"It's just occurred to me, Phelim, that Roger might recognise your voice, from your calls to him last night. . . . .oh! how did you do that? a paper bag? well, I'd never have thought of that, is it effective? my goodness, you're right—who'da thunk it? obviously not me—but I must try it some time when the Mayor is getting uppity, I'll call him, say I'm Marina, tell him that Jessica has had to go to Dalgado County to see Mary Wheelhorse about another Planning Application but forgot her cell and can't be contacted and remind him about how poor the reception is out there, yes, brilliant, but I'll keep it for a time I really need some Me! yes, I now, you don't have to remind me how much Me Time I give myself at the Rec, but that's also Lolly Time 'cause we usually plan to be at the Rec on the same nights, and then go back to the Trailer Park for an hour before I go home, oh God, I'm so worried about her, do you think Roger might really have some information that could help? yeah, he's checking out that Mystery Man who met with Huckleberry Hound a couple of days before the Strike, I think Officer Dibble and Deputy Dawg have spent the past few days going through CCTV tapes, there was a good sighting of the guy at the Luncheonette and I know they showed some stills to Huck and he confirmed they were of the guy, so they know exactly who they're looking for on the other tapes, and they got statements from Georgie's Fan Club about that night, but Roger will know much more than me, so how are you going to play this? do you think I should just drive straight home? the kids will be off to school by now and Roger leaves for his office straight after them, so I'll be able to shower and change, do you want me to take you into town and show you where Roger's office is? yeah, sure, if you follow me, I'll make us some breakfast before we do, but I implore you, Phelim, you mustn't mention me—in any context—Roger may lack imagination, but he's dogged. . . . .no! not in that way, no, never, not once, not ever has he tried anything like that, strictly Missionary with Roger, he's very Old School he'd probably consider it on a par with atheism or pandeism—you know, a kinda religious hotch-potch, with a bits of everything in it—OMG the very thought! if he ever did anything like that he'd have to have been drugged but then he'd rush down to confess to Father O'Toole, believe me! straight-laced, ha ha, yeah, very tightly corseted, that just about sums my hubby, Roger, up, but Phelim—are you absolutely sure you were never Bureau or Agency—sometimes you say things that make me think. . . . .oh don't worry, I'm just joshing you, it's strange but, though we only met yesterday and all that's happened is I've talked about things I never intended to tell a living soul, but I'm somehow glad that I was able to, and you are the living soul I did tell, and though a lot of it was embarrassing, I never felt embarrassed telling you and, if any of it helps us find Lolly, it's you I'll want to thank, how? well, I don't know, but don't worry, I will be able to show my appreciation for your kindness, your understanding, your non-judgemental way of drawing the information out of me, and your genuine, sincere help at this difficult time, is just caballine—it's sort of inspirational, Phelim—talking of which, I think we'd better go now, I do have work to go to, here, let me give you a quick kiss, and please promise me: ex abundante cautela, I'm serious, so what's with the 'we lawyers'? oh, I get it, always using Latin, yeah, goes with the territory, maybe I should point out: 'braccae tuae aperiunter!' ha ha, yeah you looked, but of course, as a Scotchman, you should be wearing your kilt and you wouldn't have to worry about flies—or underpants—oh, get away, no I've never shagged anyone in a kilt, well, that'd be a first then, come on, the clock's ticking!"
"Oh, ah, yaaaaawn, oh gosh, did I nod off? so sorry, I don't know what came over me, I'm so sorry, what time is it? oh my God, 7.45! at night? morning! oh Jesus! my hubby must be demented, he'll be frantic! what? when? what did you tell him? did he believe you? oh fuck, fuck, fukkity fuck! let me get this clear: you told him I'd gone to see a Planning Applicant called Mary over in Dalgado County but I'd forgotten my phone, yes? well, that wouldn't surprise him, I'm always leaving it in cafes and offices, though I've always got it back, but why would I be out all night, oh, so I called you later from this Mary's place, what did I say? the car was empty? ok, he'd buy that, I keep forgetting to check the fuel level, but why didn't I call him direct? right, so I told you she's not got a landline and the cell-phone signal was poor, I couldn't get through to his phone or the house, ok, yeah they're always working on the towers out there, so how did I reach you? ah!—smart thinking—so you managed to reach a neighbour of Mary who went to Mary's checked on me, that she called you back and told you I'm okay, Mary's husband is going for a can of fuel in the morning, ok, now, let's see who? I know, Mary Wheelhorse, she's a regular pain in the butt with her applications, the paperwork's always a mess, and she rides too close to the bend, sails too close to the wind, walks too close to the edge, okay, gotcha, how did you get Roger's number? oh, smart, I know he's not in there as Roger so you looked up Hubby, I'm impressed, you're a past master at this stuff, Mr Phelim, sorry, what's your surname? okay, MacFarlane, and you're sure you're a reporter, not FBI or CIA? okay, okay, I'm just stressed out with this, so who is Mary's neighbour, sorry, I always snap my fingers when I'm working things out, Mrs, Mrs, Gladys Chantwell, yeah, that's her name, from Trinidad, was a lead singer in a calypso band—oh, long ago, she's well over eighty now—so yeah, she wouldn't want someone she didn't know coming into her house, even to use the phone, but I'm so relieved you let Roger know, he's remarkably easy going, the acme of longanimity, and loyal, and trustworthy, doesn't bear grudges, puts up with a lot, but to be cuckolded a hundred times over and counting by a slut of a wife who can't keep her panties up and her legs together, he just doesn't deserve it, have you got a hankie I can? thankyou, I don't cry easy, but this has been so trying, awwww, that's nice, you are so kind Mr MacFarlane, okay, Phelim, and I do trust you, absolutely!"
