Cash Only: Chapter 2

Friday, 26 June 2009 10:22 Written by  Tiffani Alexander

Cash Only: A Novel

Chapter 2


cash only

I don’t know how I got here. I look across the table at Punisher (real name Tyler) who is ordering steak and eggs at the 24-hour diner off Branch Ave. “Can you make sure it’s just a little pink in the center,” he asked the waitress, smiling at her as he hands her the menu.

“I always do Pun,” she says, all but drooling into his apple juice. She turns to me and her smile immediately disappears. “And for you?” she asks, her voice dripping with attitude and her eyes rolling so hard it looks like she about to go into a seizure.

“I’ll have the French toast and a coffee please.”

She takes my menu with a little too much force before mumbling, “Umm hmmm” and sashaying to the kitchen.

“Wow, she does not like me,” I laugh. Tyler laughs too and leans forward to remove a piece of lint from my hair.

“Keisha doesn’t like anyone really, but she’s cool peeps,” he says.

“Oh, so you’re on a first name basis with the waitresses here – is this where you bring all your club girls for breakfast?”

As soon as those words left my mouth, I regretted them. This was not a date, what did I care if he took every woman from the club out for French toast –– this was business, strictly business.

Tyler raises his left eyebrow and smiles again, his dimples so deep. Keisha walks over and places my coffee in front of me and I’m thankful for the interruption. “Cream?” she asks. “Yes please,” I respond.

“Umm hmmm,” she repeats as she walks away, shaking her head in obvious disapproval as she disappears again into the kitchen.

I am intently adding the cream and sugar to my coffee, feeling Tyler’s eyes on me I look up and decide to take the conversation back to the topic at hand – his tattoo.

“So tell me about this idea that you can’t put on paper.” I say.

Tyler smiles and sips his juice. The way he is looking at me is making me really uncomfortable. “Well, you see this area right here?” Tyler rolls up the sleeve of his tight t-shirt, exposing his upper bicep. “I want to add to this tribal design here, but I want it to kind of fade into an image of the symbol for war, and fade into the Hebrew word for peace.”

I sip my coffee, trying to register what he is asking for while trying equally hard not to focus on his bicep. “Well, I’m not familiar with that symbol or Hebrew. Do you have any examples?”

Tyler takes out his phone and pulls up the war symbol in his browser. “See, I want something like this, but I want the edges more smeared, like this,” he says, showing me a photo and leaning in so close that I can feel his breath. “You kinda get what I’m saying?” he asks.

Clearing my throat, I back up bit before responding. “I think so. I’d have to do a few sketches first to see if I fully understand what you want.”

Keisha comes back with our orders and Tyler excuses himself to wash his hands. I take this opportunity to call Nyla. She always talks me off a cliff and Tyler is feeling like a cliff the size of Mount Everest.

“Hello,” Nayla yawns.

“Oh, dammit, did I wake you up?” I ask.

Nayla sighs, “Well yeah, you know I have to get up early in the morning for work Trace, but what’s up? I tried to call Lynda a while ago and her phone went straight to voicemail.”

“Oh, well Lynda left the club – which turned out to be a strip club by the way – with a young man named Killer,” I say, shaking my head as I remember Lynda’s promise that she was only going to “talk” to the man.  

“A strip club?” Nyla’s voice goes up an octave and I can tell she doesn’t approve. “What the hell! And you let her leave with a man named Killer?”

“Now you know I can’t let your girl do anything,” I say, picturing Nyla’s pretty face scrunched up with concern. Nyla, a social worker in her first year on the job, is the only one in the “real world,” as we call it, working full-time and living completely on her own. The “mama” of the group, she is who we go to for advice and a swift kick in the ass.

“Nyla, he sent her a bottle of Moet to the table with a note asking her to breakfast,” I say. “She promised to only talk to him.”

“Right, well she will learn. Sometimes I forget how young she is.”  Lynda is the baby of the crew, a sophomore in school and I’m finishing up my senior year at UMCP as an art major. I always joke that I’m somewhere between the two of them – the baby and the mama.

“Of course, but listen I only have a minute, I’m at breakfast with one too – please lecture me later,” I plead. “I called you so you could remind me to never trust a man with muscles, tats and a smile.”

Nyla sighs again. “Ok, so you’re on a date with a stripper too? Clearly I can’t leave you two alone!”

“I know, I know, but he wants me to sketch a tattoo for him and he’s paying so this is business,” I say trying to convince myself more than my girl on the line who was not buying it.

“Uh huh, business at midnight?” Nyla laughs. “Ok Trace, just remember that this man is a professional. He knows how to make women feel special and wanted and I’m sure he’s easy on the eyes, and I know how you get about muscles and tats… he’s bald isn’t he?”


“Of course he is,” she laughs. “Well you only have a few weeks left in the semester and you’re working on your portfolio and you need to keep it focused. You can’t afford to get caught up in some guy who takes his clothes off for a living.”

That’s my girl Nyla – straight and to the point, holding nothing back, and that was exactly why I called her.

“You’re right, girl thanks. You know I was getting caught up in his smile and his arms… but I digress. I can’t date a stripper. I mean, do strippers even date?” I laugh.

“Yeah I know. Just make sure you text me when you get in the house and tell your girl to call me tomorrow,” Nayla demands. She can be a little bossy, but we always listen to her. Mama knows best.

“I will. Oh gotta go! He’s on his way back to the table.”

“Eat your breakfast and go home Trace!”



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*Photography by GMO Photographer, Billy Montgomery.

Tiffani Alexander

Tiffani Alexander

Publisher and Editor in Chief of (GMO), Tiffani Alexander came to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to pursue her Master's degree in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. Tiffani earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of
 Maryland, College Park. She has worked for both Cygnus Business Media and Maher Publishing before embarking on her dream to start her own magazine. In addition to publishing GMO bi-monthly, Tiffani freelances and works as an editor on a legal journal in Washington, DC.


Tiffani can be contacted at

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