Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter 45

Chapter Forty-five

“Hon, I’m a lesbian,” Joya told the city attorney on their second date.

“What do you mean you’re a lesbian?”

Joya did not know how she might respond to a query so idiotic and, alas, so demonstrative of the fact that, no matter how eminent or well-prepared one can be, streaks of stupidity run through (practically) all of us.

Though no great practitioner of bum philosophy, Joya made a mental note that she should make this contribution (No matter how well-prepared, streaks of stupidity run through practically all of us) to Randall’s creed.

But we must arrest the forward progress of things for a second and recap precisely how we got to a crazy point of confidence whereby Jordan is confessing murder and Joya is confessing her sexual preference before a mid- to high-ranking elected official.

That she was conflicted about City Attorney has been explained. Like her cohorts, Joya, in spite of her down-to-earth, no-nonsense personality, was somewhat taken with the fact so elevated a personage was taken with her. That she was lesbian did not mean Joya had never been with a man or was completely immune to a particularly debonair specimen of the gender. It merely meant she was more prone to feminine charms and things feminine; a weakness she shared with a little bit more or less than the entire human race.

The Smokers were completely au courant with what passed for café society in the city. That Vindaloo Baxley was buying Clarisse’s suddenly prodigious output was already news along the art gallery circuit. That Randall’s intellectual demeanor was being lionized by the performance-and-bright-lights crowd was almost as important as the rapacious attacks his tiny effort had garnered from the keepers of tradition and everyone else’s property. That considerable klatches of men and women city-wide were having recurrent sexual fantasies about Yvonne became tangible through the support she enjoyed in her bid to scalp the magazine industry of the money it had scalped from her.

The upshot was that The Sidewalk Smokers Club phenomena had taken hold among the all-important and trend-abiding class that cut across large swathes of different demographic sets. As such, sidewalk smoking became something of the thing to be seen doing – a cheap and ready-made glamour of which everybody could partake.

One such clustering was occurring on the commercial strip out in front of Joya’s Joyas and, unfortunately for her, stores adjacent to it. And, as is common with a lot of anti-social behavior for which young people are responsible, there was no immediate profit to be had by proprietors other than Joya, who was a famed member of the club proper.

Envy, being both the easy emotion and recourse it is, soon popped up amongst Joya’s neighbors-in-commerce and during a monthly meeting of the area business improvement district, known locally and colloquially as the BID – of which she was a second vice president or something – the matter came up. Actually, it did more than come up. The members, in spite of Joya’s charm and sweetness (perhaps because of them), passed a motion directing the bicycle-bound security guards in the BID’s employ to use their considerable bulk and move the little smoking darlings on their way.

The reasons for this action were clear as day, even if the air on the sidewalk was not: they were creating a health hazard for passers by. In addition, so great was the concentration of smoke that it often drifted into the stores, leaving them smelling like a Greyhound bus station circa 1966. While these retailers were in the business of drawing the coolest of the cool kids – the researchers and spontaneous creators of evolutionary looks, all this smoking was turning out to be much better for bum philosophy than for selling expensive, recycled clothing from 40 years ago. At least that’s what the merchants said.

Joya had been one of those pooh-poohing the neighborhood’s civil libertarians who took exception to a police force not remunerated at the public trough and accountable only to a bunch of (mostly) ladies with prissy sensibilities. To be sure, the security team had been effective in moving the once-prominent underclass of transients, bead-threaders, rejected musicians, and persistent dancers along to less organized districts of the city and Joya had naught but thanks and hallelujahs for its efforts.

But the arguments of gadflies and cranks had taken on new meaning for her and so, partly because she found City Attorney attractive, and partly because she might need his help, Joya had called him and proposed they meet again over drinks.

Ill-advisedly, she opted for the Argentine restaurant as point of rendezvous.
Joya contacted the proprietor to provide advance notice that she would be showing up with the city attorney. The Argentine was still on the phone when ideas for exploiting such a notable presence to the establishment’s benefit started churning through his mind-factory. Joya – being a small businessperson herself – sensed this and explained that all smoking would best be done out on the sidewalk, for his own good.

