“A man of letters is the enemy of the world.”
— Charles Baudelaire
Wendt never went looking for trouble but it often found him. There were two of them, slouching against the concrete stairway to the stucco duplex, hands deep in the pockets of their hooded sweatshirts. And to make matters worse, both his hands were occupied, duffle under an arm, dry cleaning on hanger over the other shoulder. But what could he possibly have that would be of value to them? Underwear, tee shirts, socks, faded jeans, and they weren’t smart enough to know that the suit coat was silk, Armani. He had five bucks in his wallet, change from the dry cleaning, which he had paid for with the twenty he had borrowed from Monica. It was all the money he had and it had to last him until Monday or at least until he could put the touch on someone else. That just wouldn’t do.
Listen, you fucking punks, you fucking caught me with my fucking hands full. All I’ve got is my fucking laundry and my fucking dry cleaning. I’ve got five fucking bucks in my fucking wallet in the inside pocket of my fucking jacket. It’s my last five fucking bucks. You could probably fucking take it because there’s fucking nothing I can fucking do about it. As I said, since my fucking hands are otherwise fucking occupied, I’m gonna fucking ask you to let me fucking go on my fucking way. Five fucking bucks ain’t fucking much in your fucking world, but it’s a fucking lot in mine. If you were to fucking decide to fucking ignore my fucking request and take the fucking money any fucking way, I would be fucking forced into an act of fucking desperation. And you don’t fucking want that because the first fucking thing I would fucking do is pay a fucking visit to fucking Raj, you know Raj, he’s the fucking loan shark who lives down the fucking street on Funston. I’m gonna fucking go and borrow fifty fucking bucks from Raj knowing full fucking well that once I take the fucking loan I now fucking owe him eighty fucking bucks. I’m gonna fucking take that fifty fucking bucks and go over to fucking Mel’s on Presidio, and you fucking know what Mel sells, he sells fucking hot wrenches, and I’m gonna fucking give him the fifty fucking bucks and say give me the cheapest fucking chrome you got, alls it’s got to do is fucking shoot a fucking bullet and go fucking bang. And I’m gonna fucking come back here and put a fucking hole where the fucking bridge of your fucking nose was, and give your fucking shavehead buddy here a lead fucking implant in the side of his fucking skull and then I’m gonna take your fucking iPods and your fucking iPhones and your cheap ass fucking gold jewelry and the fucking money your fucking parents give you for your fucking allowance and after I stick the fucking piece up your fucking dead ass I’m gonna take your punk fucking shit to the fucking guy over on Arguello and fucking sell it all for the eighty fucking bucks I owe Raj I don’t fucking care how much it’s fucking worth. You don’t fucking want that to fucking happen.
Wendt smiled and caught the eye of one of the boys glancing shyly from under his hooded sweatshirt.
The boy, an Asian teen with a bad case of acne, nodded back, “Hey Mr. Wendt.” The other boy, a Caucasian teen plugged into earbuds, just nodded without focusing on the adult.
“Staying out of trouble?” It was such a patronizing question that Wendt almost felt embarrassed asking it. But he’d been young once, he knew what mischief lurked in the minds of teens.
“Yes, Mr. Wendt,” hamburger face answered.
Wendt strode off. “Why?” he called out over his shoulder. The boys stared after him bored and not all that surprised. Tarantino eat your heart out. Nobody fucks with Wendt.
Wendt slipped into his black woolen slacks by the light of the square blue screen on his work desk. He brought up a file as he zipped his fly. Opening the file, he cinched his belt at his waist after tucking in the dark blue micro fiber shirt. He scanned the text buttoning the cuffs. He hopped on one socked foot pulling the other one on and did a little pirouette, butt grind, gloat and gleeful hand clap. Then he closed the file.
“Hey Carl, need a lift?” Wendy was just pulling away from the curb when he strode up. She flicked the lock on the passenger door and Wendt dropped in the seat. “Don’t you look sharp. Something special going on tonight?”
Wendt adjusted the lapels on the Armani after he yanked the seatbelt across his lap. “Gallery opening over on Battery. Turtle Island. In that space over by the TV station.”
“That’s an art gallery?” Wendy was Japanese but in a very American way. “Wasn’t that a night club a while back, The Porno Lounge? It got busted for pimping, remember?”
Wendt nodded and held on to the dashboard as Wendy swerved to the left turn lane and just made the light.
“Yeah, now they’re using it to pimp some other commodity.”
“You think of sex as a commodity, Carl?” Wendy shifted down as the pre-millennium Toyota took the hill. A dark bolero jacket covered an immaculate white blouse. Her black sheer hose poked out from the tight shiny black skirt as her feet in sensible shoes worked the clutch and accelerator. There was just a hint of glitter in her eye makeup and her long black hair was held in place at the back with a large black plastic clip. She turned her head and smiled at him.
Wendt patted the breast pocket of his coat. “You obviously didn’t read my Valentine’s Day column.” She was late thirtyish, maybe, it was hard to tell. “You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette, would you?”
“No, no, I don’t smoke.”
Wendt looked at the console where the tiny ashtray was wedged open by a mass of stubbed filter tips.
“Oh wait, look in the glove box, there may be some in there.”
Wendt pushed the lock and the drawer fell open. A crumpled blue cigarette package topped the heap of what looked like trash and the suspicious outline of what might have been the butt end of a small pistol. Wendt fished a cigarette out of the pack and stuck it to his lips.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t smoke in the car.” She wrinkled her pert narrow nose. “Stinky.”
Wendt tucked it back in with the remaining cigarette and slipped the pack into his shirt pocket, snapping the glove box closed with his knee.
“I read your column about ground hog day, though. I didn’t know that about the relationship between that holiday and bear baiting. That was really interesting. My great grandparents are from Hokkaido where the Ainu practice a bear ritual. I’ve been told some of the old folk tales.” She slowed to a stop at the light, sifting into first.
Wendt admired her profile. Not the softness of Harunobo. More of the angular beauty of Kunisada or Eisen. “Wait till you read my piece on St. Patrick’s Day. If you hear about me getting jumped by a gang of Irish guys, you’ll know why.”
She laughed a pleasant laugh and already they were through the Broadway tunnel. “Drop by Joe’s around closing. I can give you a ride back to the neighborhood.” She pulled to the curb and Wendt made a quick exit.
Next Time (12/12/14): Wendt tours his haunts in North Beach on the lookout for likely pigeons.