“You look stressed.”
My new favorite Clean & Safe officer, code name Agent Starling, was sizing up my demeanor. I’d been watching a young guy fold, spindle and mutilate plastic-wrapped porno magazines for twenty-five minutes. “I was watching him like a hawk, and he still got away with three DVDs. I will get him next time…”
“Or call me,” said Agent Starling. “I’ll get you his name and stuff.”
“I can see your report now; ‘Rectum? Damn near killed ‘em!’”
“Ha ha.” Agent Starling has become mildly famous around the store for her encounters with Crazy Cat Woman. According to Crazy Cat Woman, Agent Starling has some amazing physical attributes. She is also quite proficient with a nightstick…
Agent Starling came on the scene a few months back, tagging along with the older Clean & Safe officers. After correcting one officer’s arrest report, (“Ive been writing crime reports for forty fuckin’ years, and this whippersnapper corrects my language?” “Calm down, PJ…”) it was decided she could handle things on her own. If not for questionable math skills, she’d be a PPB sergeant, I’m sure.
I’ve taken a liking to Agent Starling. She is allowed behind the counter at work. She has been granted permission from management to use the bathroom, but after hearing about Giggles adventures with men’s magazines back there, she politely declines. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll take the train twenty blocks and go at the office.”
She seems wholesome, or did at first. One work night I was puttering around, singing Cake and Sodomy as she watched me shelve snacks. “What is sodomy?” she asked.
“It’d be easier if I just showed you…”
“I”M GOING NOW!” She wasn’t biting on that one. I explained as delicately as possible about how sodomy is basically “sticking it in anywhere but the Good Spot.”
“‘Good Spot’? I like that.” She blushed a little. Then she noticed Art East’s head. He was perched on a milk crate below the counter, doing his perfunctory computer-tech wizardry. She blushed a LOT. “Has he been listening to this whole conversation?” she whispered. She looked mortified.
“Nah, he’s lost in his own little world. Watch. Hey Art?”
He snapped out of his reverie. “What?”
“Did you catch that last part?”
“Last part of what?”
“Never mind. See, Starling? Toldya.” I stuck my tongue out for punctuation. Later Art confessed to listening to the whole conversation, wishing he could have somehow vanished into thin air. It almost earned Starling the nickname Little Miss Sodomy, but I think I will save that nickname for someone to whom it more properly applies.
Her milkshake brings the boys to the yard. One night I was holding court with Dennis, Alx and a steady influx of customers when Agent Starling came by. I did not know her age at the time, and she wanted me to guess. Trying to show off my ace carding skills, (following the self-preservatory commandment to always shave off a few years when guessing a woman’s age) I said “Nineteen!”
“Wrong, boyo! I’m twenty-five.” She described having a skin condition that prevents her from ever wrinkling, and is double-jointed. “I can bend my fingers all the way back to touch my forearm. I can put my ankles behind my ears, and I- …probably shouldn’t be telling you this with all these guys around…”
Alx and Dennis were slack-jawed and drooling. “I’m going to the bar,” announced Alx, and he was off to the Magic Gardens. His Raisins girl got tipped extra hard that night. Dennis now regrets getting a job; he can’t stake out the store waiting for her to pop in.
Her area is mainly parking garages. She busts people for peeing, drinking, doing party favors on break from work. The Avenue dope-slangers hit on her constantly. “Come on, honey chile. Let’s go burn some trees up in tha garage. You know we won’t get caught, because you’d be the one catching us!” They laugh, they flirt, but they skirt a wide path if they are really holding.
She comes around to check on things. She will tell me of an incident, describe the perpetrator, and usually I can tell her a story about said perp. “How do you know so much about all these weirdos?”
“These weirdos are my customers.”
