Friday, January 9, 2009

Inaugural Hi-Jinks

On the day of the Obama investiture as President of the US, I will be unable to use any of the roads or bridges leading to Washington, DC. In other words, even though I live a few minutes from where the soon-to-be-prez will be celebrated, I (and all the rest of my fellow North Virginians) will be stuck at home. No Obama T-shirts for us, or key chains, hats, posters, etc.. We will be second-class citizens. It's galling, particularly since no such restrictions exist for Marylanders, our scrappy neighbors to the North. They will be able to come and go as they please, thank you, and buy all the presidential crap they can get their hands on in DC. Also, they'll get to enjoy the extended bar hours and drink til 4 a.m. Now that's really tempting!

Am I upset? Not really. It's going to be a zoo. The buses and subway will run, or so I understand. I imagine that if I really wanted to, I could use these public conveyances, but I'm no fool. There will be close to 4 million people doing exactly that--sardining themselves--and I don't find that at all appetizing. All in all, it might be easier to swim the Potomac at that point in the river where legend has it George Washington flung a silver dollar. Plus, I haven't been invited to any of the inaugural events, surely a mistake on someone's part, but today I am in a forgiving mood.

Some Washingtonians rented their homes out for inaugural week, and will themselves be heading for Florida or Vegas. Others are having parties--my local Giant Food store is offering Time for Change deli platters that look suspiciously like the Lets Keep Things the Same platters. One friend is thinking of doing a personal pay-per-view programming effort. He will allow you into his house to watch his gigantic-screen for $20, refreshments not included. I think this is the essence of America--entrepreneurship in time of economic difficulties. I really admire that.

Here's installment 63 of Wasted Miracles.

With Joe the Cop gone, Colin tried to reach Mamadou, Catherine, Orin. No one was home but Marsha, Orin’s wife. She listened to Colin’s story and ordered him to go to the hospital.
Colin refused. “It’s not that serious. And if I go there, I’ll have to explain what happened and the police might be called. I don’t want to get involved with that.”
“Then come over,” Marsha said. “At least I can take a look at you, patch you up.”
So he did. Orin was in Pennsylvania roadtesting a new gizmo for wheelchair users. “I have no idea how it works,” Marsha said, “but it allows people to use this little device and change traffic lights.” She touched his head. “God, Colin, you’ve got a lump there the size of a goose egg.”
She wrapped ice in a towel, pressed it hard against the wound. He winced, groaned. She shushed him. “You really ought to go and get checked out. You could have a concussion. What’d they hit you with?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it.”
“Well,” she pressed the ice down harder, “you’re lucky you’ve got a thick skull. But we knew that before, didn’t we?”
He nodded. His neck still hurt. “What I’m trying to figure out is how they knew anything about all this. I haven’t exactly been shouting from rooftops. Catherine wanted to keep everything quiet. And I’ve never heard of this guy, the Zulu.”
Marsha bent down, inspected her work. “The swelling seems to be going down... Well, it seems to me the best thing to do is figure out the odds here. How many people did you tell, and how many can you trust.”
“I’ve done that already.” He recounted the conversation with Joe the Cop.
Marsha was quiet for a moment. “What about Joe? He mentions it to other cops, they talk, word gets around.”
“No. I don’t think so. Joe knew how important it was to Catherine to be discrete. She didn’t even want him involved in the first place. I trust him. He’s been my pigeon for awhile, I know him pretty well.”
Marsha asked, “So who are the people you don’t trust?”
“Lars. He’s an asshole. But he has nothing to gain. Mamadou, the limo guy. He volunteered to help. It wouldn’t make sense for him to set me up. Mollie Catfish--”
“A girl, Josie was her sponsor.”
Marsha smiled. “That’s really her name?”
Colin nodded, winced. “She knows Josie. Met the boyfriend, Herbie. Didn’t like him, said he tried to hit on her.” As an afterthought, he added, “She’s a dancer. At a club downtown.”
Marsha looked thoughtful. “Lots of drugs in that kind of crowd. I used to know some dancers, back when I was working in a free clinic. They’d come in for tests, some were trying to get drugs, Valium, Xanax, Prozac, pretty much anything they could get their hands on. Lots of them were users. The money’s good, lots of tips, a lot more if they were willing to do parking lot duty.”
“Do what?”
“Parking lot duty. Go out with the customers to their cars. Quick sex.” She looked momentarily embarrassed. “A busy girl could make a lot of money that way. Here.” She took Colin’s hand, put the ice pack in it. “Hold that there for a few minutes. Anyway, the women I met always seemed to know who was selling what. Really well plugged in. So maybe it’s the dancer.”
Colin thought that might make sense, wasn’t sure. “But why?”
Marsha shook her head. “Hey, I’m no psychic. I’m offering suggestions. Someone comes to your house, beats the heck out of you, there’s got to be a reason, that’s all I’m saying. And it seems to me your friend Mollie is the weak link. I don’t think this other guy, the drug dealer, Herbie? I don’t think he rose from the grave just to get you roughed up.”

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