"Yes, thankyou, coffee. . . . .no, actually, do you have anything stronger, could I cadge. . . . ? errm. . . . .oh, Bourbon would be fine, thankyou, mmmm that's like what Lolly always has in her flask, yes, well, to tell you the truth—I try always to be truthful, that's how I was raised—Lolly and I have been lovers for two years, no, Roger. . . . .errm, my husband doesn't know anything, thank God, he would be devastated, well, if he knew about the Rec that would be worse, or, well, I don't know which would be worse, probably the Rec, oh, maybe they would be equipollent in their effect on him and, anyway, he mustn't find out, but you probably should talk to him too, he's the County Prosecutor and he's working on the Fairpants Case, the dirty rat who imprisoned Lolly in the Luncheonette, yes, but don't tell him you've spoken to me, please, you see Lolly told me that Fairpants has an accomplice, he referred to him as, what was it, The Laird, whatever that means, and I believe that it was The Laird or one of his henchmen who abducted Lolly, I've been absolutely frantic since she disappeared, where is she? and I must hold on to my belief, my Faith, that she's alive, I just know that, I dread to think what those bastards—forgive my French—might have done to her, they are pure Evil! yes, at her trailer at the Park, she keeps it real neat and that's where I meet her and, no, I have no problem with what she does at the Truck Stop, that's just her job, it's how she makes her living, and we work to live, not the other way round, Lordy, but that Bourbon sure is strong, yes, thankyou, just a little, oh, that's too much really, but down the hatch, waste not want not my Mom used to say, ha ha, but if you do go to see Roger, Roger Muddler, don't mention me, please, he'd wonder how you knew me, know me, well, you don't really, do you? this is the first time we've met, not that there'll be a second time, oh, thankyou, you are very kind, and I'm a little woozy, you know, you are a very good listener and easy to talk too, talk to, to - oh, God, I've told you so much that I haven't told anyone, not even Father O'Toole at Confession - that's a laugh - all I confess is that I've broken a speed limit or parked the car illegally, or some such trivia, I just make it up, oh, and one time I told him I snuck a cigarette out of Phyllis's pack when she went to the Ladies' Room, oh Phyllis works with me, at the Office, I'm Special Counsel for the Town—it's nothing fancy, sounds more than it is, a backroom job, really, mostly—Phyllis? she's my Paralegal, Oliver Wendell Holmes could write a book about her, The Xerocrat at the Breakfast Table—if he was still alive—'cause she runs that Xerox machine like a Field Marshall, we only have a part-time secret, secret? secretary, Hilda, but she can't bake a pie, no, not Hilda, Phyllis, oh, no, yes, I can, my Mom raised me well, do you mind if I just lie down for a few minutes, my, my head is swimming, don't you find this room rather hot, when I see Dr Bronsky, I lie on a couch and sometimes fall asleep, is that disrespectful, do you think? after all, he's sitting in his chair listening to me, focussing on what I tell him, which certainly isn't about the Rec and Lolly, but he's doing his job and all I have to do is talk, but one day I fell asleep and woke to find Dr Bronsky had moved his chair up close, probably so he could hear what I was saying, probably just mumbling, and he seemed to be listening to my heart, the poor man thought I was ill, but he was most solicitous and I really appreciate that in a man, it's more of a feminine trait, usually, solicitude and empathy, but I do find you extremely empathetic, or is it empathic? certainly not pathetic, oh, I'm rambling, I don't know what's got into me today, probably a sense of relief at being able to talk openly about Lolly and the Rec, I feel I owe you, no, no, you may say you are only doing your job, but Phelan, is that okay, if I call you Phelan, well, Phelan—is that Scottish? oh Gaelic? wow, how romantic!—you have been so sensation, no, sensitive and understanding about my position. . . . .well, the position I'm in, no, not here, at home, in my life, and with Lolly, with Roger and my secrets about the Rec, sometimes I want to just blurt it out, tell him everything, but I couldn't, I can't, it would kill him, so I just put it in a little box and place it in a little closet deep in my mind where it wont hurt Roger, or the kids, I'll never tell him, it's my secret, well, mine and Lolly's, yes, and yours too now, and I know that I can trust you, I can, can't I? what do you mean, 'if I play my cards right'? we aren't playing cards, are we? oh, I'm getting quite confused, do you mind if I just shut my eyes for a few minutes, I think I need a little rest, after talking about all that stuff, do you mind? thankyou. . . . .yes, of course, if you want to, it's your room and your bed, you can rest yourself wherever you want, I'm hardly in a position to object, am I? here, I'll just budge over a little, how's that? it's so peaceful, thankyou for drawing over the curtains, it helps to keep out the light, and it's just like a pleasant twilight now, much more restful, I do appreciate your support, Phelan and hope that we can maybe together find out what's happened to Lolly, if you do have a wife or girlfriend she's a lucky lady to have you, but it's okay, you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to, yes, you can hold my hand, thankyou, that is very comforting, I do appreciate your consideration, and I hope you won't think me rude if I just, yawn, and drift off for a little, no, no, suit yourself, thankyou, Phelan, mmmmmm that'd be nice, just half a glass will be enough, you are a perfect gentleman, a perfect Highland Gentleman, oh, feel free, don't mind me, oh, I see you've got a little totem on a chain around your neck, what is it? oh, a fellow with a sword! and the words? oh, my goodness, 'THIS*I'LL*DEFEND' how fascinating, oh, I see, a Scottish Clan Badge, oh that is lovely, very masculine, yes, very manly, oh no, thank you . . . . . . . .
"Ok then, how shall I describe Lolly? let me count the ways. . . . .yes, yes I know I was paraphrasing Shakespeare, right, well, firstly, I didn't know then that she was a professional, a prostitute, okay, a hooker who worked the Truck Stop, but I saw that she knew more than me about men, and sex, in fact, she knew more than most, if not all, the other females—of whatever species—at the Rec, and I found out over time that some of them had been doing this for years, with or without their husband's knowledge and, or, complicity, but for most of them it was done for personal gratification—I don't know that they were nymphomaniacs, if that condition really exists, or is it just a belittling of a woman who has a similar sex-drive to a lot of men?—no, they do it because they enjoy it, which is why we do most things that we aren't obliged to do, they enjoy the sex, they enjoy the attention, and they enjoy the power their bodies give them over men, that's why most of them do it, of course there were some who were being influenced, or coerced by a husband or boyfriend for whatever reasons he may have—possibly just bullies, or maybe they sold the photographs or videos they shot off, they certainly did a lot of that, snapping. pointing lenses, which was why I took a highwayman's mask the second time I went, and always after that—one night, it was in the middle of winter, there had been a lot of snow and the Rec was deserted, apart from Lolly and me, so we sat on a pair of swings in the Playground and smoked, sipped from a flask Lolly kept in her handbag—a rather good Bourbon, I recall—talked, or she did while I listened, fascinated, and that was when I learned her name and that her regular work was at the Truck Stop; I was rather surprised, although on reflection I should have guessed that there must be a reason why she had such an all-encompassing knowledge of men and sex, but. . . . .well, the surprise was, I suppose, that from what scant knowledge I had of prostitution, coming from such a sheltered and restricted background, I assumed—which of course one never should—that prostitutes were uneducated, uncultured, unsophisticated women, although on what basis? well, I can only say, none, it's a prejudice and one that I am rather ashamed to admit, but there it was, here I was, speaking fairly intimately and freely with someone who shattered my assumptions, for truly, Lolly was the smartest, wittiest and in fact, wisest woman I had ever met, and not at all like whatever vague and uninformed ideas I had harboured, on no evidence whatsoever, who freely answered my questions, held within herself not an iota of a trace of shame about her profession, and was perfectly candid about the benefits and disadvantages of her chosen place in society, she told me about her friends—or workmates, colleagues, the other women and a few boys who also worked among the Truckers—and told me that she had started out while she was a student of Moral Philosophy at the University, and it was originally just a few hours a week, to earn some extra cash to pay for things her allowance from her parents couldn't stretch to, but she found that she enjoyed it and the few hours a week grew until she eventually dropped out of College and turned full-time, but she had also taken a day-job as a waitress at the Luncheonette, near where she roomed at the time, because she was writing a novel and wanted a chance to overhear conversations and collect stories from the patrons which she could use in her novel and she said the two jobs, usually days at the Luncheonette, and nights at the Truck Stop, worked well—she didn't seem to need a lot of sleep and managed to fit in a couple of hours each day to work on her book, and occasionally she would do a day shift at the Truck Stop and a late at the luncheonette, where she would encounter a different set of people with their own stories—and the times she came to the Rec were strictly off-duty, no ex contractu relationship existed between the giver and the receiver, unlike the state of play at the Truck Stop, where a guy is paying for a service and the woman takes the money and gives him her full attention and the best she can do, which is his due, for, as she explained, the stranger in the Rec and the trucker at the pumps were not equipollent in their expectations and rights, for at the Truck Stop there was a contract agreed between buyer and seller, whereas at the Rec, it was an agreement between equals, where in a sense, both were receivers, and in the activities Lolly described, her contacts with the guys, she listened and let them talk, if they wanted to, she had an ear for dialogue and told me some of the things she overheard, either what was said to her, or the other women, or between the truckers themselves, which she narrated in a style that I could have listened to for hours but when it began to snow again, it was getting late, so we decided to call it a night and head our separate ways, and she kissed me, on the lips, which sent an amazing tingle through my body and as I drove home, all I could think about was Lolly and hope that I would see her again soon; someone had told me once, I don't know on what basis of fact, or fiction, that a lot of hookers are lesbians—although I had no real knowledge of what or how lesbians