I have a handful of mentally-challenged favorites. I don’t say that sarcastically. There’s Stacy, an older woman with a mustache thicker than mine who sounds like little Regan from The Exorcist. (“Your mother sucks cocks in hell!” rings through the parking garage stairwell in the wee hours.) She stole my heart when, after Grinder 86ed her for taking a napkin to blow her nose , she stared him in the eye and peed on the floor. Later, on my shift, she cleaned up a puddle of someone else’s blood without my asking. She can come in when Grinder isn’t around.
There’s Jeffery, who looks like Prince Valiant gone ragamuffin. I’ve respected him since the night I watched him rise from a doorway, pee directly into the storm drain and return to the doorway to sleep. How thoughtful. He always rubs his thumb, fore and middle fingers together like he’s playing the world’s smallest violin when he asks in dramatic fashion, “May I have a book of matchesssss?” I quit charging him a nickel for matches, and he began dropping big money on porno and Odwalla drinks.
The most recent lost soul I’ve taken a shine to is Crazy Cat Woman. She looks and acts pretty much like the Simpsons character. She lives in doorways, hisses and screams and argues with people who aren’t there. She looks as though she once may have had it all, but needed meds and refused to take them. She complains of her long-gone husband, and how he was a rapist. He worked for the FBI, and the CiA, and every politician since the Reagan era has been trying to catch her so they could cut off her head and take the knowledge in her brain. Because she knows things, you see.
She knows about Agent Starling. Starling is “That fucking cop that hangs around Master P’s. She jammed her nightstick up my twat the other night. I was trying to look at a fucking magazine and this fucking bitch came up behind me and rammed it up my twat before I could turn a page!”
I was working when this incident occurred. While it would have made for one hell of a story, (you really think I wouldn’t have written that one up?) Starling doesn’t carry a nightstick. Her weapons are a pen, a list of shelters and a sharp eye. She is an observe and report kinda gal. She got to observe a lot of colorful language from Crazy Cat Woman that night.
Crazy Cat Woman becomes lucid. She will come into the store and politely ask for a book of matches. She likes me to sign them, so people won’t think she stole them. (“I know my husband. That motherfucker would have me prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if he could catch me stealing something. He’s got a sneaky little cunt in uniform following me around. I told ya she raped me with her nightstick the other night, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, I heard. I miss all the fun stuff around here,” I sighed.
“I like you. You’ve never tried to rape me. You have the prettiest hair. Is it that color all over?” She was smiling, her missing front tooth not too distracting.
I pulled the neck of my tee shirt down enough to see a tuft of chest hair. “It’s a little gray in spots. If I showed you any more you’ll have to buy me dinner!” I winked and sat upon my milk crate.
Crazy Cat Woman went outside to smoke her sidewalk-retrieved half-Camel. A couple minutes later Agent Starling came in. “Did you hear the commotion? Your Cat Woman friend just went batshit on me again.”
“Have you been slipping her the wood?”
Frown. “Seriously, she called me the worst names. WAY worse than Nightstick Rapist and all that. C-words, F-bombs, she said my face was covered with six rectums, and when I open my mouth four more rectums are inside, and inside those rectums are more rectums… It was surrreal.”
“Piece of gum, buttbreath?”
“No, seriously. She spit and hissed like a, well, like a crazy cat woman, then she came at me. I shoved her away and called for police backup, because I didn’t want to fight her. She grabbed her stuff and took off. We now have a warrant for her arrest.”
“Oh, man. I kinda like her. Maybe they can get her into a place where she can get on meds and live indoors. Preferably away from covert government agencies.”
“She needs help, that’s for sure.”
I looked at Starling. “I hope you’ll understand if I don’t call when I see her. She trusts me, and I don’t want to mess with that. She has nobody. She shouldn’t be that hard to find.”
“Got it. Well, I best go write all the reports. I can make this last until end of shift…” Instead of going to the Chinatown restaurant that’s been there for a hundred years with all the other older retired-cop types, she hides away in a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant.
I wish her a good night. “Hey Starling, ever see Clerks 2?”
“You’re the only woman I know who can go ass-to-mouth all by herself…”
Starling smirked. “That does it. I’m getting a nightstick. Then I’m coming here…”