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The Critical Mass - Author's Proof

The Critical Mass

Kenneth W. Hanis

 

Author’s Proof

12.2016

[* *]

 

Also by Kenneth Hanis

[_ _]

The Fine Art of Being Difficult

Prometheus in Flux – ‘What’s Your Story?’

[_The Silence of Our Disbelief _
‘A Companion for Philosophers & Dope Smokers ‘
(munchies for thought)]

[_ _]

* The Critical Mass – Feature Screenplay

* The Curiosity Shop – (TV Pilot) Short Feature Film

* The Fine Art of a Kiss – Adaptation Feature Film

* Bitching and Complaining – Feature Film/Stage Play

* When We Lived in Caves – 4 part Miniseries – TV

* What’s Your Story? – Documentary Film

 

[ Blog: – https://watergiantsblog.wordpress.com ]

 

  • Agents or Producers wanting the Film or Television rights to the above scripts can contact the Author at the following email address: – [email protected] – Please write ‘Query’ or ‘Agent’ in the Subject line. *****

 

  • Purchase this book in Paperback through my internet Storefront *

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Woodhaven

  • Please feel free to email the Author to share any thoughts you have on this book, – [email protected] *

[
**]
p=. Copyright and Registrations

®© Copyright Canada 2016 by Kenneth Wayne Hanis

® Registered WGA 2016

Property of Kenneth Wayne Hanis – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“The Critical Mass – Author’s Proof” – eBook

ISBN: 978-0-9880773-4-8

 

License Notes

This eBook/book/novel, "The Critical Mass" (Author's Proof), its Title and Content, is protected under the Copyright laws of Canada. Hereinafter, the title, titles, and contents of this Novel shall be referred to as the work. No part of this work may be transferred and/or reproduced, or stored in any form of retrieval system; paper, electronic, digital, or otherwise transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author of this work. --*Your support of my rights is greatly appreciated.*

Disclaimer

As much as this novel is based upon some true world situations and events; some situations and names of persons have been changed, and composite situations and characters have been created, to protect the guilty and innocent. Any resemblance to specific corporations, groups, organizations, or specific persons beyond named Public Political Leaders, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

All opinions and views, expressed within the content and context of this novel, belong to the characters within the novel expressing them, and do not necessarily represent the views of the author.

 

For

my big brother

Lorne Hanis

Thank you for always being my advocate.

 

[
**]
p=. Table of Contents

Preface – (readme 1st please)

 

Act One

 

Act Two

The Irish Clover Pub

No Sex for Two Months

Wet Feet

The Battle Field

 

Act Three

Awareness

White Wedding

Denouement

 

About the Author

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

“Ignorance is Bliss only for the ignorant.”

 

[
**]
p=. Preface

An old proverb suggests, ‘We make plans, and God laughs’.

It’s clear to me that God’s laughter infers superior intelligence and superior knowledge; and perhaps even the foresight of Prometheus. .. However, I prefer a more practical interpretation of that old proverb, and I express it as simply .. ‘Nature takes its course’, because this notion removes my judgements of right and wrong toward world events and people; and through this belief I sleep better at night.

My original plan in writing ‘The Critical Mass’ was to create a romantic dramatic story (Dramedy) and distill it into a screenplay for a feature film. A task I ultimately completed.

Originally, my novel was to be a satirical story about a man who had become trapped by a ‘Retail Tradition’, and so began working to earn enough extra money to buy a diamond engagement ring. .. It was only ever meant to be a simple satirical wedding story, but, in the process of my research toward answering fundamental questions about my novel characters, – mostly trying to answer why they think and act the way they do, – Nature took its course.

I wanted my story to go one way, and the story wanted to go another way. .. Where I wanted ‘my’ story to express the theme that ‘nature takes its course’, .. the story insisted on suggesting that ‘definitions’ are fickle and misleading, and that ‘tried is not necessarily true’, and there is always a different personal approach available to every imperative situation, and every undertaking in life. Ultimately, my novel now conveys both themes.

The Critical Mass has a voice of its own; and as much as ‘my’ story was written for all to enjoy, I came to learn that my story was now speaking primarily to the generation that inherited the 21st Century, – the so-called ‘millennial’ generation. The generation of souls, who with their progeny ‘to be’, are destined to inherit the future we have created for them.

On a personal note; – I never saw a dark corner in my life that I did not explore. I never blindly accepted the advice of an ‘authority’ with out examination, or heard a rule that I did not question. My Mother told me not to touch the stove element because it was hot and I would burn myself. I touched the stove element and discovered for myself that it was hot and I’d burned my finger. A similar situation occurred with the wall outlet, and light socket. In all fairness, I was exploring the properties of electricity at the time. .. But I digressed, .. I never accepted an ignorant person for a friend. My one and only insistent attempt to understand an ignorant person’s point of view rewarded me with a punch in the face.

I have always been impressed by the exercise in futility when others tried to honestly convey their own direct experiences and personal truths from the context of their life circumstances, because it gave me a deeper respect for my parents laboured attempts at providing me guidance.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a person that drinks nearly three litres of water a day, much more in Summer and less in Winter. For most of my adult life I’ve had the curious need (some would accuse me of obsession) to always have at least a 2 weeks supply of drinking water stowed away in a dark closet as an ounce of prevention against some unforeseen natural disaster. In fact my private attitude has always been, “every empty used water or juice bottle in the home that does not contain fresh drinking water is crime against the unknown”.

This very novel was originally titled ‘The Water Giants’ because ‘water’ is often used as a metaphor for the mutable, human, spirit of life; .. and as much as I have introduced the Water Giants in my novel as destructive, multinational forces in the world, .. the Water Giants are also presented as Giants of human spirit and conviction.

Water is Life. Be a Water Giant.

 

Kenneth Wayne Hanis

6.20.2016

 

 

The Critical Mass

 

“Don’t blame the Devil for offering you cookies!”

 

[
**]
p=. Act One

The J-Frame Crane-Winch raised a conductivity, temperature, and depth/pressure profiler – (CTD), out of the ocean and onto the deck of the small 8 meter aluminium Marine Research boat. The scientific instrument looked like a meter and a half sized scale model of a NASA space rocket. Two SCUBA Divers rested on the back side edge of the marine craft. One diver held a sophisticated underwater Light and Camera assembly. They both covered their scuba mask and air regulator with a free hand, and fell backward into the water.

Richard Douglas (aka Dick), swam down just a few meters to a coral reef and hovered in the water as he assessed the bleaching that was slowly killing this once beautiful coral garden. He wondered if his research would cause, or at least nudge, the local ‘powers-that-be’, to give something more than lip service to the crisis that threatened the very lifeblood of their tropical paradise. After all, they had not contributed anything beyond their permission to do the research in the first place; and they would spin Dick’s warnings and conclusions to their political advantage by educating the local population that they were actually concerned about the death of their marine commodity, and the loss of their beaches, to the rising ocean waters, and that they were actually doing something about it.

He knew the local islanders would all ride the political spin in support of the disingenuous pandering political voices, because it gave them the feeling, that through their vocal enthusiastic support, they too were doing their part as individuals, and as a community; .. just as long as it did not require any personal sacrifices that would threaten the tourism industry that put the food on their plates. .. Well in fairness to the locals, they had already held demonstrations that caused the local government to designate the coral reefs that surrounded their slice of paradise as “No-Take Marine Reserves”, so what more could they actually do?

Dick was aware that he was no different. He too needed to believe in the honesty of the political aspirants of his home world; and just like the locals of this vanishing paradise, he was also a victim of global weather changes that were entirely beyond his control. The best he could do, is try to determine ‘why’. He put aside his judgements and reminded himself that he was a scientist, and his responsibility was to his doctoral thesis research. Research he would be required to defend someday. But that ‘someday’ required things to settle down and stop changing and challenging all of his learned assumptions.

The visibility of the ocean water was every scuba diver’s dream. It was extraordinarily clear for a hundred meters in any direction. Dick hovered close to the surface, neutrally buoyant, and at a slight angle to a half bleached, and therefore half dead, delicate fan coral. He was carefully inspecting the fan, looking for something. He saw the numbered tag he had tied to it six months earlier. He gestured to his Camera assistant and pointed to the Fan Coral. His assistant illuminated the tagged fan coral with a powerful 5500 degrees Kelvin, underwater Daylight Photo Light, and took several pictures while Dick made some immediate shorthand notes on his underwater notepad.

Dick was momentarily distracted by the sound of what he could only describe as the crunching sounds one hears in their own head while eating walnuts. He looked up from his notepad and witnessed a beautiful blue toned Parrotfish rasping away on a healthy branch of a half dead and bleached Pillar coral. He rested his attention on the Parrotfish for a pause as he reminded himself that these Parrotfish shit white sand, and were ultimately the creators of every white sand beach in the Caribbean.

***

In front of a backdrop of lightly swaying Palm Trees, an Inter-Island Tours, twin-engine turbo-prop airplane taxied for take-off along the runway, up and away from the morning sunrise and the Tropical Paradise of the lesser Antiles Islands.

Dick sat in a window seat. He was a tanned, handsome, athletic man in his late 20’s, and radiated a charismatic aura of intelligence, innocence, and kindness. As the plane ascended, he looked out the window for a last look at a beautiful Tropical Island, bathed in morning sunlight, and wondered if he would ever see it again before the ocean reclaimed it.

He understood that to the eye of a tourist, this was a Tropical Paradise surrounded by a ribbon of ivory-white-sand beaches that were lapped by a wider ribbon of shallow silver blue ocean surf that rolled in from over the countless reefs of coral that existed just below the surface of a much wider ribbon of darker aqua-blue water. The Island’s natural claim to those waters seemed to triple the size of its boundaries to where the aqua blue water merged with the deeper, dark cobalt blue water of the international tropical ocean.

Dick was aware that this tropical paradise was on death row. What his educated eyes saw, was a beautiful tropical island surrounded by a thin, atrophied, ribbon of ivory-white-sand beaches that were lapped by the encroaching, and ever widening ribbon of shallow silver blue ocean surf. Day by day, the surrounding beaches were very slowly being repossessed by a warming and rising ocean. .. A dying civilization of reef coral existed just below the surface of the aqua-blue water that surrounded the shallower silver-blue waters that washed up onto the Island’s fading beaches. The coral was stressed beyond the point of no return by warming oceans, over exploitation from SCUBA diving tours, and the mindless damage from the untrained scuba divers and snorkelers that never considered themselves as guests in a foreign land, but preferred the more limited liability identity of calling themselves tourists.

Paradise became smaller, smaller and smaller, and finally disappeared as the plane banked away leaving only a vast ocean in his view.

A man sitting next to him looked at his expensive watch and turned to Dick with a sigh, “Leaving Paradise behind for the 9 to 5 Rock Pile?”

Dick chuckled, “9 to 5? I’ve never heard that expression before. Sounds like hard labor though.”

[ * ]

It was the first magic hour of the mid Spring day. The sunrise shadows were long. The Sun was slowly creeping up behind a herd of clouds that drifted along an eastern horizon awash in intense orange, red, and pink colors. Setting low on the western horizon was a fading, oversized blood red Full supermoon. This rare event was known as a syzygy, a selenehelion, a Blood Moon, a horizontal total eclipse of the moon. It was a ‘back in the day’ marker, for the future memories of a yet to be determined past.

As the sun broke through a space in the cloud herd, it began to ignite the landscape like a follow spotlight right across a populated Penitentiary recreation yard and over to an open, steel fence gate, where an Inmate, a hulk of a man was illuminated as he entered the full light of day. The Sun always shone on Luca.

Quickly running up to join Luca was his wiry built sidekick, Spike, a small, nervous fellow. They wandered over and joined a small audience of prisoners standing in front of a fence that separated the general prison population from a rock quarry.

Prison Guards patrolled the perimeter of the prison’s old quarry section dedicated to hard labor. They were armed with batons, pepper spray, and two-way radios. They hid their eyes behind dark sunglasses. The Prison Watchtowers were occupied with Guards armed with Sniper rifles.

The inmates in the quarry were armed with heavy iron pickaxes, and stood by and watched as a large mobile Crane was about to lower a huge, ten foot diameter Rock of what looked like solid meteoric iron. A Guard yelled out, “All Clear!” A cable released and the meteoric rock dropped to the ground with a thunderous crash as the Crane arm swung away.

A Senior Guard, with his eyes hidden by Gold Rimmed Sunglasses, stood by the quarry’s fenced entrance. He looked up to the sunrise and announced with the force and authority of an angry boot camp Sergeant, “All right you animals, it’s this shit, or back to solitary confinement. I want this rock turned into sand by sundown!”

The Tower Guards all smiled as they cradled their sniper rifles across their arms and settled in to watch, as the inmates moved toward the rock and started hammering at it with desperate human energy. With each desperate assault from the heavy iron pickaxes, sparks flew everywhere, but the rock did not yield so much as a grain of sand. Spike looked on incredulous, “Son of a bitch, that is hard labor man! Is that even legal?”

Luca looked on with thoughtful, intelligent eyes. He was unimpressed and casually spat on the ground, “Hard labor is in the mind. It’s a rock, l’il buddy, just a rock.”

[ * ]

Michael Montana was an athletic man in his early thirties. He was of German/Italian descent. His eyes were deep blue, but his olive skin retained a vibrant tan many months longer than any traditional white bread northerner did. His dark brown hair was naturally streaked with lighter shades of brown from the sun and saltwater bleaching side effects from time spent catamaran sailing. His hard chiselled square jaw and chin hinted at the pollution of a pure Teutonic bloodline, but was softened somewhat by a charismatic chin cleft. His clean, straight, porcelain white teeth embellished an easy smile that complimented his fearless clear brown eyes. At first glance, you might have thought him to be a man that had it all, yet his eyes were framed by the lines of humbling life experiences earned far too early for a man of his years.

It was just Mickey’s basic nature. His physical features radiated the strength of a man that did not easily back down. He was the kind of man that exuded a confidence and charisma that turned the heads of both men and women, and completely hid the fact that he was a survivor of corporate back office rape. He was owed big time, and he meant to collect.

Mickey sat at his office desk drinking his morning coffee while debriefing with his 40-something Secretary, Martha, who stood in front of his desk holding a file and few memos. She looked concerned, but started out small, “Welcome back. I hope your vacation was very restful.” She handed him a memo.

He was shocked as he read the memo aloud, “The warehouse workers want a fucking union? Are you kidding me!? We pay the assholes double the minimum wage as it is! Where did this come from? In light of the recent proposal we have made to them, this is very suspicious Martha!”

Martha was sympathetic, “I’m afraid it just gets worse.” She handed him the file.

He read over the summary page and muttered aloud, “Osmosis Water is directed to participate as a parole conduit for Inmate work release?”

Martha replied matter-of-factly, “Two of them start next week.”

Michael was surprised by what he read, “This is labor at, .. at least fifty percent of minimum wage. .. Okay, I can work with that. It’s an unnecessary expense though.” He turned a page in the file and his face morphed into shock, and faded to white, as he looked at pictures of the two inmates. He slowly closed the file and muttered under his breath, “Luca and Spike.” He looked to Martha, “They are never to have access to the front office, or to me.”

Martha nodded, “Understood!”

As Martha left the office, a man in his late thirties walked in. It was Antonio Marinara (aka Tony). He was the archetypal Italian male, with dark, Mediterranean hair, and an olive complexion. His left hand was adorned with a heavy, bright gold wedding band, and he held a file folder. In his right hand, he carried his signature, well-chewed, unlit Cuban cigar.

Mickey looked at his watch. It was well past 9am. He appraised him. Tony looked a little rough around the edges. “Rough night or street fight?”

Tony flopped into the chair in front of Mickey’s desk, raised his open palms submissively, and confessed, “Last night’s meeting! .. Fuck me, there ought to be a law against mixing alcohol with meetings.”

Mickey laughed, “It’s a sport for the young Tony!”

Tony lamented, “My wife isn’t speaking to me!”

Mickey quipped, “All nice Italian boys are studs until they get married. Then it’s payback time and they all get pussy whipped.”

Tony countered, “Hey, you’re Italian!”

Mickey fessed up, “Hey, I’m not saying that I’m not ‘open’ to a bit of pussy whipping, but business and broads don’t mix. Anyway this company is whipping me.” Mickey displayed the file he’d just read. “Look at this shit! A labour union is suddenly knocking at the door, and now I’m employing prison parolees. It smells like fish.”

Tony grinned as he tossed his file folder to Mickey, "Here's the catch of the day; it's the final audit of all the Public Shareholders. It's all sunny days Mick. You now own 100% of the Public float which amounts to 25% of the Corporation.

Mickey looked it over carefully. “If this plan fails Tony, I’m out of a job and as I’ve converted all of my resources to these securities, I’m at their mercy; and mercy isn’t exactly a word in the corporate lexicon.”

Tony could feel Mickey’s concern. “What’s the weather outlook on the corporate side? Are we private now?

“The weather just got stormy; and no. It’s not that they won’t go for it, they love the plan; it’s just that the majority of voting shares are held by the big guy’s daughter.”

Tony replied true to his nature, “JUST? I hate that word! So how do we get to the daughter?”

[ * ]

Betty Lord was a physically attractive woman in her late 20’s. Her brilliant, astute mind, was everything but orthodox. She could see to the core of a person very quickly. She’d always felt she had educated herself with superior knowledge, and she made a career out of controlling the destiny of others, or attempting to recreate them in her own image. Depending on your perspective, she was either an empowered woman, an arrogant snob, a spoiled rich girl, or a manipulative bitch, but no one could deny her razor sharp intellect.

Betty and her Mother were in a high end Shopping Mall, walking, talking, and window shopping. They passed by a Bookstore with a display of books announcing an author’s book signing event for one of the best selling books in the display window, – ‘The Fine Art of Being Difficult’. Betty paused for a moment and observed the author of the book was seated at a table inside, in front of a long line-up of high end, high maintenance people, holding their books to be signed.

Mother tugged Betty’ by the arm, “The lineup is too long dear. .. Oh look!” Mother had spotted a Jewellery Store and pulled a reluctant Betty by the arm, “It can’t hurt to just look.”

Betty protested, “Just? I hate that word! I don’t want to push it.”

“Push it? Mother exclaimed with a laugh. “You’re pushing thirty for goodness sake; you’re legally a Spinster now.”

Betty responded defensively, “I’m twenty eight!”

Mother replied impatiently, “What Ever!” She proudly flashed her wedding ice in front of Betty’s eyes, “Marrying your Father was the best thing I ever did.”

Betty coldly took aim, “He divorced you!”

Mother stopped in her tracks and fired back, “No! I, Divorced Him! .. And all he took with him was the clothing on his back, the BMW, and the Maid.”

Betty tried to close the argument, “Dickey and I have agreed to wait until he finishes his thesis.”

Mother retorted cynically, “Richard finished his thesis five years ago.”

They entered the Jewellery Store like indifferent royalty. On the counter was a book on display, with provocative, overtly suggestive cover art about Jewellery, called ‘The Consumers Guide to the Family Jewels’. Betty picked up the book and showed it to her Mother with a smile.

The Jeweler was displaying a tray of modest diamond engagement rings to a young couple while explaining, “The customary rules encourage the gentleman to spend about two months of his annual payroll wages on an Engagement ring.”

This got Betty’s attention. She observed the starry look of romance in the young woman’s eager eyes toward her boyfriend. She nudged her Mother to look.

The boyfriend was stunned, “Two Months Wages!?

The girlfriend looked to her boyfriend with desperate, yet captivating eyes. The boyfriend was now off balance, and inquired of the Jeweler awkwardly, “Is that Net or Gross?”

Mother mused sentimentally. “My dear estranged hubby, god curse his soul, bought my engagement ring with two months salary. One of the few romantic things he ever did for me.” She appraised the huge Diamond ring on her finger, “Of course he was poor back then; he hadn’t even made his second million yet.”

