JUNE 24, 2016

LEMONADE

 

So anyway, the summer weather has arrived and all the high schools finished up their graduations this past weekend and after the post-graduation parties barefoot girls sat on the hoods of Subarus, Toyotas, Nissans, and the few remaining Fords worth talking about while Eddie and Jason spun donuts on the blacktop of Snoffish Valley Road.

Spring had passed by with all its fecund promise, but Eugene had been pursuing one potential hookup with someone known only as Pastor Liz on Match.com. Lately he had gotten the brush-off as it turned out she had no real interest in hooking up and was happy enough going on camping trips with children. So Eugene did what inveterate bachelors always do; he made ready to go fishing for trout in the High Sierra.

The Great Hall of Mr. Howitzer's mansion has been a-bubble with activity ever since the announcement of that the ACT group managed to get the rent control initiative on the ballot. Desultory meetings of Big Property and management firm reps had been going on, largely led by Marie Crain, as the landlords attempted to squelch the initiative from gathering the necessary 7,000 signatures. Feeling confident of their power, Crain's group relied on the usual techniques of disinformation, pressure on City councilmembers, packing the meetings with shills and old-fashioned threats, expecting to pursue the matter by challenging signature validity, but were discomfited when the initiative garnered 16,000 signatures.

The group has reformed under Mr. Howitzer's roof as AgitProp, a consortium of landlords, management firms, and Texan Realtors as well as the new norm invitees to all groups of consequence nowadays -- the Chinese -- who sent a single ambassador in the form of Mr. Wong, a man who always appeared wearing the same immaculate black suit with shiny patent leather shoes.

"I represent interests which have so much money they make all of you look silly -- including Donald Trump" Mr. Wong said.

"We appreciate you have modest investment here on the Island," said Mr. Howitzer. "And we appreciate you offering your expertise in dealing with these problem tenants."

"Actually we own only the Snickers Peanut Butter Mansion and adjoining property to Crab Cove," said Mr. Wong. "But we do own some of Babylon and Oaktown."

"I think you do own a significant portion -- if not all of it," said Mr. Cribbage.

"Not yet," said Mr. Wong modestly. "Perhaps some day."

"I wish we could just get rid of them," said Marie Craine. "I mean those troublemakers."

"We tried that in China," said Mr. Wong. "But the methodology did not work so well."

"O, how did you do that?" Mr. Blather asked. "And what was wrong about the methodology?"

"We ran over them with tanks," said Mr. Wong. "But we found when we did that, no one was left to pay the rents."

Up on Grizzley Peak Boulevard, Mr. Spline stared at his McTwiggers sandwich, certain that he had requested absolutely no pickles. Yet there he was in his black Ford SUV Expectorant with tinted windows staring at a wad of green stuffed into his Big Twig. He had demanded a server that spoke English to be absolutely sure that his demands would be clear because he seemed to always have problems at places like that.

In his opinion, the problem was the bilingual thing in California which had been carried entirely too far. The state had been wrested from Mexico entirely fair and square and the language should be English everywhere and if you did not speak English, well you had better learn it and pass a test to live here and that was that. He sighed and put the sandwich down next to the Super Fried Twigs. The waitron's nameplate had read Rosalita -- an obvious problem. Problem was, Col. Kurtz had been dead wrong; you can't kill all the bastards -- there are too many.

He picked up his field glasses and checked to make sure his Ruger with extended barrel and laser sight were ready. Across the way, the door of the Greek orthodox church remained stolidly shut as it had been for hours since services had ended. Behind that door lurked Josh Sleetman, the whistleblower who had outed City Hall's formerly secret wiretapping of regional bathrooms located outside various municipal chambers. This wiretapping of supposed allies within the Five County Bay Area had caused an uproar and Josh to flee for his life although the City had promised a "fair trial" should he submit to arrest.

"Fair trial?" Said Sleetman in a video response from his sanctuary. "As in Freddie Gray and Oscar Grant and Gynnya McMillen?" He concluded the video with a shot of the American flag and the sound of a Bronx cheer.

Problem is, thought Spline, looking through the field glasses at the ornate wooden door, people have no respect for the Flag.

The door moved a little and he reached for his modified sidearm. He knew he could drill a quarter at fifty yards, but his boss at Homeland Security had threatened dire consequences if he were to cause damage to the church.

"See these eggs," said Simon Jambonverde. "You so much as knick the lintel of that holy place and . . ." Here he crushed the objects in his hand over the trash can. "That's gonna be sus huevos, capeche?"

"I don't speak Latin, boss," said Mr. Spline.

In response Mr. Jambonverde put his head in his yolk-stained hands. "How can any idiot be an Homeland Security Officer? Answer me that!"

