Frankie forgot the promise he made to himself as soon as he made it and he let Rudy get away, and in spite of himself he picked up his pace and hurried to make more fries. He knew what would happen. By the time somebody ate those fries they would be soggy and limp as wet newspaper, then they'd send them back and he'd get the blame. Same thing with the burgers -- they'd be gray, mouse gray, and the bun around them would have turned to paste. By that time Rudy would be gone, probably eating with that buck toothed wife of his over at Lillian's across the mall. He wouldn't get the flack, oh no! Not Rudy! Frankie would, and so would Cindy.

Jeez! How that tight blue skirt fit around Cindy's behind! From where he worked at the deep fat fryer he could see her working at register three. She'd turn around with her order .... fries always came last, when she came to him she'd bat her eyes and say .... "Two large fries, Frankie," she'd say. She always said his name. She didn't do that when she ordered the burgers or the chicken or the fish. He knew she was soft on him .... and who could blame her anyway, he thought.

He wouldn't be Frankie Jarvis forever. Oh no! That's why he took this crummy job at Macdonald's. Somebody was bound to see him here in the Wondermall. First turnoff west out of Culver City. He even had his new name picked out, if anybody asked him what his name was, he was ready. It was on the tip of his tongue.

"I'm Romeo LaBonte!" That's what he was going to say! Then he was all set with a phony story about his family in Sicily and his father who was assistant cameraman to Federico Fellini. All he needed was a couple of supporting roles and then the blockbuster would come, just like it always does. All it takes is that one hit, Frankie told himself, just that one. Look at "Saturday Night Fever" and "Midnight Cowboy." Won't it be great? He could just see Rudy Frick with his mouth hanging wide open; and Cindy Havens, filing her nails in the passenger seat beside him in his new Lamborghini.

He had potential .... the teacher at the drama school told him that.

"You move well, Frank .... you have what we call poise, just remember what I told you about your hands. When you're not using your hands, put them in your pockets or let them hang down at your sides, don't fiddle with them."

The other thing was his voice, he still needed help with his voice. It didn't carry well, and the teacher told him he didn't know how to breathe. "Don't try to read your line in one breath, Frank. People breathe when they talk .... by the time you come to the end of your line you're out of breath."

He was working on those things. Every night in front of the mirror he'd walk around putting his hands in his pockets and taking them out again. He hadn't quite gotten the hang of letting them hang down naturally, too often they looked like he had just washed them and was looking for a towel to dry them on.

Then the voice .... he'd read the newspaper in front of the mirror -- "Chrysler, (breath) reported a three percent increase in July vehicle sales, (breath) but that was below May and June sales, (breath) its truck sales rose nine percent, (breath)." If he put his mind to it he could do it, but if his attention was divided between his breath and his hands, he couldn't do either.

His looks were his strong point. The eyebrows straight and dark, almost meeting in the middle over a slender aquiline nose. The eyes, a dark blue, like his mother's eyes .... and that mouth, that was his mother's too. He had learned to let the lips curl provocatively, slightly parted and sneering, like Frank Sinatra did so well. Damn it! If it wasn't for the friggin' hands, (they were like his father's) he'd be at the top of the heap in no time.

At the bubbling fry tank, the relentless dream of Hollywood success kept Frankie alive and helped to keep him sane. Without his fantasies, Frankie Jarvis would have cracked up long ago. He was sure Romeo LaBonte would bring him fame and fortune -- and the pick of the broads as well.

"Fer Chrissakes, Frankie .... I warned ya din't I? I warned ya! Lookit'cha,  you're no further ahead on them fries than y'was before. I warned ya, Frankie." He made a slicing motion with his hand. "That's it, y'through, don't come in tomorra. Y'can pick up yer check on Saturday."

It wasn't so bad getting fired. Frankie was used to getting fired. But to get bawled out and fired at the same time, all in front of Cindy Havens. That was too much! He was going to have to 'let him have it' right then and there for sure.

Instead he turned back to the fry tank and filled more fry bags .... large fries .... medium fries .... small fries. His eyes were blinded with hate, his cheeks were red with shame and he was sure Cindy had seen the whole thing. He was going to have to let him have it. Instead, he took off his white hat, turned around, and then ... he walked out the employees entrance. It came to him in a flash .... he knew exactly how he was going to give it to Rudy Frick.

Frankie had little to thank his father for. He was a good soldier but a lousy father and an even worse husband, but he passed on a rare inheritance. A Smith & Wesson .38 rolled up in an oily piece of flannel and a wooden box of shiny brass cartridges. Frankie found them in a blue barracks bag in the attic the week before he left Des Moines. He guessed his father had stolen them from the National Guard armory and then forgot them. His father forgot about a lot of important things, but even if he didn't, he wouldn't have told Frankie or his mother about the Smith & Wesson. His father always had an ace in the hole.