Mother lightly elbowed Betty in the ribs, and rolled her eyes as she whispered, “I’d like to see Richard get a job for two months.”

Betty laughed aloud, “That would be a cold day in Hell,” but she stopped to consider, “You just gave me an idea, Mother.”

Betty pulled her Mother aside and whispered to her as they walked out of the Jewelry Store arm in arm, leaving a wake of shared sinister laughter.

***

Betty and her Mother, armed with their packages of absolutely necessary useless merchandise, walked through the open-air parking lot and approached an ultra luxury, black Jaguar XJ sports car. Betty took the drivers door, and as they settled inside, Mother looked at her daughter proudly, “I guess we can add conspiracy to the customary rules for an Engagement ring.” Betty smiled and her Mother laughed, “And here I thought I was the devious bitch of the family.”

***

The black Jaguar drove up to the gates of a newly renovated, yet isolated old penitentiary. The Guard inside the gatehouse looked out the window at the Jaguar with recognition, he checked the time on the wall clock. It was almost 4pm, and he noted it in his logbook. He opened the automatic gates and waved it on in.

Betty parked, removed the keys from the ignition, and locked the steering wheel with a ‘club’. She reached into her bag for perfume, sprayed a blast on her wrists, gathered her bag and attaché, and exited from the belly of the Jaguar. She enjoyed ‘making an entrance’.

The inmates in the fenced Prison yard were milling about, enjoying some outdoor time and they all stopped to sniff the air like lonely wolves, as the breeze carried the scent of a perfumed bitch.

The Prison Warden observed the arrival of the black Jaguar from his office window. He remarked with sotto chagrin, “Here comes little miss mind fuck. Every time she shows up, it’s rutting season in ‘D’ Block.”

The Warden’s Assistant smiled as he stepped up to the window, “I can’t believe she’s a Corrections Psychologist. Why would someone that beautiful want to work with the criminal element?”

The Warden cut him off sharply, “Next to her the criminal element are saints; she’s the Queen of Darkness.”

***

Betty was having a counseling session with two of the fallen few, Luca and Spike. She desperately needed to save someone, and it was in her head that these two poor broken jail-birds, shall one day mend their wings and fly. Luca sat quietly. Spike was excited and impatient. In front of Betty were the two inmate’s files. She focused on some paperwork. Spike noticed Betty’s watch, “What an expensive looking watch.” Luca elbowed him to be silent, but Betty absently took it off and handed it to him to examine.

Spike was tantalized by the gold and diamonds on the bezel as he examined the watch a little too carefully, “It’s beautiful. I’ve never stolen anything this nice before.”

Luca looked horrified as Spike attempted to pocket it, but without a word or looking up, Betty’s hand went out with the ‘gimme gesture’ and he sheepishly returned it.

Betty looked up at her two inmates, holding them frozen by her stoic gaze, and then she smiled, “I am very impressed with your pro-active approach to your rehabilitation,” she examined the files further, “I don’t believe you’ve missed a single program this Institute has offered.”

Luca and Spike looked pleased with themselves and unconsciously adjusted their postures.

“I have already recommended that you both be considered for a conditional parole, as a prequel to full parole.”

Spike almost jumped out of his chair with excitement, but Luca quickly steadied him with a reflexive hand on his shoulder.

Betty smiled upon them, “Now please understand that the decision will of course rest with the parole board. I have made the recommendation, .. and, based upon your proactive and exemplary behavior, I am cautiously optimistic.”

Betty was interrupted by her ringing mobile phone and excused herself with a hand gesture. She answered sweetly,

“Hello?”

*

She retorted coldly,

“No! My position has not changed!”

Exasperated, she disconnected and looked at her two wards, “Lawyers!”

Luca and Spike answered in unison “Tell me about it!”

***

A White, Cadillac Limousine, pulled up to the international airport arrivals door, and a kindly looking Chauffeur got out, opened the trunk, and then stood by the passenger door, composed, patient and present.

***

Jane, a petite, attractive Latina woman in her late 20’s, stood in the middle of a small Multi-Media production shop holding a terrier. Posters and Slogans, all having to do with Water, covered the walls; – Sweet water versus Salt water, Water Access, Water Rights, Water Quality, and Virtual Water.

The production shop resembled a Hive with many Cubicles, and many busy bees engaged in different activities. Some were sitting in front of computers updating the social media channels, and others were preparing and organizing some of the main props for an upcoming Demonstration event, such as stacks of information handouts, pamphlets, small posters, and also signs and banners attached to broken hockey sticks, broomsticks, and flat wood handles.

Very prominent on one wall, was an ominous poster designed in a Nazi Germany propaganda style titled, ‘Water Giants’ – ‘The Naked Truth’, printed over a faint base water mark American flag. It prophesied a future war over corporate access to Canadian Fresh Water.

Oliver was a 30 something Austrian man. He was tall, lanky, and weather beaten, with short spiky blonde Arian hair. He was a man with an overly kind heart. He was also a crazy artist, and an accident waiting to happen. He wore a red and white patterned Palestinian style (keffiyeh) headscarf, and a white Baseball T-Shirt with half length red sleeves. He sported many unusual and symbolic tattoos on his exposed arms that told the story of some kind of errant lifestyle. He sat at his cubicle, in front of a small professional digital film editing suite drinking a beer while he synched the narrative track to his Documentary Film about the average citizen of the Excited States of America’s knowledge of, and attitude toward, Canada and Canadians. .. A couple of large sports equipment bags rested next to Oliver’s cubicle.

Jane’s small pet terrier barked a warning as her mobile phone rang, and she answered it,

*

“Mickey! Buenos Días!”

*

She announced sadly,

“We lost one, Mickey.”

*

“He was in a car accident, poor thing”

*

“No! It wasn’t one of mine!”

*

“He’s ok, just out of the game for a couple of months. Do you know of anyone who can spare for him?”

*

Jane laughed out loud,

“Tony? He is your henchman. He uses a baseball bat only to close business deals.”

*

“I am sorry Mickey, I can’t. I am dancing with the troops after the game; but don’t worry, I will bring the insurance papers tomorrow.”

She kissed into the telephone to end her conversation, “Besos.”

Jane leashed her small dog and walked past Oliver. She playfully swatted him on the back of the head as she grabbed one of the bags of sports equipment, “Bring the other bag.”

“I’ll just be a second.” said Oliver.

Jane admonished him sternly, “Now! I don’t want to be late, Oliver.”

“I’m coming, I’m coming” declared Oliver like a child protesting to its Mother.

Jane mumbled under her breath, “I’m glad somebody is.”

Oliver quickly drained his remaining beer. He stood up too quickly and immediately became light headed as he grabbed the bag of sports equipment. He tripped, and a dozen baseball bats slid out of the sports bag. He stepped on a bat and he was suddenly fighting for his balance like a logger on a broken up logjam.

***

It was already late afternoon. A white limousine slowly traveled along a semi residential street next to a park, where a Pub League Softball game was in progress. The team at bat wore green and blue Baseball Jerseys. The limo slowed to a stop at an intersection.

Dick sat alone in the back He looked out the window with interest and saw people having fun together. He saw an attractive Latina looking woman, dusting her hands off on her pants as she stepped up to the batter’s plate. He witnessed the Pitcher pitch a windmill underhand fastball toward her. She hit it solidly out toward center field, and ran for first base. The limo continued through the intersection and on down the street, and the baseball game disappeared from his view. Dick asked politely, but distractedly, “Roger, how long have you been my Father’s driver?”

The Chauffeur looked back at Dick through the rear view mirror, and announced in an almost Brooklyn New York accent “Twenty good years, Sir. We are all very worried for him, and we miss him at the company. .. Are you happy to be home, Sir?”

Dick sighed, “I’m always more at home swimming with the fishes.”

The chauffeur offered placatorially, “Well there’s always your aquarium Sir.”

***

The large pool deck was a jigsaw puzzle of terracotta stone tiles that terminated at a wide walkway of square rubber terracotta style tiles that surrounded on three sides an almost Olympic sized swimming pool that fused into a low natural rock wall.

An Older Man with unkempt short white hair, dressed in a bath robe, sitting on a chaise lounge and smoking a Cuban cigar, was holding a deep sea fishing rod, apparently fishing.

Natacha, an attractive 40 something Latina Nurse, had just finished taking his blood pressure and temperature and was gathering her instruments. She looked up and saw Dick approaching from the house. She nudged the older man excitedly, “Oh look see! Your son has returned from his vacation.”

The older man turned to look, and watched her quickly walk up and greet him with familiarity and a beaming smile, “Hola Señor Richard. Bienvenido a casa.” .. (english translation) “Hello Mr. Richard. Welcome home.”

Dick greeted Natacha with a Kiss on each cheek, “Hola Natacha. Es bueno estar en casa.” .. (english translation) “Hello Natacha. It’s good to be home.”

Dick sat next to his Father, looked at the fishing rod quizzically, and put an affectionate hand on his. Natacha collected her medical instruments and moved off to give them privacy.

Father appraised his son, “How was your vacation, son?”

Dick responded happily, “Great, but technically it wasn’t a vacation.” Dick regarded his Father with loving, but disguised concern, “How have you been feeling?”

“Good son. My Nurse has got me drinking tumeric tea, and eating omega-3 this, and omega-3 that, .. and Blueberries for crissake. Imagine that!”

Dick smiled, “Natacha knows about these things, so they must be good for you.”

Dad winked, “She’s a good companion though.”

Dick looked over at Natacha and saw she was in earshot, smiled to her, and whispered to his Dad, “Blueberries are good for the wood, just lose the cigar, OK?”

Natacha hesitantly approached a few steps and interrupted, “Mr. Richard, may I please speak with you?”

Dick excused himself with a squeeze on his Father’s shoulders and walked off with Natacha. .. Dad picked up the fishing rod and his cigar.

Dick inquired with low voiced concern in Spanish, “¿Cómo está el?” .. (english translation) “How is he doing?”

“Él está feliz y realmente muy enérgico.” She smiled a little embarrassed, “Cuando menos me lo espero.” .. (english translation) “He’s happy and really very energetic. When I least expect it.” .. Then, somewhat disconcerted, she dragged him by the arm, well out of his Father’s earshot, “Mr. Richard, I’m afraid I cannot accept the Mercedes your Father ordered for me. I know this only because they called to ask what color I wanted. I told him no, no, no, but he is stubborn; it’s the third time he’s tried. This time he just went out and did it! What will my family think of me?”

Dick was well aware of the strong catholic family values that Natacha held. “I understand. He has always been a stubbornly generous man. Would you accept something a little more modest?”

Natacha smiled sheepishly, “A tiny red convertible sports car.”

Dick laughed, “Heh, you’re my kind of girl!”

Suddenly, they heard Dick’s Father cry out, “Sonofabitch!” They both looked over and saw him struggling with the fishing rod. It was bent over as if he’d hooked a Marlin. He struggled with the fishing rod, as he was slowly being rolled on his chaise lounge toward to edge of the swimming pool. They quickly moved to his rescue.

***

Dick sat comfortably at a moderately lavish dinner table. The older woman that was shopping with Betty earlier was arranging the wares on the table, “How was your vacation Richard?”

He clarified, “Ah, technically, it wasn’t a vacation. It was Marine Science research, but it’s nice to do one’s thesis in paradise.”

The woman replied flatly, “You could have defended your thesis five years ago, Richard! Marine Science! What kind of future is there in Marine Science?”

Dick nodded in serious agreement, “Exactly! At the rate that Coral reefs and Fish species are dying all over the planet…”

The woman quickly interrupted him, and pronounced almost biblically, “Who cares about dying coral and dying fish! You should do away childish things; be more responsible, and assume your Father’s business. We all hope for the best, but he’s not well. No one knows that better than you Richard!” Suddenly she dropped a bombshell, “And when are you going to make an honest woman out of Betty?”

MOTHER!” proclaimed Betty as she walked into the room, “Would you please give him a break!”

Mother walked past Betty with contrived innocence, and remarked sheepishly as she exited the room, “Just trying to help dear.”

Dick was momentarily relieved, but then Betty; with her hands on her sides, ‘looked’ at him, “Well?”

He tried to look puzzled, “Well .. What?”

Betty enjoyed having Dick on the defensive. “When?”

He maintained his facade, “When .. What, Betty?”

Betty smiled innocently, raised her left hand and examined a ‘phantom’ engagement ring. Dick rolled his eyes, dropped his arms, and shook his head with a deflating sigh. She giggled, quickly looked back to see if her Mother was out of sight, grabbed him by the crotch of his pants and pulled him up out of the chair to sneak a kiss.

***

Betty and Dick were in bed together. Dick was trying his best to entice Betty into having sex with him, but Betty was exasperated and resisted, “NO! Stop it! You’re not listening to me! God knows we have discussed it enough!”

Dick was frustrated, “You’ve discussed it enough!”

Betty tried a less emotional approach, but no less beseeching, “We’re a good fit. We are used to each other. It’s the right thing to do. .. It’s time!”

He argued, “Why can’t you wait until I finish my thesis?”

Betty’s patience was exceeded and she reverted back to the frustrated emotional approach, “For five years you’ve been hiding behind your thesis and dodging this bullet, and my thighs are battle weary from taking YOUR bullet!” She pushed him away angrily, “Enough is enough! Go buy yourself a magazine!” She cocooned herself with the blankets and turned away from him.

His expression was that of a frozen cartoon character in the path of an oncoming truck. The wind had completely abandoned his sails, but the force of Betty’s conviction capsized him. ‘Was this the end?’ he wondered. He now felt totally impotent and reluctantly surrendered, “Yeah, I guess it’s time.”

Betty, raised her left hand, dangled it in front of his face, and made a hand gesture showing him her Ring Finger with no ring. Dick was at the mercy of a thundering hard-on, and offered with thinly disguised enthusiasm, “We can go shop for an engagement ring tomorrow, .. and it will be a Canadian diamond. No blood diamonds for you!”

Betty smiled victoriously, un-cocooned herself, reached over and abruptly pulled him to her, giving him a big wet kiss and offered him refuge under the blankets.

Dick smirked cynically, “You sure you’re not too battle weary?” Betty smiled seductively, pulled him by the ear, and he rolled on top of her. .. As they moved into routine, mechanical, sexual kinesis, Betty’s expression changed, she was clearly thinking about something. She lifted her arm and started to look at the sweep-hand on her watch as if she was timing the event. The seconds of the present minute quickly fell away, and the sweep-hand arrived at the top of the next minute, she suddenly froze and pushed Dick off, “Stop!”

Dick almost fell off the bed, “What!? Stop what? What is this stop?”

Betty argued, “It’s my body you’re harpooning and I’m no longer in the mood; .. and anyway no means No!”

He was stunned; he simply couldn’t believe it. “What do you mean, No means No!? You activated me! The reservoir is full! The dam is about to break!”

Betty reached for a tissue on the Bedside Table and handed it to him with a smirk. Dick was totally confused. He got out of the bed, grabbed Betty’s pink bathrobe, wrapped it around his waist and started pacing back and forth at the foot of the bed, still holding the tissue, and trying to formulate a response. .. He found one, and delivered it in a very pissed off manner, “What’s going on Betty! I already agreed to marry you!”

Betty pouted, “Where’s the romance in agreeing to marry me?”

He argued impatiently, “We’re going to shop for an engagement ring tomorrow; so what more do you want?”

Betty drew the bed covers around herself defensively, “I want an Engagement Ring that ‘means’ something!”

He looked at her confused, “Betty, the ‘meaning’ is built into the ring! It’s self evident!”

Betty explained herself, “I don’t want a ring that you just buy with money that has always been there!”

Dick responded incredulously, “You want me to steal the ring?”

“No!” she replied flatly. “I want a ring that was worked for!”

“Worked for?”

“Mother and I overheard the Jeweler explain to another couple that it was the customary rule that the gentleman spend two months of his wages on an engagement ring.”

Dick looked up to God, “Jesus, my fiancée ..”

Betty quickly interrupted, “Fiancée to be!”

He continued sarcastically, “My Fiancée, ‘to be’, is being duped by consumer advertising! And anyway, I’m not a gentleman!”

Betty shot back angrily, “That’s beside the point! I think it’s a romantic notion.”

Dick just stood there in disbelief, with a tissue in his hand, wearing a pink robe, and looking at Betty who was holding his balls in her smile. .. He reloaded and weakly returned fire, “Yeah, well I minored in Social Anthropology, and .. and I like the tradition where the women’s family provides a dowry to the man for taking a daughter off their hands.

Betty fired back with both barrels, “I am NOT some THIRD WORLD girl with a price tag on my head! I’m an empowered woman, and I make my own choices and decisions, and I live by them!”

He postured, “Apparently!”

Her eyes were defiant. Dick softened, “Two months wages huh? .. Is that Net or Gross?”

She picked up a nail file and began to file her nails, and added in an offhanded way, “Maybe we should not have sex again until we are formally married.”

Dick was shocked! “Did you eat something of a narcotic nature today?”

Betty declared, “I want to feel virginal on our wedding night!”

He reminded her flatly, “It’s a little late for that!”

She said nothing, but her face showed implacable resolve.

Dick was taking a beating, and he responded desperately, “No. No. NO Betty! I hate it when you pull this shit. I’ve been away for over a month .. and no, NOT THAT!”

Betty insisted, “Think of how good it will feel if we wait.”

WAIT? .. No shit!”

Betty closed, “Then it’s decided!”

Dick pleaded desperately, “Wait!, Hold it! Hands off the kill switch. Decided? Who .. what’s decided?”

“I’ve made up my mind!”

Dick implored the heavens above, “Oh god, it’s all true! Marriage IS the Death of Democracy!”

Betty opened her bedside table drawer and pulled out a folded section of the Newspaper Classifieds with circled Help Wanted Ads, and handed them to Dick. .. He looked them over, and then looked at her quizzically, “Spur of the moment?”

[ * ]

The cold hard sound of metal doors unlatching was heard as their locks released, allowing the inmates access to a new day. The distant voice of a Prison Guard shouted, “Rise and Shine girlies!” Another Guard shouted out, “Wakey! Wakey! Hands off snakey!”

Luca and Spike were already awake on the bunk beds in their spartan 8 foot by 12 foot habitat. Luca was reading a book.

Spike, on the top bunk bed, was sitting up, excited, nervous and hopeful. His leg and foot shaking back and forth, “The straight and narrow, a legitimate job, a new lease on life.”

Luca didn’t look up from his book and offered almost nonchalantly, “We’ll give it a run for the money l’il buddy.”

Spike replied with repentant sincerity “Yeah, instead of running with the money.”

***

Luca confidently approached the showers wrapped in a towel. Spike followed in his shadow. The horrific sounds emanating from the steam camouflaged Penitentiary Shower room were frightening. Spike looked worried. “I’m nervous about the parole hearing. Ya think today’s the day Luca?”

“Today is always the day little brother.”

***

Dick was dressed in suit and tie for his day of job interviews. He had a brown leather Satchel strapped over his shoulder that contained copies of his resume. It was impressive enough for any academic employment, but carried no more weight than the prejudice to suggest he was anything more than an inexperienced homemaker searching for employment in the private sector. He had just left yet another office building and he was clearly frustrated. He stopped, removed Betty’s newspaper Help Wanted Ads from his Satchel, and pen stroked through the second last circled Help Wanted Ad. He looked to his penciled appointment time for the last circled Ad, ‘Osmosis Water, 3pm’. He slapped the newspaper over his palm in a positive manner and headed off with renewed enthusiasm, and a determined gait.

***

Betty and her Mother were in the black Jaguar enroute to fulfill a mission of purchase from some consumer god. Betty drove. She always drove because it was the control seat; however, her mother always let her know that she preferred to be chauffeured. It was really a declaration to her daughter that it was in fact she that was in the control seat. Silly stuff, but this was how their relationship worked. Feeling very at home in her shit, Betty announced happily, “Dickey proposed to me last night. .. Well not exactly proposed, but we both agreed it was time.”