did whatever they did—but it intrigued me for in my innocence, I couldn't see any point in two men or two women having sex, in each couple, there was something missing, with the men, it was a vagina—for I had never heard of either oral or anal sex—and between the women, the lack of a phallus seemed insurmountable, for, as I said before, my only experience of sexual intimacy had been with my hubby, my parents had never properly explained the Facts of Life, so I had been full of trepidation on our wedding night, but he is a good man and was gentle with me and although there certainly weren't fireworks or peals of bells, it wasn't too unpleasant and he also wasn't too demanding—partly, may mostly, I guess because of our religious beliefs, we're Catholic and Roger. . . . . oh, ignore that, my husband, is more devout than me, though we all go to Mass on Sunday, the whole family, but he believes that sex is only for procreation, it's not done for fun, if you enjoy it, that's a bonus, but not the purpose, so for us, sex wasn't either regular or experimental but at least it worked and we've got the three kids now, two girls and a boy, and maybe make love about once a month at most, usually less because we aren't trying for any more, but if God blesses us, we'll be happy with that, of course, so we do it only occasionally, on no regular basis, and it's really just a slight addition to a cuddling session when he isn't too tired after work and usually seems to be the night before I plan to go to the Rec, but if he ever found out what I do and what is done to me, our marriage would be split asunder, and my loss would be incalculable—and even that knowledge hasn't stopped me going, but if he found out something else. . . . .and I'm talking about my feelings after Lolly kissed me—ok, here goes—it wasn't just on the lips, she also slipped her tongue into my mouth, and her hand down my jogging pants and found my clitoris and for the first time in my life, even after about a dozen or so evenings at the Rec, I did see fireworks and heard the bells and experienced an orgasm that flooded my panties and her fingers, and you know what? when she took her hand out, she sucked her fingers and said I tasted beautiful! and that experience of combustion and the release of phlogiston, which almost knocked me off my feet, that memory of the intense delight which had coursed through my entire being, was what filled my mind as I drove home!"
"Just water, thankyou, there should be some bottles in the mini-bar, oh, I see you've already explored the place, well, anyway, that first night. . . . .I stayed longer than I meant, didn't make it to the Women's Group, didn't get home till about two hours after I usually do, and my hubby—I know that's a kind of dated term, my Mom was English and that's what she called Dad, and I just carried on the tradition—anyway, he was in bed, reading, so I showered, really scrubbed myself all over, and my hair, which was pretty sticky, brushed my teeth twice and rinsed my mouth three times to get rid of the taste, but I was really nervous that he might smell something off me, off my breath, but as usual, he just kissed me on the cheek and put his light out, while I filed my nails, which had got slightly torn, and then I put out my light and tried to sleep, but how could I? so much tumbling around in my head, all the images, sensations, memories of what was put inside me! there's no way I could tell you how many men fucked me—you know, I would normally say 'made love to me,' not that any of it was normal, or what I normally experience, but they didn't, not make love to me, they fucked me! in my, you know, my vagina, my ass and my mouth—Jesus, right down my throat! now that'd never happened before, I can tell you—but don't get me wrong, it wasn't forced, against my will, non-consensual, it wasn't rape, because at that moment, totally out of the blue, after seeing what was already going on, I wanted to be part of it, to be right at the centre of it, to be the object of those guys' attention, desire, passion, sexual drive, and all that semen! oh Jesus, you could probably repopulate the whole of Hanna Barbera with that much sperm, and some guys, the ones who didn't get a chance, didn't get close enough to penetrate me, or even for me to hold and jerk off, they shot over my breasts, my face, my hair, but I guess that was the price of my Faustian Bargain, no pain, no gain, and yet I loved it, every moment, until some kind of internal clock started ringing in my head and I asked someone what time it was and I'd been there four hours, so I yelped 'gotta get home, gotta go, gotta go,' and someone shouted, 'you'll be back?' and I yelled as I ran for the car, half naked, scrabbling for my keys in my bag, 'you betcha!' and they cheered, and I was—not the next night, nor the one after, in fact much as I was desperate, it wasn't till the next week, but I went an hour earlier, which was when things were just warming-up, and I found out who had lost the shoe! it was a guy, well, a cross-dresser, in his late 60s, he or she was wearing them and I told him that my dog found the one he lost and he was so grateful, said his name was Candy—like Candy Darling—and told me his partner, Holly—as in Woodlawn, they were apparently Warhol collectors and aficionados—he was gay, had died about six months earlier and he didn't feel able to enter the usual Gay Scene, you know, the couple of bars that apparently cater to that crowd—I didn't even know there were any Gay Bars in HB, shows you what an innocent I was—anyway, he missed his lover, they'd been together for thirty years, but considered himself too old for the bars, he said he wasn't looking for, or even hoping for, another relationship, like they had, but he'd missed sex terribly, said he was suffering 'penis withdrawal pains', and by chance, one night, he met the undertaker who'd overseen his partner's funeral and when she asked how he was coping, Candy said he wasn't, and explained why, and the Undertaker said that, most nights, over here in the Rec, he could at least find a chance of physical contact, not strings, no questions, with every section of the HB community represented, Human Folks and Animal Folks, Flat Toons and 3D, and at the Rec, it seemed—at least, accordin to Candy—that most guys, Straight or Gay, didn't really care who sucked them off, they weren't looking for a relationship either, so who or what mouth would do it for them was equipollent and OK by them, and I must say, it looked like that to me too, and I found that remarkably moving, it made me realise why I was there and it's why I still go there, it's a combination of animal lust—the basic need for sex, no matter who or what provides it and meets that need—and it's an adrenaline rush, the excitement I feel—and I think I can see and feel it in the people, whatever their form, I have sex with, or who have sex with me—seems to come from doing something which may be legal, but is so far outside our cultural norms that it feels like we are breaking every taboo and every rule in the book, look, I love my hubby and my kids, my home, my friends, my job, my community, and I have no desire to meet someone else, form a new relationship—temporary or permanent—change my way of life, run away into the wide blue yonder, when I can already get fucked whenever I want, as much as I could ever wish for, get that adrenaline high that keeps me going till the next time; usually, I come here twice a week to the Rec, and I come—you'll understand—more than that, but there have been times when I've needed more and I've come seven or eight nights in a row—that took a wee bit of explaining to Hubby, but he trusts me, knows I'm not the kinda woman to cheat on him, or run off with someone, abandon my family, him and the kids, I was a virgin when we married and I never cheated on him, not once, until that first night I went to the Rec—so, 'sure', he said, 'the Women's Group need you as much as you need them, and I have never, once, complained about looking after the kids, so go for it honey, have fun', and I did! and still do, but what about you? have you been over there? or anywhere else like it? it's not an HB phenomenon, I know that much, well, now I do, so do you have a girlfriend, wife, lover, boyfriend? oh that's okay, I said I didn't want any questions and I know I've disclosed more about myself than I ever meant to, but when you start talking about something that's as important in your life as water, it's kinda hard to hold back, water, huh? feels like the floodgates burst wide open, and none of it's been about poor Lolly, it's all been about me! oh, sure, I get that, it's useful background for you, but Lolly! well, where do I start? oh yeah, the first time I noticed her, I don't know exactly when, just a few weeks after I started going there, and she looked different, sorry? oh, in what way? well, I don't know exactly what it was, but she wasn't the same as the other women, even the ones who'd been going there for ages, it was like she had a knowledge of men that we others didn't, for example, she could make a guy cum just by holding his dick and using her fingers, ha ha! yes, like popping a cork from a bottle of sparkling wine, she'd just rub her thumb over the tip, give a little squeeze, and a jet of his spunk would shoot out over her breasts, or onto her face if she was looking closely at it, and she'd use his dick to work it into her skin, and the guy, he'd look like he just won a million bucks, even though he hadn't been inside her at all—it was professional, that was it—she could size up a guy in a few seconds, examine his dick like a jeweller with his eye-glass estimating the weight of a diamond, and she'd know exactly where to put it and how long he'd take to discharge; well, she looked gorgeous—not that she was young—she was about my age, and hadn't had an easy life, but she had a glow about her that beats even soap and water and brand cosmetics and even though she worked tricks for a living, as I found out later, she could look as innocent as a virgin or as knowing as a hardened pro, and in the eyes of whichever guy she was readying for, she could look like his kid sister, his mom, his teacher, even his daughter—if he was an old guy—and she knew exactly what she had to do to give him the experience he wanted, whether he was a hiker, a biker, a dog, bear or gnome, whatever, and I can tell you this, she was the most popular woman as far as the animal guys were concerned, the dogs would even fight over whose turn it was—no bloodshed, just a bit of snarling, pushing and shoving, they aren't as querimonious as the bears, really, those guys are the most picky and don't hold back on criticisms, how they ever cope with a wife, I'll never know and the monkeys! for Jesus' sake, they're never in a rush, slow to enter, they can stay inside for ages, and when you think they've fallen asleep, Wham, Bam, Thankyou Ma'am!—which never really happened over any of the rest of us, even the Porno women, and some of them were vamps with hourglass figures, but all that came later when I got to know her, what I saw that first night was someone who was different, from me, from the other women, and I think I suspected that I could learn from her, yes, that was it, I felt like a novice Buddhist Monk who'd just encountered the Zen Master who would teach him everything!"