He got to his room and pulled his old brown valise down from the top shelf of
the closet. There it was. Still wrapped in the dirty flannel rag .... Jesus, it felt good to hold in his hand! .... He aimed it at the wall -- Pow! Pow! That's the way you let the bastards have it! You don't risk broken noses and bruises -- you just let 'em have it. It was too big for the pocket of his white uniform coat. He tucked it into the waist of his white pants .... that was uncomfortable. He'd have to change clothes, no other way out of it. Yeah, these baggy old jeans .... there, it fit pretty good in the back pocket. Then the loose jacket, unbuttoned over a clean white T-shirt. He checked himself in the mirror. Not bad, not half bad at all, a lot like those pictures of James Dean. He tried combing his hair with a puff in the front and hanging over his forehead just a bit .... that was really good. Now! Ready? Wait a minute - something he forgot. What was it? He hadn't loaded the gun yet, that's what! Be pretty silly tracking Rudy down with an empty gun now, wouldn't it? How slick the cartridges slipped into the chambers .... like a key in a lock .... like you know what into you know what.

All set now! He turned out the light in his room and stepped out into the hall. Where would he find Rudy at seven p.m.? Lillian's Restaurant, that's where. Across the mall from MacDonald's. He'd be eating there with his wife. Too good to eat burgers and fries. Oh, no! Not Rudy -- he had to have them fancy rock lobsters or lamb chops.

He paused at the bus entrance to Wondermall and looked up at the clock in the  Princess Tower. Ten after seven. From this moment on he would be Romeo LaBonte .... walking with grace and assurance and carrying his hands in a natural  unaffected manner. He felt head and shoulders above the crowd, like a star among the extras. He never fully experienced the feeling of utter invincibility that an accomplished actor enjoys as he steps on stage, but he knew how it must feel. It is as though the play, the author, the director and all the extras revolve about him waiting to pick up their cue from his slightest move. Everything, everything depends on the star!

There was a moment of awkwardness as Romeo pushed on the plate glass doors of  Lillian's to open them forgetting that they opened outwards. A few people looked at his scruffy clothes with distress as if so say, "What in the world is Lillian's coming to?"

"Do you have a reservation, sir?" the hostess cooed.

"No, I ain't."

"Well, let me see, will that be one, sir?" she asked with a touch of  skepticism.

"I'm lookin' f'somebody, (breath) a man wit a woman."

The hostess glanced nervously at the cashier who shifted in her seat and touched the mall security button with her elbow.

"I see dem, dere over dere by da, watch'y'call -- ya salad bar." Damn! he forgot to breathe again and he barely finished the sentence. Somehow his voice didn't seem as commanding as he wished it would.

"Oh, that's Mr. and Mrs. Frick. Why don't you wait here sir I'll see if they wish to see you."

"Don't bodder, I just wanna give him somethin'." Romeo brushed past the hostess and tried to walk with some semblance of his former aplomb toward the Frick's table. As he neared them he reached under his coat and pulled out the loaded Smith & Wesson.

"Frankie! What the hell's the matter witchoo. Watch'ya doing wit dat gun."

"You're gonna get it, Rudy. I'm gonna give it .... ya!" Damn! forgot to breathe again, the last two words were inaudible.

Rudy's wife was only mildly concerned as she ate, but Rudy stood up and glared at Frankie, who showed his first signs of confusion.

"You nuts or somethin'? Put that gun down before you hurt yourself!"

At that moment, Romeo LaBonte ran off and deserted Frankie. He could feel the  flush of embarrassment and mortification all over again.


Meekly, as a child might return something he had stolen, Frankie put the gun on the white tablecloth.

"Y'should'na .... Rudy -- y'should'na treat me like that in frunna Cindy. I got feelin's Rudy, just like you do."

Rudy gave a short snort of a laugh, "You little shit .... " He would have said more but at that moment two mall security officers burst in. They seized Frankie from behind and roughly pushed him face down on the tile floor. One of them cuffed his hands behind his back and the other picked up the gun on the table.

"This the gun he came in with?"

"Yes, he threatened my wife and me with it."

The officer shook out the shells and looked into the chamber. "Could'na done much with it, the pin's filed off, would'na fired anyways. You know him?"

"Yeah, he worked for me, name's Frankie somethin'. Speakin' of fired, I fired him just today."

"Well, one of them nuts I guess." He wrapped the gun in Rudy's napkin and turned to look at Frankie on the floor. "Good lookin' kid. On ya feet Frankie." He turned to the customers slowly gathering about them. "O.K. folks .... show's over."

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