Mother was ecstatic, “Bended knee or forming a merger, who cares, that’s wonderful!” She quickly added with a sharper tone, “And about time!”

“He’s out job hunting today.”

Mother was confused, “Whatever for?”

Betty explained, “Well, as we learned, an Engagement Ring should cost about two months wages; so I suggested, and Dickey agreed he’d get a job for two months to earn the money for a ring.”

Mother laughed, “You? .. Suggested? .. You are a devious bitch!”

Betty added enthusiastically, “It’s romantic. Anyway, I arranged .. I mean, I found several appropriate Job Ads in the Newspaper for him to seek employment. .. After all, it is the Rule of Engagement!”

Mother prophesied, “I should be quite surprised if it’s the only rule.”

Betty laughed, “We also agreed that we won’t have sex again until we are married.”

Mother rolled her eyes. “Uh huh, you both agreed? .. Poor Richard! Leave him one testicle dear; it might come in handy someday.”

Betty whined, “I just want to feel virginal on our wedding night.”

Mother inquired dryly, “Don’t you think it’s a little late for that?”

Betty declared flatly, “It’s romantic, Mother!”

Mother laughed in a low sinister voice, “You’re not only a devious bitch, but you’re a cruel bitch as well.”

***

Martha Smegg, Osmosis Water Corp’s Secretary, defacto security enforcer, and private investigator; .. essentially Mickey’s partner in crime, walked Dick into a brightly lit Boardroom, sat him in a chair facing the windows and presented him with a job application form and a pen. Dick was squinting from the bright late afternoon sunlight that was streaming into the room. He shielded his eyes, and Martha closed the vertical blinds. Dick was grateful, “Thank you.”

***

Betty looked at her watch, “Oh dear, I’m afraid I won’t be accompanying you shopping; I’m running late; and I have to see Daddy before my appointments at the penitentiary.”

Mother frowned disapprovingly, “You know I do not approve of you working at that prison. You could work anywhere. I am worried that you’re going to get hurt. The criminal element can only serve to be a bad influence.”

Betty replied in her practiced, rebellious manner, “I like the criminal element, Mother!”

“That’s what worries me.” Mother added in defeat.

***

Tony Marinara was flopped on the chair in front Mickey’s desk. His well-chewed, unlit Cuban cigar planted firmly between his fingers. His heavy gold wedding band looked tarnished and dull. He looked like the survivor of a week of intense alcoholic business meetings. He pleaded desperately, “Mick, I’m sleeping on the sofa now. The only thing that stands between me and the street is the fucking front door! .. And it’s wide open!”

Mickey pointed an accusing finger at Tony, “I warned you, business and broads don’t mix!”

“Broads!? .. Mick! For christ’s sake, she’s my wife!”

Mickey waved Tony’s excuse away. “Same-same but different.”

Martha walked in with more files, “Mr. Marinara, your 3 pm is here.”

“Shit, I forgot all about that!” Tony begged desperately, “Mick, I’m dying here, and I’ve got to interview some schmuck for Inside Sales.”

Mickey was puzzled, “We need another inside-sales person?”

“A memo came down from Corporate to give this guy a job! I was suspicious myself, so I wanted to do the interview personally. .. I mean why the fuck interview the guy if he’s already hired?”

Martha handed Mickey the Corporate memo from a file.

***

Betty and her Mother were still in the black Jaguar, enroute to somewhere that involved shopping. Mother was appraising her daughter, “What if Richard chooses to find a job on his own?”

Betty replied endearingly, “Bless his heart; Dicky is not that enthusiastic about finding a job.” She added innocently, “I hope he finds a job that will pay him well. I don’t want a small piece of Ice on my hand.”

They both laughed hysterically.

***

“We’re paying him WHAT!?” Mickey was looking over the memo in shock. “I’m gone sailing for a few days, and suddenly I’ve got a Labor Union pounding on the door, a Parole Program, and now this shit!?”

Tony offered sympathetically, “Hell of a way to start the week, buddy.”

Martha looked at Tony and offered, “Here’s his job app and resume.”

Tony pointed to Mickey. Martha looked at Mickey and informed him, “He’s waiting in the board room.”

Mickey stood up, put on a pair of dark sunglasses, took the file from Martha, dropped the memo into it, and in his best rendition of Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, he instructed her, “I want you to make inquiries.” He slapped the file across his hand and went to interrogate his new employee.

Tony called out encouragingly, “Bust his balls anyway Mick!”

***

Betty and her Mother came to a stop in front of an upscale shopping Mall. Mother gathered her things, stepped out, and looked into the Jaguar at Betty, “That’s my girl, make absolutely sure that you take control right from the start, just like I did with your Father.”

Betty interrupted her coldly, “Could that be the reason he left you for our Maid!”

Mother ignored her insult, “I’ll find my own way back dear. Be careful, and I don’t mean at the prison. It’s your Father that worries me.”

Betty replied impatiently, “I can handle Daddy!”

Mother raised her eyebrows doubtfully, “Can you really?”

***

Mr. Lord, Betty’s father, was a 50 something well-groomed man, with combed back thick brown hair, and eyes set wide apart. He wore a carbon grey pinstripe silk suit, open jacket, blood purple hounds tooth tie against a white silk shirt, three-button vest, and reeked of killer instinct. He sat at his desk talking with his mole faced Lawyer, Mr. Butkiss, who sat across from him.

His new wife Maria, formerly his maid, was also there reading a fashion magazine; or perhaps better said, ‘looking at the pictures’ in a state of covetous desire. She wore a large diamond wedding ring set. Her breasts were popping out of her top, and she was dressed like a vamp.

Betty breezed into her Daddy’s office with a smile, “Hello Daddy.”

Daddy immediately got up and enthusiastically greeted Betty with a kiss, “How’s my little girl?”

Betty was distracted by seeing her former maid. She walked toward her with the kind of paralyzing look that would kill a mortal woman. She assessed the outline of the maid’s large breasts with her finger and mumbled sarcastically, “I don’t remember them being this big!”

Maria brushed her hand away, and recoiled indignantly. Betty turned to her Father with that ‘daddies little girl’ look, “Daddy’s got some new toys?”

Daddy quickly intervened to avert a catfight, “Maria honey, would you mind excusing us for a moment, I need to discuss some things with my daughter.”

Maria recovered herself, gave Betty a caustic look and declared indignantly, “I’m going chopping!” and she stormed out of the office.

As Maria exited, Daddy stepped forward and rested his hands squarely on Betty’s shoulders. Mr. Butkiss took up a rear position behind him. Daddy assessed his daughter’s mood and decided on a cheerful tact, “Sweetie Pie, Congratulations! Your Mother informs me you and Richard are engaged.”

Betty appraised her Father and replied with practiced innocence, “Engaged to get engaged. .. You wanted to discuss something with me, Daddy?”

“Baby, I saw your memo. I’m puzzled that you chose Osmosis Water, over all of our other assets that would be better suited to Richard. He’s a .. a Marine Biologist after all.”

Betty replied with naive sweetness, “What better for a Marine Biologist than a Water Company; and anyway Mother and I own the controlling shares in that company, Daddy.”

Daddy responded buoyantly, “Pumpkin, it’s for that very reason I’ve asked you here today.”

Betty raised an eyebrow inquisitively, and the Lawyer interjected, “We have plans to take that company off the Public Register.”

Daddy took the roll of the good cop, “Honey, I feel the company has better potential as a private enterprise.”

The Lawyer came on strong as the bad cop, “I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this pursuit has been aggravated by your turning the company into an ‘Occupational Half Way House’. This has adversely affected shareholder confidence.”

Betty ignored the Lawyer and continued in her little girl incarnation, “Daddy, you know how important that company is to me.”

Daddy knew this game well and played to win, “Angel, nothing is going to happen to your program for parole rehabilitation, I promise you that. But if some changes aren’t made soon, the company could fail altogether.”

The Lawyer again stepped forward to recite his lines, “We are already on Notice that the company’s non-management staff is in discussion with a Trade Union for representation.”

Betty was alarmed, her dark side escaped, and she responded coldly to Mr. Butkiss, “What are you doing to prevent this?”

“The C.E.O. of Osmosis Water bares the full responsibility for this mismanagement. At least for the moment, our hands are tied.”

Betty was right inside the Lawyers face, “Perhaps the C.E.O. of Osmosis Water wishes to spend more time with his family!”

Refusing to be intimidated, he responded, “We can’t just fire him. There are complications.”

Betty smiled girlishly and reverted to her inner child, “It seems I haven’t been paying enough attention to my assets.” Her dark side re-appeared in full splendor, “Well you have my attention now. WHAT COMPLICATIONS!?”

Daddy quickly interjected reassuringly, “Now Blossom, don’t get all excited and worked up. I have discussed a plan with the Board of Directors. I won’t bore you with a lot of ‘details’, but rest assured sweetheart, we are working on his swift removal.”

Betty assessed her Father carefully, “There’s something you’re not telling me Daddy?”

The Lawyer attempted to speak, but Betty silenced him with a look. Daddy put a reassuring hand on each of her shoulders, “Candy Cane, we just need a little time to ‘tweak’ a few things is all, .. but I need your proxy before I can act.”

The lawyer presented Betty with a Proxy Designee form, but Daddy intercepted it and politely gestured to his lawyer to retreat a step.

Father carefully laid out the paper on his desk. Betty took the proxy form, and the lawyer stepped forward with a pen. She looked at the lawyer suspiciously, folded the proxy, and put it in her purse, “I’ll have my lawyer look it over.”

The Lawyer declared nervously, “It’s just a standard proxy form.”

Betty replied with feigned sincerity, “Uh huh!” and gave her Father a kiss, “Bye Daddy.”

As Betty exited the office, her Father smiled proudly and announced, “That’s my little girl! A chip off the old block!”

***

Mickey Montana walked into the Osmosis Water boardroom wearing dark sunglasses, and holding Dick’s file, He offered his hand, “Mr. Richard Douglas, how do you do?”

Dick rose up to greet him, “Mr. Marinara, it’s ..”

“Mr. Marinara is tied up at the moment, I’m Michael Montana. Call me Mickey.” He motioned for Dick to sit, while he moved to the vertical blinds, opened them, and remained standing. The late afternoon sun blasted through, almost blinding Dick as Mickey became a silhouette against the bright sunlight. .. Mickey perused Dick’s résumé and started his interrogation, “You live in Shaughnessy, .. Best Schools, .. Marine Biology, .. SCUBA Instructor? .. You’re regular Ivy League! Why do you want to work at Osmosis Water?”

Dick was uncomfortable, half turned in his chair and squinting away from the intensely bright sunlight in his eyes, “I need a job.”

Mickey pressed, “Why at Osmosis Water?”

Dick was confused, and answered Mickey like he was the village idiot, “I was thirsty when I saw your AD in the paper?”

Mickey moved a little and the blinding sunlight made it impossible for Dick to see. Mickey was now a complete silhouette. Dick was intensely frustrated by all of this.

Mickey scanned the résumé further, “You’re twenty-eight and you’ve never had a job before?”

Dick sighed impatiently; he figured it was another lost cause, so he got up and started to leave, “This seems like the theme of the day. Thank you for you time.”

He pulled the Help Wanted Ads from his inside jacket pocket and threw them into a trash basket as he headed for the door.

Mickey moved quickly and intercepted him at the door, “Relax, it looks like you’ve really been pounding the pavement. The job is yours, if you want it.”

Dick’s expression morphed from surprise to relief, “Truly? Great! Thank you!”

They shook hands, and Mickey saw him out the door like an old friend, “Be here at 9am sharp tomorrow morning.”

Mickey stood for a moment and removed his sunglasses while looking over the résumé. He threw the file into the trash and noticed the Help Wanted Ads that Dick discarded moments earlier. He picked them up and looked them over. Tony walked in, “How did it go?”

Mickey handed Tony the folded Newspaper with the circled Help Wanted Ads, “Check this out. Any of these companies look familiar?”

Tony looked them over and was shocked, “Whoa!”

With stacked heads and wide eyes, they both looked out and down the hall toward the door that Dick just departed from.

Tony mumbled under his breath, “Who is this guy?”

***

Betty was at her Desk in her office at the Penitentiary. She appeared preoccupied. Luca and Spike sat before her expectantly. Their prison files lay conspicuously open in front of her. Luca appeared quite relaxed and was observing Betty very closely. Spike, on the other hand, shuffled nervously. She briefly looked up at them, revealing nothing and returned to perusing and organizing some paperwork. She again looked up at them and announced with a big smile, “Congratulations! You are both eligible for a conditional parole.”

Spike almost leaped out of his chair with excitement, but was quickly contained with a steady hand from Luca.

Betty smiled, “I have already arranged for job placement in the Shipping and Receiving department of a Water Bottling concern called Osmosis Water.”

Spike couldn’t contain his excitement, “Thank you Mrs. Lords.”

Luca placed a steadying hand on Spike’s shoulder and corrected him, “That’s, Miss. Lord,” and he looked to Betty, “I think I can speak for both of us when I tell you we are deeply grateful for this opportunity.”

Betty smiled, but looked distracted and started to make some notes, “I need to, .. to go over the conditions and rules of this work release.”

Luca gently interjected, “Miss. Lord, if I may speak freely, you seem somewhat distracted on this most auspicious of days.”

Betty was in manipulation mode, and she responded innocently, “Does it show?”

Luca responded delicately, “Having a lot of experience living in close quarters with others, one learns to sense when something is bothering someone.”

Spike interjected, “Yeah, there are no secrets here!”

Luca gave Spike the ‘look’ to shut up, and continued on his train of thought, “At the risk of being bold, Miss Lord, and speaking only as one who is so grateful for all of your guidance, and this wonderful opportunity that you’ve laid before us, would it be inappropriate to assume this distraction is relationship oriented?”

Betty took a pause, and assessed Luca as she covertly laid her ringless left hand over her breast in an overly coquettish manner “You’re so perceptive Luca. Actually, I’m preoccupied with my upcoming marriage.” .. Betty played at being worried, “You know, it just so happens, my fiancé is …”

Luca offered an observation, “Beg Pardon for my interruption Miss Lord, and may I, on behalf of both of us, offer our heartfelt congratulations, but don’t you mean your ‘fiancé-to-be’? Respectfully Miss Lord; I don’t see an engagement ring adorning your lovely hand yet.”

Betty smiled to herself. She was leading and they were following like trusting puppies, “That’s what I like about you Luca, you’re so perceptive, and I have such confidence in your success. .. As you so correctly pointed out, ‘my fiancé to be’, Dickey, just so happens to be starting work at Osmosis Water as well, and I thought that .. ahh no, .. perhaps it isn’t such a good idea …”

Spike interjected enthusiastically, “No, No, please go on.”

Luca, again silenced Spike with a hand on his shoulder, “Please Miss. Lord, let us hear you out.”

Betty continued on with the archetypal, manipulative charm, of a southern Georgia peach, “Well it’s just that he’s so, .. what’s the word .. ‘Artistic’; and I want to know that he is adjusting well, and that he’s happy with his new career choice. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind keeping a ‘discrete’ eye out for him, .. and let me know how’s he’s doing at our bi-weekly sessions?”

Luca reassured her, “Miss Lord, it will be our honor to look out for your White Knight.”

Spike interjected again, “Yeah, stealth played a big part in our employment!”

Luca looked at Spike with an affectionate smile, “Past employment, little buddy.”

Betty carried her sweet smile toward her trusting inmates, “Thank you both so much, and I look forward to the very near future when I can sign off on your full Parole recommendations.”

Totally out of the blue, and in a completely offhand manner, Betty inquired, “It must be just awful for you to be here and not to have any social interaction with women. Someday, I am going to try to change that.”

Spike piped up, “It ain’t so bad, cause Luca an me is family.”

[ * ]

For all of the early risers in the world, each day starts and ends with a magic hour. It was a magic hour now, the last hour of the daylight. The shadows were long; the sunlight was soft, warm, and easy on the eyes. The light of magic hour had a way of quieting the world, soothing the body and quieting the mind. It was not the same as looking up into the stars of a night sky with wonder. Magic hour was a pure sensation and a state of being within the body.

Dick and his Father were at the Poolside. Dick was kneeling by the pool. A small aquarium kit lay open beside him, and was checking the temperature, salinity, and ‘pH’, of the water in the swimming pool. Satisfied with his measurements, he closed his kit, sat next to his Father on the chaise lounge and started sipping a glass of beer.

Father sucked on his cigar and mused, “The sunset always looks so beautiful from our safe little nest here.” He gestured to Dick with his cigar, “I think this new job of yours is a good thing son. I believe it will be good for you to get out into the real world, even if it is, only a few months. It will sharpen your mind. The real world is unpredictable. You’ll learn to expect the unexpected.”

Dick complained, “I should be completing my research, not peddling bottled water!”

“You know, your Mother and I started out together under very humble circumstances. We were happy.”

“I know it Dad; but you both came from humble circumstances. Betty and I haven’t.”

Father offered thoughtfully, “I am so impressed by you that you actually carry that awareness son, because it seems to me to be outside of your life experience.”

Dick looked over and smiled at his father, “It’s a side effect from exploring so many diverse cultures during my thesis research. Travel has a way of changing you.”

Father laughed, “You know I’ve always had great affection for Betty, but sometimes the things she sets in motion, .. well the outcome is anyone’s guess.”

“Well she’s got me by the balls on this one Dad!”

They shared a laugh, as Father picked up his fishing rod and cast into the pool.

***

The late day shadows were long and now dim at the Penitentiary as the sun had almost completely descended behind a western horizon awash with the spectacular pollution that was producing the intense red, orange, purple and pink colors. Back east, an ascending, waning full Moon was just becoming visible, low on the horizon.

Luca and Spike were standing at the fence that separated the quarry from the prison recreation yard. They watched in silence as inmates desperately hammered away with iron pickaxes at the meteoric rock, creating a festive display of sparks. The rock was still intact, but their metal pickaxes were now worn down to dull stubs.

Some of the inmates were leaning against the intractable, unforgiving rock, soaked in sweat, heads down, breathless, and in tears, with their pickaxes abandoned at their feet.

Luca walked over from the other side of the fence. A Guard attempted to intercept Luca, but was waved back by the Senior Guard wearing the gold-rimmed sunglasses.

Spike held his position at the fence, and looked on, confused and tense. Luca and the Senior Guard nodded at each other with mutual respect. The senior guard mumbled to Luca, “bout time”.

Inmates started to gather at the quarry fence, and the other Guards all looked on with smiles.

A tower Guard shouted out, “Knock yourself out Luca!” and stuffed a wad of smokeless tobacco inside his cheek. The other tower Guards all laughed. The Senior Guard smiled enigmatically.

Luca confidently walked over to the Rock. He gently took a new, pickaxe from the desperate back swing of a scrawny, sorry looking inmate. The other inmates stopped their hopeless assaults on the rock and moved back a few steps.

With the pickaxe in hand, Luca walked around the rock, examining it like a gemologist analyzing a diamond. He paused for a beat, licked his finger and made a small wet mark on the rock.

The tower Guards smiles were disappearing as they removed their sunglasses and looked on with uncertainty.

The Quarry-men’s faces were awash with despair, desperation, and hope. One could almost hear the desperate Ennio Morricone soundtrack music from a Sergio Leone, spaghetti western movie. .. A White Dove flew overhead.

Luca took a long Zen like breath, raised the pickaxe in a perfect arc, and swung it with elegant, thundering, and explosive force, bearing down on the tiny wet spot and split the massive rock clean in half.

As the entire population of guards and inmates looked on, there was a brief opportunity in the silence of their disbelief.

The desperate quarry men raised their pickaxes and cheered.

