The Tower

September 1, 1961

Jules LaTour lusted after the jet-black, 1957 Chevy Corvette C1 surrounded by heaps of scrap metal and broken furniture.

“Five-hundred. I’m not going any lower, kid.” A skinny man with a soul patch leaned, arms-crossed, on the storm door of his “office”. He was easily under 30.

“Look, I don’t have any money right now. I am dead broke. I need that car.”

“And I need money. Looks like we both want what we can’t have.”

“Mister, I live in this town. You’ve seen my face. If I don’t come back with the money, you can report me to the police!”

“Kid, no offense… it’s not that I don’t trust you, but do you know many greaser punks come up to me daily with the same old sob story about how they’re running short on cash and they’re in between jobs and they need that car to drive their dying grandmother to the hospital and they need to get back and forth to school etcetera ad nauseum? Everyone in town knows I’ve been keeping this thing here. You aren’t the first to ask, and you certainly won’t be the last. Now, if you don’t have the cash on you, you don’t get the car, simple as that.”

Jules looked wide-eyed at the Corvette again. He was nearly drooling. Desperately, he pleaded, “Look, you know I can’t get a job anywhere else because of my record. The whole town’s heard of me. Doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning up my act, I’m the black sheep in this shit hole. Hell, I can’t even get a milkshake without getting stared down. If I could get my hands on money that easy I wouldn’t be here right now.” Jules gestured to the junkyard around him.

The skinny man shook his head, saying, “No money, no car. The job is your problem. If people won’t hire you they won’t hire you, simple as that, I still need the 500 dollars.” He looked Jules up and down, his gaze straddling between pity and distaste. “You’re that LaTour kid, right?”

Jules looked off to the side.

“You’re the one that—”

“I’m the LaTour kid,” Jules interrupted. “You don’t have to tell me what I’ve done.”

The skinny man looked at Jules despondently. He obviously felt bad for Jules, but there was something tugging at him inside, his wallet, or maybe his sense of reason, that prevented him trusting Jules outright.

“Alright, how about this,” Jules said. “I’ll work for you.”

The skinny man lowered his sunglasses and raised his eyebrows. “You’ll work for me?” he asked, incredulously. “How does that change anything? I still don’t trust you, you still don’t have the money up front, you still don’t get the damn car.”

“I’ll work for you for free.”

Eyebrows still raised, the skinny man mused, “I’m listening.”

“You could think about it like this: you break up the payment for the car into my hypothetical weekly salary. I work for you until my ‘salary’ adds up to the worth of the car.”

The skinny stood up straight and walked towards Jules, sizing him up.

“What’ you need this car for anyways, huh? You gonna rob a bank?”

Jules turned flush and stared at his feet.
“You a racer? Drag racer? I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Jules didn’t answer.

“A girl. Of course, it’s always a girl. Been there done that friend, it ain’t worth it.”

Jules turned and looked at the Corvette with puppy eyes. His greasy pompadour sagged pitifully over his forehead.

The skinny man winced with pity.

“Is she pretty?” he asked.

Jules mumbled, “Yeah.”

“Is she smart?” he asked again.

Jules mumbled, even softer this time, “Yeah.”

“Does she have a boyfriend?” the skinny man asked apprehensively, holding his breath.

Jules turned to the skinny man and resolutely declared, “Not for long.”

The skinny man chuckled. His face softened, though only a little bit.

“Alright, Jules LaTour. You’ll work for me until your debt is paid.” he conceded.

Jules lit up like a spotlight. “I’ll start tomorrow!” he nearly shouted.

“You’ll start today,” the skinny man barked.

Jules nearly jumped for joy as he ran over to caress his new car.

“I can’t thank you enough, mister,” he gushed.

“No ‘mister’,” the skinny man corrected him. “The name’s Keith. Now remember, you’ll be moving shit from that pile…” he pointed over to a pile of relatively intact home items and electronics, “…to that pile,” he pointed to a veritable queue of shattered wood and metal around a hydraulic Pulverizer. “Your day ends when you’ve moved about half a ton of trash to the Pulveriser. I’ll be expecting you after school every day now until your debt is paid off. Miss a day, don’t finish your work, or skip out of town, and I’ll personally find you and haul your ass to the Ashford County Police Department myself, you hear?

Jules was too busy revving the engine of his new Corvette to pay any heed to Keith’s directions.

“Remember, after school, ok?” Keith yelled out.

Jules gave him a thumb up and sped off into the morning.