"Mrs? no, but how. . . . .oh, of course, my ring, I usually take it off when I come here, but this is the first time I've come inside the motel during the day, it's all so different, though they've given you one of the better rooms, some of the others are, well, plainer, cheaper I suppose—rented by the hour, though I doubt Olga would admit to anything like that, so, yes, Amelia's fine, don't ask me any more questions, but Olga did say you want to know about Lolly—I don't know if that's her real name either, most of the folks who go to the Recreation Area just say they're Jim, or Joe, it's surprising how many Jims and Joes there are in Hanna Barbera, but I guess it's easier to remember simple names, the women tend to be more adventurous—in what they call themselves—Rebecca, or Rachel, Cassandra, Lolly too, and I guess some of them are plain Janes or Marys, I always wear a highwayman's mask, just in case, so do some of the others, but I have recognised some of them, men and women both, though I don't think they recognised me, I'm not a very public person, probably as invisible to the rest of the world as anyone who ever trod shoe leather, because, as you probably know, if someone works a checkout in Wall Mart or the Post Office, regular customers get to recognise them from a distance, while the customers' faces are probably just a blur, but that's not what I'm here to talk about, you'll want to know how I met Lolly, and it was a few years ago, not long after I started, well, going to the Rec, which was just by chance, I had brought the kids—oh, forget I said that, but. . . . .oh, makes no difference, there's lots of kids in town—anyway, we had ice-creams in the cafeteria, it was early summer, and the kids asked if we could take the dog, which was still in the car, to the Playground, so I got the dog and we walked over the bridge and while the kids played on the swings and things, I took the dog for a walk round the lake, which was when it found a shoe, came bounding out of some bushes with a woman's shoe in it's mouth - Jimmy Choo, the shoe, not the dog, I remember thinking 'who could forget a Jimmy Choo?' so I set it on a fence-post to make it easier to spot if she, whoever, came back looking for it, but then I got to thinking, who takes a dog for a walk wearing a fuck-me shoe like that, oh, I'm sorry, I don't normally say things like that, but then, none of this is normal, is it? anyway, that night I got to thinking, it must have been lost at night, but who goes to the Rec at night? and I couldn't think of any reason a person would have, so far as I could recall there weren't many street lamps, even in the small car-park, and only a couple in the playground and none at all along the path round the lake, and that's when I decided to go there one night, just to exorcise my curiosity, but then, as they say, that's what killed the cat! so, I managed to squeeze my little car into a gap, the car-park was pretty full, which really surprised me, and I was half in a mind to drive away, but then I wondered why so many here at night, when presumably the kids are all in bed—didn't I say? it was a Thursday, when I usually go to a Women's Group, and I fully intended just to be five or ten minutes at the Rec and then carry on to the Group, but what I saw! well, it shook me, I don't mind telling you, and you must think I've lived a very sheltered life, which I don't consider I have, just a quiet, uneventful one, like most folks here or anywhere else, but what I saw was a woman, kind of suspended between two men, they were holding her up and what they were doing to her, one at each end, made me think of a rozzle, like when you cook something over a campfire, but they weren't cooking her! later I found out the usual term is spit-roast, same difference, but by then I wasn't shocked, I'd found myself among kindred spirits and my life has been utterly transformed—not during the day, and not at home—but at night! oh boy, I live for the nights!"