“Ob course!” the owner exclaimed and she imagined him slapping his own forehead at the realization. No sooner had she hung up then he began anew to ruminate on The Sidewalk Smokers Club, the special juice their presence had brought to his establishment, and on possible ways to continue this unique and useful relationship.

So, following a rich and sumptuous meal, City Attorney, loose with two bottles of red wine, began to tease Joya in a stupid, roundabout way he would ultimately come to regret.

“So how is the sidewalk smoking game?”

Joya, always well-meaning, but possessing of a lynx’s shrewdness lunged at the throat of the thing. “Well the BID is upset with all the people smoking out on the sidewalk since the day of the benefit/press conference and they want security to clear them out.”

“So?” City Attorney responded in the inimitable fashion of public officials everywhere, trying to enjoy their power without having to use it for some positive or generous end.

“So?” Joya snapped, “those sidewalk smokers don’t want to go.”

“Take them into your club then.”

“Hey City Attorney, I’m being serious,” Joya huffed and City Attorney huffed at his own miscalculation that she, because of her beauty and vocational choice, was the type of woman who would not bother with serious things.

So he got serious.

“Did the BID make a final decision on this?” She nodded that it had. “So, if the smokers don’t want to go you know what will happen don’t you?”

“Of course I know what’ll happen. They’ll remove ‘em by force.”

“And you wanted to use the occasion of your second date with the city attorney to press the case for your scruffy allies.”

“You brought it up hon.”

That was true and City Attorney regretted having done so, but like most people of pull and influence, had not disabused himself of the notion that Joya was in some way seeking to use him. And thus do we arrive at the question that produced the answer that opened this chapter – Chapter Forty-five.

He was a hard-boiled man, used to dealing with other hard-boiled types, calling their bluffs, drawing them out, muscling them for an advantage in the mostly extreme sport that is politics.

It is the nature of modern American democracy that those who run it are largely removed from those who must live-out the effects of the high-flown and arcane legalese they employ. And so City Attorney had failed to grasp, after some six or seven hours total in Joya’s company, that she was a small businessperson, sensitive if driven, and honest in her conversation with folks when he made the following pronouncement (obviously off-the-record and far-from-the-press): “So if you let me finger the family jewels, there might be some mild pressure out of the city attorney’s office to sway the BID from its misguided ways?”

Joya was hurt, as any scheming lady of high self-esteem might be, but the remark amounted to a knife jab and naturally spattered its author with blood he had himself drawn.

“Hon, “I’m a lesbian,” she said.

“What do you mean you’re a lesbian?” the city attorney responded.

As noted above, Joya did not know how she might respond to a query so idiotic and, alas, so demonstrative of the fact that, no matter how eminent or well-prepared one can be, streaks of stupidity run through (almost) all of us.

So she said nothing at all; the point made in any case. Joya was, she realized in that moment, not trading pussy for influence. Wasn’t trading at all, in fact. She wanted his influence all on its lonesome, because it was right and correct. “City Attorney, if you think what the BID plans to do is in line with whatever the city and its laws stand for, that’s fine, hon. You should be able ta deal with whatever pressure results from the whole thing.”

“So now, instead of offering sex, you’re threatening me,” City Attorney smiled wearily.

“My actions are legal and I, for one, don’t appreciate the word threat.” Joya breezily responded. “Especially if you think you’re carrying out the duties of your office in a correct way...hon.”

He wanted to tell her that something could be legal and political and still be certifiably threatening, but felt if he needed to explain that, he’d need to explain a lot more basic stuff first. So he passed.

Let the pretty girl ride, you see.

City Attorney was about to ask for the check and sweep Joya and the whole damn affair under the table when things took a turn most uncomfortable for him, but delightful for the purposes of our story.

“No, no, noooo!” the proprietor of the restaurant half yelled and half whispered as Randall swooped gallantly into the restaurant blowing a rather erect Prince Edward cigar at all who were breathing.