"It is very simple. All you have to do is apply," said Mr. Spline.

"GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE I AM GUILTY OF MURDER!"

"It's OK, Boss. Doris can get the papers to get you off . . .".

"OUT OF MY SIGHT IMMEDIATELY!"

Sitting in his Special Forces SUV Mr. Spline patiently awaited Simon Snark, an agent so secret that nobody knew who his boss was or his job title. In fact, people did not know for sure if he did in fact work for Homeland Security and not for some other agency about which only the President and select members of Congress knew. Snark never said where he had been, never where he was going, and nothing about his state of mind. Conversation with him tended to be limited to the chances of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, but even those facts appeared to be memorized by him without enthusiasm.

Simon Snark was a true patriot with dedication.

Meanwhile, Josh finished up his excellent meal down in the Fruitvale before descending into the intricate series of underground passages built long ago by LDS members so as to avoid the basic genocides so characteristic of the early days of The Republic. A tunnel ran from the grand Mormon temple to under the Greek chapel. The Greeks, who had been around for awhile and handled the Nazis effectively during WWII knew a few things about subterfuge and they valued a tunnel. So it was that Josh enjoyed fine dining, occasional travel, visits with his girlfriend and all the pleasures of a somewhat free society, popping into the chapel now and then to appear in the window and moon either Mr. Spline or Simon Snark so as to maintain the belief that he remained holed up in there.

As night fell a periscope emerged careful from the placid waters of the Estuary. Earlier a couple of crewmembers from the Iranian spy sub El Chadoor had set out on a rubber dingy from outside the Golden Gate, beached on the Point and changed into shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. So as to pass through the populace they had printed t-shirts for the occasion. Rashid wore one that said "Re-enter Puberty Joyfully!" and Omer had worn one that said, "I'm with Stupid!" They had gone to collect provisions and scout out the Island as news regarding a loudmouth demagogue seizing power had caused Teheran some concern.

They seemed to know in Teheran that loudmouth demagogues could be a problem, but these Americans appeared to be oblivious. Out on the West End the two of them paused on their return in front of a wooden stand behind which two little girls, named Doris and Bea, sat sweltering in the new heat wave upon which they had desired to capitalize without realizing that Capital does involve some risk of loss. They had figured that an hot, treeless street would be perfect to capture thirsty passersby. Only no one passed by. Because the street was hot and treeless.

"Wan' some lemonade?" called Doris plaintively. "It's hot!"

Raschid looked at Omer and Omer looked at Raschid. "You have had here much success?" Raschid asked.

"Nooooooooo!" Bea wailed.

"Ah! I think my friends would like some lemonade." Raschid said, hefting his knapsack. Omer held onto the handle of the Flexible Flyer wagon that carried fresh vegetables.

"Okay, how much you want?" Doris asked.

"All of it." Omer said.

As they made ready to go, Bea commented "You are not from around here."

"I am from Qom," Raschid said.

"Calm. That is a peaceful name," Bea said.

"We think so." Omer said.

Later, under cover of darkness the First Mate looked through the periscope at the peaceful Island.

"Anything to report?" asked the Captain.

"They are home safe," answered the First Mate.

"Both of them?"

"I saw their mothers ring the dinner bell and open the door to take them in."

"In that case, I would like a glass of that excellent lemonade before we dive," said the Captain.

And the El Chadoor glided out of the Estuary into the Bay and from there underneath the Golden Gate toward the vast Pacific Ocean, running silent, running deep.

As night drifted under the Strawberry Moon, the Editor emerged onto the back deck after the newsroom had closed up for the day. A big floor fan shoved the air around, but already the night brought surcease of the day's heat, allowing cool breezes to waft in over the parched land. Stars emerged to overwhelm the heavens where the moon had not yet conquered the celestial realms.

In leaving, Jose had comment about this summer night that it would be well for this moment of peace to be preserved forever. And it was sad that peace does not last. Then he left.

"It is not," The Editor thought, "Our part to beat drums and blare trumpets calling for war. Our task as artists, no matter how humble or inferior or lacking in talent as seen by others, to make whole, and heal when possible, and help people really see the beauty that is there all the time, in the mud, the dust, the concrete, the iron, and the misery most of all. It is to slay every impediment between what made us and ourselves."

At the same time, out beside the shrubbery of the College Don Guadalupe Maria Llosa Vargoza Erizo sat looking up at the heavens. Dame Herrisson came out and asked, "Qu'est ce que tu regardes?"

"La luna, por supuesto."

She toddled over to his side and gently laid her head on his shoulder. "Ah, mon amour, vous êtes vachement romantique!"

So it is that although men and women speak entirely different languages, they nevertheless sometimes can some to some common understanding beyond words.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

 

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