Gone Fishin’


Walter Mosley

An Easy Rawlins Novel

Copyright © 1997

Chapter One

Mouse had changed

Before he announced his engagement to EttaMae he was a happy man, full of himself. It’s true that he was especially pleased when misfortune happened to someone else, but at least he kept us smiling. Life was hard back then and a good laugh was worth a month of Sundays.

But just when he had a reason to be glad, Mouse turned sour and moody. He let his appearance go to seed (he was usually a natty dresser) and nobody wanted to be around him because when a small, rodent-faced man like Mouse got ugly he was no company even for the harshest man.

He stopped going to parties altogether. If you happened to run into him on some corner, or back alley, and asked how he was doing, he’d say, ‘What the hell you think? Here I am gonna get married in two months an’ ‘tween me an’ EttaMae we ain’t got enough money for dip an’ crackers.’

Mouse didn’t go out looking for work. All he did was get mad whenever he had to let go of a few coins.

So it was no surprise that his crowd started to shun him.

I mean, even if you wanted to see Mouse it was hard work because he changed apartments almost every month - one step ahead of the landlord, as we used to say.

I didn’t want to see him. Mostly because I was jealous. You see, EttaMae was the kind of woman you had on your mind when you woke up in the morning. She was big and friendly, and always knew the right thing to say. But she never lied; Etta spoke her mind, and when she laughed it came from her heart. Everybody loved EttaMae, and she loved the only man I ever knew who didn’t have a heart at all.

So between me being jealous and Mouse being so taciturn I was surprised late one Tuesday night when a racket broke out on my apartment door. It sounded more like a fight than a knock. I dragged myself out of a deep sleep trying to think of who might be after me. I knew that it couldn’t be the police, they just broke the door down in that neighbourhood, and I hadn’t seen any seriously married women in more than six months.

‘Hold on!’ I yelled, thinking about the back window. I was reaching for the butcher’s knife on the nightstand when he called, ‘Easy! Easy! Open this do’, man, I gotta talk!’


‘Yeah, man! Lemme in!’

I snatched the door open with a curse on my lips but when I saw him I knew he’d changed again. He had on a plaid zoot suit with Broadway suspenders and spats on his black bluchers. He wore a silk hat and when he smiled you could see the new gold rim and blue jewel on his front tooth. For someone who never worked, Mouse knew how to keep himself in style.

‘Man, what you doin’ here this time’ a night? I gotta work in the mo’nin’!’

He pushed by me saying, ‘that’s all right, Easy, I’ma buy some’a yo’ time this week.’ A tan rucksack hung from his shoulder. I could hear the chink of bottles as it swung against his side.

We gotta talk, man,’ he said.

He led the way back into my apartment. All it was was a big room with a Murphy bed. He sat down on the good chair and I sat on the bed, facing him.

‘Mouse, what do you...’

He held up his hand, half smiling like one of those saints in the illustrated Bibles.

‘Easy, I have got it.’

He pulled Johnnie Walker from the sack.

‘I have got it,’ he said. ‘Now do you got some glasses? ‘Cause this here’s Black Label and it won’t do to swig it from the neck.’

‘Man, what do you want?’

‘I want some glasses, Easy, so we can celebrate my good fortune. You the first one gonna know.’

‘Know what? All I know is I gotta get me some sleep.’

‘Then get me sumpin’ t’drink wit’ and I will deliver you the potion of dreams.’

There was no use in trying to argue when Mouse was in a preaching mood. There were glasses in the closet at the back of the room. I rinsed them in a tub I kept back there.

‘Jelly glasses?’ Mouse turned up his nose while he poured.

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