Joseph and Heath
With the air getting colder and the wind picking up, Heath figures it's about time he invested in some insulation. Last winter someone had given him a large woolly jumper, but during the summer he'd had to get rid of it as it had been too bulky to carry around with him the whole time. Smaller things are easier since he can tie them to the handles of his bags, or fit them in with his lute and pipes. So a scarf is ideal, and his neck has been getting rather cold these past couple of days.
Doing a spot of shopping in Walmart, he finds a gorgeous fluffy warm one and instantly takes it with him to the till. That will last him a good few years at least. Just as he's heading out of the store there's a commotion in the cosmetics section, and as he turns to see what the fuss is about, Heath's eyes widen as he sees Joseph - yes, it is Joseph - being manhandled by a security guard.
"How am I supposed to know if the compact fits compactly into my pocket without inserting it into my pocket?" Joseph is livid. "Unhand me!"
Heath approaches them both and gives Joseph a curious look as if to say 'are you being serious?' He turns to the red-faced guard. "Excuse me, but what's going on here exactly?"
Joseph swings on the newcomer...beams initially when he spots Heath, before he realizes that Heath, dressed like a vagrant and groomed not-recently, can hardly improve his situation. "Unhand me, Brute!"
"Man, stop shouting! Look officer, he's innocent... it was me who put these things into his pockets." Heath gives Joseph a warning glare, daring him to say otherwise. He doesn't want to see his 'friend' go to court or anything.
No argument from Joseph. He nods fervently, darts an accusing finger at Heath. "It was him!"
Bloody hell! Didn't hesitate much, did you? As much as he wants to, Heath can't deal with Joseph now. He'd love to give him a kick in the bollocks to go with the one Joseph just gave him, but the guard is quick to accuse and ushers Heath away.
Joseph draws himself up before the apologizing security guard, harumps, heads for the door. Glances back at Heath, being hauled off...pauses...
Heath looks back over his shoulder at the figure standing in the doorway. Okay, this was a stupid idea. Next time Joseph can dig himself out of his own hole.
"Officer?" Joseph pulls his money clip from his pocket. "I'm sure we can clear up this misunderstanding, if I might speak to you, privately?"
The officer turns and snarls at Joseph, but his eyes light up greedily at the sight of the money. "I'm listening."
Heath clutches his bought and paid for scarf - in - bag to his chest and shakes his head at Joseph. No, don't be stupid.
Joseph smiles his most charming smile. Presses a thick stack of large bills into the porky hand of the security guard. "No problem, right?"
He checks the bills closely, just to make sure they aren't forgeries, then grins toothily at Joseph. "No problem. Just don't let me catch you doing it again, y'hear?"
Staring at the bills as they're passed from one hand to the other, Heath shakes his head in disbelief. Always one to be careful with the money he earns, to see it being given away so carelessly makes him slightly pissed off.
Joseph nods amiably to the security guard, weaves through the crowded store toward the exit. Chuckles. Displays the wad of bills the security guard had thought safely tucked into his pocket.
Heath blinks once, twice, then he sets his bag down carefully and extends his arms. Gently placing his hands around Joseph's neck, he says, "If you do that again, I will not be held responsible for my actions, however bloody they may be."
"It all worked out, in the end. What's the problem?" Tucks the bills into his pocket. Glances up...suddenly wary. "Don't tell Ralph."
"Why not?" Heath lifts an inquisitive eyebrow and retrieves his bag with his scarf.
"He wouldn't understand."
Heath doesn't quite understand the brothers' dynamic yet, but that answer is enough for him to let the matter go. "Well, nice seeing you again and all. Guess you better be getting back to him, eh? Before you're late for curfew."
Joseph watches Heath stalk off, honestly baffled. "Why are you mad at me?"
"I ain't mad," Heath mumbles, hat pulled lower over his eyes, one hand stuffed in pocket. "Just want to know why you're so eager to throw money away carelessly like that."
"I was trying to save you!" Plaintive you should be thanking me tone. "Besides, I didn't throw any money away. I got it all back." Joseph again displays the wad of bills, along with something extra. "Got his watch, too."
