Friday, February 2, 2018

The Private Dick

She was one of those dames who’s actually sexier for being imperfect. Her nose was a little too big, her eyes were too close together, and you could have put three of her mouths into Julia Roberts’. But in many cases, a dame with an imperfect face will pay a lot more attention to detail. Her makeup will be more artfully applied, her attire chicquer, and the seams of her stockings straighter. Some men go for that sort of thing, and I’m not going to apologise for being one of them. 

Estelle hadn’t come to seduce me, though, but to talk to me about her teenage son, who she said was mildly autistic. I told her I too had been artistic as a teenager. She didn’t think that was funny. On reflection, I didn’t either. 

Her son was also not stereotypically masculine, and when he’d signed up for Home Economics rather than Auto Shop, he’d begun being bullied at his middle school, mostly by a big classmate called Yoshi, even though he wasn’t Japanese, but Korean, the son of a certified Hyundai mechanic. Yoshi would walk behind him, stepping on his heels. If he stopped, Yoshi would give him a hard shove right in the backpack. Estelle's son suffered in silence until the day his Home Ec class learned to fold bed linen, and he had the idea of stealing a pillowcase, to put in which he bought himself a couple of cans of sugar-free soda pop out of one of the vending machines the school’s principal had allowed to be installed in hope of making money to buy the football team new helmets. That afternoon, when Yoshi hassled him between 5th and 6th periods, Estelle's son whupped him upside the head with his makeshift weapon. Yoshi had been in a coma ever since, and Estelle's son was transferred to a school in a richer neighbourhood, with no vending machines, but a large budget for the football team.

Hearing that Estelle's son, whose actual name turned out to be Roland, like the electronic musical instruments manufacturer, had put a rival high school’s most notorious bully into a coma, two of the new school’s main psychopaths declared it their mission to make him wish his parents had never met. I was disappointed to learn that Estelle remained happily married to the boy’s dad, the assistant sales manager of a hosiery shop in the big mall, which explained the seams, if not their straightness. “Can you help me, or not?” she asked, her blue eyes shimmering like a huge puddle on a humid day in mid-August.

“The question, sister,” I said, firing up a vape, exhaling through my nose, and putting my feet on my desk, “is whether you can afford my help.” It's never a good idea to let a dame think she has the upper hand.

She sneered. “Judging from the squalidness of your office, and the fact you don’t even have a girl, I can’t imagine affording you being much of a problem.” I have always found a woman in a veiled hat sneering indescribably sexy, but my excitement was no match for my embarrassment about my little office and lack of a secretary. You come every day to a place, you lose sight of what a crudpit it might appear to others. I’d had a girl, of 53, until two months before, when I’d had to let her go because everybody’s hiring their private dicks on line these days, and she was spending all the office's petty cash on gin. 

I told Estelle I’’d protect Rollie for $129.95 plus expenses. My old man, who’d been in the discount appliances game, had told me that .95 prices had been shown to be much more attractive to prospective clients than those that didn’t specify a number of cents. Estelle said she could afford one day, filled out the state forms, and wrote me a cheque that would become cashable in 24 hours, provided I didn't have it framed.

We had lunch together at the Malaysian greasy spoon over on Chestnut. I paid. It was more than worth it getting to watch her apply fresh lipstick at meal’s end. We said so long and I drove over to Rollie’s new school. As luck would have it, his two tormentors were in the same classroom that period, Sophomore French. I shot them both, one in the shoulder, and the bigger one in the clavicle. There was some screaming, of course, not the least of it from the (male!) teacher, but like every other American middle school, it had become used to mass shootings, as which mine qualified because there were two victims. 

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