91 To a ruffian: “Know what I mean, Jellybean?”

“You fine,” beamed the Administrative Assistant, appropriating the argot of The Ohio Players.
“Yeh?” Uncle Joe said.
“Yes. Let’s get out of here.”
“I have to get a cake.”
“Just say where. I have a car.”
“So do I,” mumbled Joe.
“I can make something out of you. But first, there’s one more item of city business. Hold on.”
She banged on the Mayor’s door. “Time! Time!” A shibboleth she learned during a sojourn in England. It was coming back to her that she used to have fun.
“Your Honor! You need to do something dramatic and positive. Outer-directed.” Out of date music, out of date terminology. “I am a work-in-progress, starting now,” she said cryptically to Uncle Joe. He didn’t mind. He barely noticed. He was marveling how clean the interior of a building was.
She continued shouting through the door. “If you don’t make a splash – and not something superficial – you won’t get re-elected. It has to be momentous. And vivid, exciting, drawing all eyes your way. Thus my counsel. I have a life to speed to.”
She turned to Joe. “Can’t we skip the cake and go straight to the frosting? Know what I mean?” She ventured further, “Jellybean.” For fun.
Joe had a moment of truth. “I have to get the cake.” He made a few observations inflected with pathos which the Administrative Assistant found promising. She felt he wanted to change, too. They could take each other by the hand, like “strangers in paradise.”
Scrunch. “There I go again!” Yet, she felt they were in paradise, or about to be. A man and woman together, in San Anselmo, or at least some town close by with a hotel. They could skip room service coffee, to delay that form of gratification. Then return to San Anselmo and the cafe of choice, the Plip Plop Coffe Shop.
“I have to! My sister-in-law Karen expects it. It’s for my nephew Andrew’s christening party. I probably should pick up some milk, too. Kar likes it very much.”
Already, Uncle Joe’s way of speaking was changing. Caustic elements seemed to be extirpated.
“It’s the power of positive thinking,” explained the Administrative Assistant. She kicked herself for that, but forged ahead. Joe, with his sinewy everyman look, and an added rough edge that was so universally attractive, could be just the fellow City Hall was seeking for its anti-litter campaign. He would be a poster boy who was genuine, because his aggressive, even aggrieved stance against litterbugs was known all over town.
“Did you say your sister-in-law Karen?”
“Yes.” Hitherto, Uncle Joe would have said “Yeh.” and maybe even have spat. “Karen. I can’t let her down, like my brother JoJo did. He was supposed to get the cake. You’d think he could do that one little thing for his wife. She has never asked for much, the whole time they’ve been married.”
“Honey,” said the Administrative Assistant. She liked saying it. Uncle Joe savored hearing it. To him, emerging from lifelong ruffian shtick, it sounded delicious.
She continued, “You do have a sister-in-law, the one who’s always counting. Married to your brother John. But this Karen you mention is not your other brother’s wife. You didn’t know that was a sham ceremony””
“What? What – and if it is true, how would you know?” Not a single spit or growl, just guileless inquiry.
“I work in City Hall. We know all. We know that in a family of worthless, good-for-nothing, low life creeps – no offense, my darling – that your JoJo brother is the laziest and most useless of all. I’m sure he made many promises. I suspect the marriage license was a forgery, and you never did not – hmm, ‘Never Did Not’ might be a good name for a bar; could get known as ‘NDN’ – see anything about the wedding in the newspaper because home delivery had been cut off, account in arrears. As always with the Guss household. A disgrace, by the way. The anathema of that gemlike confluence of Yolanda Drive and Alder Avenue. My sweet.”
“My goodness.” Uncle Joe reeled.
Aunt Kar, saintly and sexy, was single.
“Moo,” he lowed.
“Moo?” The Administrative Assistant was rather startled.
“Just go with it.”
“Moooo,” she essayed. It was deeply pleasurable, in an innocent way.


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