Jim Reed said a final 'goodnight' and went out the side door of the pub to find his car in the parking lot. The first thing that he did was to pull up his trench coat collar a bit against the cool late October night. It had been a lovely get together, with friends and partners from the bank. They were people that he'd known for donkey's years, or so it seemed.
In fact, he started working in the bank, Simpson's National, right out of college. It was kind of his quirky interest and he had been there ever since, climbing the bank's ladder, until he was one of the very senior managers.
He and his friends did get together periodically for a pleasant drink, after work to have a chance to talk shop with each other and just tell stories. They were, as was tonight, grand evenings for all of those involved.
But now it was home for him, and maybe a quick bite on the way. He had a few things to read tonight and thought that he'd have time, once he got home, to do that. He'd see what Boris, his beagle, was up to. He made sure that he stopped in, after work and before coming out to the Pub to see that Boris was fed and settled.
But the dog was good that way. He took care of himself and was a great companion to Jim.
Jim had lost a fiancé when he was much younger, in an auto accident. He'd dated off and on after that but hadn't settled down to anyone really. Now he was 36 and set in his ways. He was doing well and enjoyed the large home that he and Boris called their own.
He was softly whistling to himself, as he approached his car.
His attention, however, was taken by a kid walking toward him. By his own judging, the kid seemed to be about 10. He was actually 8. He had on jeans that needed a washing machine and a tee shirt that wasn't far behind that need either, and what looked like a too thin jacket. His hair was kind of tussled and his face needed washing.
It was obvious that the kid wanted to talk to Jim. It was also really obvious that the kid was nervous about what he was doing.
It served to put Jim on his guard just a little. He stared around the parking lot, which was fairly well lighted and didn't see anyone who looked threatening or nefarious.
The kid stopped in front of Jim and seemed to screw up his courage for an instant. Then he spoke, and Jim Reed's astonishment was complete.
"Mr," the kid began, speaking softly and not really looking Jim straight in the eye. "Five dollars for a blow job?"
Jim was dumbfounded.
"What?" he asked, as though he didn't hear the offer correctly.
"I said, Mr five dollars for a blow job?"
"That's what I thought you said," Jim replied.
Then he asked, pleasantly: "Who in heck set you up here to make those kinds of offers?"
The situation then got even more bizarre for Jim; the kid began to cry.
"What?" Jim said. "What's wrong?"
"They told me, Tony and Mark told me that I could make some money here by approaching men and asking them to pay me five dollars for giving a blow job," the kid said, the tears still streaming.
Jim guessed that it must have been a combination of the failure of his offer and the strangeness of it, demanding all of the kid's courage, that was causing the tears.
The kid didn't leave, or run away. He didn't seem to know what to do at all, now that his offer had failed with Jim.
"Now, why are you out here making that kind of offer?" Jim asked. "Besides Tony and Mark telling you that it would work."
The kid stopped crying and said, fairly miserably: "I just wanted to make some money."
Jim was leaning against his car talking to the kid. "But why? What for?"
The kid got a kind of stubborn look on his face and said: "To help my Mom."
"What?" Jim asked, still trying to discover if this were a set up of some kind. "I don't understand."
Then the kid was crying again. "It's just us on our own and I thought that I could make some money to help her with things, and Tony and Mark told me that this was a way to do that."
"Make some money?" Jim asked.
"Yes," the kid said.
"Ever done that?" Jim asked next.
"No, but I could to make some money," the kid declared.
Jim made a decision then. "Well, look," he began. "I'm off now to get something to eat. Want to join me? I don't need your kind offer of services but thought that maybe something from McDonald's would be just the thing."
Jim was trying to keep an eye on what was happening but he thought that either the kid was one of the best actors in the world or he was really a hard luck kind of case. He decided to see which it was.
He noticed a change in the kid's face as soon as he made the offer about going to McDonald's.
"Ummm," the kid hesitated.
One thing that seemed clear to Jim was that the kid looked hungry.
"Okay, Mr," the kid said.
"I'll bring you right back here," Jim said, "But I suggest that maybe you should go out of the business of trying to make money this way."