Which raises the question of what on earth the proprietor had been thinking when he personally invited The Sidewalk Smokers Club, en toto, to his restaurant only moments after slapping his forehead at the realization that indoor puffing would definitely be out of the question, what with Joya bringing the city attorney along.

Possessed by a celebrity mania many small businesspeople are prone to where the issues of promotion and marketing are concerned, the Argentine had decided to summon his most glamorous group of regulars and notify certain friends of friends of paparazzi regarding the veritable starburst providence had directed his way. His metier was meat. Promotion – handled by special departments in larger and richer organizations – was not. And so he’d failed to make the not-too-subtle connection between Joya’s warning and the outcome that inviting a class of social rebels on the rise ultimately pointed to.

Randall’s sucksex, his hanging out with stars, and the promising possibility of further media coverage at Yvonne’s upcoming court hearing, all led him to wave the Argentine’s protests away with a flippant hand. Unwilling to offend an important regular, the restaurateur fretted and frothed, looked back and forth between City Attorney and the human chimney and opted for the courageous path into the kitchen and out of the way.

Randall saw Joya and casually approached, kissing her on both cheeks in the continental way before pulling up a nearby chair to join City Attorney – with whom he’d already had one public exchange.

“Funny,” said CA, “we were just talking about you.”


“Well, your club actually.”

“The Sidewalk Smokers is,” he repeated what he’d said at the A-list actress’s party, “a loosely affiliated group of tobacco connoisseurs that has no actual leaders and functions without a vertical command structure.”

“That’s quaint,” is what City Attorney thought to himself. “Well enough,” is what he said, kicking himself under the table for the original sin of permitting the pretty Coloradoan to buttonhole him at an event he should have never attended in the first place.

With City Attorney having said nothing to him about Randall’s smoking, the Argentine grew emboldened and proposed the party move to a large table set right smack in the center of the floor arrangement.

Swept along by a fatalistic current inexplicably stronger than his usually formidable will to resist, City Attorney consented, along with his tablemates, to the suggestion, which was designed by the proprietor to accommodate the full compliment of photographers he’d arranged for.

Randall, though still far from death, was making headway in the plan for ruining his health. He had a persistent hacking cough and a voice quite raspy. “So, hugcffck, what are you guys talking about?”

“We’re talking about the BID’s plan to move smokers off my block by force.”

“If they have to,” CA interjected.

Randall coughed again as he would do throughout what remains to be recounted of the evening. Further mention will be limited to a tag toward this chapter’s end. “And what are you going to do about that Mr. City Attorney?”

Mr. City Attorney frowned. There was nothing to be gained from any of this. With news the beautiful Joya was a lesbian, even getting laid was out of the question and getting laid is one of the few things politicians in the post-ideological world will go out on a limb for. “Listen,” he said, adopting a tone more in line with his public persona than with the intimate one he’d been treating Joya to. “I know we’ve already had a rather caustic exchange, but if you could stretch your capacity for deference just a bit more, I’ll extend the same courtesy.”

“You need that? Deference?”

Randall had gone most of his life without receiving anything like respect and a sudden novelty dosage of it wasn’t about to keep him from this chance at rubbing significant power the wrong way.

City Attorney ducked. “That cigar is rancid. And listen to the way you’re coughing.”

“I know, finally.”

“And your voice is raspy,” City Attorney barreled ahead, not at all registering the response just lobbed at him like some absurdist grenade. “What are you trying to do, wreck your health?”

Randall sheepishly admitted to the madness of his designs. “Yeah.”

City Attorney’s impassive facade was about to crack when another cool breeze blew over the place and the Argentine burst into an “Oooug” that, in turn, caused everybody in the restaurant to look up and utter a collective gasp at the standard-setting frame of Yvonne sashaying through the door in a bumptious way that suggested a return to the groove.

It took but a second for City Attorney to recognize what was, at the moment, the municipality’s most recognizable body politic. “Great,” he grimaced.

“Hey!” she smiled to each and each followed Joya’s lead in getting up to kiss her. Of course, the balance of sexual energy had shifted between the two ladies with Yvonne now holding the Royal Straight Flush and Joya the red lust blush.