The Guards all looked on in incomprehensible disbelief from their towers, lowering their rifles, removing their hats and scratching their heads. One tower guard drained his mouth of the uncouth concoction of saliva and tobacco and shook his head, “Son-of-a-bitch!”

Spike looked on at Luca impressed. Luca’s face radiated an ineffable peace and deep satisfaction.

Luca gently handed the pickaxe back to the inmate, who looked upon Luca as if he was seeing the face of Christ.

Luca walked by the Senior Guard, who extended his hand with a smile and proudly shook Luca’s hand. “Congratulations on making parole. It’s high time you left the nest Luca. I don’t want to see you back here.”

Luca nodded respectfully, “Thank you Bill.” Luca walked out of the quarry.

The quarry inmates attacked the split rock with vengeance and started reducing it to sand.

Spike was mind blown and caught up to Luca, “Luca, how did you do that?”

Luca responded absently, “Every problem has a crack, l’il Buddy.”

[* *]

[
**]
p=. Act Two

Mother was looking over books of Fashions, Flowers, Caterers etcetera. Betty walked in with her cup of morning coffee, “You’re up early.”

Mother had long ago stopped dividing her attention where Betty was concerned. She did not look up, “Good morning dear.”

Betty surveyed the books scattered across her Mother’s worktable, “What’s all this?”

“I’m educating myself. I’m interviewing Wedding Planners today. I’ll probably use Yves, but as it’s all on your Father’s dime, I might just as well be thorough, don’t you think?”

Betty was nervously enthusiastic, “You don’t waste any time, Mother!”

Mother handed Betty a folder, “By the way, this is for you.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a ‘TO-DO’ list. I can’t be expected to do everything!”

***

Dick arrived at work dressed in a modest suit and tie. “Good morning Mr. Douglas,” said Martha, as she showed him to his desk, “This desk is yours. It’s temporary until we get you a place set up with the other sales people down the hall.”

Dick inquired politely, “May I know your name?”

“Martha.”

“Thank you Martha.”

Dick arranged the objects on the desk, to make it his own. Martha brought a large pile of books and manuals and dropped them on his desk, “This will help you bone-up on our products and clients.”

Dick responded with honest enthusiasm, “Great!” He looked up as Martha was turning to go, “Can I get a coffee please?”

Martha froze. The daylight fled from the room as dark storm clouds, with frightening speed, coalesced outside. She turned slowly, and smiled with demonic innocence, “Why certainly you can get a coffee. What do you take in it?

Dick replied offhanded, “Two and Two, Thank you.”

Martha looked down upon him, “Two and two! .. Lovely!” She gently rested a cold, witch’s claw on his shoulder, and with her other skeletal hand, a threatening finger, pointing like the grim reaper, directed his eyes down the office corridor as she informed him in a sweet voice, “The Coffee machine is in that room over by the photocopier. While you’re at it, would you mind very much getting me one as well? I take mine black!”

Dick shuddered, “Forgive me; truly, I meant no disrespect. This is all so new to me.”

The light of day found its way back into Martha’s eyes and she accepted his apology. Dick got up and walked to the coffee room. She returned to her desk and sat with a satisfied look.

From the coffee room, Dick’s voice called out, “Did you say you take it black?”

Martha looked triumphant, “Two and Two but just for you, Thank you.”

Dick returned to his Desk with his coffee. He started looking over the product manuals. Mickey and Tony walked in. Mickey greeted him enthusiastically, “Good morning Richard, and welcome to Osmosis Water.”

“Please, call me Dick.”

“Dick, this is Tony Marinara, our CFO.”

Tony offered Dick his hand, “Hey Dick, welcome to the team.”

“Thank you Tony, I’m happy to finally meet you.”

Tony observed, “I see you have your coffee and research in front of you so I’ll let you wade through it.” He leaned in and whispered to Dick, “Whatever you do, don’t ask Martha to get you coffee.”

Tony looked over to Mickey, “I’ll get the pro-forma ready for your review.”

“Thanks Tony.” Mickey turned to Dick, “I see that Martha has already given you the Osmosis Water product lines. I’ll let you dive into it for awhile before I have Martha take you on a tour of the place.”.. He assessed Dick’s modest suit and frowned, “We’re all pretty informal in the front office. No dress codes here, so you can lose the tie.”

***

Betty and Dick were hanging out together, eating pizza. Dick was armed with the TV remote, channel surfing, while Betty was going through her Mother’s wedding-prep ‘To Do’ list. Betty looked over at Dick, “Congratulations on your new Job.”

Dick tried to subdue a belch and replied facetiously, “Gee Whizz Betty, I can’t figure out why in hell they hired me?”

Betty looked at Dick very seriously, “Do you love me?”

Dick answered incredulously, “Are you serious? I got out of bed at seven this morning!”

Betty leaned over with a smile and gave him a kiss on the cheek. A Diamond Engagement Ring commercial appeared on the TV. Betty’s ears perked up and she exclaimed excitedly, “Oh look!”

Dick aimed the remote at the TV like a rocket launcher and fired the channel button. Now it was the evening news explaining a story about the leader of an Environmental Group, who was leading a demonstration outside the office building of Oribis Aqua Corporation.

Betty grabbed the TV Remote from Dick and turned up the volume. .. The television revealed a rather beautiful Spanish woman in her late twenties, (Jane), wearing handcuffs, and being chaperoned, by two Police Officers. In the background were other media channels, demonstrators, and Riot Police. The Police were literally dragging demonstrators away like they were dead weight sacks of potatoes.

Dick laughed as he heard Jane scream an obscenity in Spanish at the Police officers restraining her, “Hijos de putas!” .. (english translation) “Sons of bitches!”

The two Police Officers restraining Jane were aware they were on TV and were trying their best to look they might actually know what this was all about. .. The News Cameras moved onto Jane in a close-up. .. Jane looked right into the News Camera and addressed the digital audience beyond, “The real criminals here are the Water Giants like Orbis Aqua Corporation! .. PUBLIC WATER is being controlled by PRIVATE Corporations for profit! Water is not a resource that should be controlled by Trans-National Corporations for profit; and the United Nations should not be supporting the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on this issue!”

The Reporter remarked condescendingly, “Well I hardly think bottled water should be illegal?”

Jane’s eyes become feral, and she addressed the reporter sarcastically, “OH! You have an OPINION? You’re a Television PERSONALITY! So silly of me, because I thought you were a REPORTER!”

Now the Reporter found herself sharing an uncomfortable spot on camera.

Jane continued, “How dare you be so simplistic. This is NOT about Bottled Water! This about Water Rights and Water Supply! .. Cutting off water supply to other countries, Damming rivers for hydro electric power to private business and the negative affects it produces on local communities, countries, and the lives of ..”

Jane was suddenly, and unceremoniously, escorted away by the two Police Officers.

The reporter turned to the camera, and with an unsteady smile, continued her report, “Jane Ferrada, the daughter of UN Official Ernesto Ferrada, was leading this protest against Orbis Aqua Corporation’s legal challenge to full access to Canadian fresh water. .. In an ironic twist, Ernesto Ferrada was a militant, anti-privatization Activist, against the Government of Bolivia, and also one of the spear-headers of the Bolivian Coalition in Defence of Water and Life, that forced Orbis Aqua Corp to leave Bolivia. .. The background to this story is Orbis Aqua Corp’s contention that it has the right, under the terms of the North American Free-Trade Agreement, to unfettered access to fresh water exports from Canada. Currently, Orbis Aqua Corporation is threatening to sue the Canadian Government for violating its free trade agreements…”

Betty laughed and clicked off the TV, “She should go back to what ever world she came from and stay out of everyone’s business.” She loosely threw the TV remote back to Dick, “God I hate environmentalists!”

Dick looked at Betty incredulously, “Are you serious? I’m an environmentalist!”

“You’re a Marine Biologist!”

Dick raised an eyebrow, “You don’t see a connection anywhere in that?”

Betty disengaged and returned to her wedding prep ‘To-Do’ List.

Dick’s Father shuffled through the room, “Isn’t that one of your Father’s companies, Betty?”

Betty gathered her things together, “I have to go now.”

“You’re not staying the night?”

She kissed Dick on the cheek, “Oh honey I know it’s hard, but (sing song voice) Virginal on our Wedding Night!”

[ * ]

Betty’s Mother was busy with the organizing of her daughter’s wedding. Open books of wedding fashions, flowers, catering, and check lists, were spread out over her worktable.

Betty walked in with a cup of coffee and smiled at her Mother’s focus. “Good morning Mother.” She picked up a thick list of names the size of a small telephone directory, “What is this?”

Mother didn’t look up from her work, “The guest list.”

Betty was horrified, “MOTHER!”

Mother stayed focused on her task, and assured her daughter impatiently, “Don’t worry dear, it’s just preliminary. You’ll have the final audit.”

“You got that right!”

Mother looked up at her daughter, unsure of how hard to press her for information, “There is one, tiny, detail in all of this preparation that I need from you dear.”

Betty inquired enthusiastically, “How can I help?”

Mother replied tactfully, “Well a date might be a good way to start!”

Betty frowned, “I’m reluctant to press the issue with Dickey at this point. I’ll let him know soon enough.”

Mother cautioned, “Well don’t leave it too long dear. I can only do so much before hiring the contractors. They require a Date.”

Betty put her coffee down, kissed her Mother and grabbed her attaché case, “Bye Mother.”

***

A young Lawyer had just bailed Jane out of jail, and was escorting her by the arm, down the thirteen concrete steps of the 13th Police precinct. “Jane, you’re beginning to qualify as the criminal element, and you’re becoming quite an embarrassment to your Father. He is very disappointed in you!”

Jane responded angrily, “Tell him not to forget where we came from! .. On second thought, I’ll tell him myself!” .. Jane ranted on sarcastically, “They call this DEMOCRACY!? Do you know why governments are so infected with corporate lobbies?”

The young Lawyer answered with thin patience. “No; but I’m sure you’re going to enlighten me Jane.”

Jane stopped and admonished the arrogant young Lawyer aggressively. “Don’t you dare patronize me! They are there to buy blind eyes, just like yours! They buy government sanctioned, corporate censorship! They purchase the right to control the narrative on any given commodity! Can’t you at least see that!?”

The young Lawyer looked at her, “From your Father, I am directed to advise you that the revolution is over, Jane. Enjoy your new life. Find a man, or allow a man to find you …”

He was suddenly greeted with her heel on his toe and he jumped around on the narrow concrete stair, cursing in pain. Jane feigned a sincere apology, “Oops, .. I’m so sorry!”

Jane helped the limping Lawyer to his car, “Take me home!” she demanded. “I was supposed to detail a car this morning. .. I can’t believe my Father let me rot in that cell for a whole night.”

***

Jane’s apartment was an open space studio loft design. The entrance immediately led to a kitchen on the right, essentially contained on one wall, and separated from the living and sleeping area by a faux marble, kitchen island countertop. The en-suite bathroom was at the far end, beyond her bed which rested next to French Juliet balcony doors. She entered in a rush and her small Terrier greeted her at the door with a soft dog toy. She ruffled his ears, gave him a kiss, dropped her stuff on the entrance table and headed for the kitchen area.

She grabbed a bag of Fair Trade coffee beans from the kitchen cupboard and dumped some into a coffee grinder. She put a pair of Ear Cups, that looked like large coffee beans, over her ears. The dog saw this and squatted to protect its ears. Jane turned on the roaring coffee grinder. Her dog barked, and two seconds later, she dumped the coffee into the coffee machine and hit the on switch.

She quickly opened the refrigerator, emptied an opened can of food into a dog dish and topped it off with a dollop of peanut butter, and set it on the floor for her terrier.

She tapped the answering machine’s play messages button, quickly began removing her clothes, and headed to the bathroom and started to brush her teeth. .. A series of no message beep tones was followed by a message from her Father, admonishing her from the safety of the telephone answering machine, “Estoy muy decepcionado contigo, Jane. Espero que hayas aprendido algo con esto.” .. (english translation) “I’m very disappointed with you, Jane. I hope you have learned something from this experience!” .. With a mouth full of toothpaste foam, Jane, screamed a response back to her Father’s voice in Spanish, “Vete al carajo!” .. (english translation) “Screw You!”

***

Mickey was in his office looking over a file, and jotting down a list of concerns. He also drew pictures to illustrate his thoughts, feelings, and instincts. He doodled out a skewed landscape against a backdrop of the few remaining fixed stars to navigate the shark infested waters of generally accepted business practices. He was in deep thought, and clearly frustrated. To his way of thinking, the level field of good business practice had been tweaked to his disadvantage. Tony walked in and fell into a chair. Mickey was completely unaware of Tony’s presence as he thought aloud, “What is Corporate up too?”

Tony broke Mickey’s reverie, “Mick, you’ve been at this all week. Give me your talking points.”

Mickey looked up, settled back into his chair, and rattled his talking points off of his fingers, “This sudden imperative by the W.W.U. to organize the warehouse workers; Osmosis Water is now a de-facto halfway house; and I’ve inherited a ‘fifth wheel’ Inside Sales person.”

Tony pointed his ubiquitous, well-chewed unlit cigar stub, at Mickey. “He’s the wildcard! Who is this guy?”

Mickey threw Tony the file he had been reading. “He’s fucking loaded, that’s who he is. Look at Martha’s research! He’s the sole heir to the Douglas Pharmaceutical Empire.”

Tony perused the file carefully. “I note that it’s not a publicly traded Company .. Interesting.”

“I’m missing something here Tony. Why is he working here? .. Except maybe, as a reconnoiter to a Buy Out. … What’s the connection?”

Tony observed Mickey’s strategic mind in overdrive. “Mick, why don’t you just ask him?”

Mickey was surprised by the simplicity of Tony’s plan. “Yeah! Good idea Tony! Let’s get him in here and interrogate him.”

Mickey tore off a page from the ‘Word of the Day’ pad on his desk. Yesterday’s word was ‘amendment’. The new word was “PERTINACIOUS”, and the displayed definition was: – ‘tenacious, stubborn, determined, persistent’. He glanced at Tony, who captured his signal for privacy and left the office, pressed the telephone speaker button, and then hit a speed dial button.

***

Jane was stepping out of the shower as the phone rang. She quickly moved, but stalled for a second as she saw her apartment window blinds were open. She quickly grabbed her robe off the bathroom door, ran to the telephone, scanned the call display, and picked up the cordless handset,

“Mickey!”

*

Mickey greeted her enthusiastically,

“Hola Chica! I saw you on the evening news last night, and your ‘pertinacious’ attack on the reporter was beautiful. You’re a celebrity now!”

*

Jane frowned. She sat on the edge of her bed and lost her gaze beyond the daylight streaming into her apartment,

“My Father made me spend the night in the big house.”

*

Mickey chuckled as he swung his feet up onto the desk and replied facetiously,

“Did you recruit any new mercenaries?”

*

“Ha Ha!” responded Jane sarcastically to Mickey’s deliberately distorted view of her passion.

*

Mickey cut to the chase,

“So where is my car?”

*

Jane’s eyes bounced back to reality and she announced happily,

“Tomorrow Mickey, for the afternoon.”

*

Mickey chuckled,

“Jane, you want to say,-‘in the afternoon’.

*

“You understand my meaning.” responded Jane playfully.

*

“Great. We’ll be expecting you.” said Mickey.

*

Jane inquired with curiosity,

“Ah, .. who is, WE?”

 

Mickey smiled to himself,

“Me and my new disciple.”

 

Jane corrected his grammar,

“Mickey, you want to say, ‘my new disciple and I’.”

*

“Yeah, the three of us.” replied Mickey facetiously.

*

Jane picked up a list of names with phone numbers from her bedside table, looked it over and inquired,

“Does he play?”

*

“I don’t know; I’ll ask him.”

*

Jane unconsciously adjusted her hair as she appraised herself with a quick glance to the full-length mirror next to her bed,

“Is he cute?”

*

Mickey saw Tony and Dick approaching his office,

“Yeah, he’s a real looker. .. Hasta manaña por la tarde Jane.”

Mickey reached over, tapped the telephone hands-free button and ended the call, just as Dick and Tony entered his office and sat down. He assessed Dick carefully, “Would you please lose that tie! I don’t trust men that wear ties. .. Sorry, just some bad history.”

Dick removed his tie with great relief.

“You like baseball, Dick?”

“Yeah!” replied Dick with comfortable smile.

“You play?”

Dick confessed with a wobbly hand gesture, “It’s been a few years, but I’m always up for a game.”

“Good!” replied Mickey, “We want Team players around here.” He appraised Dick thoughtfully, “So level with me, why’s a rich boy working for wages?”

Dick was surprised by the question and laughed with some embarrassment, “OK, .. you got me!”

Mickey and Tony shared a triumphant glance. Dick tried to explain, “It sounds crazy, but my girlfriend, Betty, roped me into it. I’m working to buy an engagement ring .. you know the modern corporate myth? .. The two month’s wages thing?”

Mickey was confused at first, and then the penny dropped. He looked at Tony’s list of shareholders with many of the names checked off. Under the Corporate list, he saw Betty Lord as the primary shareholder. Her name was only circled, “Your fiancée, .. as in Betty Lord?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

Tony quickly jumped in to re-direct, “Ahh, two months wages, yeah, I’ve seen the commercials. I’ve always wondered whether that was net or gross.”

Dick laughed, “It’s got to be Net, because I can’t get out of it.”

Mickey’s composure relaxed at hearing this. He gave Tony a furtive look, and Tony was suddenly Dick’s best friend, “Can I get you a coffee? What do you take in it?”

“Sure, thanks, two and two.”

Tony tapped the glass wall of Mickey’s office to get Martha’s attention. He gestured to her with his hands and fingers, ‘Coffee’; ‘Two and Two’, and pointed to Dick. Martha smiled in acknowledgement but the light quickly vacated her eyes and they turned blood red as she got up to perform the distasteful task.

[ * ]

From out of the late afternoon traffic, a classic sports car pulled up in front of the Osmosis Water offices, taking up the length of two parking places. It was a 1964 Ford Thunderbird Roadster, V8. It was ivory white, with a white retractable ragtop, red and white interior, two-bucket-seater, in absolutely mint condition. .. Out of it jumped Jane. She stopped suddenly, quickly reached into the back of the car, grabbed her briefcase, and ran into the office building.

***

Jane entered the front office out of breath, imparting a smile and greeting to Martha, “Hola, buenas tardes, Martha.” as she ran into Mickey’s office. Dick locked his eyes on her as she flew by, and the papers on his desk became airborne by the slipstream she created.

Jane apologized to Mickey, “Hi sweetie. I am sorry to be late; I did not sleep well last night.”

Dick observed Mickey and Jane exchange kisses on both cheeks. Jane yawned; and Dick unconsciously echoed her yawn. Mickey noticed this. Mickey offered encouragingly, “Come on Jane, I want to introduce you to my new disciple.”

Mickey and Jane walked out of the office to Dick’s desk. He was re-organizing his paperwork.

“Jane, let me introduce you to Richard Douglas.”

Dick got up and bussed both of Jane’s cheeks, “Please call me Dick. Mucho gusto.”

Jane was surprised, “Tu hablas español!”

“Si .. poco.”

Mickey liked what he was seeing, “Well I can see a conversation waiting to happen, but my new car waits.”

Jane announced happily, “And, it’s waiting for you outside.” Jane threw Mickey his New Car keys and headed for the door. Mickey looked back toward Dick with a ‘what are you waiting for’ gesture, and beckoned him to join them.

***

The three of them emerged from the Building to appraise the car. Mickey stopped and froze in his tracks; his face lit up. Jane was anxious.

Dick was impressed, “What a beautiful restoration.”

Mickey started walking around the car, and falling in love for the first time, “It’s my dream come true.”

