Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ah, Politics...

I'm not going to claim responsibility for this blog. This is an email that has been circulating for a while, and just in case you haven’t seen it, here it is.
“I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....
If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're ‘exotic, different.’ Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers: a quintessential American story.
If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. Name your kids Willow, Trig, and Track: you're a maverick.
Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating: you're well grounded.
If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
If your total resume is: local weather girl (sportscaster), 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with fewer than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress, you're a Christian.
If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.
If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DUI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.
If your tenure as Mayor included charging rape victims thousands of dollars for the evidence gathering kits used to prosecute their cases, based on the logic that the taxpayers shouldn't have to carry the burden of paying for these kits, with that logic being officially and publicly backed by your hand-picked replacement for the Chief of Police you fired for disagreeing with you, and the Alaskan State Legislature passed a State Law supported by both parties making it illegal to do that just so YOUR town couldn't do it anymore, you are candidate women can relate to. Just like Hillary Clinton.
If you think that rape victims are taxpayers too and that taxes are supposed to be used for Law Enforcement purposes, as wells as other infrastructure support projects like environmentally sound sewage treatment plants & storm drains, and better public schools then you are fiscally irresponsible.
OK, it's all much clearer now.”
Here’s installment 45 of Wasted Miracles.

Outside it was bright, Colin felt he was coming out of a cave. He walked to the Quartermaine, ordered a double espresso. The kid behind the bar called out something that sounded like “One dopey O” to a slightly older colleague who echoed the command. The big chrome machine hissed and sputtered. The kid handed Colin a tiny cup.
Colin looked into it. “That’s it?”
“It’s quality, not quantity. You want another shot? That’s an extra buck fifty. As is, two seventy five.”
Colin handed him three singles. “Keep the change.”
The kid said, “Sheesh. Thanks.” He rang up the sale, dropped the solitary quarter into a mug by the cash register. “Just so you know, we split the tips at night among all the staff.”
Colin said, “That’s nice,” dropped two packs of Equal into the cup, stirred it with a wooden stick, remembered reading about tropical deforestation that was caused by the Japanese demand for disposable chopsticks. He took a seat by the window, stuck the stirrer in his mouth, watched the traffic rumble by.
He noticed traffic cops at both ends of the street, remembered that the Secret Service had ordered the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House for security reasons. The resulting rerouting of some 16,000 cars, trucks and buses daily had immediately rendered obsolete all the traffic signals in a six-square-block area. Cops had been pulled off street patrol to handle the horde of tourists and commuters who poured into and out of the city and used the avenue as a thoroughfare. As a safety measure, the closure hadn’t been particularly effective. The day after the avenue was blocked off, a man with a concealed kitchen knife climbed the fence to pay the President an impromptu visit.
He drank his espresso in one gulp, looked at his watch. The girl was already late and he wondered whether agreeing to meet him had been a ploy to get him out of the club. He ordered a second double, left another quarter tip, resumed his seat on the stool by the window.
He didn’t recognize the woman who came into the shop, walked past him and ordered a decaf. The dancer had taken off her hair, stripped her makeup and was now wearing jeans, bright green leather sandals and a University of Maryland Terrapins sweatshirt. She looked like a student, perhaps a tourist. Only her breasts seemed out of place.
She took the stool next to his. “Show me your chip.”
It took a moment to register.
She said, “Your chip. You’re in AA, your chip is your most prized possession. Lemme see it.”
Colin stood, reached into the bottom of his right pants pocket, dropped it on the counter. It made a coppery sound. She picked it up, scrutinized it.
“Five years?”
She sounded disappointed, for some reason he felt he had to apologize.
“Would have been nine. I blew it five years ago.”
“Slip or relapse?”
“Full-fledged relapse. I was out seven months. Came back in, went out again a week later. Did that three times. Fourth time around it took, but only because I spent three days in the tank. After that, the county put me in detox, then I rehabed.”
She pondered that. “I’m still brand new. It’s going to be four months next week if I don’t fuck up. See?” She wore her chip on a gold chain around her neck, allowed him to look at it for a second, dropped it back down into her sweatshirt.
“So,” she said. “Now we’ve gotten over the formalities. Let’s get down to the serious stuff, like who are you, what do you want. Like I said, I haven’t seen Josie, not in a couple of weeks.”
“She’s your sponsor?”