City Attorney could not help but be attracted to Yvonne and the chemistry grew even stronger when she planted something beyond the customary cheek peck and mashed Joya’s lips. But that would be getting ahead of himself; something he’d never been guilty of (up to now). “Take courage,” his personal narrator bucked him up in honeyed tones, “succeed and you will know greatness.”

They knew (City Attorney and his narrator) that being seen in the company of lesbians and violators of the Smoke-Free Workplace Act would run him afoul of the city’s civic fathers and mothers whose support was absolutely indispensable to his bid for the mayoralty. But meekly bailing out on the moment’s coolest crowd would surely set a painful rumor about his own clamminess running through the marginal hipster class he needed for votes and that certain something: a variety that lent his candidacy the true coalition’s sense of grandeur and inevitability.

These were the thoughts, which had nearly pulled him out of their orbit when Yvonne snapped at him. “Stop staring at my pussy.”

A man with a track record, he could not imagine ever having been confronted in such a manner by so sexy a girl-thing before and made a face to match the sentiment. His thoughts might have been on politics, but his eyes were indeed focused, as Yvonne accused, on her pussy and there were no two ways about it.

City Attorney stopped staring and with as much aplomb as could be mustered in this fast-decaying political situation, suggested they all sit down.

“What are you guys talking about?” Yvonne wanted to know. Randall and Joya replayed what had been discussed to that point.

“Well, what do you have to say?” Yvonne turned to City Attorney.

“I say people elect representatives to speak for them and interpret their wishes in law. What do you think?” he asked Yvonne, careful to look straight at her eyes, and only her eyes.

Randall interrupted, sensing the moment was a collective one and that it was his to speak for the group: “That the smoking law is a totalitarian slice of American reality and that those effected either don’t know or don’t care.”

“I was talking to Yvonne,” City Attorney said, comfortable the exchange was deteriorating into rhetoric; a form of discussion he excelled at.

“We’re The Sidewalk Smokers Club, in case you hadn’t heard,” Randall practically declaimed. “I’m our spokesman and chief theorist, purveyor of The Bum Philosophy.”

“The Bum Philo-”

“You’re talking about the old stewardship theory of representation,” Yvonne elbowed her way in. Of course, we know by now how she is no dope. Still, Yvonne resides in the very pretty girl’s prison so that for every demonstration of having listened to her high school tutors, surprise results.

“And,” she persisted in having a role in policy, “it’s a poor remedy compared to the more direct actions of our Club.”

Yvonne’s recent incursion into the world of serious had seasoned her language to sound something like a lawyer’s, and City Attorney liked it. “We’re the only true outlaws left,” she rolled on, “except for bankers and drug lords, but we think smokers have more appeal and are less dangerous.”

They had thought about these things, he could see, and was further intrigued by the inexorable pull of their true ingenuity and energy.

“You know who hon,” Joya picked up the thread. “All those people in the corner whisperin’ to one another, showin’ solidarity to one another. Protecting the tradition of doin’ whatever the hell it is ya want.”

She was talking about the whole free country thing and The Smokers were suggesting it was a bust, that it had been abandoned in atrocities like the Smoke-Free Workplace Act. CA found a younger version of himself quietly agreeing and slammed that person back behind the door to the past; for thoughts like that are luxuries of youth. They do not consider the grey men with plumed pedigrees and hands on the levers; the men City Attorney had to go to when he needed things.

“I think you’re pumping yourselves up,” he tried.

“No,” Randall rejoined, “we’re being pumped up by people.”

“And you like it don’t you?”

“Same way you’re asking for votes to be everyone’s mayor. Like it’d be a really big favor,” Randall sought to link their methods.

City Attorney was giving up on the glib and difficult approach. He was being pulled back to distant days of all-night student council meetings and congresses of protest. He was rediscovering his curiosity about society lying beneath layer upon layer of political necessity accumulated over the years.

Randall coughed.

Folks at surrounding tables had taken notice of the gathered luminaries. In one corner the patrons had reserved their table for the evening in hopes The Sidewalk Smokers Club would actually show up. To meet them might be of tremendous utility.
The Smokers, meanwhile, had moved onto the question of alternatives (to tobacco).

