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Chapter Sixteen

"Talkin' Turkeys"


           During the dismal days that followed,I tried to find my summer friends. Doing odd-jobs for Biff, I earned enough money for the phone or the electricity - but not both. Communication seemed more essential than comfort, even with my worsening physical condition. So I paid the phone bill.
           Long-distance, the Sheriff of Indian River County claimed the Land of Sunshine had bigger problems to deal with than dead horses and that Margot Morningstar, half Navajo or not, could not be considered officially missing until a year had passed. The best the Boone County Sheriff's Office could do was promise to keep an eye out for an abandoned construction trailer near Kingdom City.
           On the subject of Kingdoms - how unfair of me to think poorly of JR's Biblical faux pas. At least he read the Testament. Other than a few pages from the Original Testament in Sunday School, I hadn't. Dusting off the Pentateuch Plus that Rabbi Stewart gave me at the Form, I began with Genesis to tentatively read at least ten pages a day - not necessarily in chronological order. I'd just follow my instinct.

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     A couple times, Brandy interrupted my reading. She called to try and fix me up with Carol. I told her the truth, that I was already in love, with a wonderful lady who I might never see again. So we sobbed on each other's shoulders over the phone, both times.
           I called Puberty Park, two times in four weeks. Both times Palooka told me that Mr. Sam was too sick to talk but I should call back in a couple weeks. During the second couple weeks, I finally got a call from Leo Leonard's legal secretary, Ms. Sampson. Delilah told me that my appointment with Rabbi Green at the Truman Arms Justice Center in Independence would be on Monday, November 23, 2:00PM sharp.
           As I awaited my days in the judicial sun, the more I looked at the COSMIC FLOW CHART over my computer the more provocative it became. I'd always believed there was much more to God's Universe than we could ever know. But I'd never considered the possibility of a crew whose Ohlaé could influence everyone else's Mohla. Wouldn't it be nice if it were that simple, if one group of persons could straighten out a good part of world. But what a responsibility it would be. Just in case - I decided I'd best get my shit together on the double.
           Regarding that very matter, Weiland Walker, twenty-two-year veteran of the Lenexa Police Department and part-time plumber for Dotty, asked if he could store Poor Richard's plumbing supplies in my living room - since I wasn't using it. On a regular basis Walker and I engaged in Quatra-Chess, - an innovative board game he developed for 3-5 players - while staking out the library. We each pretended to be 2 or 3 players.
           After describing everything that happened since summer, I told Walker that I'd somehow become involved in something real big.

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     He put me in double-check and promised to keep an eye out and both ears open. "Everybody hates nazis - quasi, neo, would-be, or could-be."
           I told him not to bother the teutonic creeps when they came checking on me twice a week. "I hope to overhear something substantial."
           As the weather turned chilly, I heard that Kansas City Power and Light wasn't allowed to disconnect anyone's electricity during the winter months. Thus - after a cold shower, I drove downtown and paid my bill with a bad check, hoping it wouldn't bounce until after I was reconnected. By law, the power company couldn't redisconnect me until spring. By the time I got back to Lenexa, I felt guilty, sold a portable color TV to Biff, and made the check good.
           Up and around, I decided to visit Lucky at Babylonic Appliance and Video. The three parking spots in front of the strip store were vacant, as usual.
           Making my clumsy way through a maze of microwaves, space heaters and other unsold merchandise, I asked Lucky Kane how the hell business was, this fine day.
           Lucky growled. "Different day, same old shit. Don't bother me, David. I'm watchin' a new skin flick, "Bottom Banana IX." His lazy head cradled in his palms, he drooled at a high-resolution monitor on the floor.
           I took the liberty of asking Lucky why he looked at the crap.
           He groaned. "Unless you're a hummin' hemorroid, get off my bovine ass."
           It would have done no good to tell Lucky the video showed only how low the desperate could go, not in his present state. So, I got in my SS396 and cruised back down to the Emporium for a spell. Biff was off duty and the iced tea dispenser was on the blink, so I sampled a new soft drink called Springer. Twenty minutes at the magazine rack and I headed back to Babylonic.

