The Way Some People Behave

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man turns out not to be what he appears to be.

Submitted: April 29, 2015

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Submitted: April 29, 2015



Things had quieted down in the library Reference Room. It was early evening and fortunately few people were around. I had recently had a scene over the phone with an unreasonable supervisor. I wasn't aware that anyone else had heard.

A man strolled up to the desk--an elderly man-- scrawny, unclean-looking, with a squinting eye and rotten teeth.

"Excuse me," he said. "Do you have the Stock Guide?" (then in an undertone) "Isn't it terrible?"
What?" I asked.

"The way some people behave in public!"

"Oh, that."

"They think they can get away with it--and the terrible fact is that they can. It's a disgrace. In a public building--one payed for by taxpayers!"

I handed him the Stock Guide.

"Oh, thanks." He started to go, but came back and leaned toward me. I winced. "You know," he said in almost a whisper, "It's like that all over." 

"Like what?"

"People are like that nowadays. No respect for their fellows. They'd just as soon stab their neighbor in the back. Young people are taught no respect. Why, just the other day, I saw this kid--that's what he was, just a kid--with his mother.She was giving him instructions of some kind, and he said..." (He leaned closer.) "...Listen to this: he said, `Aw shut up, Ma!' `Aw shut up, Ma!' Can you imagine? `Aw shut up, Ma.' Isn't that something? When I was a child, if I'd said that to my mother, God rest her soul, she would have slapped my face for me--but good! Children used to be taught respect. Now they're all criminals!"


"Yes, I see it in the building where I live. This gang of young hoodlums lives on the first floor. They're totally unsupervised. Come and go as they please. Just teenagers! They have loud radios blasting all night. They're selling drugs at the front door. They block the doorway--won't even get out of the way to let tenants come and go! You have to step over them! I tell you, things are bad!"

"In a small town like this? I'm surprised. Can't you do anything about it? What about the police?"

"The police!" he screeched in horror. "Why, those kids would kill anyone who called the police! They have no scruples. They'd just as soon stick a knife into you or gun you down, whichever is faster and cleaner."

"But you could call anonymously."

"They'd know. They find out everything. Anyway, it'd be no use. They have the run of the place. I think the police are afraid of them. And some of the police are in on it, too. Oh, it's a mess! Never can tell who to trust." He wrung his hands in despair. "And I'd considered buying the building! Can you imagine? Now all I want is to get out. Who needs that kind of trouble? I tell you, the world is going to hell. Just think about it: These are the people who are going to be running it in a few years. I shudder to think of it. It gives me the creeps. I'm glad I'm old.. I hope I die soon."

"Well, I don't think those kids are the ones who will..."

"They're all the same." He was browsing through the Stock Guide. 

"I see Standard Oil is up nine points. Maybe I'd better acquire some." (He thumbed through the pages.) "That woman on the telephone--I could hear her all the way across the room. What a voice!"

"Oh? She's one of the bosses."

"That's the way bosses get--especially women bosses, it seems. I don't know why. I guess the power just goes to their heads. Some people shouldn't be given power. They only abuse it. I was reading just the other day about a boss who (this one was a man), who wouldn't let his employees have a union, because, he said, they might get ideas. Imagine! They might get ideas! He didn't want his employees to think. Must have been a communist. He even had the goons around, ready to beat up workers if they tried to start a union. I tell you, I don't know what this world is coming to!" He shook his head in bewilderment and perused the stock guide, as if for either guidance or refuge. I watched him in perplexity.

"The market's doing well," he said. "You know, I think I'll see my broker. Haven't seen him in a long time. I thought the Japanese were squeezing us out of the running." (He thumbed some more.) "You know, some of these bosses..." (He looked around furtively and leaned close to me again.) " know, they like the power. They like it too much. They have to have someone to bully. Some people need that. I know. When I was working, they would pick on the weakest worker. Can you imagine that? The weakest one." (He leaned so close that I again winced.) "They were cowards, you know."

"Yes, they'd get the weaker ones into a corner, then use them to manipulate the stronger ones. Real sadists they were. Boy, was I glad to get out of that place. Retired, you know. Not a bad pension." He rubbed his hands in satisfaction.

"Well, it's late and I have a situation to take care of. So long." He started toward the door.

A large man rushed into the room. 

"Oh!" he said. "I'm glad you're still here, Towser."

