By Pete Moss
THE COURIER BANDIT
Tyke look at Fluffy.
She see a jaw grinding and dinnerplate eyes, by the light of the screen.
Tyke cross the room and grab Fluffy by her big hair.
"Fuckin Bitch!!! Whad I tellya bout shit?!" screams Tyke.
"You said not on the job."
Fluffy slips her hand off the keyboard and into her lap and comes up with a 2 shot Derringer.
Fluffy been going around telling everybody how the gun is a heirloom from her great granny who was a famous whore in Storyville 100 years ago.
Actually Fluffy traded the gun for a bag o shit with a tweaker in Elko, Nevada, year before last. There's a a plainly visible 'Made in Taiwan' on the gun, bullets are expensive and hard to get, and the one time Fluffy tried to fire the thing, it jammed.
Tyke is underwhelmed.
"Look, I know you uptight cause we haven't had a job in awhile," says Fluffy, lowering the gun, a conciliatory gesture.
Tyke lets go of Fluffy’s hair and flops on the bed.
"It's this fuckin recession, it's killing the business!"
"Yeah, can't argue there. But I think I got something. Been trolling the 'net for like 24 hours straight."
Tyke perks up.
"This guy? FBI callin him the 'Courier Bandit'. He use a courier bag and escapes on a bicycle. Hits busy downtown spots, at busy times. Pulled 22 jobs last 4 years, far as I can hack it out, musta grossed half a mill." says Fluffy.
"Oh yeah, I heard something bout it. But he's working LA, right?"
"Here's the thing. LA was getting hot, I think he may have shifted his show to Frisco."
Tyke moves over and her and Fluffy scrunch onto the seat together and Fluffy starts clicking through the recent pages, letting Tyke catch up.
(Click here for part II of this story.)
I open the door and we walk into the 24.
We sit at the booth.
The Santa Ana is punishing the palm trees.
The grit beats against the windows.
Lucky and I sit next to each other.
I order spicy tofu and steam rice with green tea. She wants chili cheese fries with Boba.
Our food arrives.
It's been two days since my last real meal. I spoon some spicy tofu onto my rice.
Lucky stabs a fry and hits it good with Tapatio. She tucks it into her mouth and chases it with a swig of boba.
Outside is dark. A big SUV rides up Vermont and blows the light at 228th.
"So why U called Lucky?"
Lucky looks at me.
"C'mon, I told you why I'm called Moss."
"I don't know can I trust U."
"So what, U wanted by the FBI? It's a street name."
Lucky smiles her secret smile. I love that smile.
I've known her only two days. Only seen that smile maybe 5 times, and I'm in love.
But I'm so hungry I can't stop eating my spicy tofu and steam rice.
I should be putting my hand on her thigh, making some kind of move, but my stomach is growling and demanding.
"I'm from Jersey," goes Lucky.
"Nobody’s perfect," I say.
"I grew up on a farm in Central Jersey."
"No really, Jersey plates say 'Garden State' on them. They have farms in Jersey."
"It was right by Lawrenceville."
"Federal City Road and Pennington Lawrenceville Road. My family had 200 acres. We grew corn and pigs. My sister still runs a produce stand right there."
I stop eating for a sec. I have no idea what Lucky is talking about.
"That's near Maryland?"
"No, It's by Princeton. Princeton, New Jersey?"
"Oh, why didn't U say so. There's some kind of college?"
"Yeah, that one."
"So that's where you’re from? Princeton?"
My granny and I were light sleepers and early risers.
As a little kid she'd read to me until I fell asleep, usually around 10.
She'd read real books, Lord of the Rings, Gulliver's Travels.
She'd stay up til midnite or 1. If I got up to go to the bathroom I'd see her painting or writing. She'd be bundled up in sweaters and hats and shawls.
The heater broke when I was 5 and granny never got it fixed cause she was phobic about letting strange guys into her house.
She didn't buy those little electric space heaters cause she was convinced they would start a fire.
She just wore more clothes.
Living at 40th and Irving in the Outer Sunset, it got cold.
The damp fog rolled in off the Pacific and seeped into your bones.
Years later I went to college for three semesters in upstate New York and January in Binghamton wasn't any colder than any given day when the fog took over 40th and Irving.
Around 4 AM I'd wake up. Granny would have coffee made in an antique pyrex percolator. We'd sit around and drink coffee and read the paper, do the crossword, then I'd go do my paper route and when I got back Granny had breakfast ready.
We'd eat and I'd go to school. Granny would tend to her budgies and her succulent garden in the backyard. Usually when I got home from school in the afternoon she was having a snooze, some Thelonius Monk or Clark Terry on the stereo.