"Well, in a sense, it didn't happen overnight, and yet, in a kinda way, it did—let me explain—I've always been attracted to women, no question about that, and I'd met some, over the years. . . . .but I don't wanna go into all that, and anyway, it was more about my perception of myself, 'cause I can't say I was ever truly comfortable as a man, oh, I got by, but somewhere, deep inside me—repressed, I guess, is what the trick cyclists would call it—was a wonderin' of what my life would be like if I'd been born a woman, an', much later, I came to realise that that was the problem, I should have been born a woman and I tried to avoid the issue—what can I do about it?—by throwing myself into work, very manly work, actin' macho though it was goin' directly against what I wanted to be, oh, I did all sorts of things, I had no clear career plan, no particular skills, training or interests and, well, after I got over here, the USA, I found myself in the doldrums, goin' nowhere fast, an' somehow I became a wrestler, I had the body, I'd always worked out and 'cause most of the employment I'd had was physical, man-ual labour, I s'pose, I found I was pretty good at it, I could handle myself, but maybe I was also punishin' myself too, puttin' myself in a position where I could get seriously beat-up—okay, most of the bouts are staged, the promoter usually tells us who's gonna win, in which round, you know the rap—and I built up a small following, a few gay men and a larger group of women—all ages, but mostly older than me—but one night, in a small town east of the Pecos, I was billed against Fat Freddy, now, I don't know if you've ever seen him, well I was fairly big, but he was huge, an' mean as you can get, especially 'cause he wasn't usually allowed to win, an' on this particular night, he had some dame in the mob he was real hot for, so he asked me to throw it in the fifth, but I was down for the win, so declined his offer of a hundred bucks and he was real mad, probably at the thought of losin' to me in front of the woman he wanted to lay, so, we went at it hammer an' tongs, an' then, in the sixth round, he kneed me in the groin, it was the worst thing that'd ever happened to me, sent like a megaton of electric shock into my head, apparently I let out a strange high-pitched meep an' passed out an' only woke up in the hospital where the doctor told me my nuts had gone, mashed to a pulp an' my dick was broken, in two places an' had ruptured, split from base to tip, like a sausage, an' in the theatre they had only two real choices: whether to take the whole works out, or leave me with a floppy dick to pee through, though even that would likely be difficult, an' definitely no erection, unless they inserted a rod, but then it would be at permanent attention, which, well, would be inappropriate an' embarrassin', so the surgeon consulted with a couple of specialists in urogenital surgery an' gynaecology an' the best solution they could come up with was give me a kinda vaginal tube, I'd have to pee sitting down but, hey, I'd probably have to do that anyway, whatever they did an' that's what they did, an' what decided me, I asked for a referral to a Gender Reassignment Clinic, went on female hormones, had another op to widen the tube they'd fashioned and make the lips more, fuller, I've got a clitoris fashioned out of the very bottom of the old dick, but it's highly sensitive, I got my breasts augmented to the proportions of my torso, an' it was all paid for out of the Promoter's Liability Insurance, an' Fat Freddy was pursued by the Insurers an' his Personal Liability—which we all had to have—coughed up too, and six months after Fat Freddy did for my manhood, I was back in the ring as Olga from the Volga and did quite well for a year or two, until The Mountain Woman, ever seen her? seven foot tall an' ten foot round the middle, wiped me out down in the Valley, I never saw her feet comin' straight to the back of my head, cracked a couple of vertebrae in my neck, I was very lucky, could've been paralysed but wasn't, it weren't deliberate, I hold no grudge, could happen to anybody, but that was the end of Wrestlin' for me and after the Testimonial Night, with me wearin' a neck-brace and refereein' a couple of bouts, I walked away, but it had given me the chance to discover how many Lesbians there are out there—plenty enough to keep me happy, oh, Da, Da! but you didn't come here to learn about my life, an' I guess all I've told you, which, by the way, ain't near everythin', has been what my analyst calls a smokescreen, a diversion, yeah? yeah, you want to know about Lolly an' her disappearance, an' the best person to speak to would be Amelia, she ain't one of the workin' girls, but she an' Lolly got pretty tight, I told you about the Recreation Area, an' how it changes after dark, yeah? that's when the amateurs come out doggin'—which in my naivety I thought was dog-walkin' or trainin' until I went over there on about my third or fourth day on the job—young, old, straight, gay, quite a number of women but lots more men, either at it, or watchin', takin' photos or videos, an' not a penny changin' hands, an' because of the imbalance of numbers, I joined in, just bein' friendly an' helpin' the women out, takin' some of the pressure off them, ha ha, but, no, it's a fair question, I let it go on because it brings more footfall to the whole complex, there ain't enough women or time for all the guys to get their rocks off, so some head over to the Truck Stop an' pay one of the gals there, which is good, an' a whole lot of them go into the Services, for burgers or drinks afterwards, which is good, so all-in-all—an' I got the Accountant to do a forensic analysis of the pluses an' minuses of allowin' the Doggers to keep goin—it turned out that our take increases when they're there, so it makes commercial sense, they complement, rather than threaten, the workin' gals an' ev'rybody's happy, includin' my Boss, in fact he put the Recreation Area into a Trust an' made me the settlor, so I've given permission for the Night-Owls to use it an' I'm responsible for what goes on there, we charge a small parkin' fee an' put the profit into the kid's playground, so they benefit, and Amelia is a reg'lar Dogger—now, that ain't her real name so don't ask her—the very fact that she's prepared to talk to you means she's takin' a big risk, but she's willin' to do it in the hope it'll help find Lolly an' before you ask, no, she ain't spoke to the cops an' won't, it's only 'cause you're from outside that she's gonna meet you, she won't talk to anyone local, I guess I don't fit into that category yet, I only been here five years!"
"Da, da, Olga Mariachi—same as the bands—an' da, I was known as Olga from the Volga when I was pro-wrestling, but that's behind me now, hah! retirement at 27! an' no Pension or Health Benefits, all I had in my purse was forty dollars an' some guy's business card, with a note to call him if I was ever lookin' for a change of career—well! it wasn't me who was lookin' for a change, it was my body—there's only so many sprains, strains, bruises an' breaks a gal can take an' I'd had 'em up to here, so I called him, jumped a Greyhound an' here I am, he changed my name to Mariachi—legally, no funny business—an' laid out his cards: he's the Owner—not the Manager, the actual Owner—of Four Bridges Services, the place that occupies the site where the East-West an' North-South Interstates cross, and the best way for me to put it, if you ain't been there yet, is give you the ordonnance—the layout, or map, as it were—so, on one corner is the commercial Truck Stop, with it's Gas Station, an' on another is a General Service Station, gas pumps for domestic vehicles, short-term parking, Food Court, the usual stores, then there's the Motel Corner with overnight parkin' an' lastly a Recreation Area with a small lake, visitor car-park, playground for kids an' picnic site, course, it's used by other folks after dark, an' the four corners are linked by the four bridges so you can walk from one to another an' vehicles on both Interstates can access any of the corners, it's well-planned an' well-run, an' his proposition to me was to Supervise the Recreation—not the kids' stuff, the Adult—but don' get me wrong, he's no pimp, nothin' like that, he gets no kick-back from the girls an' boys workin' the trucks, the Motel or the car-parks, he told me he knew what life was like an' that you see a Service Area like that, there's gonna be hookers, whores, rent-boys, doggers, what-have-you, an' that's okay with him, cause it brings custom, but it can attract trouble too, which is why he wanted someone capable to supervise, keep dealers away, don't allow pimps on-site, make sure there's no cause for the cops to sniff around, cause that scares punters away, an' tourists and families too, an' he believed that between my physical presence—posture, stature, confidence—and my, what he called delicatesse, by which I think he meant my ability to spot trouble comin' long before it actually arrives, and then deal with it discreetly, he thought I would be a natural for workin' with people, so I thought it over for like two seconds an' said, 'da, I'll give it a go, pay me for a month an' at the end I'll stay or pass,' an' he agreed, bought me lunch, gave me the keys to a small suite in the Motel rent-free an' a Staff badge to flash if I ever needed to, drove me over, showed me around, introduced me to the staff, carried my bags to my room, never even tried to get inside my panties—which, actually, disappointed me, I thought he maybe found me unattractive, some guys don't like big women, feel threatened, or we don't fit with their image of what's sexy—not that night, he didn't, but I don't wanna run ahead, so after he left, I wandered over to the Truck Stop to see what the action was, some of the afternoon gals were still there an' they introduced me to the regular night-shift, yeah, it's a job for those gals, some of them been doin' it for years, an' they work different shifts in different parts of the site, can depend on whether they're married or not, got kids or not, got other jobs even, one gal works five shifts as a nurse in the hospital an' two at the Trucks, she's savin' up to get married next year, her fiancee's a physiotherapist, you have no idea what a cross-section of Hanna Barbera society you find at the Truck Stop, among the workers, an' among the customers, the johns as the gals an' boys call 'em, so gettin' a first-time sight of what goes on around a Truck Stop/Service Station was an eye-opener for me, not that I hadn't seen hookers close up, boys an' girls both—but that was mostly in hotels, bars, some of the halls where wrestlin' bouts are staged, but this was outside, in full view of truckers, hell, anybody who wanted to watch it, an' there usually is an audience—of course, a john who wanted privacy could just take the gal into his cab an' draw the curtains, or if it was someone in an auto, just open the door, let whoever he chose in, an' drive to one of the auto parks, to the motel, if he had a room, or away from Four Bridges altogether, an' if he was a reg'lar, bring her back afterwards, though sometimes drivers passin' through left 'em stranded by the Highway, so I soon gave 'em all cards with my number an' if that happened, they called me an' me, or I'd get someone else, would drive out an' bring 'em back, or a few times, take 'em to the hospital if they'd got picked up by a bastard, an when that happened I'd go through the CCTV tapes an' try to identify the car or the person, usually managed an' if I saw them again they soon realised that I had certain skills and know-how and though I've lost a lotta, lotta weight since I started at the Bridges, I've still got plenty strength in my arms and my legs and I made sure that the gal he'd hurt got the chance to requite herself, an' if she couldn't, or wouldn't, I did it for her! anyway, I really liked the workers, the hookers and whores there an' I decided that very night that I'd really make a go of the job, or bust, but I didn't realise that I'd soon start to dabble in the gals' side of the business, initially, out of curiosity, but I found that I enjoyed it, the attention, the power, it made up for what I already missed about the grapplin', the wrestlin', bein' up there in the Ring, struttin' about an' throwin' my weight aroun', oh yes, it surprised me, even, I think, shocked me, but I really enjoy the work, but of course, I ain't dependent on it, I have my salary as Supervisor, so it's different for me, I guess, so essentially, I was—am—just an amateur, but an enthusiastic one, even though—an' it may confuse you, it certainly did me—even though I don't actually find myself attracted to men, I identify myself as a Lesbian an' yeah, I can see it in your face, read it in your eyes, you're askin' yourself the question, 'why did she ever get a sex-change if she's attracted to women?' an' I'm right, ain't I?"