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     Stoned out of his gourd again, Lucky asked if JR was really as tough a guy in the Big House as he claimed. About to light another bong of opium, LK passed out - before I was forced to lie.
           I wouldn't have had the heart to explain how I hadn't really met JR in the Federal Penitentiary, but had actually made his acquaintance in the State Mental Hospital where he had been sent for bludgeoning his wealthy aunt while in a drunken stupor.
           While mercantile Kane wheezed in his sleep, I recalled how, when JR and I were released from the Form, we spent several months in Springfield at a phoney TV school. When I went to work for Braggs, later that year, I got JR a job in their warehouse. When my overseers sent me to Fort Leonard Wood for over three years, I took JR along as a material expeditor. He was sober and a hard worker, at the time, so I took him to KC with me too. But when I was run out of the office, JR quit. Not long afterwards, when I got into video production, JR wanted to get into it also. So he opened a video and appliance outlet.
           Eventually, Lucky came to and offered me twenty bucks a week to watch the shop two hours a day while he went home for lunch with his old lady. He said I could begin the next day and paid me half a week's wages in advance.
           I stopped next door at SALAD CITY for a paper bag of discount greens, then headed home to rest up for my new job.
           The electricity wasn't reconnected yet, but I needed a shower bad. Using a stool in the tub for balance, I took a cold one and washed my hair with my Shampo-olyzer. I invented it while living in the motel down at Fort Wood but found no investor.

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     Back in the barricaded rear room, beneath my grandmother's last remaining quilt, I perused my high school yearbook, The Lincoln Log. Using a penlight, I examined the pictures and wondered what they were all doing. Was Susan Cole on her way to an opera premiere in the latest Paris fashion? Was Dale Goldberg synchronizing the turbochargers on his son's Corvette? Was Eddie Weiss reworking a crucial chapter in his latest historic novel? Maybe Grant Connell was mocking up the guidance system for the first manned voyage to Mars.
           I put the Log away and opened my Bible to Exodus. After the Burning Bush encounter, I decided to grab some shut-eye. I prayed Mr. Sam would get well soon and dropped off.

           In a bed of sweat, I woke to my own burning bush - and someone banging at the front door. My electricity, hence space heater, had come on full force. In case it was the Raven knocking, I turned the noisey heater off and checked to make sure Moses hadn't turned himself into a snake - yet.
           The nightcaller opened the front door and stomped a heavy boot on my living room floor. "Quack, quack!! Hey, is someone here? Where the hell you hidin' yourself, David? It's not bill collectors. Is jus' Babs Barnes, Big Brandy. Quack, quack!!"
           I nudged my false wall open and told Babs I was over behind the bookcase. "Leave the front door ajar and come on back. Be quiet though." I turned off the lamp by my couch and pushed the hatch the rest of the way open.
           Brandy shuffled through the shadows and spun in place like an overnourished, underexcercised ballerina. "How's my new mini look?"
           I told her she looked great, but not to make so much noise. "I'm hiding in the back bedroom here."

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     When she asked if I was afraid of a few bill-collectors, I stepped boldly into the void between my bedroom and bathroom and told her that I wasn't afraid. "I just don't want to lose my video equipment."
           To my surprise, Brandy had an idea. "Why not leave your equipment hid but lives out here? It's a lot bigger and they know you're here anywho."
           I limped out and turned on the living room light. "How do you know they know I'm still here?"
    She said that after we talked last, she accidently dropped the receiver on the floor before she hung up. "When I picked it up, I heard a couple creep gigglin' 'n chatterin' in German. They gots your number tap, David."
    I thanked Brandy for the info and asked if she'd help me move the furniture back into the living room.
    She said she would if I'd loan her five bucks for pantyhose. "Some dickless transvite down at Goodtimes ripped off my best pairs."
    I pulled the front door shut and we went to work. Babs was an eager beaver when it came to manual labor. We lifted, carried, scooted, grunted and groaned for less than twenty minutes and my living room was furnished once more.
           Pointing Moses toward my business sofa, I told Miss Barnes to go ahead and have a seat.
           She did - but jumped right back up in a cloud of dust. "Oh mann! I don't believe this shit! When's the last times you dust this thing?" She said her mini was all dirty, that she needed a clean sink to soak it in. So I directed her to the bathroom.
           In a flash, she was back in a pair of my boxer shorts. She walked over to within a few inches of my face and asked if I had any champagne. When I told her I had an old bottle of Night Train under the sink in the kitchen, she balked. "That same old nasty wine I brung over three years ago? I'll get some imported beer up at O. Henry's."