The woman put her coffee cup down. “Look, before we get all personal and buddy-buddy, I don’t know you from some asshole who comes into the bar and just wants to get laid, pardon my French. Which is OK, getting laid, I mean, but not with me cause I stopped doing that about the same time I stopped drinking. Which means I make a lot less tip money, which means in turn that I have another job, and I have to be there in about an hour. The only reason I came is that you had the good manners not to shove some money at me back there in the bar, because if you had then I would have been sure you were an asshole and I would have asked Bennie to kick your ass out. And he would have, too, because he likes me and he thinks I’m crazy to work in there while trying to stay straight. I tell him if I’m crazy, he’s crazy too, but he thinks he’s justified, cause he’s been drinking only fruit juice for 12 years, but I personally think it’s a bunch of macho crap. OK, now you know my life story, and I still don’t know who the hell you are.”
Colin smiled. Her speech had made her likable. He said, “I’m Colin Marsh. I’m not a cop. That doesn’t mean I’m not an asshole, sometimes, make that often, I’m pretty sure I am. I came in there looking for you because I thought you could help.” He stuck his hand out. She shook it. He was surprised to feel the firmness of her grasp. There were calluses in her palm.
She flexed her fingers. “You get those gripping the pole and swinging around. What about Josie?”
He swished the coffee in the cup. “I don’t know Josie personally, or at least not well. But her mother and I are friends, and she thinks something bad may have happened to her. She hasn’t been home in a couple of days. I asked around, someone told me she was your sponsor. That’s all there is.”
The woman reached into her purse, drew out a cigarette and a lighter. “There’s a table free outside. I can’t smoke in here. Which is pretty stupid, a coffee place where they don’t allow you to smoke, but I lit up here once, I was thinking of something else and the two faggots back there almost had conniptions.” She stood up, straightened her jeans.
Once outside and seated, she said, “Yeah. Josie is, was, my sponsor, and we’re supposed to meet twice a week but she missed the last four meetings. I thought maybe she’d run away with Herbie, you know Herbie, her boyfriend?”
“She’s not with Herbie. Herbie’s dead.”
The woman nodded, showed no surprise. “Yeah, well, I’m not shocked. Not really sorry, either, Herbie was an asshole, too. I met him once for five minutes and as soon as Josie had her back turned he started hitting on me. When I told her about it later she just kind of shrugged, but I could tell it bothered her. What happened?”
“Police says he was beaten up, stabbed and shot. His body was found near Rock Creek Park. They think he was dealing.”
That made her grimace. “They think? Christ. He practically shoved a cokespoon up my nose, one of those horrible tiny gold numbers like people used to have hanging from a chain on their neck, except he kept it in this little leather bag in his pocket. Had this greasy smile on, said there was plenty more if we got to be friends. Used those very words.”
“Was Josie using, Mollie?”
The woman looked at him in the eyes for the very first time. “Actually, I prefer ‘Cat.’ I’ve always hated ‘Mollie.’ That was my first foster parents’ idea. They named me after a cocker spaniel they had when they were newlyweds.”
“Mollie Catfish.”
“Yeah. Shit, can you imagine anyone having ‘Catfish’ as a family name? But it’s right there on my birth certificate. I’ve been meaning for years to have it changed, never get around to it.”
She puffed on the cigarette without inhaling. “But it’s kinda distinctive, you know? Stands out. I took a lot of kiddin about it when I was a kid, but you get over it. Makes you tougher, that’s what my stepfather used to say.”
She dropped the cigarette on the sidewalk, crushed it. “So Herbie’s dead...” She let the sentence hang.
“What can you tell me about Josie that might help me know where she is?”
She pushed back her chair, extended her legs. Colin could see the muscles in her calf through the denim, the red polish on her toe nails. “I really don’t know her that well, and not that long. I went to a women’s meeting maybe eight, ten weeks ago, and they announced that there were temporary sponsors, and I saw her standing next to the coffee machine and introduced myself. I didn’t have a sponsor, it was time to get one but you know how it is, it’s the kinda thing you keep delaying. We exchanged phone numbers and of course I didn’t call her like she asked me to. There’s always an excuse, too busy, don’t need it, ashamed, embarrassed, whatever. The thousand-pound telephone. So a couple of days later she called me, I was kinda surprised. We met and had coffee, talked about stuff, nothing very meaningful. I told her right away what I did and it didn’t phase her. I thought that was cool. She didn’t tell me to quit my job, and that was cool too, because that’s all I hear, get another job, don’t hang around slippery places.” She laughed but there was distaste there.
“It’s like, what do these people expect? A good week, I make six, seven hundred and that’s just in tips. It’s a pretty clean place. No blowjobs in the booths, excuse my French. Owners don’t allow it, though they let the girls go out on their own time with the customers. What am I supposed to do, work at Burger King? Five bucks an hour and mop the place down after it closes?
