Saturday, February 17, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment fourteen)


Two Tuesdays removed, Saturn and Elendele were taking nibbles out of my ear, fluttering it with little licks, giggling, trying to wake me kindly, because they were often capable of consideration. In that warm coating was the good morning glazed and we got up snapping our fingers for life.

But then Saturn and Lydia had a mother/daughter fight over rap music. The paper said all over itself that the writers strike was still going and it offstepped the morning’s natural joy. Elendele tried to soothe things with oatmeal and apples, tried to demonstrate for Saturn the kind of patience that it takes to have a third world child. But there was a twist in the air and it wasn’t any fragrant fruit. It was toxic and Elendele and I decided to walk out to the Upstage Café for champagne brunch.

I was out of clothes because Lydia hadn’t done the laundry. So Elendele gave me a T-shirt she had designed with just one sleeve and the words “rAyS Of hope” stitched into the chest.

We talked about adventure and yearned for it on our walk to brunch. We still had that feeling we were missing something important someplace else – that we needed at least three bodies to avail ourselves of the world’s goods. We were talking about running away to Mexico and living poor and free when two gang kids came up quickly behind us and said, “Give us all your money.”

I was reaching to obey when Elendele flared out, launched herself into the traffic, and caused a car to screech stop. I took her cleared path without even thinking, and we were both running down the street with those two knife guys waving and running behind us. She was fast. So was I. So were those knife guys.

“Heellllllllllllp,” she foghorned the local community.

“Heelllllllllp, hellllllllllp,” I filled in where she caught breath and those guys were still behind us after a minute of full sprint. They weren’t kidding around, but we had the advantage of being scared, which is faster than mad, and those little dogs finally returned to the porch where they belonged.

I wanted to call the police, but Elendele stuffed me short. Instead she picked up a stick and said, “Let’s go eat champagne brunch.” I was looking for a cop car anyway, ready to wave my banner when it appeared. But it didn’t.

“You see,” she sharped me, “they’re out writing traffic tickets. Our concerns don’t rate because our concerns aren’t even revenue neutral. Victims don’t bring in any money. Victims cost.”

They told us the brunch was over when we got to the café. It was still early though.

We figured it was either because Elendele refused to put her stick down, and jumped like a drunk mongoose when the milk steamer went off, or because of the sleeve that had been designed out of my shirt.

“Probably all three,” said Cortez after the later recounting.

Then we went out to the street where Trini usually was, but he wasn’t. There were police everywhere and we got sold some crumpled leaves from a crooked dealer, and so then the brunch money was gone and the sun, too.

When we got back to the salon, Saturn and Lydia were all made up between themselves. They were eating lobster and getting ready for a white chocolate mousse and raspberry dessert. Elendele knew immediately that Saturn had scabbed a production somewhere and she told her so.

Saturn knew it was coming and she was ready with her hand-picked venom. “The cash talks today, Elendele. I’m not going to let your ideological lynchpins hang me out to hunger. This was a very easy decision. What have those writers done for me?”

Everybody was waiting for the quick rebound, the one about how the writers put the words in the actress’s mouth, but there was nothing to resound. Elendele was grown up for the day. “I’m glad it was so easy for you,” was all she said after that moment. So much had happened already that it made Saturn and all the life of the salon seem smaller.

I found Elendele crying just a little bit in her pillow. She wasn’t sad or beaten, she was just a little disappointed in Saturnina. She pulled back the sheet for me and I slid in, shuddering in coziness, in surrender to the dark that followed her switching of the nightlfe.

“I don’t suppose it means too much if you tell your step-sister to take her ideals and stuff them in a pipe,” she whispered then. “Especially if you can get a good day’s cash out of it.”

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