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     While I fetched her a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt, she explained herself. "A classy lady like me now ain't gonna drink plain ol' piker's wines anymores."
           I told her to be careful driving, that it was supposed to snow.
           She said it already started. "But I'll be awright, I got my little sister bike."
           As she galloped down the hall in infantile glee, I made my way out on the fire escape to look at Mother Nature's finest hour, her first snow of the season. Staring at the whiteness, I felt fortunate to be free.

           The snow was deep and dirty, the day we moved sixteen old timers from one cottage to another. I had no idea how long they'd been at Formington, but I knew they'd lived a long, painful life somewhere.
           The Relocation Squad normally lugged urine-soaked mattresses and re-glued furniture from one place on the grounds to another, then back again. This chilly dawn, though, we were moving sick seniors to a smaller cottage so the Form could save on heat. The State Hospital had its own heat plant, but it could only carry so much load without tapping into the commercial utilities.
           We worked under pressure; the steam heat couldn't be turned on in the new cottage until it was turned off in the old. With but one set of tools, we could only take apart one bed at a time. It was slow going.
           We hurried the pieces to the other cottage and put them back together while the old timer waited in an old army ambulance that couldn't be left running. Dirk, our kind overseer, went home to get his own tools and we set up a second squad. Still, it took too long to get all the seniors moved and the heat transferred to their new cottage. Five died, needlessly.

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     I brushed the snow off my shoulders and stepped back inside. I closed the fire escape - just as Brandy came barrelling in through the front door.
           Out of breath, she fanned her hefty cleavage nervously. "Two leechers in a muddy brown Bug was chasin' me. They made me drop the malt liquor."
           I locked the door and led her to the backroom, telling her not to worry, that they were just trying to harass me. "I'll go find the wine while you relax."
           Half a gallon of Night Train was still under the sink, exactly where Brandy left it three years before. I rinsed out a couple glasses and poured slowly - to afford Ms. Barnes ample time to collect herself.
           Limping back to the rear room with the sticky bottle and both full glasses, I tried not to spill any - unsuccessfully.
           Brandy took off her sweat shirt and wiped the floor with it. After stirring her glass with her middle finger, she guzzled it.
           I took a sip and offered her mine.
           She said that I should drink it myself, that she'd pour another one for herself. "This Evening Express'll gets you in the mood, David."
           I grabbed Menachem's walking stick, Abraham. "In the mood for what?"

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     She sucked her thumb. "To watch l'il ol' me gets nasty."
    I told her that we were friends. "And I don't think we should ruin it."
           She whispered shyly. "Whatever you says, Plutarcho."
           While she gobbled a handful of assorted pills, I stretched out on the cushionless couch.
           She claimed the guys who followed her up to O. Henry's and back were crudy. "They share the same damned cigar."
           I told her to take it easy on the self-medication.
           But she was already lit up like a Christmas Tree. "My pills helps my fun."
           After some deep-knee squats, she adjusted her massive brassiere and ran around the room on all fours, like a dog in heat. After some heavy barking, she rocked back onto her knees and ran faster. Her arms flailing, she claimed she was "Tom the Talkin' Turkey" and started to quack.
           I told her she was loaded, to knock it off before the neighbors called the police. "Besides, Brandy, turkeys don't quack. Ducks do."
           She jumped up and asked how she was supposed to know how a country turkey sounded. "I'm a city lady." She went on to say that she met a new dude in town who would deliver coke. "You can even writes 'im a business check."
           In no uncertain terms, I explained that I was both broke and out of business.
           Just about to cry, she spotted my father's picture on the cover of an old Braggs' newsletter. Snatching it up, she described to me how dad used to visit KC to socialize with a few of her friends - including Carol. "Big Daddy gave 'em all some kinds of wierdo infection. When Carol used to ask if it weren't awful risky screwin' round right under his son's nose, he said she shouldn't worry, that you was in a world o' you own."

