Don't Read This Book: Chapter 3

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Don't Read This Book

Chapter 3

Nando didn't like to talk much. He felt that people were more likely to listen to him if he reserved his words for those opportunities when he could speak about what was most important to him. So far, those opportunities had proven rare and had not gone well. Nando's taciturn nature served him well in his current occupation, though. He'd heard the old saw about how it's difficult to make a fool of oneself while silent. He would have added, it's also more difficult for talkative fools to hear silent people sneaking up on them. Nando's job involved a lot of sneaking up on people.

Tonight he was sneaking up on someone in Memphis. He liked the city well enough. The gigantic Bass Pro Shop located in the tenth largest pyramid in the world was an interesting place to visit. Formerly the Pyramid Arena and home to the Memphis Grizzlies when they'd moved to the city from Vancouver, it had proven to be impractical as an NBA arena. So, it had been turned into a massive hunting and fishing supply store, complete with a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, and a bowling alley. Nando had gone bowling there on every visit. He'd also taken a day to examine the National Civil Rights Museum on his last trip, a museum located within the actual hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. It was a beautiful museum, telling the story of the struggle for civil rights in chronological order beginning with an exhibit about the cultures of Africa from which slaves were taken and moving all the way through slavery, Jim Crow, the height of the Civil Rights movement, and continuing through to the present. It was simultaneously inspiring and tragic, never glossing over the horrors of the past or failures of the present. Nando had examined it from a unique distance; it confirmed his general disdain for human beings but also spoke to his Marxist leanings. He found it made him angry and frustrated and despairing, and he didn't want to go back a second time.

Instead, this visit, he'd decided to catch a basketball game at the Grizzlies new arena, the FedExForum. The Grizzlies were having a rough season, currently 13-28, and second-to-last in the Western Conference, but that was nice for visitors. It kept the prices low and meant Nando got good seats. He was looking forward to the game the next night. The Griz would be playing Minnesota. Minnesota was having a great season. He'd been a fan for years, not because he had any particular connection to Minneapolis/St. Paul, but because he liked the mascot.

His business in Memphis would be done that night, leaving the whole next day for enjoying the city and going to the game. The cab from the airport passed Beale Street, the "Official Home of the Blues," and he decided he'd spend the next afternoon visiting the little tourist shops and hopefully catching some of the music that roared out of every bar. He knew he might have saved a little money going with Lyft or Uber, but he always felt uncomfortable sitting in the back of those. The drivers were friendly enough that they offered the front seat but never complained when he took the back. Still, he wondered if there was a bit of resentment, if he was choosing to be standoffish by sitting in the back, and if that would make him more memorable. It was easier not to be noticed in a traditional cab.

It was only a couple blocks from Beale Street to the hotel. Nando's face was impassive, his whole upper body motionless, but his knees bounced as though his legs wanted to leave the cab and take off running down the road whether his brain gave them permission or not. His gray denim pants were broken-in and very comfortable, and the weight of his black motorcycle jacket was reassuring in its familiarity. His white button-up shirt, however, was a little stiff, smelled faintly of bleach, and scratched his neck. He'd shaved that morning, but already the hairs on his throat were plucking at the collar like velcro.

The cab made a left at the Purple Haze Night Club and turned down Lee Avenue (named after Lt. George Washington Lee, a Black author, CEO, and important Memphis political figure, not the Confederate general) and stopped at the Westin, a fancy hotel directly across from the Gibson guitar factory and the FedExForum where Nando would see the game the next night. Visiting teams often stayed in the Westin, and he thought he might catch a glimpse of some Minnesota players in the lobby, but he didn't let that distract him from the task at hand. Nando paid the cabbie in cash and climbed out. He scanned in both directions quickly to make sure no one reacted to his presence. A burly man in a dark suit was coming towards him, but he was upwind. Nando sniffed like someone with a runny nose just to reassure himself, but his instinct was correct; they'd never be dumb enough to come at him from the upwind side of the street. The man passed him, glancing at Nando with a confused expression, attempting to nod politely but also frowning because Nando had looked at him in a way that made the man worry he ought to know this clean-cut, young, business type who'd climbed out of a cab in front of him. Nando reassured the man with a nod that conveyed a polite greeting to a stranger. He had worked hard on projecting forget-ability. It was an important job skill.

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