"Oh Jesus..." He has to laugh, a rough gravely sound that comes from his belly. Heath throws an arm around Joseph's shoulders and guides him out of the store, a smile on his face. "Come on, lets get you back."
The curfew comment is only now registering and Joseph puffs up. "I don't have to go back anywhere, Ralph doesn't run my life." He glances at his newly-acquired watch. "Besides, he won't be home for almost two hours."
Heath nods, but he's still doubtful. If Joseph doesn't belong to Ralph, then why does he put up with the crap? Heath knows all about the lives of dominants and submissives, Masters and slaves, but this is different. Perhaps it's just because he doesn't understand the dynamic. "So what are you going to do now?"
"I'm..." Joseph trails off. He hadn't actually thought that far ahead. "What are you going to do?"
"Me?" Heath shrugs, looks down at his bag. "Go back to my hotel room, get myself sorted then probably go out to get more money."
Joseph flashes on the obscene amount of cash he'd discovered inside the battered case the night Heath spent with Ralph and himself. He can't question Heath outright about discovering his hidden wealth without admitting that he'd been inside Heath's case, but he thinks that either Heath is some sort of world class busker or Heath is running scams far superior to his own. "I want to come with you. I'm thinking about becoming a busker also."
Heath breaks out into rich laughter. "I'm sorry, mate, I'm not hiring sidekicks. It's a fucking tough job, don't you know. Don't get much money, just about enough to survive if you're lucky."
Uh-huh...to survive at Club Med... Joseph's not buying it. Winks at Heath to let him know that he's not buying it but doesn't mind Heath having tried to pull the wool over his eyes, they're brothers in arms, wink-wink. "You can use a man like me. I'm coming with you."
"You'd have to earn your own living," Heath explains slowly, trying to put Joseph off his decision. "And I travel a lot, you won't be living a life of luxury." It's not because he thinks of Joseph as a burden that he doesn't want him to join him. Heath's just used to traveling alone, enjoys the silent conversations Mother Nature has with him. He can't imagine what it would be like to have someone coming along with him.
"Get over yourself, Heath." Joseph's eyes are rolling. "It's not a marriage proposal, I've just got two hours to kill. Come on, I want to learn how to busk."
Heath sighs. He's not going to get out of it anytime soon, so might as well entertain the guy. "Okay, is there anything you can do that will entertain people?"
"Ahh. You mean, you need a decoy." Joseph nods enthusiastically. "Yes. I can feign epileptic seizures, stage hits from passing cars, set fires, whatever the situation calls for."
"Uh... no. I mean can you do anything entertaining that will please people and persuade them to give you money. Like telling jokes or singing or juggling. Something like that." Heath leads the way back to his hotel room, needing to pick up his instruments before going out.
"I perform parlor games very nicely." Joseph stops and waits at the threshold of Heath's room, peering cautiously inside. Good god, with his money, he lives in a dump like this? His admiration for Heath steps up a notch. Part of the scam. Never show them all you've got for free. Heath is, he decides, a mastermind. "Card tricks, rabbits from hats, nothing up my sleeve." As Heath is latching the door, Joseph pulls a quarter from his ear. "See?"
Heath nods, rather pleased. He wonders what it really would be like having someone else by his side while playing to the people. It could be rather enjoyable. "Okay, that's perfect. The more children we attract, the more likely we'll get money. They should love you."
"Children? What's that supposed to mean?" Joseph's righteous indignation is wasted on Heath, who strides quickly past him without a glance. Grumbling, Joseph follows. "I can tap dance, a little."
"Good, that will help. Is there anything you need to collect before we go, or do you have everything?" They come out of the hotel and Heath stops, waiting to see what Joseph needs to do.
How is Joseph to know what he will need? Heath, it seems, is being deliberately evasive as to the nature of the con. Joseph pats his pockets. Yes, he has his standard tools. "I'm ready. Let's busk."