Jane started rummaging through her briefcase that was opened and balanced on her knee. It contained a tablet computer, smart phone, credit card reader and just about everything else you need to conduct a successful business. Jane noticed Dick noticing. She smiled at him, “Keeps the overhead down!” .. She put the briefcase onto the hood of the car. Mickey looked at her horrified! He was about to protest when Jane stopped him cold, “Relax Mickey, my case is synthetic goat skin. How do you think your car got so shiny?”

She took out a digital pen and a form opened on her tablet computer. “Mickey, sign on the lines by the X’s and it’s insured, and yours.”

Mickey happily signed off on the digital form. Jane took a small, gold plated, ball-peen hammer, from her briefcase and offered it to Mickey. He looked at her confused. Jane declared encouragingly, “Go ahead, make a dent!”

Mickey looked at Jane in disbelief, “Are you Crazy!?”

“If you make the first dent, it won’t hurt so much if someone else dents it.”

Mickey looked at Jane like she was a stranger to him, and then to Dick, who simply shrugged, “It makes sense to me.” Mickey reluctantly accepted the hammer and looked for an unobtrusive spot to christen his new car.

Jane whispered an aside to Dick, “I have all my customers do this.”

Mickey made a microscopic dent under the bumper, and stood up charged and excited, “This calls for a celebration.” He checked his watch, “Its not yet five.”

Dick offered facetiously, “It’s gotta be five somewhere in the world!”

Jane laughed too deliberately, but enough to reveal her interest in Dick, “It’s Friday, let’s go!”

Mickey jumped behind the wheel of the car and it rumbled to life. The trunk opened from the back as the ragtop lifted and folded itself into the trunk of the car. Jane opened the door for Dick. He got in, and as the supertanker sized car was only a two-seater, Dick offered her his lap. She jumped on his lap and smiled. With a honk, a shaken fist, and a screeching tire, they were off to the Bar.

***

[
**]
p=. The Irish Clover Pub

Mickey’s classic car rolled up in front of the Irish Clover Pub and the three of them jumped out of the car.

Dick remarked, “I’ve never been to an Irish Pub before.”

Mickey stopped him abruptly at the door and gave him fair warning, “Enter at your own risk!”

Jane laughed and opened the door.

***

The Bar and its characters were in full late Friday afternoon swing. In the background, some were playing darts. A group of four ‘characters’ were sitting around a table drinking beers and having a deep discussion. Oliver stood beside them with darts in his hand, and chugging a beer. Mickey and Jane waved to them. Jane called out, “What’s the topic of the week?”

Oliver announced, “We are trying to solve the mystery of Procol Harem’s song, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.”

Jane raised her eyebrows, and Mickey laughed and shouted out, “Good Luck with that!” He gestured that they were going to sit at the bar.

Oliver called back to Mickey, “I’ll put your name up for darts.” .. He turned back to the discussion before him.

Character One raised his glass to make a point, “What I want to know is, who the Miller was, and what about the vestal virgins?”

Character Four explained, “A Miller grinds seeds to make flour, so he could be a symbol of life and nourishment. The sixteen virgins traveling to the coast was a Tarot Card foretelling a journey with lots of broads, but no intercourse. It was a warning of, .. you know, a barren journey, or a hopeless cause.”

Character One pointed out, “Bullshit! The Miller was just a guy having a beer and telling a story to a group of stoned musicians of some broad he knew.”

Character Two interjected, “A journey without intercourse would turn me a whiter shade of pale.”

Character Four continued, “I’m in earnest, stay with me on this man. I know all about this shit. The vestal virgin journey thing is like orthodox thinkers searching for answers everywhere except under the souls of their own two feet. It’s a kind of parable man. The broad is looking for signs and wonders, and refuses to believe what she knows is true for herself. Leaving for the coast is like a journey to the Promised Land. It’s a misunderstood metaphor, man. The Miller is just saying that the grass isn’t greener over there, and the life that sustains you is here, where you are, wherever you are, man.”

Character One pointed out, “Yeah, well what about her face turning a whiter shade of pale?”

Character Four explained, “He’s just substituting pronouns, man, he’s metaphorically taking her place as he relates her story. She’s blinded by the light, but she has a busy mind, and refuses to accept that everything is just perfect where she is.”

Character One nodded tentatively, “Yeah .. it fits.”

Character Four explained further, “The idea of a journey, or somewhere else, is always more attractive, – to us all; – and if you can dig that, it’s heavy, man. .. Can you dig it?”

“I can dig it.” confessed Character One with a nod.

Character Three mumbled to himself, “That’s heavy, man.”

Character Two announced confidently, “Procol Harem must have spent some time in Spain or did a concert there because the first verse of the song is about that. The song uses the word Fandango, which is an energetic traditional courtship dance from Andalusia Spain. So I gotta figure that one of the band members had a romance with a Spanish woman, and by the sound of the song, I figure she was a real muse because the song is a poem, man.”

Character One argued again, “Skipping the light fandango is just a metaphor for being stoned on lsd.”

Character Two added, “They also did another Spanish song called Conquistador.”

Oliver corrected him, “That wasn’t a Spanish song.”

Character Two challenged Oliver, “You ever hear of a North American Conquistador?”

“Yeah, the George Bush presidents.”

Character Two smiled at Oliver, “You got a point there, man.”

Character Three, (Alfredo), was a kindly, sage like, genuine, ‘ready for the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History’, bohemian, hippy throwback. He was listening intently with his thumb pressed to his cheek and his nose resting on his hand. He raised a finger to announce that he would like to make a point. Everyone at the table, including Oliver paid their affectionate respect toward him with their silence and attention. “They skipped the Light Fandango, man. That speaks to me of a love dance with light, man. An experience or experiment with an altered state of consciousness. But who can say if it was natural or drug induced, and whether it brought them any real illumination, you dig?”

Character Four considered this and shook his head in agreement, “I see where you’re going with this Alfredo.”

Alfredo continued, “I like to think of the song as a memory, man. A very personal memory, sung in a metaphoric way about the sudden recognition of a past life intersecting with a present incarnation, man.”

Oliver, in his crazy way, always had a different perspective, and was never shy about sharing it, “No! They skipped the light fandango means they were stoned; and anyway he was feeling seasick, so I think he was puking off the side of a boat at a party and the clouds cleared …”

“A loud voice boomed out across the Bar, “OLIVER! YOU PLAYING OR WHAT!”

Oliver gestured ‘a sec’ toward the dart area and returned his fractured attention back to the table of Characters, “I’m up, I gotta go.”

Character Two was just about to take his beer when Oliver grabbed it and chugged it down to empty, returned the empty mug, belched, and flew over to the dartboard before Character Two could protest. Alfredo watched Oliver and smiled amused.

Character Two just accepted Oliver for what he was and jumped back into the conversation, “But the vestal virgins going to the Coast? They weren’t Tarot Cards, they were playing cards; the song says so.”

Character Four interrupted, “Tarot cards are playing cards.”

Alfredo decided to put the mystery of the song to bed, “The coast is always either a port of entry, or exit, or LA, but I don’t really give a fuck what the song is about man, I like the way it just seems to elevate me, man. You dig what I’m sayin man?”

Character Four shook his head in agreement, “I hear ya, man!”

Character One closed, “Are we showing our age here?”

***

Percival, the Bartender, was a Rodney Dangerfield-ish character with a kindly and generous countenance. He laid out three paper beer coasters, “Heh folks, the usual?”

Mickey nodded, “Yeah.”

Percival announced happily, “Already poured.” He placed three pints of dark Irish beer on the bar counter. He raised a brow and a smile, “Jane, they let you out!”

Jane smiled a little embarrassed.“Oh God!”

Dick looked at the frothy pint like he’d never seen a dark beer before, “Why do they make it so dark?”

Percival leaned on the bar and explained, “It’s an Irish tradition, so they can drink in public places at night, in the dark, and not get arrested.”

Dick chuckled and raised his glass to meet Mickey and Jane’s invitation to a toast, “Salud.”

Jane was looking around for something, “Percival, where are the gourmet nuts?”

Percival quipped, “They’re all out having a coffee break!” Percival pulled a bowl of mixed nuts from under the bar and set them in front of Jane.

Oliver’s voice boomed above the cacophony of voices in the Bar, “Mickey, you’re up!” Mickey nodded over to Oliver, took some Darts from his jacket pocket, and grabbed his beer, “I’m up, you guys going to be OK?” Jane smiled at him and waved him away.

Dick and Jane looked at each other shyly, and both attempted to speak at the same time. Jane bowed to Dick to go first. He asked the question he already knew the answer to, “What did the Bartender mean, when he said, ‘They let you out’.”

Jane’s cheeks flushed, “It’s a story I will owe you.”

Dick announced awkwardly, “This is not the first time I’ve seen you.”

“Really?”

“I saw you on television.”

Jane cringed with embarrassment, “Oh god!”

Dick reached out and lightly patted her shoulder, “You were very passionate, and I was impressed.”

Jane smiled politely, “I don’t really want to talk about that right now. It all went so badly.”

“It got MY attention. I really agree with your protest; I believe future wars will be fought over water access.”

“It wasn’t a protest Richard. It was a demonstration.” Jane appraised Dick with new eyes, “So what about you Richard, what are you passionate about?”

SCUBA Diving and Marine Biology.”

Jane chuckled, “You love water. .. You are a water man.” She observed Mickey at the Dart arena, “Mickey is a water man also. He wants people to think he is stone, but he’s water.”

Mickey pulled his darts from the board, looked over to the bar, and paused to observe Jane smiling toward him. Dick raised his pint toward Mickey in acknowledgement.

Dick probed diplomatically with a hand gesture, “Are you and Mickey .. tight?”

Jane delivered a wry smile, “He’s a sweet guy; we’re best of friends; we play on the same softball team. Do you play Softball Richard?”

“Not in years. Last week I saw some people at Mahon Park playing baseball.”

“That was probably us. We play Pub league, Slow pitch softball, but with some fast pitch rules. We play only seven innings. Usually there are ten players, but sometimes a team is short a player, so if there are no spares on any team available, then both teams play with nine players. We are always looking for spares. In fact we are short a player next week, and I think we need a replacement for a couple of months. Would you like to play with us?”

Dick replied enthusiastically, “Sure.”

“Fantastic! Give me your mobile, and I’ll call you after I sort out the players roster for the next week. You can play with us Monday after work for sure though.

Dick pulled out a Business card and pen and wrote his name and phone number on the back of it. He laughed, as he declared apologetically, “I’m sorry Jane, I don’t carry a mobile phone; and this is my very first business card. .. My first job for that matter.”

Jane looked at him suspiciously, “Your first job?”

Dick confessed, “I’ve been a student for as long as I can remember. I chose to extend my doctoral thesis in marine biology.”

Jane’s attention was now solidly arrested, “Wow, What was your thesis about?”

“To put it in simple terms, …”

Jane interjected in a way that positively betrayed that English was not her mother tongue, “Simple terms I do not require, Richard.”

Dick smiled and settled into a more comfortable posture, “I told you I extended my thesis. I was a SCUBA Diver and Instructor before I started this academic journey into Marine Biology. It’s funny how an attraction to water as a kid has led me to what I do now.”

Jane inquired a little facetiously, “Selling bottled water at Osmosis Water?”

Dick laughed aloud, “Yeah, I fell in love with water and God decided that it makes perfect sense to sell bottled water at Osmosis Water. God has a sense of humor, I’ll say that.” He looked up to the heavens and beseeched with a supplicating gesture, “Heh Old-timer, what’s the real plan?”

Jane laughed with such a soft and embracing quality, that it seemed to attenuate all of Dick’s self-directed awareness. His complete comfort level with her was as ineffable as his childhood attraction to water, and all of the worlds contained within it. Jane was overwhelmed by Dick’s aura, and settled into a comfort zone that would make a beloved old chair jealous. She was smiling at him with her whole being as he continued. “I’m sorry Jane. I wandered off topic. I was telling you about my thesis.” Jane’s eyes encouraged Dick to continue.

“In a nutshell, my thesis is about Marine Ecosystems; and why, after millions of years, they are breaking down and dying so rapidly. .. I’m exploring why so many Coral reefs are dying all over the world. Warm or Cold water reefs, it’s all the same. So many factors play into it. You got cyclic Climate Warming on top of industry induced Climate Disruptions, Ozone depletion, Tectonic events, and Pollution, radioactive or otherwise, are killing coral reefs, and also bad Fishing practices like bottom trawling, not to mention completely absurd practices like dynamite fishing in Malaysia and Thailand; .. don’t get me started on that! .. When I started my studies, everything appeared pretty much textbook. By the time I got into my post graduate research, everything appeared to be changing, .. and changing quickly. All of my conclusions kept disintegrating. That’s why I decided to extend my doctoral research. I have to say, that it’s a bit frightening, .. the rate that things are changing.”

This brief dissertation embraced Jane’s core beliefs, “Oh, to my heart these issues are so close, Richard.”

With characteristic bad timing, Oliver walked up to Dick and Jane. Jane quickly moved her glass of beer out of his reach. Oliver laughed and puts his arms around Jane and gave her a big wet kiss on both cheeks. Jane smiled and wiped her wet cheeks like she’d just been kissed by a Great Dane. Oliver quickly grabbed Jane’s beer and chugged it down to empty. He belched, looked at Dick, and then brazenly inquired of Jane, “Who’s your new squeeze?” Dick almost choked on his beer.

Oliver smirked, “I’m just kidding. Hi, I’m Oliver.”

“I’m Dick.”

Oliver let a short laugh escape, “Of course you are. Nice to meet you, .. Dick.”

Jane gave Oliver a threatening ‘BEHAVE’ look.

Oliver smiled innocently at Jane and turned back to Dick, “I’d love to chat, but I have to go pee .. with my …”

Jane quickly intercepted him, “OLIVER! BEHAVE!”

Oliver was suddenly off to the Men’s room with the clumsy, but quick and gangly stride of an unacknowledged young alcoholic.

Dick shook his head in disbelief at this shocking figure, “You know this person?”

Jane laughed affectionately, “He’s an original. Do not let him frighten you. Oliver is my best friend. He is an angel. I won’t say he’s harmless; he is more like an angel with blood on his wingtips; but I keep him on a tight leash.”

Dick was confused, “How’s that?”

Jane mused, “Oliver is, .. Oliver is… Oliver is the ‘heart of crazy’.”

Dick smiled, “Go figure!”

Jane weakly attempted to paint a better portrait, “He’s a Documentary Filmmaker.”

Dick instinctively felt that any conversation with this woman was better than none, “Really? What’s he documenting?”

Jane considered briefly, “Well short of documenting the travails of my foolish and futile efforts at trying to change the world from the inside out, he’s presently working on a documentary about…” She tried to sum up his project into a theme that might promote interest, “It documents American attitudes, about Canadian attitudes toward American attitudes about Canadians.”

Mickey came back to the Bar in the nick of time and saved Dick from the sin of false interest. He motioned for another beer to the Percival, who was busy carrying a tray of beers to the ‘characters’ table. The characters all appeared to be uncharacteristically silent and very distracted by something. He turned to observe the source of their distraction. He smiled and announced, “Heh Dick, check this out, here comes the Babelicious.”

An absolutely beautiful, platinum blonde, voluptuous, large breasted woman, walked into the middle of the bar looking around for someone. All the heads in the bar turned to follow her. All the characters at their table seem to have frozen into ice sculptures.

Jane and Mickey laughed at the crew sitting at the characters table with their frozen expressions. Dick looked on with a smirk, almost catching the familiarity of everyone.

Over at the ‘characters’ table, Percival the Bartender was also distracted and almost spilled the tray of beers when Character One alerted him, “Hey Percival, pay attention!”

Percival fired back instantaneously, “Pay Attention? Are you kidding me? I’m broke. I can’t afford to pay attention! So the drinks are on you! OK?, Now pay up, that’s fifteen dollars!”

Character Two shook his head in disbelief, “What an incredible body!”

“Oh Yeah! I wonder how much it cost her?” quipped Percival.

Oliver emerged from the Men’s room, ran up to the gorgeous Babelicious and planted a big wet kiss on her mouth.

Jane laughed, “That’s Veronica; she is his camera assistant.”

Oliver waved goodbye to everyone as he left the bar with the Babelicious’s arm in his.

Jane smiled with endearment, “Oliver has some kinda crazy charisma!”

Mickey prodded, “Dick, what do think of the Babelicious?”

Dick smirked, “A nice piece of gear, but she has no hips.”

Jane smiled to herself and addressed Dick, “You’re a Marine biologist. Why are you working at Osmosis Water?”

Dick looked at Mickey, who betrayed nothing, and replied sheepishly, “It’s a story, I’ll owe you.”

Jane chuckled, “Now we are even, Richard.”

Dick smiled, “No, now we are indebted to each other.”

***

Dick sat in a large stuffed chair, drinking a dark Irish beer, TV remote in hand, and channel surfing. Betty was stretched out on the Sofa updating her wedding prep ‘TO DO’ list. It was a comfortable setting. It just wasn’t intimate.

Dick updated Betty, “I joined the company baseball team. I play Monday after work over at Mahon Park. Come and watch. It should be fun.”

Dick mused a moment, and reminded himself, “God I haven’t picked up a baseball bat in years. .. Ahh .. correction Betty, it won’t be fun, it will be funny.”

Betty wasn’t paying attention, “We have to meet with our lawyers to prepare our pre-nuptial agreement. I’ll arrange it.”

“I bet you will.” replied Dick cynically.

[ * ]

Dick was drinking his morning coffee while talking to Mickey and Tony. Mickey gave Tony a conspiratorial glance, and then asked Dick, “I have a meeting at the end of the day that I can’t miss. So would you mind giving Jane and Oliver a ride to the baseball field tonight?”

Dick responded enthusiastically, “Not a problem. Give me the address where to pick them up.

“Thanks Dick. I’ll let Jane know to expect you.”

***

Betty was driving her Black Jaguar, on a morning mission to somewhere. She dialed her car phone and set it in the ‘Hands Free’ cradle.

***

Dick’s telephone rang and he answered it.

“Osmosis Water.”

*

“Betty? What’s up?”

*

Betty announced cheerfully,

“We have a meeting with the Lawyers today. Our pre-nuptial agreements.”

*

Dick was pissed off,

TODAY!?” “What kind of end run shit is this? Can’t do it Betty. I’m playing baseball after work.”

*

Betty responded dismissively,

“Cancel it!”

*

Dick argued,

“It’s not like I can just get up and leave work when I please; and anyway I promised I’d give some of the players a ride to the game.”

*

Betty insisted,

“I’ve already told Michael Montana you’d be leaving work early.”

*

Dick looked over toward Mickey, who was now in his office.

“You ‘TOLD!’ him? .. When? .. You should have given me some notice Betty!”

*

Betty responded dismissively,

“I did! I told you Friday night!”

*

Dick fired back,

“I told you Friday night that I joined the company baseball team, and that I was playing today; so you can reschedule the meeting! I’m not even remotely prepared!”

*

Betty insisted,

“What’s to prepare? It will be a short, routine meeting. Nothing complicated, I promise. 2pm at your lawyer’s office.”

*

Betty closed the conversation sweetly,

“See you there.”

***

Behind the glass walled conference room of Dick’s Lawyer’s office, Dick and Betty were each sitting next to their respective lawyers. Each lawyer had a pre-nuptial agreement that looked like a legal sized yellow pages. An analog clock on the wall read 3:30pm.

Dick’s Lawyer was a man long overdue for the solace of retirement. With undisguised irritation, he was defending a legal point of conflict, “Notwithstanding the aforesaid notwithstanding clause! That is in direct conflict with paragraph 12, section 5, and subsection B-2.”

Betty was following all of this with interest and making notes. Dick was fighting from falling asleep.