Now it wasn't only Carmen Miranda and Georgie Pomeroy who were concerned about the disappearance of Mabel Fishwick also known as Lollobello Montecello or Lolly, a long-time waitress at the Luncheonette and well-known in the Tri-State Area as a longer-time prostitute, although that was never stated on any of the many leaflets and posters distributed throughout Hanna Barbera and particularly in the North Side, the district where the Luncheonette was located, also the Truck Stop she was believed to frequent when she wasn't working and the Trailer Park where Ms Fishwick lived with her three cats and a parakeet, and the reasons it was never stated were 1) so as not to identify her negatively in the eyes of perhaps more respectable citizens of the Town, because 2) to do so would be regarded as discriminatory, and because 3) she had never been arrested, charged, indicted or convicted by any Court in the Tri-State as a 'lewd, loose and immoral person actively engaged in soliciting others for paid sexual favours' which was how the Law there defined Prostitution, and indeed Officer Dibble, speaking at a Press Conference in HBPD HQ, went so far as to describe Mabel/Lollobello/Lolly as an upstanding citizen, who went out of her way to bring joy to others and a regular attendee at Confession and Mass in St Sacramento's Church on Whybelow and Hereafter Avenues, all of which was literally true, because many of her nocturnal activities were performed with her back against a wall, telegraph pole or tree-trunk, brought joy to the other persons involved and she did indeed have a weekly slot in the Confessional at the Church where she went down on her knees and performed certain services on Father Ignatius O'Grady after which he Blessed her and sent her off with his gratitude and Three Hail Mary's ringing in her ears, because the Private Detectives she had employed to investigate the abduction of a man known only to her as Prince Charming, were also concerned, because a) they liked the woman they knew now to be Sleeping Beauty, b) they liked Prince Charming, whom they also knew as Simon Legree, a young Mining Engineer, who had returned to his work at Lucky Godfrey's Plastic Mine and c) they hadn't been paid a dime for their work in reuniting the Prince and the Beauty, although in the cold light of day the reunion hadn't been quite as successful as they had hoped—Simon had taken one look at Lolly, seen that she was about twice his age, made his excuses and left—there was still the slim possibility that the waitress might, if the new Workers' Co-Operative Luncheonette proved as successful as Doc Jeeves, who had first suggested the venture to the Staff Committee after they had seen the dirty, rotten, slave-driving, former child-star in a string of long-forgotten movie shorts, Douglas Fairpants, frogmarched off by the police on a string of charges under twenty-one statutes which could see him incarcerated in the State Pen for the next three-hundred years, before he could even apply for parole, expected, be able to afford the Dynamic Detective Duo's modest fee, but when, in a fit of depression, they had both bemoaned their financial straits to Georgie Pomeroy in Garden Square one evening, she had suggested having a fund-raiser: "a Hot Summer Estival, a great big Mardi Gras, complete with a Grand Soirée Musicale—I've got contacts—should be able to drum up a healthy programme of performers, I might even bring along my bandura and Carmen's pal Olga's Ukrainian, she has a National Dress outfit and knows the old folk dances," but Dixie piped up: "you mean Olga Mariachi? ain't she Hispanic?" and Georgie laughed: "we all hide behind masks and name changes at times, nah, she used to be a champion rower before getting into trouble with the Soviets, got sent to work as a Volga Boatman, came west, changed her sex, name, nationality, religion even, anyone searching for Igor Kravchenko would find no trails leading here, she was still bulky after her operation, became a pro-wrestler for a coupla years as Olga from the Volga, but when she met Carmen they hit it off and Olga realised there could be an easier way to turn a trick than being thrown around a wrestling-ring, she shed a lot of weight, if you ever get the chance ask her to show you her photo albums—you'd never guess from the photos of Igor and Olga that they're the same person, or even related—crikey, in photos of me as George and Georgie there's not that much of a difference, I was always slim waisted and long legged, even as a boy, and my mother used to say that when she saw my face when I was born she really thought I was a beautiful little girl—well she's got that now, though I don't think she'd be impressed by my career change—and dressed me in frocks till I went to school, I daresay that had some influence on my life," and Pixie asked: "what did you do before?" and Georgie hesitated, then explained: "when I first came here, it was a sabbatical, I'd just taken my Finals at Oxford and was to have a break, before starting to study for Holy Orders—my father is a Bishop, next stop Lambeth Palace, and it was always assumed I'd follow in his footsteps, like those of St Paul—anyway, I had three months, so decided to go round the world, Westward, and everything was smooth, a day or two here or there, New York, Chicago, Washington, just sight-seeing, being a tourist, and then I missed a connection, hitched a ride from a middle-aged man who turned out to be a writer whose books I'd read and admired at University, pure fluke, but I was a smitten kitten, he took my virginity in Virginia and then rode me right across the continent, Coast to Coast, and dropped me here while he went to visit his sister, and never came back but by then I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and be, I found the Truck Stop, got to know Carmen and Olga and Lolly, of course, and the others—I was the only boy at the time so I was in pretty constant demand and the girls, well, women mostly, from 16 to 65, cater for every taste—have always been independent operators, there's no pimps here, just the workers, so we were all close, you could say we were cliticized, all for one and one for all, there's no Union for Hookers and Whores, so we formed one, there's no Welfare, Sick Pay, Pension Scheme, so Kaesha, who had been a CPA set one up—we all contribute the same amount every week and if someone's kids are sick we pay the medical bills—we look after each other, and that's why I'm proposing this Fundraiser, you guys took on Lolly's case and she's disappeared, and can't pay your bill, but you shouldn't be out of pocket, so as Chairperson of our Ways and Means Committee, on behalf of the Truck Stop Gals and Boys, we want to pick up the tab," and when she paused, Pixie and Dixie looked at each other and then threw themselves at her and gave her the biggest hugs they could manage, tears streaming down their faces.