An exaggerated roll of his eyes and Heath turns and stalks off into the streets to find a good spot. After a little exploration he finds a pretty good one just outside a park where he knows both children and adults will be. It doesn't take him long to get set up, just getting his didgeridoo out of it's case - always a good one to start the crowds off thanks to it's uniqueness - and a few practice blows.
No overt wealth in this crowd. Joseph would have chosen a spot on Rodeo, but, having witnessed the wad of cash in Heath's case, he's not going to second-guess a pro. He slips on his dark glasses and extends his fold-up white cane. "Ready."
"What the fuck?" Heath stares at him as though he's mad then tugs him close and hisses in Joseph's ear. "You can't pretend to be blind, we are not here to con people into giving us their money."
"Right-o." Joseph tips a conspiratorial wink at Heath from behind his glasses. Angles one leg awkwardly. "I'm not blind and I'm not crippled and we're not conning anybody and you're making thousands of dollars just standing on the sidewalk blowing on that oversized flute."
Heath does a double take. "Woah woah woah... thousands of dollars? Where the fuck did you get the idea that I make thousands of dollars from this job?"
"Uh...your impeccable fashion sense?" Joseph spots a well-heeled man approaching. "Shh. Our first mark, Heath."
The man's pace never slows as he passes, ignoring Joseph altogether but casting an irritated glance at Heath. "Get a job, you bum."
Used to receiving this sort of unfavorable reaction, Heath just ignores the man without even a flinch or retort. They're simply not worth the effort. The people who are are those who enjoy being entertained and those who value good music. In Heath's opinion, everyone else can go fuck themselves.
If this is going to be a successful day, Joseph better learn his place. Heath puts a few coins in his open didgeridoo case and places it just in front of them. Then he turns to Joseph, expression serious. "Listen, first of all, if you think this is an easy way of making money then you're an idiot. The most money I've made in a day is about forty dollars. Secondly, we are NOT con-men. I do this because I enjoy making music and affecting people."
Joseph plucks the dark glasses from his face and stares at Heath, galled. Forty dollars a day? Right. That explains the Citadel membership and the bankroll in his case, uh-huh. "Look, Heath, if you don't want to let me in on your game, fine. But there's no need to insult my intelligence." Folds up his cane and is tucking it into his pocket when his cell phone begins singing I feel pretty, oh so pretty... Joseph can't seem to get that ringer setting to stay put on the Star Wars theme where he wants it. "Oh no..." He stares at the caller ID, his color draining, his priorities shifting. "What time is it?"
Peering over his shoulder at the flashing screen, Heath shrugs. "Twenty past Twelve, why? You need to be somewhere?"
"Hello?" Joseph's free hand is in motion. Be quiet, don't blow on anything! "No, no, not noon, we said one o'clock. Yes we did. Yes we did. Yes we... I'm </i>not</i> arguing. No I'm not. No I'm no..." Long pause, listening. "With Heath. No, I'm not 'bothering' him, he needed my help and I... Yes, he needed my help, why is that so hard to believe?" Another pause, Joseph's shoulders slumping ever-lower, lower lip beginning to pooch. "You don't need to... Okay, FINE!" Joseph extends the phone. "Ralph wants to talk to you, Heath."
Utterly bemused and amused by Joseph's conversation, Heath can't quite keep the smile from his face as he's handed the phone. The mirth is clear in his voice. "Morning, Ralph."
"Good morning, Heath. No, wait, that's not quite right, is it? Were it still morning, I would still have a chance at a business relationship with the man who just stormed from my home after waiting twenty minutes for his twelve o'clock appointment to fuck Joseph. Therefore, good afternoon, Heath." Ralph's voice is utterly flat and without inflection. "Niceties aside, I'm not an especially happy man just now, and I would like to know if I'll be exacting my pound of flesh from one ass or two. Did you request Joseph's help in resolving some intricate panhandling emergency when his presence was required elsewhere, or was his help, as I suspect, inflicted upon you?"
