Bronson Arroyo takes one last, long drag of his Pall Mall then puts it out in the ashtray that now holds seven butts. He has been there for 23 minutes.
“I already told you,” he says as he exhales smoke out his nostrils. It melds with the steam coming from his coffee cup. “I’m not doing it, Walt.”
“Come on, B.A,” says Walt. “We need you. Just this one last time.”
“I’m retired.” He taps his cigarette pack against the side of his index finger until one stick emerges from the group. He brings the pack to his face and pulls the straggler out with his lips. His Zippo flips open.
“I know you are,” says Walt. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I weren’t desperate. This crew I got lined up, they’re good. But they need to be great to pull this thing off. You can make them great. And wait ’til you hear what this score pays.”
“Don’t care.” His mouth said it. His eyes let Walt know he meant it. He ran his yellow fingers through his yellow hair.
“There’s gotta be something I can do to convince you, something you want. Name it. Name it and I’ll get it. Come on, B.A. I need this. Do it as a favor to me.”
Bronson Arroyo slid to the end of the booth, and stood up. He slung a weathered leather jacket over his shoulders and reached into the right-hand pocket. He pulled out four crumpled dollar bills and tossed them on the table.
“Sorry, Walt,” he said through his cigarette. “I stopped doing favors a long time ago. Nothin’ good comes from them.” He turned and walked toward the door.
“It won’t last you know,” Walt projected.
Bronson Arroyo turned around slowly.
“This feeling of superiority, of finality, it won’t last. You have more money than you’ll ever need, and you got out of the game alive, but that calm won’t last. What are you going to do now, huh? You’re gonna sit at home and watch old movies? Get that stupid rock band back together? Grow those fucking dreadlocks again? No way. Just when you think you have a normal life again, it will come back. Not all at once, but over time, that itch will come back. And soon enough, you won’t be able to fight it any longer. You might catch on with that crew in Tampa or Oakland or Chicago. Just for something to do. To feel like you’re alive again. But it won’t be the same. They aren’t your crew. You HAVE a crew. And that crew needs you. Joey, Chappy, Billy, Tony — they all need you. Fuck, I need you, man. So I’m asking, one last time. But if you walk out, you’ll never hear from me again. You might see our names in the papers, but you won’t hear from any of us anymore. It’s your choice. It’s your chance. Your last chance.”
Bronson Arroyo walks back to the table. He puts out his eighth cigarette butt. His eyelids lower. He exhales deeply.