It wasn't til I was 17 that I asked about my mother. It wasn't til I was 20 that I found out I had other living relatives besides granny.
I quite my paper route when I was 16, got a job in a bakery. I worked weekend mornings, from 3 AM to 10, and Friday and Thursday evenings from 4PM to 10.
So Granny and I would sit around in the mornings before I went to school, drinking coffee and chatting, usually eating leftover donuts or muffins I brought from the bakery. By then we'd become so adept at crosswords that they weren't even worth doing.
And it just popped out one morning: "So what happened to my mother?" I said. Maybe it had to do with a girl I was seeing who was very close with her mother.
"I assume I had one."
"Yes, you did. I mean there was a woman who happened to own the vagina you popped out of. She wasn't much of a mother though."
"....what happened to her?"
"The first thing you have to understand about your mother, is your grandfather."
"Well I never met him either."
"No, he died of cancer before you were born. His parents were Irish immigrants. They came from dismal slum in some godforsaken Irish city. They met late in life, in Chicago. Your grandpa was an only child. His father was a bricklayer and his mom was a housekeeper at some of the posher hotels in Chicago. His parents had verrrry high hopes for him. And he lived up to them. Not only did he graduate from college, he graduated second in his class from the University of Chicago. Then he got a law degree, and graduated first in his class from that. Then he came to San Francisco and went to work for one of the most prestigious law firms in the City. He made partner by the time he was 30. He was a behind the scenes politician as well. He got himself made judge for the Muni court, barely two years later he was appointed to the state court."
"He was a very driven guy, had very high standards. I still recall the 1st time I ever saw him. In his pinstripe suit, silk tie, and those Italian shoes. He was very particular about his shoes, wouldn't wear anything but those made in Italy, you understand. My but he was handsome. And I'm just a 20 year old art student at the Institute on Chestnut and he walks into the room."
Granny sat for a moment, still mesmerized by the beautiful creature she'd witnessed 5 or 6 decades before.
"So...?" I prompt.
"Oh yes, where were we? Your grandfather, right. So we were married. Bought this house. Had a baby."
"Yes, your mom. She was a colicky baby. And she was teething for a year longer than other kids. And she was allergic to milk. And she didn't want to be toilet trained. But she learned to walk right off and then she was into everything. I came into the kitchen one time and she had dumped all the flour and sugar and salt and pepper and....well just made a huge mess. I asked her if she was trying to make a cake, trying not to lose my temper. She was about 4, she looked me in the eye and said she was trying to make a mess, like I was stupid to have missed it."
"So you spanked her?"
"Oh no. I just cleaned it up. Never told her father. There was already trouble between them. He hated the way she kept him up at night. He needed his sleep, cause of his, you know, career. They never, as the moms say nowadays: bonded. Your grandfather was basically a cold and critical man. Did I say he had high expectations? And he had a mean streak. He could say the most hurtful things, at the most devastating possible moment, often as not right in front of other people. And he was a bit of tyrant. He expected to be obeyed, immediately and without question. It would have been a miracle if he'd gotten along with a difficult child like your mother."
Granny showed no emotion through any of this. Actually, she seemed kind of relieved to be finally telling the story.
"Well things pretty much went from bad to worse. In 1st grade your mother got caught stealing money. By 3rd grade she was already in trouble with boys. In 7th grade we were called in for a parent teacher conference. The principal was there as well. It seemed clear that the teacher had some rather weighty matter on her mind. But she expressed herself in the most roundabout way. It wasn't til years later I figured out what she was trying to say."
"Let me guess....my mom accused granpa of molesting her?"
"Bingo. Of course you have to keep in mind, this was the '50's. People weren't as vigilant as they are now. And your granpa was prominent and his career was on the rise. Everyone tiptoes around it."
"So did he?"
"Honestly? I've mulled that one for decades and never really came to a conclusion. Your granfather could be a jerk. But he also had a very strict code of honor he adhered to. I don't truly feel he would have allowed himself to commit such a heinous crime, even if tempted. But say something did happen, he may not have been the initiator."
"You mean....my.... she went after her own dad?"
"Well, your mother was devious. And by the time she was 14 her and her father were sworn enemies. I don't think he ever understood just how badly he hurt her with the things he said and did. Like I said, he was a bit cold. Your mother wasn't stupid. She understood how he wanted to make it to the state level judgeship, how devastating it would be if something like that came out.
"Wow! My family....."
"Oh that's just the 1st chapter." said Granny.
(Click here for part II of this story.)