“Cocaine,” Yvonne trilled enthusiastically enough. City Attorney thought that somehow, some way, everything she said and did could lead him down a happy path to destruction.

“Legally, you’re better off being a murderer than getting caught with it,” Randall chimed. “Leads you straight into the merciless maw of the American criminal justice system.”

“A death silent, poisonous and slow,” Yvonne said.

The American legal system they all so clearly disdained just happened to be City Attorney’s bread and butter. And that was bad because what they were saying made perfect sense to him. He’d stopped hanging out, long ago, with anyone who thought anything like them – like people out on the sidewalk with cigarettes in their mouths.

“And marijuana?” Joya joined, “not like what it was back in the day. You know, that kind a free-floatin’ bluegrassy thing. That’s all over now. It’s just weed and it’s harmless except for the laws against it. They can get you killed. The little hippy farmers are all gone and now the worst kind of violent people are in charge of meeting the demand.”

“Which happens to be incredible,” Yvonne added for emphasis.

“Incredible,” City Attorney sighed, thinking of how many perfectly good lives the law had obligated him to ruin in the discharge of his duties.

At this point another “Ooooog” punctuated the atmosphere and those present no longer bothered to look at the restaurateur, turning immediately to the door instead. There they saw Corey and Clarisse making their way in. It was a bittersweet sight, for everyone knew what was going on (or not) between them. And yet there was a residue of behavior natural to a couple as they waltzed up to the table and were introduced to City Attorney. Clarisse shoved herself in between Joya and Yvonne. Corey went over to his mentor who had the city attorney immediately next to him.

“Anyhow it doesn’t matter man,” Randall picked up what passed for a thread in this game of verbal dodge-ball. “Connecting the dots on three or four related thoughts such as these is something now beyond the reach of our people, not because they are stupid, but because it is no longer required of them.”

“I don’t see your point,” CA prodded, failing (in a second malfunction of his political antennae) to notice the two scruffy-headed photographers peering through the front window every now and again, “maybe I got lost with the arrival of your two friends.”

“The point is that we are to avoid imperiling our health at all costs. And the point hurts if that’s not where your interests lie.”

Corey caught Randall’s beat. “Obedient for one reason; to help make a machine that works fairly well continue to do so.”

City Attorney had a feeling he was part of a tag-team-wrestling match without the benefit of an equalizing partner. Outgunned, he was forced to listen.

“And then we’re free – for minimal stretches of time – to choose the electronic diversion of our choice,” Corey closed the movement.

“You guys have practiced this haven’t you?” the candidate said slyly.

“It’s the smoking part of the Bum Philosophy,” Yvonne pitched-in.

City Attorney wanted to remark on how this seemed the most developed part of the Bum Philosophy, but things were crackling. “You’re in on this, too?” he asked her in return.

“Well, I pick it up when we get together to talk about my lawsuit,’ she told his two eyes firmly trained upon hers.

“And then she passed it onto me and I passed it onto another smoker,” Joya added, which was more or less true if a tad overstated, as was much of what they said.

For The Smokers were in the business of cultivating their own legend now, their own cottage industry, and excess was part and parcel to the task at hand. And to avoid breaking down their every rapid-fire interjection, again in the name of expeditious narration, we beg your admission that they were all on the same page where smoking and the rights necessary to indulge the vice are concerned. In this way we may lay out what was left of their lecture to City Attorney in the author’s shimmering and forthright prosody.

“You know,” Yvonne asserted, “in all those papers, the Constitution, and Declaration there must be a plan for protecting people who don’t act like everyone else.”

Yvonne’s point is fundamental to what The Club was all about. Majorities get their rights; the out-manned get trouble. The Smokers were adopted the philosophy they could afford.

By now each had fired up (a smoke) in the presence of his eminence. The violinist’s golden melancholia made the situation more serious, but less fierce than it sounds.

