Sunday, January 22, 2012

Paralegal Mime & Missionary Patrol



No price is set on the lavish summer,
June may be had by the poorest comer.

----James Russel Lowel


I woke at midnight tonight, walked over to the Arco station for some cigarettes, startling Mike, the night clerk there, a little, walking in out of the dark night as I do. Most of his customers drive in to the station.
I made the international hand gesture for "I want to smoke" and Mike knew which brand to slip through the safety box. I hate it whenever they get a new night clerk there. When that happens, I have to do a whole mime routine to explain that I want cigarettes and I want Carlton Menthols. I use "Car" (automobile) and "Ton" (staggering under a very heavy weight) to get my cigs.
I answered some email for a couple of hours and took a smoke break outside in my motel courtyard. A 14 year-old crackhead and his mother rode up out of the darkness on their bicycles and stopped in front of me.
"Isn't it a little past your bedtime, young man?" I joked to the boy.
His mother wasn't amused. 2 a.m. and she's on a mission to the new Motel Marquis candy store ( the new resident drug dealer ). She squinted at me, trying to decide if I was an undercover cop, then trudged up the stairs to her drug dealer as the boy watched the bikes. Everybody around here thinks I'm a cop when they first see me and that's racist. Do all white guys in this neighborhood gotta be cops? No. Me? I'm a paralegal at best. Besides, I'm not white, tete d'epingle.
I looked at the boy, shook my head, and stepped back inside.
Around 3:30, I walked back to the Arco for more cigarettes. On my way past the next door vacant lot, the Vietnamese cat-sacrificing voodoo lot, I noticed a clump of clothes in the tall grass. It was a Colombo jacket, a trench coat. I always wanted a Colombo jacket. Maybe I'll jump the fence where it's torn most of the way down and nab that jacket, I thought as I continued towards the Arco.
"PSSSST!" the jacket said. I turned.
"PSSSSST!" it said again. I looked more closely. There was a man in that jacket. Oh, well, I thought, so much for that, and I continued walking to the Arco.
Mike looked at me through the supposedly bullet-proof, mostly soundproof glass at the cashier's window. NOW what did I want? Couldn't be cigarettes, I was just there a few hours ago for cigarettes. Mike is friendly enough, but a little confused about American appetites. I got him to slide open the safety box enough to where I could talk through it.
"Whatsa matter, Mike? You think I smoke too much? Yeah, that's right. I'm here for more Carltons."
"You live here?" Mike asked as we made the cash/pack exchange. He waved his arm in the general direction of the street.
"I have a mission over there at the motel," I answered, "Very exclusive."
Mike looked confused.

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