Bagman, in the Mirror


(fiction excerpt, © Linda Peer, 2011. Complete story at Used Gravitrons, http://usedgravitrons.com/pdf/Used_Gravitrons_Issue_05.pdf , beginning on p. 36.)


Well, you asked, and it could happen to you, so I'll tell ya. First thing, I never thought I'd find myself in Sheboygan, Michigan, sent there by Poppy, damn him.
My gig, what I was doing there is, I make a few K a week for a few hours of collecting and encouragement for Poppy. I provide services Poppy requires to make his business run smooth. I'm known as Joe the Wolf. Poppy says loansharking provides a valuable financial service for people the banks won't deal with. The business end is all about the interest, just like the credit card game. If the client can't pay the principle and has to pay the vig, the interest, forever, Poppy makes out. Even in a mortgage situation you pay for your house several times over, you figure a modest 7% for thirty years. I've heard of Poppy getting 10% a day on a loan for a risky drug deal.
Yeah, I was always good with numbers.
The biceps and the suit, sure, they are tools of the trade. People get ideas from TV and movies, of course, and you have to conform. But the concept has always been, after the first encounter the remembrance of the bagman causes the client to be anxious to keep current on his payments. If a client is tardy, I visit him, for instance at 7:00 AM at home, catch him in his ratty pajamas, his breath stinking. I fill up the door and tell him the score, perfect in a Shantung suit, black hair raked back, and this broken nose that I claim I got boxing.
No, it was a car accident. Here's the stewardess. What you drinking? I'm buying.