Pieces of Shit / BET ON CRAZY by Peter Nolan Smith

My opinion of people is based on the premise that we are all the same. Everyone wants good for themselves, their families, and friends. Adolf Hitler is the exception instead of the rule, however my boss on 47th Street holds people in a different regard. The year was 1994.

All people are pieces of shit.” Manny was adamant in this declaration. The 60 year-old tough guy had been selling diamonds for over 40 years when I joined his employ in the diamond exchange. This view was heavily jaundiced by experience. Little of it good. “And the worst are your family.”

I argued against his damnation of Man.

“You’re a communist. What would you know?”

“People will prove me right.” I was in my late-30s. Friends had done plenty of favors for me. They had lent me money without ever asking for it back. Few had the courage. I had been the meanest man in the world during the 80s. Nightlife does that to a man.

“People will prove you wrong wrong wrong and it won’t take long.” Manny came from Brownsville. Danger was a way of life in that part of Brooklyn. He pointed his PBK at me. It normally was in the safe.

“Fuck you, Manny.” I wasn’t scared of him. I had taken the bullets out of the clip a month ago. “You’re wrong.”

“No, you’re wrong wrong wrong.” Manny had to have the last word and each time I failed to close a deal on a sale that week, he would wait until the customer left the store and say, “Another piece of shit.”

“They said they would be back.” All customers said that.

“Never, because they’re pieces of shit.”

His son and my friend, Richie Boy, told his father to lay off. Manny swore at him too.

“What are you getting weak too?”

His ‘piece of shit’ sermon killed my drive and I contemplated just quitting, until a couple from Denver walked into the shop. They were looking for an engagement ring. The budget was $10,000. The price of a good 2 carat round stone.

They were both lawyers. Horrible buyers since they spent their lives listening to the lies of their clients. The woman was in her early 30s. She had dedicated her life to the law. It had washed the soul from her body. Her fiancee looked as if he had been kicked in the head by a horse. Manny was mouthing ‘piece of shit’. I gave him the finger and turned back to the forlorn couple. Pity got the better of me.

There was a 2 carat F/VS1 round brilliant diamond in the front window. A gem stone. I pulled it out of the tray and showed them the ring. It put fire back in her heart and her beau said, “How much?”

“9500.” It cost us 8000. Manny grimaced at my success. His ‘piece of shit’ campaign had been thwarted by these sad, but good people. “How will you being paying?”

“Credit card. Visa.” He dropped the plastic on the glass counter. Manny went to the bathroom. The defeat on his face could not be wiped off by toilet paper.

“Better than Amex. That cost us 4%” I told them about our charges and added 3% to the price. Richie Boy gave me the thumbs up. My commish was $400. A nice pay day for the firm and me.

“Can you put that in writing?”

“Sure, why not?” I wrote up the invoice as requested. They paid tax and later that afternoon I shipped the ring within a pretty box to Denver. As we were shutting the store, Manny examined the bill and said, “What’s this?”

His finger pointed at my handwriting at the bottom of the bill.

“Why did you write that about 3% extra for Visa?” Manny should have been a lawyer. His voice was draped with accusation. Luckily for the guilty he had dropped out of high school at age 15.

“Because they asked me too.”

“And if they asked you to jump off a bridge would you do that too?”

“Fuck off, Manny. I made a good sale. My mind calculated 3% on $9500. Almost $300. “If it’s a problem, I’ll make good for it.”

“Richie, you heard him say that?”

“Yes.” Richie Boy was my friend, but he was his father’s son and shit doesn’t drop far from a donkey’s ass. In other words blood was thicker than water, except when it wasn’t thicker than water.

A week went by and it came time to settle up for the commish. I showed Manny my figures. He smiled and pulled a letter from the pile of letters on his desk. “Remember that nice couple from Denver?”


“Well, they called Visa and said that you had charged them 3% extra for using their card. Visa said that this was against their policy and if we didn’t refund the money then they would pull our account.”

“Shit.” $300 was almost the rent for my apartment on East 10th Street.

“No, pieces of shit those nice people and it could have cost you $300, except I’m a nice guy and for one time and one time only I’ll ignore this lapse of judgment and you know why?”

“No.” But I had a good feeling I was going to hear why.

“Because I’m a bigger piece of shit than anyone else. I told Visa that I didn’t know this and would never do it again, but would always figure the cost into my future invoices. It took an hour, but we fucked those ‘nice people’.”

“Thanks, Manny.” And I meant it and I also acknowledged his victory.

People are pieces of shit, but at least Manny was my piece of shit and sometimes that better than anything else in the world.

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