The old man appeared startled. He merely muttered an unintelligible sound.

"Glad I caught you," continued the other. "I've got news." He had a crude face and unclean, sloppy work clothes.

Towser looked to the side, then down at the floor.


"Wait till you hear this!"

"I'm sorry...I can't talk to you now." Towser tried to push past him. 

The man blocked his way.

"Say, what is it, Towser?"

"I'm busy, John. I'm..."

"Come on, this is important! You know that load  we shipped in? Well..."

"John! I don't want to hear this." Towser tried unsuccessfully to side-step the man in order to escape.

"What do you mean? It's partly your fault, you know."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Well, listen. Some o' the boys at the warehouse dipped into it. They would've ripped us off, but..."

Towser glanced furtively at me. Seeing me watching, he averted his eyes.

"...Are you listenin', man?"

"No...I don't hear you."

"Say, are you sick, man?"

"No. I don't understand all this: Load...warehouse...boys...what does it all mean?"

"Oh, I get it. You're tryin' to back out! Well it's too late, bud. We're all in this together! Anyway, with all you've invested, you'd be crazy to...well, anyway, what I've been tellin' you is that these guys tried to chisel us, but Vic was watchin'. Lucky for us! Good old Vic!"

"I don't know any Vic."

"You have gone nuts! So, you're goin' to deny old friends? Well it won't work. The die is cast."

Towser looked at me again.

"This man...thinks he knows me," he said. "Maybe I did know him somewhere...once...but I can't recall. I don't like the way he talks. I wouldn't associate..."

"Sure," piped in the other, "and what about the coolies? We've got a whole new load of 'em in. Can hardly fit 'em in the old joint. I figger it may collapse any time. Well, as long as we get the dough off of 'em first, that's the most important thing."

" can you talk that way? It's disgusting, abusive, obscene and..."

"You ought to know, man. You're the one who said to squeeze in as many as possible. I'm the one who said we should give 'em a little breathin' space, and..." He turned to me. "...and this guy said, `Pack 'em in. Every inch of breathin' space they get interferes with my breathin' space.' That's what this here man said. Nice guy, huh? And now he's sobbin'. Do you believe it, man?"

Towser certainly was very much agitated. He appealed to me.

"This man...he must be a real criminal. He shouldn't be allowed to..."

"Sure, I'm the criminal! You're as pure as the new fallen snow!"

Towser continued. "I hope you don't think I'd have anything to do with a man like this. I swear, I..."

"Fuzz!" yelled the other man and ran out the door at the other end of the room. 

"I'm sorry." Towser said to me," trembling, "I...I have the most important...uh...engagement. I'll see you later..." He hurried after the man. "...and we'll straighten out all this nonsense."

He was running.

"How strange," I said to Igor, my fellow librarian, who just came into the room, barely avoiding Towser.

"Here he is," replied Igor, pointing.

A solid-looking man walked into the room. He flashed a badge.

"Detective Johnson," he said brusquely. His eyes darted around the room. "Did you by any chance see an elderly man--skinny, one eye that winks, bad teeth, old clothes?"

"Why, yes. As a matter of fact..."

"How long ago?"

"He just left."

"Which way?"

I pointed to the far door. He hurried to it and out. In a moment, he returned. "Guess he's gone now, but we'll get him."

"Who is he?"

"Listen, this man is one of the lowest."

"That old man? He seemed..."

"Never mind what he seemed. He's an all-out phony. He's a drug-dealer and a thief."


"He also deals in oppression of foreign refugees. He's an all-round no-good."

"But, can it be true? Why, he condemned..."

"Listen, he's also wanted for molesting minors in the place where he lives."

I was flabbergasted.

After the policeman left, I glanced at Igor.

"I wonder what the truth really is."

He opened the returned Stock Guide that still lay on the desk. There, as a bookmark, Towser had left an envelope. It was unsealed. Igor handed it to me. I opened it and pulled out a folded paper. Wrapped inside it was a photo. 

"Towser!" Igor exclaimed, turning red.

"Naked!" I exclaimed. "And the two boys--they couldn't be more than, say, 14!" 

"Naked!" exclaimed Igor. 

"And...!" My face was also red. "So, it is true!"

"Why did you ever doubt it?" said Igor.

© Copyright 2018 Godfrey Green. All rights reserved.

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