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     Bigmouth Brandy wasn't telling me anything new, but she'd succeeded in touching a nerve nevertheless. I tossed dad's picture into the waste basket and told her to go in the living room and sleep it off, that I needed to get some sleep myself, for a new video job I had. Needless to say, the big girl dropped onto the floor and passed out, right where she stood.
           While she snored, I read some more Exodus, about the land promised Moses' people. I knew I'd heard of a land flowing with milk and honey somewhere before.
           Rolling over on the couch and propping my head on a couple pillows next to the frosty sill, I peered out the window at the snow for awhile, then closed my eyes to rest for a time.

           Snow swirls my soul as pain melts from my limbs. Body renewed and tall, I wonder if all snows fall from the same peaceful place. As my palms open wide, snowy slivers of hope sprinkle away into the clear nocturn. Silver flakes of eternal might, born of the snow, I hope. While the awesome stars twinkle on high, a melody emerges and grows.
           As I move toward the nightsong, the lullaby rings clear and familiar. "We're dreaming of a White Christmas, just like..."
           When the verse is over, I shout through the night. "Sola? Sidra?"
           Sola's cheerful call comes back. "Is that you, Danu?"
           Sidra's voice rolls over a nearby berm. "We're here, by the fire. Come share the holiday."

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     Transcending the mound, I see the sisters toss twigs onto a glowing campfire. Flames leap upward as I come to their side.
           They begin again. "Tis the season to be jolly..." Sidra shakes her head with revelry while Sola slaps out the rhythm on her taut thighs. Between the two, I sit and listen.
           When Sidra's tune is done, Sola smiles at me. "Are you at peace?"
           I say that I am. "Now that I'm here."
           Hugging her sister, Sidra tells me their bosoms are laden. "Swollen with milk of love and peace, yours and everbody's."
           They return to tuneful bliss. "Spin little dreadle, spin little dreadle..."
           Between verses, I question the Hanukkah song. "I thought it was White Christmas."
           Standing, they finish the song, then Sola explains. "This time is every good holiday anyone has ever hoped for."
           Sidra says the soul knows only the religion of the heart. "Join us, Danu."
           While they hum an invitation, I get up to join their celebration.
           Tunes later, when the sisters return to the snow for rest, I lay with them. Still winded, Sidra reaches under a small drift and withdraws three red caps. Gently, she sets one on Sola's head, one on her own, one on mine. The caps are long, tipped with balls of white fluff.
           The girls set the balls spinning above each other's heads and Sola asks if she looks silly.
           Swiftly, Sidra answers. "Who cares? This is so much fun!"
           Whole-heartedly, I agree. "It's good to be alive." To myself, I think it's been well worth the wait.
           Sidra smiles. "For it shall last forever."
           This is no frivolous dream, for I'm more lucid than ever before.

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     A fluffy bunny hops among us, stops, stares at us, then hurries off into the frosty night. Only fragile footprints linger.
           Throwing her arms around my neck, Sidra assures me the prints will not fade with the passing snow. "Not if you hold onto your vision of them."
           Sola rubs my arm and lifts me to my feet. "Come Danu, let us now travel the footpath to Freedom Sound."
           While I help Sola gather moss from a nearby tree, Sidra pulls a trio of ribbons from the snow and twirls them overhead.
           Their jingle illuminates her voice "We nearly forgot the ribbons of bells."
           While Sidra ties one of the ribbons around Sola's waist, Sola weaves a torch from the old moss. The shiny bells ring against golden hips as Sidra shakes Sola's waist. Then Sidra hands me a ribbon and asks me to wrap it around her waist.
           As I touch her soft flesh from behind, she dances in place. I feel every moving muscle as I knot the ribbon. She turns to me and hangs the third ribbon of bells loosely about my neck.
           I shake my shoulders and my bells ring out.
           Sidra wipes cool snow across my forehead while Sola lights our torch from the campfire. Sidra in the lead, we move west, single file up a soft path.
           When I ask who visits this wonderful land, Sola says the Lord makes that choice. "By the spirit of one's deeds."
           Again, the sisters fill the night with melody, their little bells beating out a big old tune. "Onward mighty martyrs, now retired warriors..."
           As we adjust our stocking caps, Sola angles our torch further forward and we scale the steep grade with ease. Cool air flurries our hair as we watch a thousand dots of light in a village far below. Whispers of holiday cheer filter up and soothe our souls. Barely, I see the already small sleds shrink as we climb higher and higher.

