Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Flag, Part Deux

So what happened is that at first I hung the Fleur de Lys flag upside down above my house, which I suppose would have made me an anti-royalist. It wasn't my fault.... It was dark and cold, my fingers were numb. Anyone could have made the same mistake.

The next day, when it was flying properly, my next door neighbor on the right side knocked on my kitchen door. He's a nice enough man from the former Soviet bloc who solemnly detests his other neighbor, who is from the same former SB country. He asked if I was not taking chances flying this odd flag; someone had told him such a thing was illegal and he didn't want to hazard having the secret flag police maybe making a mistake and knocking on his door. I reassured him that it was perfectly OK but he seemed less than convinced. I caught his wife, who is a dentist, and his two Goths kids starring upwards with fear in their eyes. I spent some time on the Internet looking for the Virginia law that might apply, but it's hard to find a law permitting something since most laws are designed to be preventative.

A fews days later there were men cutting down the bamboo in the vacant lot behind my home. The stuff, it seems, has invaded nearby storm drains and caused minor flooding. My neighbor came over again and asked if I was sure about the law because the guys with the chainsaws cutting down the brush were obviously setting up a listening/viewing post, and this made him very uncomfortable. He asked politely whether I would consider taking the flag down and hoisting the Stars and Stripes. I demurred. Then he asked how much I thought he might be able to rent out his home to people coming for the Obama inauguration.
Since we live a few miles outside Washington, DC and near public transit, many homeowners in my area have let their houses out to Obamites for thousands of dollars through Craig's List and eBay. I suggested he call a rental agency and he apparently has done so. He now wears a large smile and plans to go visit friends in Canada during Inauguration Week. He hasn't complained about the flag recently. The men with chainsaws have gone away. The secret flag police has not swooped down upon us. Is this a great country or what?

Here's installment 59 of Wasted Miracles.

It took one phone call, Mollie thought she was smart, made it from a phone booth next to the Seven Eleven on Gallows Road. There was a lot of traffic, people pulling in and out of the parking lot to get coffee or foot-longs and she kept her back to the door so the customers wouldn’t see her, wouldn’t wonder why this woman was talking into the phone and there was a handkerchief wrapped around the mouthpiece.
She thought the man had a pretty sophisticated voice for a black guy, kind of English-sounding like those movies on Channel 26. He didn’t ask a lot of questions, said, “I see,” two or three times as she fed him the story, said, “Thank you,” before he hung up, which she appreciated. She liked polite people. One phone call. One million dollar phone call.
When she hung up she was shaking and there was a fine sheen of perspiration on her upper lip. Her stomach was churning so she went into the store and bought a hot pretzel with mustard from the Pakistani guy behind the counter. And since she felt lucky, since she thought today was going to be a day that would change her life, she bought three Powerball tickets, the prize was up to $4.5 million, can you imagine that kind of money?
She waited at the bus stop and munched on the pretzel. It was a bit too salty and she wished she’d bought a Big Gulp to go with it. She thought about what you could do with $4.5 million and that was simply too large a sum to deal with. So she pared it down to a million, say $800,000 if you sold cheap, which she was willing to do. For $800,000 you could get a very nice car, say a fully loaded Jeep Cherokee, Cherry Red with a killer sound system and lights on the roll bar. And a really decent apartment in Ballston, with a pool and a sauna and a place in the basement to exercise. Should she buy or rent? She remembered a guy she’d spent two nights with, he’d tipped her a couple of hundred, he was into real estate and he’d said always buy, renting is like flushing the money down the toilet. So, OK, she’d buy, a two bedroom condo would run, what? 175 to 200 max. OK, so that would leave about half a mil.
The bus pulled up, she got on, found a seat in the back. When she sat she noticed her legs were trembling.
With a half a mil you had to be careful, not go crazy and buy a Lamborghini. Half a mil was a finite amount of money. There were houses that cost that much and more, and then you’d have to get furniture, too. But realistically, who would want a place like that? You’d need a housekeeper and some guy to mow the lawn. She knew there were houses like that near Great Falls where the Kennedies used to live, and the notion of hobnobbing with such people brought a smile.
No, realistically, you invest, that’s how people get rich. You try not to spend the capital, live off the interest. She’d read that in the business section of Newsweek and the idea had appealed to her. She made a note in her mind to go to the library the next morning and read back issues of Forbes and Money.
She would move the dope through Bennie, the bouncer at the club, who knew absolutely everybody. Give him twenty grand, he’d jump at it, he was always bitching about being a bouncer, always saying that if he had a nest egg, things would be different. But she’d have to devise some sort of plan so Bennie wouldn’t rip her off. She made another mental note, Work on Plan.
The bus snaked down Gallows Road, cut right on Cedar Lane, melted into the traffic on Leesburg Pike and passed the Tyson’s shopping mall, which got her to thinking that one thing she would do when she got the bucks was treat herself to a full day’s shopping at Tyson’s II where all the better stores were. Nothing too fancy, no mink coat, but maybe a couple of pieces of nice jewelry, like a decent watch, and a Gucci purse. Spend maybe eight or ten thousand in one day, wouldn’t that be a hoot?
The bus lurched, there was a squeal of tires, a blasting horn. One thing, sure as hell, no more public transportation. She changed the color of the Cherokee from Cherry Red to Midnight Blue. Cherry Red cars attracted cops, no sense looking for trouble, it generally came without an invitation anyway.
Maybe she’d scam a little of the dope for her own personal use. Probably no one would notice, she’d get a box of baby laxative, two scoops of that stuff in, take two scoops of the China White out, who would know the difference? And if someone bitched, she’d say it was Bennie, he did it, the cheating motherfucker. You want your dope? Take it out of Ben’s hide.

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