“I think Hamilton and Jefferson and Madison, and alla them would be for the smokers,” Joya stated, her cigaretted hand waving a small circle with each embalmed leader. “(Swoop) Hamilton, (swoop) Jefferson, (swoop) Madison, and (swoop-swoop) alla them…”

“And probably Ethan Allen and Paine,” Randall worked to control the image and its content.

“Yeah, and dats what cool ees,” Clarisse added on. “And that’s why people likes cool.”

“So that all those men of radically different political stripes were concerned about was cool?” City Attorney tried to ground things in what passed for reality, but their definition of radical and his own were not the same.

“They’re blessed in that way,” Corey said.

“Who?” City Attorney was lost because he’d been ignored and that was new for him.

“The anti-social, the cynical, the health unconscious, the baby-haters, and frantic fornicators,” Randall enumerated for him. “Man, we flatter them all with our attention.”

“And they admire The Smokers,” Yvonne said in husky, prepared voice, “because smoking is a middle-finger to the world.”

“And?” City Attorney sat rather flabbergasted.

“And the rest have the same middle-finger tucked away. They’re scared.”

“And The Sidewalk Smokers are not scared?” City Attorney was hoping for a certain answer.

“Sure we are hon. We just don’t let on s’all.”

And that was it.

Randall stepped in to finish the job. “For no matter how much the new century’s overlords try to reduce all freedoms to mere obedience, there will persist a genuine human urge to vice and release.”

“People will always pollute themselves for pleasure,” Corey bum-philosophized.
Randall beamed.

In the end, it was all really quite invigorating to City Attorney. He was won over completely. To live in truth! These Smokers were speaking to the higher (if still middling) calling of politicians, philosophers, and artists through the prism of a filthy, smelly, perilous habit.

“I’ve got to pee,” he blurted rather out of character for a fellow of his stature, but presently The Smokers recognized something of a kindred spirit in him, someone who could follow the train of their thoughts and empathize without smoking.

With that he got up and went back to the bathroom. A slice, a twinkle of light filled the restaurant for an instant causing everybody to look out at the sidewalk save for City Attorney who, in a third failure of his political radar, had not seen it.

“Photographers! Oh, nooo,” cried Yvonne who’d seen enough of the breed to last a lifetime.

“Okay,” Clarisse turned to Joya, “what you are doing wid dat ceetty atterny?”

Everyone else turned toward the Coloradoan with an identical hunger for the same information.

“You’re asking me to lie,” she said, “and I won’t do that,” which came from nowhere and made them all feel a little queer.

Meanwhile, City Attorney was evolving. Having relieved what was, by then, considerable pressure on his bladder, the candidate splashed some water around, stared into the mirror and meditated over his natural born politician’s face. Then he thought about how folks in the restaurant had been staring at The Sidewalk Smokers, smiling, wanting to be with them or like them, understanding them. He marveled at how he’d sat there as they openly flouted the law. And he thought they were right about what was behind their success and he went beyond their own justifications to observe more (he flattered himself) deeply still.

“What’s cool?” City Attorney played it cool upon returning. “Elvis? The days of lost innocence? Working-class boys in leather jackets? Hot rods? A pack of Luckys rolled up in a white shirt sleeve?”

“That’s a start,” said Yvonne.

“But there’s so much more, hon.”

“You guys,” he told them, “are right in the mainstream with your retroactivity. You mirror perfectly a people too afraid of future challenges.”

The Smokers were correct in feeling stung by the criticism about fear and the future. Weren’t they being brave?

“You gotta have balls to go it alone,” was the best Corey could add to the progression of things.

“There is the matter of our celebrity,” Yvonne pointed out.

City Attorney smiled. You would have, too. “What you mean to say is that you’re selling well.”

She nodded and blew smoke at him.

“Market performance as ultimate arbiter?” he was in hot pursuit, he thought.

“Not for me, but others are impressed.”

“You guys are the desire of those working too hard to play. They chose their slavery and they delight in you, unlikely examples of our rugged individualism– city style, I suppose. I congratulate you for being natural outlaws who have made smoking a good kind of bad again.”

