Farlo hobbled around the car, Tina followed him. He opened Joey’s door before Joey thought to lock it. Farlo bent over and leaned in going eyeball to eyeball with Joey. “We can do this hard way or we can do this really, really hard way. What way do you want it?”
“Can you accept the voluntary way?” said Joey hoping Farlo didn’t whack him.
“We got two minutes and counting. We won’t have this chance for a week. Are you coming voluntarily or am I going to drag your sorry butt across the parking lot?”
“I said I was volunteering. You make too many snap judgments,” said Joey. He unbuckled his seat belt. He slid out of his seat and stood up outside the car.
Joey said, “I’m going, but under protest. I intend to file a grievance with Filo whenever I meet him.”
“You’re not cleared to meet him. Let’s go. It’s go time,” snapped Farlo half hobbling with his cane, half jogging. Tina walked along side Farlo. Joey walked alongside Tina.
They reached the entrance door to the 7-Eleven. Farlo held up his hand for Joey to stop. He stared inside. The clerk nervously stood behind the counter. The taller of the two men was in the back of the 7-Eleven near the cold beer. The shorter of the two was surveying the candy and gum section.
Joey said, “You think they’re going to rob this place? Call 911 and let’s get out of here.”
Farlo looked at Joey, and said, “Turn around.”
Joey did as Farlo asked.
“Just as I thought, no backbone,” said Farlo then he checked his Apple 3 watch. “We’ve got 45 seconds. Then we’re going in. You follow me. I know you don’t have my back. Tina does.”
“Who has my back?” asked Joey.
At that moment, two pickups, a motorcycle, a beat-up Chevy Malibu, and a college kid on a skateboard came into the parking lot. Farlo turned and took it all in. He looked at Joey, “The numbers are against us. If we don’t move now, we don’t have a chance. Listen up kid, this is your first test, you pass it, I’ll make a note on your weekly evaluation I text to Filo.”
Before Joey could say, “Who’s Filo?” Farlo pushed open the door and headed toward the back. The clerk dived to the floor behind the counter. Tina was on Farlo’s heels. Joey was thinking about diving over the counter and joining the clerk. Farlo reached the back aisle when the 7-Eleven door opened for another customer. He turned to his right, he exclaimed, “I made it. We’re first in line. The dogs have been grilling for twenty-four hours.” Tina barked.
The tall guy fell in line behind Joey, the short guy fell in line behind the tall guy. The first pickup driver fell in line behind the short guy. The second pickup driver fell in line behind the first pickup driver. The skateboard college kid fell in the line behind the second pickup truck driver. As for the beat-up Chevy Malibu driver, he headed to the men’s room.
The tall guy said, “I didn’t know you were in town, Farlo. What are you doing here?”
Farlo turned around, three dogs in one hand, each one in a soft hot bun. Two of dogs with relish and mustard, The third with mustard only, Filo gave the other two to Tina, who finished them within seven point four seconds. A good time, not her personal best. She wanted to enjoy the taste.
Filo looked at the tall “Son of a gun, I didn’t recognize you, Flakes. You lost weight.How they hanging?”
“Thanks for noticing. I’m down ten pounds on my all dog diet.”
Joey stared at Farlo, then he stared at Flakes. Then he stared at the little guy. Farlo turned toward Joey, “Get three dogs for Tina, none for you. You haven’t earned them.”
“What? This is not fair. I love 7-Eleven grilled for 24-hours hotdogs. They got the perfect combination of wrinkles, nitrates, chemicals, and meat waste products. They’re always sold out when I try to get one.”
“Tough noogies,” said Farlo.
Flakes said, “The punk’s got a lot to learn, Farlo.”
The short guy came around with his Snicker’s candy bar, “Hey Farlo, waz happening?”
“Bones, what’s shakin?” said Farlo.
“A little bit of this, a lot of dat. Who’s da baby?”
Farlo said, “He’s my reclamation project, his name is Joey.”
“What a minute. I’m not a baby. I’m not a punk. I’m a dude.”
“Dat’s a baby’s name. You don’t got no street name? How you gonna have street cred? How you gonna run with the big dog here?” said Bones.
“I don’t need street cred. I already got it,” said Joey.
“The only thing you probably got is a GI Joe you hide under your pillow,” said Flakes. Flakes and Bones high fived.
“Do not,” said Joey.
Farlo said, “No, he doesn’t have a GI Joe. He has a stuffed bear on his pillow.”
A fist bump, a high five, and several minutes of laughter later, Farlo said, “You boys take care of the job Filo sent you on? It was a rough one.”
“Filo’s the man, Farlo. I don’t know what he doesn’t know. What I want to know is how does a guy his age have all the women chasing after him. You know da answer?”
“I do, Bones, but it’s classified. You and Flakes got a class five security clearance, you need a class twenty. There are only two people who got it,” said Farlo.
“Who? And, BTW, the name is Joe-mo,” said Joey.
“Dat da best you can do? They gonna eat you up when Farlo has you fly solo,” said Bones.
“I’m working on it,” said Joey.
Farlo said, “The two people with security clearance twenty? Filo and me.”
“Who’s Filo? When do I get to meet him? Can I see the company manual? I want to read the grievance process,” said Joey or Joe-mo.
Farlo shook his head, took a bite of hotdog, fed the rest to Tina. He fist bumped Bones and Flakes. Then he said, “Joey, take the hotdog out of your pocket and give it to Tina.”
Who’s Filo? Who does Farlo work for? Is it a secret government agency? What kind of job did Flakes and Bones do?