"Well, 'course I've known Lolly for years—oh, yeah, her real name is Mabel, Mabel Fishwick, but she picked up the nickname Lolly when she was about 14, 'cause the old guys said she gave the best head in the Tri-State Area, could take a dick real deep, an' suck it like a lollipop, an' they said it was her forte, an' that was also what most of them gave her as payment when she started out, so, I guess it could also just mean she was a cheap-suck, but not havin' a dick, I couldn't say anythin' 'bout her skill, or talent in that area—anyway, Lolly, or Mabel, whatever you prefer, wasn't the brightest dime in your pocket, but she wasn't dumb either, ask that cute Officer Dibble, she's got no Police Record, an' that must be a record in itself, considerin' how long she's been workin', an' I mean for cash-money, she don't accept lollipops no more—oh, I know, she's also a reg'lar Waitress at the Luncheonette, has been for years, but that's just a way o' passin' the days an' takin' her mind offen the nights, she could do it in her sleep—she's 45, like me, an' don't act all surprised an' say I don' look a day over 30, I know what I see in the mirror, honey, an' Georgie's the only one who sees me without make-up—you know, the Town Council promote Hanna Barbera as a Real Fam'ly Town, an' it's got a rep as one o' those peaceful Hometown kinda places you see in the movies, an' yeah, tourists come an' want their pictures took with Yogi Bear or Huck Hound—I just love that guy, but you know he's gay, huh?—an' artists aimin' to be the next Norman Rockwell come an' do their limnin' an' colourin', chocolate-box paintin's o' the box-rows in primary colours an' pastels an' there was that Scotch-Italian guy, whatsisname? yeah, Jack Vettriano, he swung by when he was on a California tour, took photos of the Truck Stop, with a group of us posin' real slutty, even did a paintin' o' Georgie lookin like a real vamp, sent her a photo of it, it's about here somewhere, I'll find it 'fore you go, don't think he guessed Georgie use'ta be a boy, though, but ev'ry place has a Dark side an' at night some o' those real nice Fam'ly men, respectable husbands an' fathers, businessmen, Civic Leaders, an' Church Elders, an' I'll whisper it, even a Priest, leave their little wives an' kids to spend a coupla hours 'down at the bar with the boys'—'course the Priest ain't got a wife an' kids, but I bet his Congregation, not to mention his Bishop, might be a tad unsettled if they new what Father O' oops, nearly outed him, tut-tut—but instead they head Downtown, or to the Truck Stop or the Trailer Park an that's where they find Lolly, or Georgie, or me or a coupla dozen more—boys an' gals both—or what's now euphemistically—yepp, vocabulary courtesy o' Georgie—called Sex Workers, which makes us sound like some kinda researchers like that Kinsey or Masters an' Johnson; but oh yeah, Lolly, well, Georgie, when he was George—before he became a she—had a couple reg'lar Johns, closeted gay guys with wives an' kids who'd never have been seen dead with someone like George, but that didn't stop them drivin' by an' if he was free he'd jump in the car an they'd go somewhere quiet, just outa the Town Limits, where he knew there'd be no problem with the cops comin' along, an' do whatever men do with boys, well now, after he became Georgie, most o' them dropped her like a hot brick, 'cause they needed George to have a dick—even when he was in a skirt an' heels it was his dick they wanted more than anythin' - and when she didn't, they found some other rent-boy to play with, but Georgie discovered a whole new world of very particular Johns who love gals who use'ta be guys—don't ask me to explain it, I can't, it's Beyond My Ken, as Georgie says, so nowadays, Georgie's the same as me between the legs, but I can't help thinkin' maybe it's somethin' like that phantom leg thing amputees experience, only in this case, it's not Georgie who feels it, it's the Johns, as if, when they're doin' Georgie, they can feel that their dick is inside what once was George's dick—cause that's how her vagina was made, weren't it? the surgeon turned the old dick inside out—it's screwy, I know, I mean I can't get my head around it, the idea that they're screwin' him through his dick is what turns them on is just too weird, but Georgie says: 'everything about me, around me, outside me and inside me, is observanda, and I enable those guys to experience something they can't find anywhere else—not here in Hanna Barbera anyway an' if that's what turns 'em on, that's okay'—an' by the way, observanda means things to be seen an' recorded, an' a group o' Georgie's most devoted Johns—just three or four, she calls them her Trainspotters, which I don't really dig, but hey, go figure—well those guys make it their responsibility to document her life, they watch Georgie and her clients, write down names, ages, car numbers, locations, dates, an' they photograph everything, video what the Johns do with Georgie—it's not for blackmail or nuthin' like that, it's just an obsession, sumthin' psychological—it's like they adore her and owe her their dedication, an' 'course she repays them the only way she can, with her body, which costs her nuthin' and yet makes them the happiest bunch o' droolers in the whole o' Hanna Barbera, oh she ain't nobody's fool, ain't Georgie, so, what happened was, the night after the Picket at the Luncheonette an' Fairpants gettin his ass hauled off to gaol, they was watchin Georgie, but not at the Truck Stop, she was out by the Trailer Park with Lolly, I think she was givin' Lolly some moral support after her ordeal inside the Luncheonette, and anyway, when Georgie left Lolly's trailer, she got picked up on the street by a kerb-crawler an' a coupla the Trainspotters tailed them to a parkin' lot and filmed them with one o' those night-vision cameras, but a third one had stayed behind to see if anyone visited Lolly, and just after 1 am, a car stopped at her trailer an' a guy knocked on her door an' the guy went in an' five minutes later, him an' Lolly come out, get into his car an' drive away, an' the watcher followed but lost them, 'cordin' to what he told Georgie an' she told me, when we got back here after the vaccination/inoculation session an' Lolly ain't been seen since, 'cordin' to Georgie, so she's set her Trainspotters to tryin' to identify the Mystery Man who drove off with her!"
"Maybe I should point out that Georgie is a Brit, calls herself an English Rose, though she don't look like no rose I ever saw, 'cept for being kinda spiky, but once you get to know her, she's just fine, most of the time, but she does have this accent, she calls it an Oxford Drawl, an' it sure nuff helps her stand out from the other gals at the truck stop—that's another thing, she calls it a Lorry Park and you gotta get used to these funny words an' terms she uses, like when we troll about the sidewalk, back of Main, she says we're workin' the pavement, but I don't want to sound parochial—that's another of hers—I don't care where anyone comes from, only what's in their heart, or if it's a John, his wallet, but I'm gettin' away from the point, you wanted to know 'bout Georgie, an' a good example is when we went to the Hospital to get vaccinated, Georgie called it inoculated, an' the nurse pulled up the sleeve of my T an' gave me the shot, just there, an' was gonna do the same for Georgie, to put the needle in her arm, but Georgie said, though I can't do the Drawl like the way she does: 'oh, no! nawt where it can be seeeeen,' an' she hikes up her skirt an' yanks down her panties an' tells the nurse where to stick the needle, an' she uses this word I never heard before an' I doubt the nurse did either, she says, not a bit apologetically: 'do forgive the angustation, but I'm abso-fuckin-lutely not having needle mawks where the eyes of the entire world can see them, so that's where you can stick it!' an' she indicates with two fingers this teenie-weenie area just about where it would be hidden by the hip-strap of a thong, an' the nurse—Lord knows where she found the self-control, 'cause if a stranger spoke to me like that I'da slapped her so hard the welts would show for weeks—cool an' calm as can be, smiled an' said: 'certainly Ma'am, just as you prefer,' an' slid the needle in, though I swear it was a longer needle than the one she used on me, but Georgie never winced, nor flinched, never a flicker, not nuthin' till it was out, an' then she flashed the nurse a big smile an' thanked her, just as if she was dismissin' a waitress who'd brought her a cup of that Darjeelin' tea she loves, an' the nurse knew it, but never said a word, but I betcha she'da had plenty to say when the folks were gone an' the nurses were free to bitch about the whoores an' weirdos an' nuts they had to deal with, but that's Georgie, she don't mean nuthin' by it, she ain't malicious or deliberately obstreperous, but if somethin's important to her, she'll tell it like it is, which is how I first heard that Lollobello Montecello was nowhere to be seen!"