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     In a while, our trail levels and Sola points ahead. "We arrive at this isthmus with peace in our heart."
           Along a wide ledge, we clasp hands and gaze at the glassy surface of Freedom Sound. Off to the far right, on top a distant cliff, a giant triangular monument dominates the rockscape.
           Pressing my right hand to her bosom, Sidra explains the sound is a pool of everlasting love. "It's formed to reflect the pyramid of lengthened life, that alabaster edifice which now holds your attention on yonder isthmus."
           Suddenly, purple spangles of lightning crawl from the gold clouds, then jump toward the three-dimensional monolith. The translucent triangle glows foggy gold, then bursts into a giant rainbow of color and shower of sound, pulsing, ringing...ringing...

           My phone woke me up. It was morning back at Poor Richard's, but I saw no sign of Brandy as I reached under the couch. I'd pawned my answering machine, so I answered the phone accordingly. "Hello, this is a recording. David is not home, but please leave a message for him and thank you for calling. Have a good day. Beeeeppppp."
            "David, answer the phone. You can't fool me." It was my father.
           When I announced myself, he asked why I pretended to be a recording and I told him that I didn't like to argue with bill collectors. He told me that I needed to learn proper money management like him, that I should buy the book that he wrote, then started to giggle.
           I told him I failed to see the humor. "I don't have any money to manage."
           He stopped laughing and got down to business. "I simply called to ask you to forget about suing Liz or Rudie. It would be most embarrassing to your poor mother and me. Be a mensch."
           I mumbled. "Be a father."
           Momentarily, Mom came on the line and said that Victoria told her to invite me to my nephew Marshall's winter graduation in St. Louis, the last week in December. "You're welcome to stay with us, hon, if you realize by then that no doctor would have medicated you if you hadn't needed it."
           I told them to say hello to Victoria's family for me, and as I set the phone down, I saw a note taped to Moses. From Brandy, it said she'd taken a $10 bill from my wallet for pantyhouse and would be right back with $5 change. Limping into the bathroom, I found her new miniskirt still hung on the towel rack to dry. Her blouse was crumpled up on the toilet seat. What the hell happened to her?
           After a hot shave and cool shower, I left for Babylonic, confident she'd show up sooner or later to claim her mini. The parking lot was packed with gray slush, and a yuppie in a yellow turtleneck with matching Audi was spinning his tires like crazy.
           One of the tires exploded as I walked by and the yuppie started to cry. "I'm about to sue whoever's responsible for this brothel's slippery lot."
           Dottie's shrill voice called out. "David! David! I need to talk to you."
           Trudging over in hip-high boots, she caught her bated breath before telling me what happened. She'd been sweeping the hallway an hour before and heard a nasty laughter inside the laundry room. Thinking it was the Rodriquez kids, she wanted to see what mischief they were getting into. "So I peeked in, David. Two trouserless men in dirty trenchcoats and Panama hats were doing something so nasty I can't hardly remember."