His lower lip had drooped ever so slightly. He’d grown effusive, shown his heart damn it. And he had to pee again. His system was reacting to the modest abuse The Smokers subjected themselves to on a daily basis. He was afraid he could not run with the big dogs anymore, or at least the hot dogs.

Anyhow it didn’t matter. Good kind of bad or not, smoking was still smoking – indoors at that – and no sooner had City Attorney returned to the restroom than Thorpe and Diaz verily stormed their way through the door and up to The Sidewalk Smokers Club’s table.

The Argentine had received warning, but chose not to act because he thought City Attorney’s presence would immunize his establishment from any danger. He thought, because exceptional people were dining in his establishment, he would be the beneficiary of exceptional treatment. And he was right, but failed to consider the possibility of his legal shield absenting himself in the moment of truth.

The inspectors made a B-line for Yvonne and told her she was in violation of The Smoke-Free Workplace Act, and that they were going to fine her. She pointed out those around her, all of them smoking, and asked, “Well, um, how come me?”

Because she was the pretty girl in the naked magazine was how come. Everyone knew this, but nobody was going to say it. Yvonne, not unlike CA and the rest, had been marking a brisk pace where the consumption of wine was concerned and the usual deleterious effects had taken hold. Which is how things get interesting and why you can’t knock booze too hard. Thorpe handed her a citation off his clipboard and she told him to place it in a not-very-public part of his anatomy.

In the kitchen the Argentine had his chef pour him a glass of the cooking sherry kept over the searing stove for just such instances.

“Ma’am, we can talk about it outside,” Thorpe deadpanned Yvonne.

“Ma’am!” Talk about an affront. Remember that Yvonne had been through quite a bit of late, what with the layout and the lawsuit and Joya’s scrambling of her radar and it is understandable, or at least explainable, how she reached back and gave Thorpe a slap he would remember with exquisite pleasure for years thereafter.

The inspector grabbed Yvonne and wrenched her by the wrist into a bear hug with him.

Another slicing of the dark with a sliver of silver. The camera lights imposed their staccato sequencing. “Get some police back-up,” Thorpe told Diaz who was not enthusiastic about having to run out while his partner got to wrestle with Yvonne. “I’m having you arrested for striking a public official,” Thorpe said, hopeful there was a law of that kind on the books.

That no one had intervened or even sought to comment on a young woman’s being apprehended by firemen for smoking a cigarette, or something like that, stuck in Randall’s craw. He stood up, coughed and, in yet another attempt at climbing into the elusive public eye, said, “Hey, take me. I was smoking, too.” Thorpe could not have cared less if Randall smoked a firecracker in the restaurant. But for the sake of appearances, he explained to Randall that it was the slap which had gotten Yvonne in the real trouble, not the smoking.

“So that if smoking were okay, none of this would be happening?” Randall scored.

This, Thorpe wisely concluded, was a conversation for legislators, which he was not.
So he tried to end it. “Like I said. You didn’t hit nobody. You can’t be arrested.”

So Randall hit him. Sliver-Slice.

When the pretty girl hits you, she must be apprehended in a public and officious manner, because you want her in your clutches as long as possible. When some goofy guy in glasses hits you, it’s more between guys and so Diaz lent his partner a hand by using a common wrestling move which brought Randall harmlessly, if clumsily to the ground. Silver strobe. Silver strobe. Stop. Go. Stop.

Puppies chained to their chairs, the diners groaned in disapproval for there was all this unseemly injustice unfolding in the middle of their repast.

Thorpe’s instincts told him to get out before he had another sidewalk rebellion on his hands and this he did. But not without securing Yvonne as close to his person as legal propriety permitted (which is pretty close).

She, of course, was ravishing with an over-the-shoulder look, a soft-peril masking. He wrenched her wrist into a pieta of distress. Silver-sliver-silver-sliver. No sooner had Thorpe removed her to the sidewalk than a black-and-white pulled up and with nary a howdy-do she was whisked away into the dark entrails of the city criminal justice system. Sliver.

City Attorney came out at this point as Corey helped a rumpled Randall to his feet. “I missed something didn’t I?”


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