"But the tale don't end there, 'cause there was a great sense of dulcarnon—as the poets call it, but most folks think 'Headless Chicken'—you know what I mean, that state of anxious perplexity, runnin' aroun' with no sense o' direction or purpose that ultimately ends in neurotic paralysis, like bein' caught at a crossroads, findin' you'self standin in the middle of both roads with trucks blastin' past on all sides an' you just don't know which way to go, well that was until Doc Jeeves, the Medical Examiner for the County—oh yeah, not just Hanna Barbera Town, but the County, which just goes to show—exhorted the Town Council to allow him to begin a program of vaccinations to prevent the confirmed cases which, startin' with Marie Elizabettta Zkrzgnwskzxwca and the politician—although in his case, that was a purely technical inclusion' 'cause he was already deceased—increased rapidly an' even exponentially—an' I looked that up in a dictionary an' found it means growin' faster an' faster as it spreads wider an' wider—or, in other words, it might take a week for one person to infect two others, but only five days for the three of them to infect two more each, makin' the total nine, then three days for them again to infect another two each which gives a total of 27, an' a couple of days for the total to be 81 and that's when I ran clean outa fingers an' toes an' whatever else I was usin' to keep a tally, an' seein as how Doc Jeeves had traced the origin back to Doug Fairpants' Luncheonette—which was always a popular place for Coffee And, as well as Breakfast, Brunch an' To Go—a kinda clammy dread seemed to hang over ev'rybody, 'cause we all went there, sometime or another, sooner or later, to meet a friend, or a client, have a word about fam'ly matters, or business, catch up with the news, an' the gossip, check on Old Grannie, find out if Lucille's little Thomasina was teethin' or if the cops knew who had done whatever to whoever, so the place bein' shut up for a Deep Clean, it's true to say Hanna B was Anhedonic, the whole Town—the whole County—had lost it's ability to feel pleasure, like we'd all been sucker-punched an' left numb, an' the Doc advised that the whole County be put in a state o' Quarantine, or House Arrest as Georgie called it, an' she should know, which is how it came to be that no-one noticed Lollobello Montecello was missing!"
"Now, you're prob'ly ahead of me on this one, but bear with me, for every story has two viewpoints an' when it got out, 'bout Marie Elizabettta Zkrzgnwskzxwca an' the political high flyer laid low, some gamin boy in the Chorus—ain't there always a callow youth, one of those wisecrackin' streetwise bits of rough or such, behind every hurtful acid-drop headline or vindictive hissed aside that, as with all Chinese whispers, grows an' morphs and has a life of it's own?—applied the nickname Typhoid Mary an'—partic'ly with her own given name bein' Marie—it stuck an' that gal went from rising star ne plus ultra to fallen star—which is only one grade above bein' a nobody in show bizzness—over one weekend in those dog-days when it's too hot an' sultry for anythin' important to happen an' ev'rybody's glad of any juicy gossip to help while away the time that seems to just stretch out like a long elastic band until you know it in your waters or feel it in your bones that the damn thing's gonna snap with a CRACK and prob'ly take someone's eye out."
Now, as it happens, Doc Jeeves did speak to his brother-in-law, Judge Hinckle, who promised to look favourably on an application from the Co-Operative made up of former employees of the now disgraced Douglas Fairpants—forever after known to the denizens and cognoscenti of Hanna Barbera as Lugless—regarding the premises of the Luncheonette, and then Doc Jeeves also spoke to his other brother-in-law, Lawyer Schmasch, senior partner in the firm of Schmasch, Grabbitz & Wrunn, Attorneys-at-Law specialising in Corporate Law (Siggi Schmasch), Criminal Law (Gus Grabbitz) and Constitutional Law (Willi Wrunn) and Siggi promised to draw up Papers of Incorporation for the projected Co-Operative and meet with the spokespersons first thing in the morning, for like his brother-in-law, Doc Jeeves, his other brother-in-law Judge Hinckle, and his other brother-in-law, the famous Pulitoff Prize-winning journalist, Claude Revereal Clondaiquiri, he was a humanitarian to his elbows, his knees and his nose, although his dulcet tones were only a part of his courtroom repertoire, having first studied palynology he frequently surprised judges, juries, jeremiahs and junketing politicians with his intimate knowledge of the secrets of pollen spread and, more than once, had even caused an innocent man to plead guilty simply by virtue of the supremely confident way he had stated that a particular pollen grain in the inside pocket of the accused's jacket could only have arrived there on the particular Tuesday, and at 9pm, when a certain crooked State Representative met his untimely end, although it turned out on Appeal that at that particular time on that particular day the victim was catching a particularly virulent virus from an asymptomatic Pole dancer—by which I mean to imply that she was Polish, but as she herself said, "there's nuttin' ishy 'bout me, 120% Pole," and a Ballet Dancer in the company at Hanna Barbera Opera House—and that in fact the politico had died several days later, and a full hour before he was shot, while the accused had been observed by thousands of spectators doing a tight-rope walk between the two tallest buildings in the City, both of them 4½ stories and fortunately for the Arts in Hanna Barbera, the dancer, Marie Elizabettta Zkrzgnwskzxwca, although briefly hospitalised, was sent home after a couple of hours—it being rumoured, probably maliciously, that the reason for her discharge was three nervous breakdowns, two falls down the stairs and one slipped disc, all suffered by nurses who found it impossible to pronounce Mlle Marie Elizabettta's surname—with painkillers and a cream for the carpet-burns on her knees and back.
Blue lights and sirens heralded the arrival of the forces of Law and Order, namely Deputy Dawg and Officer Dibble, closely followed by the Fire Department, three Ambulances and the Medical Examiner, Dr M K Jeeves—while the cops were loading 'Lugless', who had already lost most of his braggadocio, along with his trousers and shoes, into a Paddy Wagon—took three glances into the Luncheonette and declared it a Health Hazard, for in his disquisition he opined: "fomites to the right of them, fomites to the left of them," he volleyed and thundered, "this place is like an incubator for deadly viruses and bacteria, throw the book at him, and if he ducks, hit him over the head with it, the man's a moron, without a shred of compassion, and, one has to hope, bearless, for I shudder to think what kind of a life a child of his would have to endure, I see all you folks are on strike, demanding better pay and conditions, well, here's a little advice, you can take it, or you can leave it, entirely up to you, but it's free anyway: form a Co-operative, petition the Court, it's Judge Hinckle this week, ask him to assign the Luncheonette to your Co-operative in lieu of unpaid wages, I'll have a word with him, he's my brother-in-law, he'll agree, then spend two days giving it the deepest clean it's ever had and re-open on Friday, Under New Management, maybe call it Blue Horizons Luncheonette, or some such, and I truly believe you'll make a rip-roaring success of it and if you really want to thank me, 8.30am, toasted muffin with ham and eggs sunny side up and a strong black coffee," and with his order placed, the ME strolled off into the sunset, twirling his cane and whistling Margie.
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