Brett looked good. Brett looked clean. He looked healthy and fashionable. His shopping cart was full. Sturgill noticed the wine and the premium dog food. He remembered back to the times when Brett couldn’t even afford a Coke or a cheap pack of cigarettes.
It had been a long time, but be knew it was Brett from his eyes. He knew it was Brett from the slope of his nose and the way his shoulders were cocked.
Sturgill hurried and paid for his groceries, deciding he’d get the rest of what he needed later. He rushed outside to put it in his car, then returned to the exit to wait for Brett.
Brett stepped outside with his full cart. Sturgill followed him.
When Brett got to his car, Sturgill called his name.
Brett turned to face him. Sturgill recognized instantly that he’d not been forgotten.
“What do you want?” Brett asked.
“We need to talk.”
Brett’s heart fluttered. The first thing that struck Brett was maybe Sturgill had some news to share about a venereal disease.
“You’re looking great,” Sturgill said.
“What is it?” Brett insisted. “What do you want?”
“C’mon,” Sturgill said. “Take it easy. Just a minute of your time.”
“What is it?” Brett repeated.
“You’re looking great. You clean up?”
“Yeah,” Brett said. “Went back to school. Got a good job. And a good wife. And a little girl now. So get the fuck away from me.”
“Good to hear,” Sturgill said. “I’m glad you’re doing well. I saw you and made the assumption you’re doing a lot better. So I thought maybe we could go to my car and…..you know……for old time’s sake.”
“Why’d I do that?” Brett asked.
“Well, I figure I was sorta like a benefactor to you back in the day,” Sturgill said. “And look at you now, all cleaned up and an upstanding member of society, I presume.”
“A benefactor?” Brett asked. “You paid me to suck your dick. I was strung out. Seems more like you were exploiting a vulnerable kid.”
“You don’t remember?”
“How I always told you the sex was a favor. It was you giving me thanks.”
“Thanks for what?”
“Thanks for the twenty bucks you always seemed to need. All those twenty dollar transactions that I’m sure helped you out of your hole. Out of the addiction hole and into the light of a good job and a good wife and a little girl now.”
“Most of your money went for more smack,” Brett said.
“Ahhhhh…….but, ultimately, it all goes into the same pool,” Sturgill said. “In a roundabout way, it was all for the good. Just look at how well you’re doing now.”
“You’re sick,” Brett said.
“Like I said, you’re looking great. That’s a true compliment, not bullshit. You’re looking really good so how about we go to my car? And, if not for old time’s sake, how about another twenty bucks?”
“I don’t need you or your money anymore,” Brett said. “So get the fuck out of here.”
“And to think,” Sturgill said. “After all I’ve done for you. That’s mighty ungrateful.”
Brett pulled out his phone.
“I’m calling the cops,” he said.
“Wait,” Sturgill said. “How about fifty? Like I said, you’re looking great, Brett, so I’ll bet it’s worth fifty.”
Brett began to dial.
“You’re going to regret this,” Sturgill said.
Brett stopped at the last press.
“You file charges…..well, I’ll have a lot to say about why this is going down. A lot to say about the past. A lot to say that maybe your wife and little girl don’t need to know about.”
“It’ll all be buried in the police report. They’ll never know.”
“Until I find where you live and come to your house. And then you file for a restraining order. That’s when it’ll all comes out.”
“You’re a piece of shit,” Brett said.
“Let me give you my number,” Sturgill said.
“What the fuck for?”
“Maybe you’ll realize some night when you can’t sleep just how much I did for you back in the day. All the money I gave you that helped you get back on your feet. Maybe it’ll come to you and then you’ll wanna return the favor.”
Brett reached into his cart. He grabbed a bottle of wine by the neck. He intended to smash it across Sturgill’s face. But Sturgill recognized the rage, and swiftly stepped away.
Sturgill went back to his car. He decided to drive to another store to pick up the toothpaste for his mother and look for somebody else who might appreciate his twenty dollar benefaction and his offer to play another minor role in a fresh victim’s salvation.