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     I admitted that I knew who they were, that their days were numbered though. "You have my word on it, Dotty."
           Resting her cleaning mit on my shoulder, Dotty described how she ran them off, but thirty minutes later, when she came out to salt the sidewalks, she saw them looking at my car. "They had their pants back up, but they were both smoking the same cigar, snickering and slobbering at each other. They aren't your friends - are they, David??"
           I knocked the slush off my boots with Moses. "They're no man's friend."
           I was about to ask exactly what they were doing down in the laundry room when Officer Weiland Walker emerged from behind the building, nibbling on a donut and sipping coffee.
           He joined us by my car and told me the varmints high-tailed it when they saw his uniform. "Lucky for them, unless the no-good ring tails were looking for a .44 caliber castration - compliments of Mayor Pecker here." He patted the handle of his over-sized service revolver and asked Dotty to pardon his graphic lingo.
           Dottie told Walker not to worry about it, that she wouldn't say anything to Mayor Becker because she knew it used to be part of his police training. "But aren't you going to try and glue the Cramden's toilet seat back together before you go on duty?"
           Weiland took a deep coffee-gulp. "Not if I stand round runnin' my mouth all mornin'." He winked at us and walked away.
           Dottie shook as she attempted to tell me what the meatheads were up to down in the laundry room. "The first one was holding up a pornographic poster of adolf hitler and some younger man with stringy red hair and a cloven hoof. The second one started yelling something about an empire, over and over. Then they both started, started to, to..."

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           She squinted sadly. "And I always thought just little boys with thick glasses and hairy palms did it."
           Telling Dotty to calm down, that they were gone, I pointed Moses at a patch of yellowed snow on my front wheel. "I think someone's dog took a leak on my car." As I stepped back, my heel squished down on something soft.
           Dottie looked down at the dark brown mess. "You got doggy do all over your boot, David. Don't track it into Poor Richard's, please."
           I noticed something glitter and painfully stooped to examine the suspicious splotch. "From the look of these gold wrappers, Dotty, it's only a pile of cigarillo butts - Diablos brand from Havana."
           As Moses and I escorted Dotty back to the building, she took several deep breaths. "Thank the good Lord, it wasn't doggy do you stepped in."
           I told her everything would be just fine and watched to make sure she got inside all right. As I steered Moses toward the street, the yuppie in yellow started spinning his wheels again and blew another tire. Considering the streets were probably clogged with many more impatient motorists, I opted to walk up to Babylonic.
           The cold morning eased my muscle pain some, as I limped easily along 87th Street with Moses, hoping the venerable lawgiver wouldn't hold Betty sacreligious for naming my cane in his honor. I was the one traipsing his namesake through the mud, though. Who was going to put a good word in for me?
           Half an hour later, I walked through Babylonic's door and grabbed the bell so not to disturb any unseen customers. Making my clumsy way toward the cluttered counter, I realized I was the only patron. From the back room, though, came the smell of dope and moans of vulgar passion.

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           I turned to leave, but Lucky must have heard me. He yelled out that he'd be with me in a minute. I shouted back that it was only David.
           Sweaty and winded, Lucky emerged. "You scared me and Dolly. We thought it was a payin' customer."
           I apologized. "I didn't mean to barge in on you and your wife."
           Struggling to keep his bloodshot eyes open, he adjusted his belt and told me that Dolly wasn't his old lady. "She's the plastic playmate my wife gave me." Sucking on a roach, Lucky's face turned as red as his eyes. "My wife, she gave Dolly to me - 'cause she can't fill all my need always."
           When I told Lucky that Dolly's brand of sex was abnormal, that it lowered human lust below that of an animal's, he told me to get with the times. "If it look or feel good, watch it or do it."
           I told Master Kane that I'd rather not - and swung Moses into a shelf of pornography.
           Though I hadn't broken anything, Lucky waved his finger as briskly as he could. "Don't do that! Stop it!"
           I lied, telling him that JR told me to do whatever was necessary to get things in order. "Then, and only then, can Babylonic become a useful member of the business community."
           Before Lucky could reply, the door chimed and a shapely business lady strolled in, the same buxom babe I'd seen at O. Henry's.
           Lucky yelled out. "Hey Apple Butter, meet Davis."
           Coming to an abrupt halt, she swung a hard, round hip in my general direction. "Nice to see you again, Director Daniels. I'm Biff's close confidant - April Butler with the STAR/TIMES."