Betty’s Lawyer, a young, aggressive man with ‘killer instinct’ written all over his face interjected, “Notwithstanding paragraph 12, section 5, subsection B-2, or the aforementioned notwithstanding clause! Paragraph 13, subsection B-3, states herein that the aforementioned Notwithstanding Clause may have no standing in the event of subsequent failure to comply with articles stated in paragraph 13, subsections M-1 through M-13. The aforementioned Notwithstanding Clause is now obviously, heretofore, and hereinafter, without standing.”

Betty’s Lawyer looked triumphant and discreetly gave Betty a thumbs up, as Dick’s Lawyer stopped and flipped through the prenuptial agreement to ponder the significance of the aforementioned. “He declared impotently, “Then why the hell is it here in the first place?”

Betty observed that Dick was nodding off.

***

With a dreamy mind, Dick saw two Mafia Boss characters arguing over models of property. Betty was dressed like a Mob wife, gleefully watching Dick, who was unconscious and roped to a chair, chaperoned by two Thugs with baseball bats.

***

Betty looked at her lawyer and rolled her eyes impatiently.

***

Now the Bosses were standing over him, one holding a long feathered quill pen, and the other holding a rolled out parchment contract, while Betty was trying to revive him by slapping his face furiously, and calling out his name, “Dick, Dick!, DICK, DICK!”

***

Betty blew Dick out of his trance. She stood over him and reprimanded him harshly, “Dickey! Would you please pay attention! This is important!”

Dick looked around and apologized, “Oh, I’m sorry.” He looked at the analog wall clock; it was almost four pm. “Shit, I’m going to be late.” He looked to his Lawyer, “I’m sorry, Can you give me the play by play later? I have to go!” Dick got up, quickly grabbed his effects, and headed for the door.

Betty looked at him with surprise, and called out after him, “Dick, don’t’ you even think about …” but he was out the door before Betty could finish. “… leaving!”

***

Jane sat in front of her laptop computer editing logo artwork on a drawing of a paper shopping bag. The logo read, ‘Water is a Human Right’.

The poster of the target with the logo for the United Nations had been changed for a new poster of a dart board style target with the logo for the United Nations Water Summit over the bulls eye; and also the ominous Nazi Germany style propaganda poster was still titled, ‘Water Giants’ – ‘The Naked Truth’, with the faint water mark printed over the American flag; but it now prophesied a future War over public access to multinational, corporately owned and controlled, fresh Drinking Water.

The room was a hive of activity. Volunteers were sorting ‘Information hand-outs’ and ‘Notices’, about the upcoming demonstration at a United Nations Summit on Water. They were counting them out into separate piles, and handing them out to other volunteers armed with staple guns, that would post them all over the city.

Oliver, and Veronica (aka Babelicious) his camera assistant, sat together at his small digital editing suite cubicle, editing his documentary. He saw Dick enter and shouted, “Jane! Your squeeze is here.”

Jane got up and walked past Oliver, lightly swatting him on the back of the head, and smiled toward Dick, “You’re very early. The game isn’t until six thirty.”

Dick surveyed the room, “Impressive!”

Oliver observed the two of them near the door and called out, “Why don’t you participate?”

Jane gave Oliver the ‘look’ to mind his business.

Dick confessed, “He’s right. I’ve spent my academic life studying the alarming effects of different forms of pollution.”

Jane interrupted, and offered generously, “The research that you do gives our cause a backbone.

Dick confessed, “But I’ve never participated in a protest.”

“It is not a Protest Richard, it’s a Demonstration.”

Dick resolved, “Well maybe it’s time I did!”

She gave him an Information Handout, and informed him with a caution, “The Demonstration will happen in the coming month Richard. It will be a gathering of very committed people; but you should also know that the demonstration is going to be undressed.”

Dick looked Jane up and down and smiled, “Undressed, as in Naked?”

Jane blushed as she appraised Dick. “As naked as the law will allow, but creatively enough to attract the media.”

He raised an inquisitive eye, “How does that work?”

She tried to explain without smiling, “We have figleaf string panties for the females and fig tapes for their teats if they wish; although there is no law against being bare breasted in public;” she chuckled, .. “and for the males we have string oak-leaf panties with a sock that looks more like a tree branch with acorns.”

Dick laughed out loud, “Heh, I’ll buy a pair of those for a dollar!”

She laughed, “All the Demonstrators will receive a recycled paper shopping bag for their clothes, and the leaf string panties. They are five dollars each.” She checked her watch, “We have time. Let me show you around.”

***

The two competing teams were all at the Pub after the game, and a good time was being had by all. Sitting at a booth were Dick, Jane, Oliver, the 4 Characters, and another woman.

Oliver was reading the woman’s palm and everyone was watching him and smiling. With his finger, he followed the lines on her palm and explained them, “This is your Lifeline, and this is your Heart line, and this is your Destiny line, …”

The Woman was taking this very seriously, and paying attention with much wonder, “Amazing, how do you know this?”

Oliver stopped and looked at her inquisitively, “That’s not your real hair color! You’re blonde aren’t you?”

The Woman was truly surprised, “Now how could you possibly know that?”

Oliver responded seriously, “You don’t have a headline.”

The Characters all laughed their asses off. The woman quickly retracted her hand, rose from her chair, swatted Oliver on the back of the head, and stormed off. Dick didn’t share the laughter but smiled to himself.

Character One turned toward Dick, “Heh Dick, welcome to the team, really nice the triple play. Glad you’re on OUR team.”

Alfredo added apologetically, “Yeah man, it was close. Sorry we let you down.” Dick announced cheerfully, “It was fun. Too bad Mickey didn’t show up”

Jane chuckled cynically, “He said he had a meeting. At the bump and grind, no doubt!”

***

Betty’s Mother was examining pictures of the many varieties of wedding floral arrangements. Scattered across her work table, all of the wedding research books were open, and pages marked with coloured sticky paper notes.

Betty stormed into the room pissed off, and threw her stuff onto her Mother’s worktable. Mother didn’t even bother to look up or accept a taste Betty’s new flavour of drama, but continued appraising the floral arrangements, “How was your day dear?”

“Not now Mother!”

Mother loved to press Betty when she was having a bad day. It’s a game they were both well practiced at. It was clear that Betty was down, so it was a good time to strike, “Have you and Richard decided on a date?”

Betty responded impatiently, “A Cold Day in Hell!”

Mother announced dryly, “Thank you dear, I’ll inform the Printers and Contractors.”

Betty took her cell phone from her bag and dialed a number. She turned on her sweetest voice, “Hello, .. Mickey?”

Mother’s ears perked up. She understood that this was to be a shared conversation. .. Betty, in her best ‘Scarlet O’Hara-ish’ voice, announced, “No we haven’t met formally, however, I have, just received your invitation to meet. .. The reason I’m calling, is to find out where Dicky is playing baseball. I want to come and watch him play. I would have called him, but he refuses to own a mobile phone.”

***

Alfredo had been listening to Dick intently, and added, “Yeah man, I heard that SCUBA Diving is a totally womb like experience. Neutral Buoyancy and all that shit, man.”

Dick considered this new information for a micro second, “I’ve never thought of it that way, Alfredo. Neutral buoyancy is an important skill to mastering SCUBA diving.”

“Yeah man, I’ve heard of ex-heroin addicts learning SCUBA diving because it mimics the womb like experience of heroin, man.”

Jane and the other Characters all laughed aloud, but Alfredo was being serious, and they all looked on with expectant faces, as the next pearl of wisdom manifested, “I’m telling no lies, but this is all second hand information, because I was never into heroin. I was more of a visual explorer, man, if ya know what I mean.”

Dick smiled and engaged Alfredo in a friendly manner, “Well there are many places to SCUBA dive that have very beautiful visuals. There are colourful Coral Gardens, with fishes of every color you can imagine, and also Corals of every shape and size you can imagine; and when you shine light on them during a night dive, they ignite into millions of colors. The sea grasses that broom back and forth in the currents are my favorite. .. Above water, you never give it a thought normally, but underwater, everything feels so alive. It’s like music, and you can actually feel it.”

Jane interjected, “It sounds wonderful how you describe it Richard, but I’m afraid of water. I don’t even bathe.”

Character One added facetiously, “Yes Jane, we were all going to say something about that.”

Jane punched him in the arm and protested defensively, “I shower! It’s just that, .. maybe I drowned in a previous life, but water frightens me. I’ve always been that way.”

Dick informed Jane positively, “I have taught many people to SCUBA dive that have had the same fear of water.”

Jane stated decidedly, “Well you could never teach me!”

Dick answered back confidently, “I bet I could! I’ve built an unbelievable aquarium.”

Jane found Dick’s challenge, surprisingly engaging. She inquired curiously, “Aquarium? Are you talking about getting my feet wet?”

Dick was unaware that he was in the process of doing the very thing he was now warning about. “Jumping into the deep end isn’t for everyone; but I know I can help you overcome your fear; .. but if you want me to certify you as an Open Water Diver, you’ll have to pay me some small money for your lessons. .. You on?”

Jane considered Dick’s offer for at least a full second, and her obvious attraction to him decided for her. She patted Alfredo on the shoulder, “I think that dear Alfredo here is much more certifiable than I am, but OK, I’m on!”

Alfredo chuckled, “Scuba Diving would be a real trip, but I don’t have the bread, man.”

Dick smiled, “OK Jane. Come by the office on Monday and I’ll give you a schedule for your lessons, and a book to study, because you will have to pass a written exam.”

***

Like a chill wind, Betty blew into the bar and looked around. She was extremely pissed off. She saw Dick at the booth and stormed over.

Dick was genuinely surprised to see her, “Betty! What a surprise! What are you doing here?”

The characters at the table all shuffled to give Betty room to sit. Betty glared at Dick contemptuously, and then at all the other characters sitting at the booth as if they were lowlife’s. .. They all shuffled back to their original places. Betty lambasted Dick furiously, “You BASTARD! How dare you embarrass me like that in front of my LAWYER!”

Dick was blown completely off balance and didn’t know what to say. Betty grabbed a beer off the table, doused him with it, carefully placed the empty glass back on the table, and walked out of the Pub in a dignified manner.

Dick was speechless. All the Characters but Jane were smiling with surprise. Alfredo remarked astutely, “IN-TENSE man!” Dick tried to recover, as he wiped the beer from his face with a napkin.

***

Mickey and Tony walked into the bar and saw the rattled expressions of everyone at the booth. Tony looked at Dick with a smile, “Looks like we missed all the fun.”

Oliver clarified the situation for them, “Dick’s main squeeze gave him a beer shower.” Jane swatted Oliver on the back of the head.

Everyone shuffled over in the booth to give Mickey and Tony some room to sit. Mickey signalled to Percival at the bar for two beers and they sat down. He looked at Dick sympathetically, “You’re all wet behind the ears. Can I give you a piece of advice?”

Dick tried to say something but could find no words. He lowered his head a bit and smiled to himself, “Why not.”

Mickey counselled, “Don’t take this sitting down! A man should never be afraid to speak his mind to a woman. The second you start tap dancing around a woman, you’re in trouble. Women despise weak men. .. Say what you think, OR, what you want them to think you think.”

Tony coached, “Right! The best defense is a good offence!”

Jane was strumming her fingers on the table a little too loudly. Mickey smiled at her and defended his thesis, “Look! An argument is always about power. So, if an argument is unavoidable, take their words, turn the argument around and use them against them.”

Tony declared supportively, “RIIGGHHTT! .. right?”

***

Mother had her ear pressed to the unwelcome side of a door.

On the other side of the door, Dick was discussing Betty’s recent psychotic episode at the pub, and he was beside himself with anger, He slammed his fist into the door, and demanded to know, “What the hell was that all about?”

Mother fell back on the other side of the door, rubbing her ear, but quickly repositioned herself with her other ear to the door.

Betty fired back, “I wanted to embarrass you so you would know what it feels like!”

“Embarrass me!? You only succeeded in embarrassing yourself!” .. Dick was furious, “What’s gotten into you Betty!? Suddenly you think you’re in control of my life, arranging this, and demanding that! You don’t want sex with me, so instead you’re fucking with me!?”

Betty; had little experience with Dick being this upset and decided to quickly restore order, “OK, maybe this ‘feeling virginal’ thing wasn’t such a good idea. Let’s just forget about that and carry on like before.”

Dick’s expression morphed from anger to relief, and suddenly back to self awareness, “What a piece of work you are! You’re STILL trying to control me!”

Betty screamed back, “I’M GIVING YOU WHAT YOU WANT!”

Dick was wide eyed insulted, “What?, .. GIVING ME? .. I WANT? NO WAY BETTY! I don’t sleep at the steering wheel! You set me and this whole thing up! I agreed with open eyes, and I intend to see it through.”

Betty was on shaky ground, so she redirected, went on the offensive, and decided to punish him, “OK! Fuck the feeling virginal thing! Now it’s DEFINITELY no sex for you for two months!”

Dick was intractable and decreed, “NO BETTY! It’s no sex FOR YOU for two months! YOU GO BUY YOURSELF A MAGAZINE!”

 

[
**]
p=. No Sex for Two Months

Dick tossed and turned in his sleep like a bound prisoner, desperately trying to free himself of his restraints. The bedroom was softly aglow with dazed and confused, dancing spectral light, emanating from the disturbed water of a large aquarium. The aquarium lights dimmed by 50% but the light timer had not yet come to its assigned hour of termination. The now dimmer and softer dancing spectral lights intermittently illuminated the disturbed rapid eye movements beneath hiss paralyzed eyelids. The light ceased and the bedroom went dark.

In his extended reality, Dick was walking through a Horse Stable. Betty was dressed as a Dominatrix, wearing skin tight, black shiny leather. She had just finished tying down a horse’s legs and restricting its ability to move. She set a small milking stool near the horse’s hind legs and examined the horse’s genitalia. She turned and yelled at Dick, “Give me the ring!”

Dick looked down at his hands and discovered he was holding a very large engagement ring case.

Betty yelled at him again, “GIVE ME THE RING!”

Dick opened the ring case, and saw an old school, ring and wire assembly, used for gelding horses. Betty ripped it out of his hands, and tested it on the wooden handle of a pitchfork. She severed the handle instantly.

She lovingly stroked the face of the horse and kissed it gently on the muzzle, then sat on the stool and moved the gelding assembly toward the horse’s genitalia. The horse tried to rear up, but the restraints held. It racked its head back and forth in fear. The sound of a quick snap, and it whinnied loudly in pain. Dick looked on with horror!

Dick woke up with an abdominal reflex. He was soaked in sweat. He shook his head in horror, took a few deep breaths and looked around the room to find his gravity. The daylight of early morning filled the room. He relaxed and fell back onto his pillow, rolled over onto his side, and looked with sleepy eyes toward his large aquarium.

***

Many tropical fish were swimming around a decorative artificial Reef of Coral, formed around fabricated, conglomerate rock and wire shapes. The nose section of a small boat wreck protruded from the sandy bottom. A large Rockfish swam by. In the background, a SCUBA diver wearing a bright Yellow and Blue SCUBA suit was hovering over a small garden of Sea Anemone with Spine-cheeked Damselfish (clown fish) swimming among the colony’s many poison tentacles. The SCUBA diver had a small quiver of arrows attached to his lower leg, and a dive bag attached to his BCD – (Buoyancy Control Device). The diver took aim with the loaded spear gun and fired an arrow.

***

It was a hot sunny Saturday afternoon. Betty was at Dick’s home, stretched out bare-breasted, on a chaise lounge, next to his large swimming pool. She was nibbling from a fruit plate, and reading a magazine called – “Psyche Me Out.” The ‘article of the month’ was ‘Nipple Pheromones’. The magazine had a picture of a woman’s left and right Breasts spread across the front and back covers.

An intercom buzzed on the telephone next to Betty. She reached to the button and pushed it. A voice at the source announced, “Delivery!” Betty pushed the talk button, “Around back by the pool please.” She hit another button to open the back gate.

A Delivery guy came lumbering into the pool area with his electronic clipboard under his arm, and carrying a five-gallon bucket. Water was sloshing onto the crotch and legs of his uniform. He almost dumped it when he saw Betty’s beautiful bare breasts. He smiled at Betty and inquired, “Where’d ya wannem?”

Betty peered over her sunglasses, casually covered her breasts with her Magazine. “In the pool please!”

The Delivery guy just shrugged, walked over to the pool and emptied the bucket’s contents without taking his eyes off her. About a dozen large live lobsters fell out of the bucket and into the swimming pool.

He approached Betty with his electronic clipboard, and produced a digital pen. She politely took his pen and clipboard as her magazine slid down revealing more of her breasts, and she coolly signed it.

The Delivery guy pulled a dirty handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his forehead, “It sure is hot out.”

Betty ignored him and returned to reading her magazine, but not before her polite request, “Please close the back gate from the outside.”

***

Mickey had just motored up in his Classic Car. The delivery guy exited the back gate, saw Mickey and held the gate open for him, “Wow, nice wheels man.” Mickey nodded his thanks as he entered.

As Mickey entered the pool area, he stopped for a pause on the pool deck as he observed Betty; then moved toward her with natural ease, “Hello!”

Betty was startled and quickly covered her breasts with her magazine, “Who are you?”

“I’m Richard’s employer. Call me Mickey.”

Betty eyed him up and down carefully, “Call me Betty; I’m your employer, .. but I get the feeling from you, that you already knew that. .. So you’re Dick’s employer! Dick has told me absolutely nothing about you.”

Mickey confessed semi-honestly, “I happened to be in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d drop in and give Dick the new baseball schedule.”

“Uh huh.” she replied sceptically.

“Is he here?”

“Hang on, I’ll see if I can reach him.” Betty reached for the telephone beside her and held the magazine to her breasts. Mickey picked up her T-shirt from back of the chaise lounge and handed it to her. She turned her back as she covered herself, “Thank you Mickey.”

***

The SCUBA diver was hovering underwater, and looking around. There were many small tropical fish, Angel fish, Parrot fish, a few larger fish, a small Octopus hiding on the coral, and there were Lobsters walking along the sandy bottom. The SCUBA diver picked up a lobster and put it into his dive bag. A low frequency sound was heard, not unlike a whale song, and all of the fish scattered. The Diver swam over to a large target with spear gun arrows stuck in it. Next to it. was what looked like a stationary tubular bathysphere – (a large clear acrylic tube filled with air) with an industrial looking telephone. The Diver swam up into it, stood comfortably on the bottom. The air pressure from the bathysphere kept the water level down to no higher than the waist. The Diver spit out the Regulator and answered the phone,

“Yeah, what’s up Betty?”

*

“Great, put him on.”

*

Hello Mickey, what’s up?”

*

Mickey quickly pulled the phone away for a second and rubbed his ear,

“It sounds like you’re in an echo chamber? Where are you?”

*

Dick laughed,

“I’m submerged in dinner preparations. Stay put, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

*

“Okay, no hurry. I’m at your home talking with your fiancée. I’ll hang out.”

Mickey handed the phone back to Betty, “So you’re Dick’s fiancée, congratulations!”

Betty rolled her eyes over Mickey with deliberate interest. She was looking to gauge his response to her. “Actually we’re engaged to be engaged.”

Mickey studied Betty for a microsecond. He read all he needed to know, “What an engaging idea. Do you play baseball, Betty?”

Betty laughed at his question, “Now that’s an engaging idea!”

Suddenly, a lobster landed onto the pool deck at Mickey’s feet. He leaped back. Another, and still another, lobster flew out of the swimming pool.

Dick burst out of the pool in full diving gear with a lobster attached to his finger. He spit out his regulator, and rolled onto the deck, “Arrgghh. God damn it!” He managed to shake the lobster off his hand, “Next time I want the claws wrapped!”

Betty observed, “Now that wouldn’t be sporting.” She looked to Mickey, “Stay for dinner? We’re having lobster.”

Mickey looked closely into the Olympic sized swimming pool and was blown away to discover it was a gigantic saltwater aquarium.

