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RICH BROOKS SAYS THE LONG GOODBYE

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Au revoir, Noir Rich Brooks.

When he walked in he was wearing a suit of blue wool and a pair of shoes made of brown leather that a man only buys when he has lost all hope in youth and all perspective in his middle age. He carried a manila folder in his right hand. His left hand should have been carrying a cigarette. In a more understanding age he would have had one there, but our appointment was for 10 a.m. in the present. Both of us would just have to live with the timing.

He set the envelope on the desk and sat in the chair in front of me. I offered him a drink and he said no. The way he said no had yes behind his eyes. I know a dry drunk a mile away. They look like spent roman candles with legs and talk like priests in slow motion. I knew this man.

"So, that's it?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"Lost the stomach for it at last? It's not a job for everyone."

"It's not a job for anyone," I said. I let a bit of bourbon slip down my throat. It was better than I remembered and those memories were only minutes old. "It's a job for sad-sack young men with old bodies and old men with young dreams and older men who just want to blow a whistle and pick up a paycheck worth a few more green bananas. It's for saps who wait for the guillotine instead of walking in to woods to have a chat with some wolves. It's a sucker's game and I'm one just like you but there's time for me to spend five minutes as myself in this world and I'm taking it."

He sighed. "No chance of me talking you out of it, eh?"

"There's always a chance, friend. Some dame could walk in here and wrap her arms around me and pledge her sweet love to me forever. We could move out to where the orange groves used to be in a bland perfect little roachtrap of a house and raise a few brats together along with a thousand other pleasant nobodies. I could walk out of here with a unicorn on a leash too but you and know the unicorn and the perfect woman aren't walking in anywhere for good reasons we don't understand and never will."

"Well, good luck then, Mr. Brooks. You realize you were the most successful coach we had since Bear Bryant."

"And handing it all over to a Joker, pal. But life's funny like that sometimes. Skedaddle."

He left like a paper bag leaves on the wind. I barely heard the noise the door made as it shut and left me alone in the office the way I like to be. I turned and looked at the chessboard I had set up to the Malinois Two-Step Defense. I danced with the Belgian math for a while. We've both had better dance partners.

The sun dipped into the ocean for the night and made the room dark. Barring emergencies of an unforeseen nature It would be back tomorrow. I drove home and lay in bed waiting for it. It was all there was to do. I fell asleep with the crickets singing nothing in my ear and woke up.

Sun. Reporting for duty yet again.