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           Returning the pleasantry, I retreated so Lucky could handle whatever she was selling.
           April smiled seductively. "We have special display rates this week."
           Lucky choked. "I need now a free display of everything you got."
           That said, well-packed Miss Butler sat down, adjusted her garter belt, and sold Lucky a quarter page of advertising for the price of a half page. "Surely, you agree a half page is a better than a quarter. Sign here."
           Before I could intervene, Lucky had signed and April thanked him. "Right on, little-go-Lucky. But do you know where I can earn some really big bucks for my little sister's tuition?"
           Lucky's droopy eyes lifted some. "I know how you can earn a microwave in five minutes."
           April told him to try again, then snapped her fingers and headed for the door, swinging her hypnotic hips through the maze of unsold merchandise. I followed the self-liberated business lady up front and watched through the window as she tucked herself into a snow-covered Toyota.
           When I mentioned to Lucky that she took advantage of him, selling him a quarter page ad for the price of a half, he claimed that nobody screwed little-go-Lucky, that by the time the newspaper's bill came due, JR would be bankrupt and out of business. "Do Unto Others Before They Does It To You, David." He laughed heinously.
           I didn't. I knew that people who heard such tripe or read it on bumper stickers enough times started to subconsciously believe it.
           Lucky started to snore and I watched out the window as April's Toyota slid out onto the snow-packed thoroughfare, past the clock over the bank which read 10:00AM.

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           It was 10:00PM by the time we got all the old timers tucked in years before - the live ones. Dirk was very upset. A tall black collegiate, a manic-depressant named Zachary, challenged our overseer to some basketball to cheer up, but failed to mention that he had a perforated left atrium. Before the game of L-O-V-E was finished, Zach had zip and was dead; Dirk had L-O- and was sadder than ever.

           I kicked Lucky awake and he struggled to his feet, cussing me and everything else in the world as he staggered into the back room. Returning a minute later as wide-eyed as a tigercat, he offered me a rectangular packet. "Here, take a blast of my special headache powders, David."
            I took the packet and unfolded it carefully - then blew it all over the wall. Lucky started to swing at me, but I grabbed his fist and lightly jabbed Moses into his gut. He was just about to cry when the phone rang.
           It was JR on the speaker-phone and he told Lucky that he'd found another outlet to buy his pornography for enough money to keep Babylonic going another month.
           I spoke up and explained the subtle addiction of pornography. "Selling it to another store is just as bad as renting it out yourself."
           JR was ready. "What about my Freedom of Speech?"
           I tried to tell the big oaf that pornography didn't exist when the Bill of Rights was written, that the First Amendment was intended to protect political dissidents. "Not money-hungry perversionists. The true intention of a law is more important than the letter of it. JR, you know from reading the Bible, that all rights and freedoms include inherent responsibilities."

end page 290

           JR claimed he was no saint, so I made him a deal. "I'm working on a new marketing strategy for you guys. Throw away the pornography and give me a couple weeks to develop my plan. Then, if it doesn't make you happy, I'll sell my video equipment and reimburse whatever you might have gotten for the smut."
           Under duress, when JR agreed and ordered him to do so, Lucky helped me and Moses shit-can the filthy flicks. An hour later, with three dollars that Lucky paid me for watching the store while he was passed out and with a feeling in my heart that we'd done something good, I headed through the snow to Lings Joint for lunch. No kidding - that was the name of the place. They offered delectable - if not a bit salty - entrees on clean dishes at a reasonable price and turned a decent trade.
           A quarter hour later, after scarfing down half a pint of Garlic Chicken, I was about to break open my fortune cookie when April sashayed in, then tried to sell advertising to low-budget Ling.
           Pretending not to understand Anglish, my oriental friend smiled wide. "Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!"
           April threw up her energetic arms and walked out, shaking her healthy rump in my general direction again.
           When I finally crunched my cookie open, it said to "Prepare For Real Big." At the time, I had no idea that it was referring to Miss Butler's muscled backside - and what a well-trained tuchis it would turn out to be! At any rate, I ordered a second sideplate of "long-grain rice steam in muster sauce."
           Carefully centering the rice in front of me, Ling spoke quite understandable English, as usual. "That Apwil nothing but dumb, big-bwested bitch - all show, no go. Just like all Amewcan talkin' tuwkeys."

end page 291

           As Miss Ling giggled on, I wondered if April Butler could possibly be related to Blanche Tom the Talkin' Turkey Barnes. Cewtainly not - wheweve Big Bwandy had gone. Out hustling dwug money, most likely. Cwack, cwack.

end chap 16



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