“Anyway, Josie didn’t comment on that, just asked if I thought I could stay straight there, all the booze and, yeah, there’s drugs too, and I said it’s a lot better than where I worked before, real redneck joint in Bladensburg where if you didn’t give blowjobs you were out on your ass, simple as that.”
She threw Colin a glance, tried to read his face. He kept it impassive. She asked, “Am I shocking you?”
“Are you trying to?”
She laughed, this time her eyes were in it. “Yeah, I suppose a little. That’s how I gauge people, they have a problem with what I do, then fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, you know? I don’t have the time. Anyhow, Josie didn’t give me a lot of grief, I think she found it kinda exciting. The second time we saw each other, that’s all she had was questions. How’d I get started, how’d I deal with the assholes, how much I got paid. Then we got into real girl stuff, it was silly, she tried on some of the outfits I wear and I showed her a few steps, simple stuff. Time after that I took her to the gym with me, wore her out. I thought maybe she was gonna be a friend.”
Colin asked, “What did she talk about?”
Mollie Catfish shrugged. “Her addictions, how it was for her. Rehab. AA and NA. Herbie, when I got to know her a little. Her parents. Her father; how she really thought he was a dick. You know her parents?”
Colin hesitated. “I know her mother. I’ve only met her father once or twice.”
“I went to her house once and he looked right through me, like I wasn’t there. She introduced me and I stuck my hand out and he looked at it like it was a dead animal by the side of the road or something. Just kinda nodded and walked away. Josie told me not to get upset about it. He treats everybody like that. I mean, you’re talking about a real dork.
“Her mother was pretty nice, though, I liked her. Josie just said I was a friend, not that she was my sponsor or anything, she wanted to keep that to herself, I think, like it was our secret. I didn’t mind. Anyway, her mother talked to me a couple of minutes, then she went away too. I think she feels sorry for her mother, having an asshole husband and all, but she kinda blames her, too. Like, her mother should have done better for herself somehow. What it comes down to is, I think Josie’s pretty confused.” She stirred another pack of Equal into her coffee. “So that day I went to her house, we just sat around the back yard and that’s when she talked about Herbie.”
Colin asked, “You never answered my first question, Cat. Was she using, you think?”
The woman looked up. “You mean because she was hanging with Herbie? No. No, she was clean. She didn’t know he was dealing, or maybe if she did, she just blocked it out. She really liked him, at least at the start. And I guess really he was OK at the beginning, I suppose.”
“But you didn’t like him.”
Mollie Catfish considered the statement before answering. “Not so much that I didn’t like him, it’s just that he came on to me, you know? And that’s what men do all the time at the club, they shove a couple of bucks at me and half the time there’s a phone number there, like they expect me to call, right? In the beginning it pissed me off and then I got used to it, it’s just part of the business, and some of the girls do call, and it’s always like a quicky at some cheesy motel. I mean, they make a lot of bucks that way, some of these guys are really desperate. So when Herbie came on, it just made him unspecial, you know, just another asshole after a quick bang while his wife--or in this case girlfriend--has her back turned. I mean, Josie could do a lot better than Herbie. She’s pretty and she’s smart, to me it was like she just settled for... what do they call it, the lowest common denominator.”
“Why do you think that is?”
She considered that too. “Why? Jeez, I’m no shrink. But I read a lot of self-help books, you know? How to better yourself, positive thinking, stuff like that. So off the top of my head, what I’d say is she’s got real low self-esteem. She shouldn’t, there’s no reason for it, but she does. Lots of people like that in AA, but you’ve been there longer than me, so I don’t have to tell you that. And like I said, I’m no expert, that’s just me thinking out loud.”
Colin changed subjects. “You said you have a second job?”
She looked at her watch, nodded. “Just a minute more. Yeah, I do. Actually I’m in training, it’s just a couple of hours a day. The brother of this girl I know has a little travel agency. Mostly books stuff for older people and what I do is answer phones, take messages, mail out brochures, things like that. He said he’d teach me how to use the computer to actually make the reservations and then eventually I could become a travel agent. Good pay, free trips. Sounds like the good life, uh?”
She looked at her watch again.
Colin asked, “Nothing else you can tell me?”
She stood. “Gotta go. Nope, nothing I can think of.”
Colin scribbled his name and phone number on a napkin, handed it to her. “Give me a call if you think of anything. Or if you just want to talk.”
She looked at the napkin doubtfully, stuffed it in her purse. “Sure thing.” She walked off, turned around, added, “As long as it’s just talk.”
***

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