Dick dumped his BCD and Air Tank. “Hi Mickey!” He removed a few Lobsters from his dive bag and dropped them into a poolside bucket. He went to collect the others on the pool deck, “Mickey, help me chase down these puppies and get them into this bucket.”

***

A meal was being prepared; red, green, and yellow chili peppers were being expertly chopped on a wooden cutting board. Jane swept them off the cutting board with the knife, into a neat pile onto a faux, grey marble, countertop. Chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions rested in separate, orderly piles next to two filleted fish. A garlic bulb rested on the countertop unmolested; while limes, lemons, chopped into small cubes, waited unmixed in a small glass mixing bowl.

Jane’s Father was a man in his 60’s; six foot tall, more of European Spanish, than indigenous Spanish American descent, His facial skin betrayed a hard traditional life. His jet black hair with prominent streaks of grey, and his intense but compassionate dark eyes, revealed a man of measured thought and action. He was observing his daughter proudly He had always admired his daughter’s fearless spirit, even encouraged it; but over time he had come to fear his co-creation.

***

Hands scooped up chopped red peppers and dropped them into a large stainless steel caldron of boiling water. An abundance of food was prepared, scattered in a disorderly fashion on a grey marble countertop.

Mickey sat nursing a margarita and Betty was setting the table. Dick moved over to the large stainless steel caldron of boiling liquid. He reached into a bag of coarse sea salt and added salt crystals to the boiling caldron. The water frothed up violently, “We’re ready for the lobsters.”

Mickey stood up, “That’s my cue.” He grabbed the bucket of lobsters, picked one up and was about to throw it into the boiling caldron, but Dick intercepted him, “Hold it Mickey, you need to kill it first. Let me show you a humane way to do it.”

Dick took the lobster from Mickey and expertly plunged a sharp knife into the back of the Lobster’s head, about an inch behind the eyes, killing it instantly. He handed Mickey the knife, “You comfortable using a knife, Mickey?”

Mickey responded like a gangster, “Only in matters concerning business.”

Betty caught Mickey’s sadistic wit with an approving smile.

***

The evening meal had not been a happy one. Jane was clearing the dinner table rather aggressively as she made her position clear to her Father, “La revuelta de la gente a la desobediencia pasiva de una forma justificada siempre ha resultado en menos muertes que la avaricia de las corporaciones gubernamentales transnacionales .. Compran influencias politicas y militares y la mierda rueda cuesta abajo y el pueblo sufre.” .. (english translation) “The revolt of people in justifiable civil disobedience has always resulted in fewer deaths than that of the ‘Avarice of the Trans-national Corporate Governments. They buy everyone at the top and the shit rolls down onto the people.”

Father rose up abruptly from the table startling Jane into a silent posture. He walked over to the bookshelf next to Jane’s bedside table that displayed many framed pictures of a past life. On the bedside table, he saw Dick’s business card with his name and number written on it. He picked it up, examined it, and turned to look at his daughter, who was busy assaulting the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. He smiled to himself, and discretely replaced the card onto the bedside table.

On the bookshelf, he picked up an antique silver framed picture of himself with his Wife, Son and Jane. His eyes betrayed a tragic memory of better times, in the worst of times long passed, “Muertes sin sentido.” .. (english translation) “Senseless deaths.”

Jane walked up behind her Father and rubbed him affectionately on the back of the shoulders and softly reprimanded him, “Luchaste desde abajo hacia arriba. Ahora hablas desde arriba hacia abajo. Has traicionado tu experiencia, Papa.” .. (english translation) “You fought from the bottom up. Now you espouse the top down. You betray your own experience, Father.”

Jane’s Father replied defensively, “Pero esto es los Naciones Unidas, Jane. Puede resultar en cambios positivos!” .. (english translation) “But this is the UN, Jane. It can make positive changes!”

Jane held her Father’s eyes captive, “Se puede? How? It partners with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and kowtows to the USA. These are dangerous people, Papa! Have you forgotten where we came from?”

Father raised a finger and silenced her with a look, and Jane fell prey to her Father’s failsafe conditioning and instinctively held her tongue. He replied with practiced, uninhabited anger, “Estoy tratando de protegerte! Esta protesta que estas organizando tendra una seguridad extremada.” .. (english translation) “I’m trying to protect you Jane! This event that you’re planning will have very heavy security!”

Jane planted her feet stubbornly, “No es una protesta! Es una manifestacion pacifica!” .. (english translation) “It is not a protest! It’s a peaceful Demonstration!”

***

The table was a mess of disemboweled lobster carcasses. Dick was the last one to remove his bib. Mickey raised his glass of sauvignon blanc, “That was a fabulous meal, Dick.” They all raised their wine glasses in a toast. At that moment, Natacha the nurse came in. Her worried look was enough, and Dick immediately rose from the table, “Excuse me.”

Betty looked on concerned, “Can I help?”

“Thanks, no Betty.” He looked to Mickey, “Would you mind driving Betty home?”

Mickey, unaware of what was going on replied, “Not a problem.”

Betty promptly exchanged a kiss with Dick, “Call me later.”

Dick quickly exited the room and followed after Natacha.

Betty looked at Mickey, “We can stop for a coffee on the way.”

***

Dick’s Father had one arm draped around the toilet seat and was spitting and coughing out the last of his vomit. He tried to get up, but groaned in pain, “Oh God!” Dick helped him get up off the bathroom floor and escorted him back into bed.

Dick was frightened and looked at his father hoping this was not to be his final moments, “I’ll get some water for you, Dad.”

Natacha made him comfortable, wiped his forehead with a damp cloth, and put a thermometer in his mouth. She tended to him with loving concern. Father took her hand in his and she stroked his forehead with her other hand. She removed the thermometer from his mouth, examined it while checking his pulse.

Dick quickly came out of the en-suite bathroom with a sloshing glass of cold water. Natacha smiled to him, and kissed his Father’s forehead, and assured her patient love, “You’ll be fine now.”

***

Jane and her Father were still digesting their differences. Father had finished his coffee and rose to leave, but not without taking a lottery’s chance at having the last word.

“Cuando eras un niña, siempre estabas motivada y eras fuerte para que me sintiera orgulloso de ti. Siempre estaba orgulloso de ti. Yo quería ser un padre del cual estabas orgulloso; pero me averguenzas Jane. Haces más dificil el trabajo que estoy intentando hacer .. Te deje en la carcel SOLO UNA NOCHE!, para que supieras, aunque fuera un poco, por lo que yo pase. .. Mi trabajo como asesor de las Naciones Unidas sobre América Latina es un privilegio, que te ha proporcionado una nueva vida privilegiada.” .. (english translation) “As a child you were always so motivated and strong to make me proud of you. I was always proud of you. My most important ambition was to be a Father you were proud of; but you embarrass me Jane. You complicate the work I am doing. .. I left you in the jail FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY!, so you might understand only a taste of what I’ve known. .. My job as a UN Advisor on Latin America is a privilege. It has provided for your new privileged life.”

He beseeched his daughter, “Dime? Es el destino del hombre siempre luchar? Nunca conocer la paz? No quiero que lo que le sucedio a tu madre y hermano te suceda a ti!” .. (english translation) “Is it a man’s destiny to always fight? Never to know peace? I don’t want what happened to your Mother and Brother, to happen to you!”

Jane attempted to speak, but again fell victim to her conditioning by the single expression of her Father’s eyes. He was exasperated. He looked down at the business card with Dick’s name and phone number scribbled on it. .. !“No hay un hombre en este mundo que piense y sienta como tu para que puedas encontrar la paz y felicidad? Guarda tus enormes energias para esa noble causa, dame un nieto. No quiero dejar este mundo sin tener un heredero!” .. (english translation) “Is there no man of like mind and heart for you to find peace with? Confine your vast energies to that noble pursuit. Give me a grandson. I do not wish to part from this world the last of my line.”

Jane bristled, and shattered her Father’s control, “Lo siento Papa, pero creo que voy a decepcionarte.” .. (english translation) “I am sorry Papa, but I WILL disappoint you.”

Father walked to the door, donned his coat and hat, assessed his daughter, and softened. “Tu eres mi reflejo Jane. Te adoro y mi Corazon se rompe por el amor que siento por ti. Disfruta de esta vida privilegiada que has heredado.” .. (english translation) “You are my reflection Jane. My heart breaks with love for you. Enjoy this privileged life you’ve come to inherit.”

Jane exchanged affectionate kisses with her Father as he was leaving. What was said between them, had to be said; but this moment had its own life.

***

Betty and Mickey were settled into a booth at a non-descript café. Betty was preoccupied with her thoughts. The cup of coffee in front of each of them had no more meaning than a movie prop.

Mickey pulled out his cell phone and offered in an off-handed way, “I should give you my mobile number.”

“I have it. Don’t you remember?”

“Call me again so I can save your number.”

Betty pulled out her cell phone, scrolled down and hit send. Mickey’s cell phone rang to some Latin beat. He announced shamelessly, “Heh, phone sex.”

Betty looked at Mickey a little insulted, “Are you flirting with me?”

“Yes.”

She declared with practiced indignation, “But you know I’m Engaged!”

“I know you’re engaged to get engaged!” he responded flatly.

Betty appraised Mickey carefully, and then challenged him harshly, “Why have you taken my company to the point of union organizing?”

Mickey was knocked off balance, and replied defensively, “I never wanted that!”

Betty had succeeded in imposing control, and she liked it. “Explain this mess to me!” she demanded.

Mickey knew he was on the ropes and pulled together his best defense, “I did it right! .. I started with an exploratory meeting with the employees, where I introduced my plan to make Osmosis Water a private company that promised open and transparent business practices.”

Betty raised a sceptical eyebrow and Mickey emphasized defensively, “I sketched out a benefits package that included medical, dental, and profit sharing.”

Betty gave just enough vocal permission for Mickey to continue his defense. She merely said, “Uhuh.”

He pointedly declared, “I presented a business plan that to my way of thinking, could only be accomplished by a private company! .. My initial observation was that it seemed to be very well received.”

Betty used her cup of ‘prop’ coffee to visibly stir her attention away from Mickey’s desperate defense, and also to make him feel like his audience was walking away.

Mickey immediately cut to a frustrated and unvarnished defense to prove he was a victim. .. “It was, .. it ‘IS’, a good plan Betty. It’s like manna from fucking heaven. .. I can’t figure out how or why a Labor Union acted at all, and so quickly! It was virtually the very next day. .. A labor union could never achieve what my plan proposes. Our equivalent to Union Dues was to be monthly payments into employee, personally managed, retirement savings plans. No muss or fuss!”

In spite of appearances, Betty was listening intently, and she was justifiably confused. “Why didn’t you just start up on your own? Why try to reverse engineer an existing concern?”

Mickey mumbled reflexively, and even a bit angrily, “Because debts must be paid!”

“What debts?” inquired Betty flatly.

Mickey quickly decided to hold that card close to his chest, "I'm owed, but I'm legally denied the liberty to discuss it, but I'll share this much with you Betty, I've put out all of my own resources to secure all of the outstanding public shares at better than market value, and secured proxies for the rest; but you own 50% of the company stock, .. and your mother owns 1%? .. That's so weird! One percent! I mean, who set that up? It almost sounds malicious; .. anyway Betty, without you on board, the plan is dead in the water."

Betty offered a summation, “So what I’m hearing is that it’s your design to transform my company into a Co-op?”

“Betty, I’m not trying to create a Co-operative company, or reverse engineer anything; but the promise of Profit sharing requires that Osmosis Water be a private company, and it also requires an infrastructure that can show, on the books, a stable historical minimum profit margin after costs, wages, and benefits.”

Betty's eyes betrayed that she was curious to know more, and so he continued to better illustrate his position. "Osmosis Water has 11 employees including your parolees; .. well with Dick it's 12, but after he's gone, he won't be replaced. So in the very simplest of terms, and only to illustrate the bigger picture, Osmosis Water the company, will be represented on paper, as the sum of its employees,-> a defacto employee. .. So where each employee represents and receives, beyond a base salary, a single share of Osmosis Water, the company represents itself as twelve employees and therefore receives a base salary of 1% of net, and twelve voting shares that will equal an additional 12% of net. All investors, including myself as CEO, receive one vote and a pro rata share of profits; but as the primary investor, you will also receive the right to exercise one vote of veto in the event of an unresolvable dispute."

Betty’s nod of understanding was perceived by Mickey as permission to continue. .. Mickey’s fundamental talent as a business man was his ability to capture an audience. In his naive, early years in business, it was this talent that had been exploited by more experienced ‘others’ that were well aware that his talent of exploiting others, could also be used to exploit his own sense of self worth. Mickey was painfully aware of his vulnerability toward the approval of others, and he proceeded with deliberate caution. .. “In my proposed business plan, profits would be shared quarterly, based upon the calendar year where November 30th would represent the end of the last quarter.”

Betty mused, “One size fits all. It sounds like socialist economics.”

Mickey chuckled, "Only a greedy capitalist would create a negative sound bite like that. I can assure you Betty that my business model is at the forefront of what will soon become common business practice. The company is always the first mouth to feed. The employee profit sharing pool is initially set at about 1% of net, outside and apart from the company's net profit margin. I may be altruistic, but I'm not stupid! Existing employees, and any new employees, will be hired through renewable annual contracts. Obviously, there will be plain language contractual mechanisms in place to handle dismissal, or early release from the company. .. As Dick likes to say, 'In a nutshell' it looks like this...;

  • “The company employees sign contracts to work at the new company of the same name. Those that choose not to sign contracts, and those that are not invited to sign contracts, will be paid severances in line with common business practices.”

  • “Osmosis Water closes its doors for one day to replace the locks and the sign on the front door; and all employees are laid off.”

  • “The company goes private.”

  • “Your work release rehabilitation program is written into the company’s new constitution as a one time exercise that will terminate upon the full parole of the existing inmates, at which time they will be invited to sign a standard renewable contract with the company.”

  • “Profit sharing will start at the end of the 3rd quarter of year one.”

Betty pointed out, “My share value, my net worth, will be radically reduced.”

“Initially Betty, sure, your shares in the private company will obviously be revalued to reflect the actual worth of the company, especially after a reverse stock split, and it may look like a loss only in the short term.”

Mickey turned on his most enthusiastic charm. “Betty, the long term outlook for the shareholders is an extremely lucrative hybrid profit sharing/dividend policy. .. The ‘books’ will look solid to shareholders, lenders, and investors. .. At the end of year one I will show a debt to equity ratio of less than 0.5, because by the end of year one, I plan to seek private investment toward franchising the company.”

Betty observed in a condescending way, “You’re either very optimistic or very psychic.”

“Betty, my plan is solid! .. The research speaks for itself! North Americans consume over 10 billion gallons of bottled water a year, and that number is growing fast. .. It is fantastic! And let me tell you why! There’s an under exploited market ‘out there’ for commercial and domestic pure drinking water, and water purification systems, especially reverse osmosis systems, because people can no longer trust the quality of the water coming out of their taps .. They hear of others, people just like themselves, that are being poisoned through their own water faucets by chloroform, lead, cyanide, arsenic, fluoride, cryptosporidium, nitrates, herbicides, and pesticides! .. It’s an ugly situation when you look at your water tap and wonder if maybe pins in your eyes is a better outcome than drinking the shit that is flowing out of the water faucet!”

Betty raised her eyebrows and chuckled, “A bit extreme, don’t you think?”

Mickey smiled, “It is not extreme. It’s exploitable fear! Fear is a stronger motivator than drug addiction. Fear of poison tap water or drinking water is simply incomprehensible to most people.” .. Mickey gestured a facetious admission by raising submissive arrested hands and continued, “It’s an unexploited Market! It’s a very profitable opportunity, Betty.”

Betty chuckled. “I almost feel guilty for even considering your argument.”

“Today a bottle of water costs the consumer more than a can of beer, yet it’s much cheaper to produce; .. and even with our bottle recycling plan, we’ll outsell every other bottled water producer. Our bottles and water purification systems will be redesigned for mass consumer appeal, and our product will be purer, and less than half of today’s cost per unit to the consumer. .. We’ll sell counter and under counter reverse osmosis home drinking water units at a modest margin above cost, with non-proprietary replacement filter subscriptions built into every sale. We have even sketched the architecture for charitable, de-facto zero sum plans for developing nations, community based, cottage industry water systems. .. Osmosis Water will become ‘thee’ household name for drinking water worldwide.”

Betty smiled, “That’s a very optimistic projection.”

Mickey insisted, “I can show spreadsheets supported by real world cost comparisons. .. We believe, .. I believe that consumers are more willing to trust a private company; and that’s our marketing advantage! .. Our water processing technology is completely compatible with the Organic Food movements of the past, that have for the most part been adopted by the large supermarket chains, the renewable energy movements, .. and .. it’s totally compatible with the newly matured, civic and globally minded, consumer generation that is coming into its own today. .. The big ugly water giants, as Jane calls them, are trapped by their infrastructure and their Brand is polluted by the other commodities they manufacture. Osmosis Water will be a truly ‘Green’ enterprise. Wherever possible we will use renewable energy for production processes. ‘Envy’ could only dream of being so green.”

Betty raised a sceptical brow.

Mickey smiled as he continued his dark dissertation, “Consumers, .. I mean people, blame their local government, and big corporations for polluting the natural fresh water sources and environments in the first place, and then turning around and making and selling them Drinking Water. I don’t blame them for their distrust! .. I mean just look at the shit that’s happening in the News to Orbis Aqua Water. They got run out of South America, and now they decide they have the cojones to take on Canada with a totally negative Ad campaign. .. against Canada? .. Canada!? .. Who in their right mind creates a negative campaign against an invisible country like Canada? .. Canada is America’s best kept secret, for christ’s sake!”

Betty sighed, “I’m forced to agree with you.”

Mickey was totally lost in debate mode and he’d reached the point of charismatic Orator. “Betty, .. ‘consumers’, .. the general public, .. no longer trust big businesses. That’s another reason why Osmosis Water ‘must be’ a private corporation, with a new employment model. .. Let’s face it Betty, profit is the bottom line, and as a redesigned company, with our established local and global infrastructure, we stand to not only be more competitive and profitable, .. but we stand to be the poster child for new, private corporate incarnations, globally. .. We will be a Water Giant .. but a friendly Giant!”

Betty was impressed, and showed it through her smile, “You’ve clearly thought this through.”

“Mickey paused for a beat and delivered a measured response, “Well let’s just say that I had the time to consider what works, what doesn’t work, and most importantly, what could work.”

Betty probed lightly, “A man of mystery.”

Mickey was desperately trying to reach Betty. .. “My business model is not only a better business model, .. it’s designed to create a better work environment that promotes individual co-operation, and a healthy sense of working together with a creative community spirit. I’m not necessarily proposing a better pay check. What I am proposing, is a lifestyle change.”

Betty warned, “That can be a frightening proposal.”

Mickey continued, “Exactly! But think about it Betty. Most employed people spend the largest part of their lives at work. Far more time than is spent with their families or their loved ones; and therefore, I believe that the work environment ‘is’, for most of us, our human life situation. So why must it devolve into routine, drudgery, or a living hell?”

Betty argued, “Because people need to be controlled! Routines, give peoples lives meaning and purpose; and most of all, routines make people feel safe! People want to be controlled, and told what to do, or what to think. They are conditioned to believe that their thoughts are their own. Even if they swear on a stack of bibles that it isn’t so.”

Mickey argued, “Spoken like the truly privileged 1%. Not to discount your point Betty, but that doesn’t mean that some people are not open to a new idea. .. But, it seems to me that new ideas seldom come with directions or a map, and consequently, it seems that any new idea has to segue from what is familiar to them, into the unfamiliar.”

Betty did not expect this engagement from Mickey but she found herself engaged to him notwithstanding. She pressed, “How do you propose to accomplish that?”

