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5. Reputation

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Max was in his late-30s with a wife at home and two boys. He was the friendliest guy in the place; he’d also been around awhile. He’d worked here when he was younger, knowing the ins and outs better than I did. Max had a broad smile to match his laid-back character. His voice never rose above a loud cough and he didn’t know the meaning of angry. He was respected for his knowledge and decency.

What he did for a living…I forget. The basic blue collar shift though. He had a good sense of humor and only really came in because it was familiar.

He sat in the same place every night, drank the same drinks, and left at the same time. Max was so routine you could tell time by him.

When he was younger, he got himself into a few tight spots – but Max was a master of the art of negotiation. He could talk his way out of anything. Some people call it luck – I call it talent. Not all people are blessed with such convincing conversation skills. Max was something.

He was like a big brother to me, always over my shoulder to catch me. I couldn’t help but love him. Max was a teenager trapped in an adult’s body.

I went to Max if something ever presented itself that I couldn’t charm my way out of. Beware – he’s been known to provide foolproof alibis. If the man claims that I was at church at the time of the incident, I was – even if I was a self-proclaimed atheist. And what’s more, he’d have the priest vouch for my presence. He got a kick out of fooling people; it was what he did. He was the master of tricks. Some of his finer talents were passed on to me.

God help the world when his sons are teenagers. Could you imagine?

The boys were teenagers already actually, one was in my grade, the other was a year older. I never saw them much – they were always above me, socially. Max tried to make us all get along, but his efforts were wasted. There simply was no helping the truth. We were worlds apart. I hadn’t seen the older one in ages.

I could sit and debate anything with Max; he had a sharp mind with even sharper opinions. And he never lost. You could fight him until you were blue in the face – you’d never win. He’d smile coolly at you. And you’d quit.

He never lost ground. Max was definitely a man of talent.

Ha – I remember what he did. Max was a cop.

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