Story by Kloipy (Seth Dombach)
Paul knew the traps were illegal when he got them in the back room at Big Al’s Huntin’ Supplies. Big Al, who enjoyed the apostrophe in the word hunting, almost as much as he enjoyed the sport himself, had been dead for at least 10 years. Big Ray, Al’s son, had taken on the family business, and added some ‘supplies’ that Al would have soured upon, had he been alive to see it. Ray could only make so much off of the duck calls and deer urine, but the really big toys were where the real money was. Sure he could make a couple hundred off a good tree stand, but an automatic rifle could bring in some big dollars, especially when it came in cash and tax free. Ray had the good stuff, but it came with a price, which weren’t his jacked up prices but having to actually spend time with Ray. Like any dealer, Ray knew how to talk up his product. Each black market item was something of awe and wonder. A beauty to behold.
When Paul was escorted to the back room he was immediately greeted by the stuffed head of some Louisiana alligator. In its ancient teeth hung a pair of spotted woman’s panties. A pair of cheap sunglasses hung over the creature’s eyes.
“I see you noticed my good friend, Bubba.” Ray said laughing just as he did every time he caught someone staring at the dead beast “Shot him myself. Stuffed ‘em myself too. He was a mean cocksucker. Not so mean anymore.”
Paul said nothing. Just stared up at the comical expression on the gator’s face.
After a moment, Ray cleared his throat. “You gonna just stand there with your dick in your hand or you gonna come make me a little richer?”
Paul snapped out of it and followed Ray into the shop. The room smelled like pouch tobacco and a just a hint of marijuana. The walls had been plastered with pinups. Girls with guns bigger than their bikini clad bodies. The combination of nerves and the closed in space made Paul’s stomach double up on itself. Part of him wanted to tell Ray to forget he had asked and to head back home. The traps he had at home weren’t working well, but he had always been a nervous person, even back when he was taken sips out of a flask with his best friend at eighteen he always felt he was a step away before having to step in front of a judge, his mother in tears in the courtroom as he paid for his crimes. But Paul knew that Ray didn’t let just everyone who asked into the back room. He knew if he left now, he’d never be let back in again. He’d also risk getting jumped by some of Ray’s less than reputable friends, just as a reminder to keep his mouth shut. Ray was by no means a smart man, but when you supply a small town with something they can’t get at Wal-Mart, you get yourself certain privileges. One of those being an underground protection agency. One that’s not worried to break your trigger fingers so bad the only thing you’ll be able to shoot; is the shit with the other locals down at the diner.
Ray lead him to a small mahogany desk towards the back of the room. Paul took a seat, which was dwarfed by the one Ray sat in. Paul felt uncomfortable and started to pick at a stray piece of fabric that had come loose on his jeans.
“So, a little bird tole me that you are in need of some new traps? Foxes gettin’ the best of ya?” He chuckled to himself. When he laughed drops of spit gathered around his bottom lip and stuck in his beard.
“Well, I’ve got 14 acres of land, most of it woods, and for the past two years, I’ve barely caught myself a raccoon, let alone a fox.” Paul said. He usually wasn’t the type to be intimidated by any man, but Ray’s reputation more than procceded him. Even though he looked like any good ol’ boy Paul had ever known, he also knew that rattlesnakes don’t have to warn you before they strike. “I’m looking to put an end to my dry streak.”
“Well I got just the thing to get your panties wet.” Ray reached beneath the desk, and with a labored grunt slapped a huge metallic grinning trap down on the solid table. “Those bastards down at the game commission don’t allow these babies anymore. Humane traps aint worth a shit, and those limp wrists are more worried about a fuckin’ possum losin’ his leg then they are about all the bean-eaters crossin’ our borders.” He worked up a wad of pghlem in his throat and spit it into the waste bin. “I guarantee this here will solve your problem. You interested?”
“Sure. I mean yeah. I haven’t trapped a thing in months. I need something that’s gonna put an end to that.”
“Well you don’t have to look any further than this. You dig a little hole and plant the base in. Open that thing and you’ll be wonderin’ what the fuck you were doing before that. So how many can I put you down for? I got more than the one you know.” Ray’s smile reminded Paul of Bubba, although Paul wondered how long it had been since Ray had actually had his mouth as close to a woman’s underwear as Bubba did.
“Well, it’s been a hard season for me, so I don’t have a ton to spend. Nobody wants to do business with a pelt man, when he can’t deliver the product. How much would it be for three of them?”
“I’ll tell you what, since I’m feelin’ generous, I’ll give you my preferred customer discount. $800 for the three of them and I’ll cut my ‘finder’s fee’ off of it for you.”
“Eight hundred dollars!” Paul spit out. “That’s ridiculous! It’s just a marked up trap not a goddamn F-150!”
Ray, who up until that point had been leaning back in his chair, arms behind his head, now puffed his shoulders out and came in close. The dumb grin that had been on his face was replaced with the coldness of a dog who’s a fed up with being teased. A dog who didn’t hesitate to bite. “Boy, I don’t know what you know about me, and frankly I could give a flying fuck, but know that I don’t like to be talked to like I’m some sort of fool.” All the down-home quaintness had left his voice. “I suggest you watch your tone with me. This shit I’m offering you takes certain means for me to aquire. If you can’t handle a little change, then I think our business here is done.”
Paul swallowed the rock in his throat. “$800 should be fine, Ray. It’s not a problem. I’m sorry, it’s just times are hard, you know?”
“Times aint hard, you just need to know how to make the times work for you.” Ray relaxed his posture and sat back in his chair. The smile back on his face. “Glad to see I could talk a little sense out of you. If you aint got all that on you today that’s fine, but I need the rest of it by the end of the month. And trust me when I tell you that I’ll collect it, one way or the other.” His smile widened farther still. Paul thought it reached his ears.
He dug in his wallet and pulled out five hundred dollars and pushed it towards Ray. Ray licked his thumb and counted it. “Well, I’m glad we were able to get all that straightened out.” He stood up and put his hand out to Paul. Paul took it and tried to keep a firm grip, even though he was shaking inside.
“Pull your truck around back, and I’ll get these loaded up for you.” Ray turned his back to Paul. “Oh and before I forget, you do some dumb shit like chopping your goddamn hand off in this thing, you were never here. You don’t know Big Al’s, and you sure as shit don’t know me. I think you are smart enough to know what just might happen if you’d get some dumb idea like flapping your teeth to the wrong people. Catch my drift, chief?”
Paul didn’t have to say anything. He knew Ray knew the answer to that question. He loaded the truck up with the traps, covering them with a couple spare tires he had in the bed of his truck. Paul didn’t have to worry about the threats because that would be the last time he ever saw Big Ray.
Check back soon for Part 2!