"I bet that Tony and Mark are laughing at me," the kid said miserably.
"Maybe," Jim said, "But how about McDonald's?"
"Yes, please," the kid said.
Then Jim stuck out his hand and said; "I'm Jim Reed, by the way."
The kid took Jim's hand and said: "Colin Walsh."
"Good," Jim replied, "Pleased to meet you, Colin Walsh."
Jim looked at the kid for a minute or so and said: "Colin, this is on the up and up; all we're going to do is go to the McDonald's down the street and get some dinner. You okay with that?"
"Yeah," Colin said but then added: "My Mom told me to watch out for strangers."
"I know that's the best," Jim said, "But watching out for strangers probably includes not asking for five dollars for giving blow jobs."
Colin got red in the face and said: "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."
"No, problem," Jim said, "We're going to be friends."
"Yeah," Colin said, "Friends."
There was in fact a McDonalds which was only about a block away. Jim said to Colin that they could walk there together. Colin shook his head 'yeah' and that's what they did.
Jim knew that it was a better idea to walk than to suggest that Colin get into the car with him. He knew that the kid was scared and probably hungry to boot and didn't want to increase Colin's apparent timidity.
They got to the McDonalds and Jim said to Colin: "First, pal, let's go and wash our hands."
"Okay," Colin, who was feeling better about being with this man all the time, said.
They went into the men's and Jim did in fact wash his hands. Colin stood at the next sink, at the same time, and also washed his.
"Feels good, eh?" Jim asked. "Nothing like clean hands."
"Yeah," Colin said, giving Jim a first time smile.
They consulted then. Colin had a really hungry look about him and decided, with consultation with Jim, on a hamburger, large fries, and a milk shake.
"Same as I'm getting," Jim said.
They got their food and sat and ate it. Jim refrained from asking questions because Colin tucked into his meal with such ferocity.
At one point Jim simply told Colin to slow down a bit, so that he didn't get sick. Colin nodded his head and did, in fact, eat more slowly. When he was half way through with his meal, Colin looked up and smiled at Jim.
"Good?" Jim asked.
"Yes, sir!" Colin said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Colin, my friend," Jim said, and got another smile from Colin.
It looked to Jim then as though Colin were making up his mind about something. He knew that something was brewing in Colin's mind. He just waited.
Toward the end of the meal, Colin finally came out with a: "Mr Jim, can I have another please?"
"Still hungry?" Jim asked with a smile on his face.
Colin thought for a few seconds. Jim realized that Colin would make the world's worst liar. He smiled and Colin explained: "No, it's for my Mom."
"Oh," Jim said. "Well, why don't we just buy her a dinner as well and we'll take it to her. Anyone else at home?"
"No, it's just her and me these days," Colin explained.
"Dad?" Jim asked softly.
"Naw," Colin said, "He left with friends for, I guess, California or someplace like that. Gone a while."
"Okay," Jim said, "Dinner for your Mom coming up."
They went, by now fairly companionably, to the counter and ordered a meal for Colin's Mom, complete with hamburgers, two of them, fries and a shake. It seemed to make Colin very pleased.
They walked back to where Jim was parked.
"How about, pal, if I drive you home?" Jim asked.
"Yes, please," Colin said, smiling at Jim.
"You'll be fine with me," Jim assured the kid.
The house was small on a side street. As soon as Colin opened the door and went in, Jim noticed the coolness of the place. It almost made him shiver.
He heard a voice, answering to Colin's call of "Mom?"
The woman who emerged from the room off to the side was short, dark haired and, Jim thought, really pretty. She was also bundled up against the coolness of the house.
"Mom," Colin said, this time with some pride in his voice, "This is my friend Jim. We brought you some dinner."
"Dinner?" the woman said in a suspicious voice.
Jim held up his hand and said: "I'm Jim Reed, I work at Simpson's Bank. Was out with friends for a drink and ran into my pal Colin. He and I had dinner at the McDonalds and he suggested that you might like a McDonald's dinner too."
"I don't understand," she said.
"Sorry," Jim went on, "That's the story, and we have this for you." He held out the McDonald's bag to her.
.... There is more of this story ...