Who is Num8er One

Yield | Nov 18 | 6:17pm

The ice cream in my back seat was getting warm, and I didn’t have long before Harry noticed I was taking a break from deliveries.

The wine bar place was hella nice, so when the bartender handed me a detailed wine list, he frowned at my torn jeans with stains of dirt and blood. Well, he could go fuck himself. I wasn’t going to pretend to be something I’m not.

Sure, I collected wine when I pocketed enough to afford the expensive stuff, but those days were gone. The list had all this confusing information on it, and a glass there cost what I’m used to paying for a bottle. I didn’t belong there, but after I saw a girl trapped by her computer, I made an appointment to get some answers.

“Winston!” Roger called out to me from a leather couch against the window. “I admit, I was sort of surprised to hear from you.” The venue was his idea, and he made me look worse by wearing an even nicer suit than the first time we met. Too bad there was no sign of the blonde from his passenger seat. The low table only had one glass.

I went over. “I’ve been trying to reach Harry, but he texted me your number.”

Roger frowned. “My number?”

I stated the obvious. “You answered.”

“I did, to warn you.”

“About what?” I sat down next to him. We were already getting off track. “Wait, what are these people working on?”

He shrugged. “Something. I don’t know. With this job, I’m happier the fewer secrets I need to keep.”

“I never see them leave their computers. They seem scared or something.”

He looked at the ceiling. “I figure, they only ask us to bring them something when they’re too busy or stressed to get it themselves. That’s why it looks to us like they’re always working.”

I tried to sit up, but the deep leather wasn’t designed for it. I got to the point. “But the way they look at their webcams, what’s going on there?”

“I try not to worry about it.” He smiled and started flagging down the waitress. “My job is driving, and that makes me happy.”

I couldn’t tell if he really didn’t care or if he was trying to cover something up, so I went straight for the heart of it. “Who do we work for?”

“Listen, they pay us to go where they tell us, drive safe, and the system provides for us.” He was such a tool. I had ice cream melting in my car, so I knew they couldn’t boss me around. Roger stopped signaling. “Sorry, would you like a drink? I heard you like wine.”

“Where did you hear that?” I knew this guy knew more than he pretended.

“The person in dispatch. He’s a friend of yours, right?” So I guess Harry has time to talk about me to this guy, while he’s busy ignoring my texts. Roger finally got the waitress’s attention then pointed at me. “I hope you don’t mind. I took the liberty of making one or two selections.”

I was on a tight budget. “Only if you’re buying.”

He smiled. “Sure.”

The waitress came over and set a glass of red in front of me, giving a sour look at the remains of my only clothes and my sweaty mat of hair. I ignored her and took a drink.

Roger watched close. “It’s an organic Peruvian grape strain which–“

“Oh, here’s your girlfriend.” My voice gave away my excitement, but the girl with the scar was coming from the bathroom, a tight Giants t-shirt stretched across her incredible tits. Everyone wears Giants gear all of a sudden, now that they’re world champions.

Roger finally stopped smiling. “Girlfriend? Oh. No, we’re friends. My boyfriend’s name is Stephen.”

I almost spilled the wine. I was surprised. No, I was embarrassed. I grew up in San Francisco. I should have read more into his soft handshake and fashionable clothes, but I did wonder for a second why he invited me out for wine. What else did Harry tell him about me?

I looked at Roger, sizing up the situation all over again. If he was out of it, did I have a shot with the girl? “So, she’s not with you.” Everything was changing so fast.

She was suddenly at the table. “I’m not with anyone. Tinkerbell flies wherever she wants.”

“So, anyway.” Roger held a finger up to his eye. “Watch out for Tink. She is not to be trusted.”

“Roger, stop it. You’re so mean.” She leaned forward, and as she lifted the glass from the table, I hurried to take in every detail of the contours squeezed in around the Giants logo on her shirt, then the look in her eyes as she saw me checking her out. We held eye contact, and for a second it really seemed like I did have a shot with her, a shot at Harry’s wager.

I had to say something, but the months alone in my storage space didn’t prepare me to talk to this goddess. She and Roger were both staring now. My mouth opened. “I’m not gay.”

Roger exploded with laughter.

Tink gave only a small smile. “Yeah, I can tell.” She sipped the wine.

“You are such a guy.” Roger made little gestures at each of us through his laughter. “Winston, this is little miss Tinkerbell. Tink, Winston.”

“That’s your company name?” I was starting to notice more movie names in the delivery instructions, but I didn’t think she worked with us.

She cocked her head. “Gross. I belong to nobody. Independent contractor.”

I tilted my head back to get the wine at the bottom of my glass and checked her roots, wondering if the carpet matched the drapes.

Her face snapped into a scowl. “My eyes are down here asshole.”

“No, I was looking at…” It was too late. She stormed away to the bar.

“You should learn to pay more attention.” I forgot Roger was there. “You say you love wine, but I didn’t even see you taste it.”

I got defensive. “Well, where’s your fucking glass?” Tinkerbell took the one from the table.

Roger sighed. “I quit alcohol ten years and… about six months ago. Actually, I quit red meat around the same time, but the really tough one was coffee. I’ve quit that one so many times, but I guess there are things I was not meant to live without.”

“You don’t drink?” I stood up.

“I can still be with other people to see them enjoy it.” He smiled. That’s why he was watching so close.

I backed away slow. “But you don’t drink.” This man stood against everything I cared about. I wanted to leave, but he still hadn’t answered my question. “Roger, who’s behind all this?”

“Well, the Dude, but…”

I stopped. “The Dude?”

“It’s his code name. I think he owns the company. I’m sorry, I’ve said too much.”

“Why?” I backed up some more.

“The nondisclosure agreement. We all signed it.”

My voice got louder. “That’s what we’re not supposed to talk about?” I was at the front door by then, and I laughed. “I have to go. I have ice cream in the car.”

“Oh.” Roger gave one more big smile. “Be seeing you.”

All this time, this whole operation, and it’s all just run by some Dude?

2 references to Who is Num8er One

  1. Do You Believe In Fair1Es

  2. This Ag9ression Will Not Stand