"Huh?" Heath blinks several times before he realises what Ralph is talking about. Joseph must have told him about the shop incident. Or at least his take on it. "Uh, okay listen. I was just shopping and I saw Joseph having some trouble with one of the security guards. Seems he had been taking things. I helped him out of it and now he wants to learn how to busk."
"Security guard?" Now, Ralph's tone reveals a hint of irritation. "Explain."
Stealing a quick glance at Joseph, Heath sighs and moves a little further away, hoping Joseph won't overhear that much. "Joseph was trying to steal some stuff from the store. The guard caught him so I intervened and said that I had put the things in Joseph's pockets. Joseph bribed him and he let us go, but then he got the money back, and a bit more."
After a long pregnant pause, Ralph's voice acknowledges, in the same even tone, "I see. Thank you for your honesty, Heath. Put Joseph back on the line, please."
Joseph has the attention span of a housefly, and is beaming with pride at having earned $3.00 in small change for Heath by shuffling a deck of cards in spiraling patterns between his hands. He blanches as Heath presses the phone back toward him, splays his audience with 52 cards and covers the mouthpiece with his hand. "What did you tell him, Heath?"
"I told him to get stuffed," Heath says without emotion, though he smirks slightly, knowing Joseph will take that seriously. It's then he notices the small crowd that had gathered as Joseph had been playing with his cards and after a brief glance into the case, he's very pleasantly surprised to see the few extra coins in there. Perhaps he's not so bad, after all.
"Hello?" Joseph says nothing more for several long moments, just listens, nods, finally clicks the phone shut. "I have to go now, Heath. You're invited to dinner on Sunday. Six o'clock. Ralph told me to tell you to not worry about proper attire, he wants you naked at the threshhold before you knock or you're not to bother knocking at all." Gathers his few cards which haven't been taken as souvenirs by overjoyed children. Mumbles. "Didn't want to fuck that hairy bastard. Hairy shoulders, hairy back, hairy ears...didn't want to fuck him, don't care what business plans Ralph had with him." Continues to grumble, shoving the half-deck back into his pocket, then focuses directly onto Heath. "I didn't want to fuck him, I was having a nice time here, with you."
And for the first time today, Heath's struck dumb by how sorry he feels for Joseph right now. There's something about the pathetic sad look in his eyes that has Heath suddenly wishing that he could save Joseph from his duty. Give him the freedom that he clearly needs. "I'm sorry, Joseph," he says softly, the apology genuine. Heath gives his shoulder a squeeze and smiles. "Perhaps I can have a talk to Ralph and see if we can arrange a few days off so you can come and help me get some money, yeah?"
"No, no, don't do that, Jesus, Heath. Just come for dinner." Joseph shakes his head, backpedals from Heath toward home, toward Ralph. "Just come for dinner on Sunday, be sure you're naked and be sure you're on time. Okay?"
Heath has other ideas, but he nods obediently. He doesn't want to piss Ralph off, but he wants to try and help Joseph have some fun, and the only way of doing that is to talk to Ralph. "I'll see you Sunday."
"Sunday," Joseph acknowledges, his pace slowing. He doesn't want to go home. Ralph's got his panties bunched because Joseph didn't fuck the hairy guy, home is going to be a terribly unpleasant place, just now. He wants to stay here with his friend. Friend? Yes. Heath has come to his aid not once but twice today, Joseph has made his first real friend. He rushes back to Heath, gathers him into an affectionate bear hug. "Thank you, Heath." Slips the pilfered watch from his wrist into Heath's pocket. "Hang onto this for me, would you?"
Frowning, Heath looks down into his pocket and can't help but smile at the watch in there. Looking back up at Joseph his smile turns into a grin and he nods again. "Sure mate, I'll keep it safe. You better be getting back now though, go on." Heath clasps him close one more time then lets Joseph go, watching until he's out of sight before settling down to play. As he's picking up his didgeridoo, he sees a flicker of white out of the corner of his eye. The Two of Clubs lies on the pavement by his foot. It means something. Plucking it up off the ground, Heath slips it into his pocket beside the watch and pats it safe. In some way, Joseph is busking with him.
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