My phone rings, playing the generic “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster” ringtone that it defaults to when it doesn’t find the caller in my contact list. Busy with some clip editing, I let it ring for ten seconds before answering.
“DownToBuck speaking. Make it quick.”
“It’s Tyreke. You gonna make a video or not, clown?”
I twiddle a cigar in between my fingertips. “You know the rules, Mr. Evans.”
“I talked to some other guys around the league, and I’m gettin’ the feeling that I’m the only one you make pay for videos.” Tyreke snarls angrily. “I ain’t paying squat.”
I set down my cigar. Angry I am not, but I can turn on and off the emotions in my voice with almost no effort. “You listen here, Mr. Evans. This is a business. I’m running a god damn business here. Anybody tells you that I’m working gratis, they’re lying. Anybody. They’re damn liars.” I pause, as if trying to reign in my rage. “Let me tell you something, Mr. Evans. I’m cutting you a good deal here. No, not a good deal, a god damn GREAT deal! If you don’t like it, you can go beg GD or Dawk Ins or Piotr or whoever you want, but they’ll tell you the same damn thing. The same GOD DAMN thing.”
There is silence on the other end of the line. I can tell that I have won this battle, and when Tyreke feebly offers to pay another fifty grand, it’s just a formality. I look at the large stack of cash that he sent me for the last video and smile to myself, imagining it doubled in size. Tyreke doesn’t know that there are only a few players who get charged for my services.
“Have a good day, Mr. Evans,” I say with obviously phony cheerfulness.
“Yeah, whatever,” responds Tyreke, audibly displeased with the outcome of his phone call, but too emasculated to say anything more aggressive.
I put down the phone and chuckle to myself, my ego engorged with victory. My cat, Japurri Purrker, comes over to investigate the commotion.
“Daddy drives a hard bargain. It looks like you’re getting another deluxe kitty condo,” I say, picking him up in my arms. His wide orange eyes look at me. “How does that sound, Japurri?”
He meows, probably wanting to be put down, but to my ears, it sounds like a statement of agreement. I laugh fully this time, feeling more powerful than ever before.