Mickey laid it out, “Ahh, there’s the problem, Betty. The unspoken promise is, ‘you can have more’, but unfortunately, it’s always the familiar; in this case, that ‘familiar’ is money, or the possibility of more money, that pushes the ‘ON’ button.”

Betty raised another sceptical eyebrow.

Feeling like he may have leveled the fight ring floor, Mickey continued, “At any rate, I’m digressing. I sent my prospectus to Corporate, and suddenly, out of the blue, I get a letter from Organized Labor, informing me of a petition from my employees to organize. .. I can’t figure out how or why they acted so quickly. It was virtually the very next day.”

Betty took this in sceptically, “I received no information on your proposal. As far as I understand events, it was Corporate’s idea to take the company private.”

Mickey almost spit out his drink as he proclaimed angrily, “Those SONS OF BITCHES! They’re doing it again!”

Betty looked confused but said nothing. Mickey lamented, “Maybe I’ve gotten soft, but I should have expected bullshit like this.”

Betty offered, “You can’t be hard all of the time.”

Mickey smiled to himself, “In matters of business it’s a prerequisite, and I, of all people, should have known better.”

Betty probed casually but deliberately, “How could you assume to predict their actions?”

Mickey appraised Betty and mused, “Sadly, and to much personal cost, I am not a man that really pays much respect to history. It’s almost always bad. .. and regardless of what it teaches us, it keeps repeating itself. Maybe history’s lessons require a critical mass. Maybe history teaches us nothing. I’m an optimist by nature Betty; but sadly I find myself believing that for the most part we’re all just living unconscious lives, foraging for food and trying to avoid predators.”

The point was not lost on Betty but she chose not to pursue it. For now, paying attention had much more value.

Mickey continued, “I don’t blame Corporate for trying to sabotage my plan because that’s the nature of almost all business today; it’s predatory, especially with Public Companies! Which by the way, are usually controlled by very few members of the public, .. AND .. ‘they’ all play golf together.”

Betty offered a guilty smile, “I confess, I love to golf Par 3 Pitch and Putt.”

Mickey smiled, “Now that, surprises me Betty. You enjoy the short game. .. At any rate, just to complete my point, I do blame them for not engaging me openly, or at the very least, being candid with me. Instead it always becomes a fucking game of chess.”

Betty wagered, “I’ll bet you’re a good chess player.”

Mickey put a smile on hold and unconsciously scratched the phantom beard on his bare chin. “Perhaps, .. but I prefer backgammon because the battlefield is more realistic.”

***

Jane stood in front of her bedside table staring at Dick’s business card. She slowly picked it up and studied it thoughtfully, as she sat on the edge of her bed. She picked up the telephone on the bedside table and began to dial.

***

Betty’s Mother had completed all of her research, made all the notes she could make, and was now busy closing all of the wedding planner books, and stacking them in an organized arrangement on her worktable. The telephone rang and she answered it.

*

“Hello Richard.”

*

“Betty tells me you have a real job, you poor thing.”

*

“No she’s not. I thought she was with you!”

***

Jane got a busy signal and dropped the phone back into its charger. Her hands found each other on her lap as she sat on the edge of the bed. Her Terrier, sensing her loneliness, jumped onto her lap and licked her face.

***

Dick hung up the phone, grabbed the TV remote, and powered up the television. That damned diamond engagement ring commercial was on again, and so he immediately turned off the television.

***

Betty’s Mother was still at her worktable surrounded by her wedding research library but her attention was now directed at her Laptop computer screen as she meandered along a digital tropical beach through the internet virtual reality world of ‘Another Life’. She was the pixelated embodiment of a naked twenty-something vixen, with a clean shaven pussy, perfect breasts, pert nipples, and a sexy hip swaying walk. She was being stalked by a digital, overly-muscled incarnation of a human Male Avatar with a swaying two foot cock. Walking alongside the digital male pixels was a monstrous, beastly, Lycan Avatar, with a swaying two foot canine cock that slapped its thighs with each stride. .. As much as the two digital stalkers were pursuing her, she was the real hunter, deciding which one she would take down.

She was suddenly interrupted by a sound from out of the good old days of her real world past. The days when a car muffler was the voice and personality of the car and the driver. She closed her Laptop lid, walked over and parted the vertical blinds, looked out the window, and was surprised to see Mickey’s vintage car idling solidly in the driveway.

Mickey got out of the car, walked around and opened the passenger door. Betty stepped out. Mother quickly moved away from the window blinds.

***

Betty entered and found her Mother sitting at her worktable playing solitaire on her Laptop computer.

Mother didn’t look up. Mother never looked up when Betty entered because that would equate to ascribing greater importance to her demanding daughter. “Hello Dear. How was your day with Richard?”

“Just fine, Mother.”

“He called an hour ago, dear.”

[ * ]

The Shipper/Receiver for Osmosis Water was always ungroomed. One could only guess how he survived his job interview to secure the job in the first place. His face was perpetual uneven beard stubble. His foul and uncouth breath always announced his presence before he was even visible. He looked like the personification of the worst, the ugliest, and the most feared civilian ‘type’ in the world. He was a bad seed.

Luca and Spike were settling into their new life, on this auspicious new morning, as warehouse workers at Osmosis Water, busy loading a water delivery truck. Luca easily carried two full five-gallon water bottles, one in each hand, to the far side of the truck.

Spike was struggling with a single five-gallon water bottle when the Shipper/Receiver walked by with a mug of coffee and stopped to observe him, before admonishing him derisively. “You fucking sodomized little wimp, this truck should have been loaded already!”

Luca appeared and took the water bottle from Spike as if it were no heavier than a brown bag lunch, and stood between Spike and the Shipper. The Shipper said nothing more than his derisive scowl could convey as he walked away.

Luca watched the Shipper/Receiver enter his Shipper’s station, at the entrance to the warehouse loading bay, and then he observed a mole faced man, wearing a long grey coat, a porkpie felt hat, and carrying a briefcase, enter the loading bay, look around suspiciously for fear of being seen, and walk quickly into the Shipper’s office. .. The Shipper poked his head out of his receiving station door and looked around to see if the coast was clear.

Luca could see through the Shipper’s window, and saw the Porkpie Hat man, (Mr. Butkiss – Betty’s Father’s lawyer) give the Shipper/Receiver some papers attached to a clipboard, and something in a plain brown envelope. He observed them shake hands before the man closed his briefcase and quickly exited.

He observed the Shipper walk out of his office carrying the clipboard under his arm, while opening the plain brown envelope to inspect its contents. Luca could see that the plain brown envelope was filled with money.

The Shipper motioned for one of the nearby warehouse workers to follow him, and they walked down one of the aisles in the warehouse. This cemented Luca’s curiosity and he motioned for Spike to follow him.

***

Dick was at his desk with an Order sheet while looking over inventories on a computer screen. He was confused about something. He looked over toward Martha, but she has just left her desk. He gathered some order sheets, and headed into the warehouse.

Mickey had stepped out of his office to talk with Dick just as he had entered the warehouse, so Mickey followed after him.

***

Mickey entered the warehouse, saw Dick, and was about to call after him, but he had just disappeared down an aisle.

From around an aisle corner Luca’s head appeared, and then Spike’s head appeared stacked below his.

The shipper was handing some money from the plain brown envelope to the warehouse worker who accepted it and quickly put it in his pocket.

Luca whispered to Spike, “The straight and narrow doesn’t look so straight l’il buddy.”

The warehouse worker signed a document on the clipboard and handed it back to the Shipper. The Shipper pointed a warning finger at him, “OK, now I own your vote!” The warehouse worker quickly walked away.

Luca, with Spike a step behind, walked down the aisle, as the warehouse worker quickly passed by them as though they didn’t exist. Luca cleared his throat. The shipper was startled by their sudden appearance and blurted out a reflexive and caustic, “What the fuck do you two assholes want? Get back to work!”

At that moment, Dick appeared at the far end of the aisle with some order papers in hand, and saw the Shipper, “Just the person I’m looking for. I have a question and I’m hoping you can you answer it.”

The Shipper quickly looked past the inmates, and quipped good naturedly, “Heh, it’s the new guy.” He walked up and began looking over Dick’s paperwork, while Luca and Spike walked by them.

Mickey was about to round the corner when he came face-to-face with Luca and Spike. Mickey’s face was horror stricken, but there was a happy recognition from Luca and Spike. .. A second later, Dick and the Shipper walked around the corner, still looking over Dick’s order sheets. Mickey spotted Dick and quickly regained his composure in a vain attempt to ignore the recognition of Luca and Spike, “Dick, I need to see you in the front office when you’re done here.”

***

Mickey stormed into his office with his fists clenched in frustration, and screamed out, “Fuck!” and punched a hole in the wall.

Martha quickly ran into his office, “I’m sorry Mickey, I meant to remind you that the Parolees started working today, but it appears you already know that.”

Mickey wiped drywall dust off his knuckles. He looked at Martha with embarrassment, “Martha, can you please find some creative way to quickly fix this?”

Martha considered for a beat, “I will think of something.”

Mickey smiled at his most trusted secretary, “I’m going out for a coffee.”

***

Mickey poked his head into Tony’s office, “Yo! Tony, we’re outta here.”

Tony grabbed his ubiquitous, unlit, well-chewed Cuban cigar stub, from his virgin trophy ashtray and he was off to join Mickey.

***

The Shipper/Receiver had just finished tacking a Posting on Notice board beside his office window. Luca walked by and stopped to read the new posting regarding the date and time of a management and staff meeting, concerning a vote to join a union. The Shipper came out of his office and observed Luca reading the posting, “Heh Luca, get the fuck back to work!”

Luca offered a polite excuse. “I was just taking note of the times for the …”

The Shipper interrupted him condescendingly, “That doesn’t apply to your kind!”

Luca did a double take, and replied indignantly, “I beg your pardon!?”

“Heh! I am totally against this parole bullshit. You did the crime and should do your time. There is a snowball’s chance in Hell that you and your little fag friend are going to be allowed to participate.”

Spike walked up behind Luca carrying a box cutter knife, “We have rights too ya know!”

The Shipper replied derisively, “You assholes are taking jobs that should go to honest people.”

Luca motioned to Spike that he will handle this situation, and replied calmly to the Shipper, “Honest people like you?”

“That’s right, shit for brains! When this company votes to organize, you’ll both be shit out the door and back to your cages where you belong!”

Luca took a breath to measure his response, “That was unkind. .. Very well, I can see there is nothing productive to come out of any conversation with you. We’ll get back to work.”

“Yes, you do that, assholes! Just because I can’t fire your asses right now, doesn’t mean I can’t make your life Hell.

Luca smiled, “Been there and done that.”

***

Martha walked into Mickey’s office carrying a small plastic bag and larger paper bag. She examined the hole Mickey had unceremoniously added to the wall and then took a hammer and picture-hanging hook from the small bag. She and hammered the hook into the wall several inches above the hole. Next, she reached into the large bag and pulled out an empty, black lacquered, picture frame, complete with glass and matte border, and hung it over the hole. She stepped back to make sure it was centered and level, made a slight adjustment and smiled to herself satisfied.

Mickey and Tony walked in. Martha looked at Mickey sheepishly and stepped back. Mickey appraised Martha’s creative solution to his impetuous attempt at office remodeling and smiled, “Martha, you have exceeded my expectations.”

Tony appraised the framed hole in the wall like an Art Dealer, “To me, it says, .. WHAT THE FUCK?”

***

A truck driver was in the shipping bay leaning against a wall drinking a bottle of water and watching Luca and Spike load cartons of Osmosis Bottled Water onto a truck. Spike wore that serious and sincere look of a child as he explained his position to Luca, “It’s the code of honor Luca; we have to look out for our own. That Shipper has a ‘Big House’ attitude!”

Luca nodded in agreement, “A truer word was never spoken little buddy.” He loaded the last carton onto the truck, signed off on a bill of lading, and handed the waiting truck driver her copy. He motioned for Spike to join him, and they walked off toward the door to the front office.

***

The clock on the wall read 5:05pm and Martha was still busy at her desk. She didn’t notice Luca and Spike enter. Luca spotted Mickey through the Glass window of his office. He elbowed Spike and they approached Mickey’s office. Martha looked up, and loyally ran interference for Mickey. She spoke with cold authority, “Can I help you?”

Luca was spokesman, “Pardon us Mam, but we need to speak with Mr. Montana.”

Martha’s response was polite, but final. “I’m sorry, but Mr. Montana is not to be disturbed.”

Mickey looked up from his work to witness Luca explaining himself to Martha in a friendly manner, but still inching forward, and tiny Martha trying to hold her ground and block Luca’s access to him. Mickey had been dreading this moment, “Shit!” He quickly rose up and went to her rescue, “Martha, it’s OK, I was actually expecting them. I apologize for not informing you.”

Martha backed away carefully and returned to her desk.

Mickey stood at his office door and gave his new employees his most professional greeting, “Please, come into my office.”

Mickey seated them in front of his desk; closed the office door; seated himself, and with his elbows on the desk, displayed his open palms, “What can I say?”

Luca was impressed by Mickey in all of his professional splendor, “MISTER Montana!”

“Call me Mickey, .. on second thought, call me Mr. Montana.”

Spike blurted out with simple-minded naiveté, “We saw some dastardly doings going on today.”

Luca and Mickey both looked at Spike with raised eyebrows, and in unison queried, “Dastardly Doings?”

Luca laughed lightly and gave Spike a friendly tap on the shoulder to shut up, and clarified, “What we witnessed ‘appeared’ to be a bribery in the form of a cash payment.”

Spike decided to clarify further, “Yeah, something about owning votes!”

Mickey raised his eyebrows inquisitively. .. Luca again patted Spike on the shoulder to let him know that he will take the matter from here, but Spike was defending a point of honor and would not be silenced; so as Luca went on to explain, “We felt we should inform you…”, Spike interrupted him enthusiastically, “We have to look out for our own!”

Mickey was blown back into his chair by Spike’s loyal declaration. He quickly stood up, and his face was centered on the framed hole in the wall as he contentiously declared in no uncertain terms, “Let’s get something straight right now, I AM NOT ONE OF YOUR OWN! .. I was FRAMED!”

Luca and Spike looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Luca replied placatingly, “Of course you were. We just feel we owe you a debt of gratitude for all of the tutoring you gave us in the ‘Big House’.”

Spike jumped in again, “It was the reason we decided to change our ways.”

Luca looked upon Spike affectionately, “All behind us, l’il buddy.”

Spike added enthusiastically, “Cause of you, we decided to give the legitimate side of society a run for the money.”

Luca seconded Spike’s dissertation, “Amen to that l’il buddy.”

Mickey couldn’t help but smile at these two characters. He shook his head in disbelief and reseated himself at his desk, “I still can’t believe you two are brothers.” .. Mickey, with his elbows on the desk, hands folded and his chin resting on his knuckles, considered this information deeply as he vocalized his thoughts. “So! You guys witnessed a payoff?”

Mickey’s body language was very familiar to Luca. He looked to Spike with a smile, elbowed him lightly and whispered, “He hasn’t changed a bit.”

Mickey was popped out of his momentary reverie, “What?”

Spike announced innocently, “We’re just happy to see you is our boss, is all.”

Luca related more of his encounter with the warehouse Shipper/Receiver, “I spoke briefly with the Shipper regarding our participation in the upcoming discussion of the warehouse staff to organize. He reacted somewhat negatively to the prospect. He appears to have a mild attitude problem.”

Spike corrected Luca, “He has a ‘BIG HOUSE’ attitude problem!”

Mickey appeared unperturbed with this information, “Don’t worry about that. .. Can you live with it?”

Luca assured him, “No worries there.”

“Good, I need you two to be vigilant for me.”

Luca assured him, “You have our eyes and ears Mr. Montana, .. SIR.”

Mickey smiled, leaned over his desk, and shook hands respectfully with Luca and Spike.

[ * ]

Jane had that asymmetrical, sublime natural beauty that was beyond the talents of any past or present artistic master of the visual arts to capture or convey through any facsimile medium. She had that rare radiating beauty that God reserved for old souls. .. Her green eyes were wide set apart, and framed perfectly by her naturally sculpted uneven dark eyebrows, raven black hair, full lips, and olive skin. The proportions of her legs, her hips, and her breasts, that were all innocently and yet so provocatively displayed beneath her simple white silk nightgown, suggested the perfection of female form, and beauty as a state of being.

She had a quality, beyond the sum of the whole of her perfect body, enhanced by the morning sunlight that streamed diffusely through the window sheers that adorned the French doors to the tiny balcony of her studio apartment.

God laughed on the day of her creation because of the spirit of silent, fearless, unkindled fury housed within it.

With a yawn and a stretch, she sat on the edge of the bed, while her sleepy eyes adjusted to the daylight. She got up, stood in front of a full-length mirror, removed her nightgown, and wearing only panties, examined her hips and backside. She put on a bra and adjusted her cleavage by holding her bra and shaking her whole body. She gave her reflection an encouraging affirmation, ‘The Babelicious has no hips, but you have HIPS!’

She took Dick’s business card from the bedside table and pondered it for a moment. She picked up the telephone and began to dial.

***

Mickey was at his desk with his morning coffee. He was examining his new ‘Word of the Day’, ‘APOCRYPHAL’ – and its definition – ‘pretending, not authentic, fictional’ – not true but thought to be true’ – Mythical’.

Martha walked in, dropped some memos onto his desk, and straightened the framed, hole in the wall while Mickey examined the memos. He asked for a clarification, “What time is Ms. Lord expected?”

“She booked the Boardroom for the lunch hour. I’ve informed the Parolees.”

Mickey examined the memo, “What kind of person imposes themselves on someone’s lunch hour? .. Martha would you mind having some edible food brought in for them; I don’t want to have to pay them overtime.”

Martha added as she was about to leave his office, “I’ll inform Richard that his fiancée expects him for lunch.”

The telephone rang and he answered it in his usual ‘all business’ style,

“Michael Montana Speaking. Call me Mickey.”

*

He quickly covered the mouthpiece of the telephone and motioned to Martha, “No Martha, wait! I’ll tell him myself.”

Martha nodded her understanding and exited his office.

*

Jane, still undressed, was examining a provocative dress with one hand, and holding the telephone in the other. She greeted Mickey with suspicious exuberance,

“Buenos Días Mickey! .. I am hoping that you, your new disciple and I, might all go out together for lunch.

*

Mickey glanced at the memo about Betty’s Parolee review. His eyes lit up because opportunity had dialed his number.

“Sure Jane, the three of us. Call it a date.”

***

Dick was working at his desk and reached for his coffee, but decided against it. He checked his watch. It was almost noon.

Jane blew into the office dressed to seduce. Her outfit accentuated her body perfectly. She quickly stopped and rested a soft arm around Dick’s neck, and quickly kissed him on both cheeks, “Buenos días Richard.”

If he was hungry before, he was hungrier now, but before he could reply, she was already in Mickey’s office.

Jane greeted Mickey in the traditional Spanish way, with a double kiss, and fell into a chair smiling. Mickey’s eyes undressed her, “Jane, you look…”

Jane quickly gave him a warning with her eyes, “Choose your adjectives very carefully, Michael Montana! .. Are you ready?”

Mickey replied with feigned ignorance, “Ready?”

Jane deflated, and instantly inflated, “Don’t tell me you forgot!?”

“Shit, yes, lunch! .. I’m sorry Jane, but I can’t. I have a meeting. It’s been balls to the wall all morning. .. Heh, I know Dick would love to go to lunch with you, .. go on .. ask him.”

Jane stood up and put her hands on her accentuated hips; looked at Mickey in a ‘what are you trying to pull now’ posture. Mickey smiled and pointed to Dick at his desk, “Go on Jane! Ask him!”

Dick was organizing the papers on his desk. He checked his watch; it was lunchtime; and he looked up to discover Jane standing patiently in front of his desk with her hands folded coquettishly at her belly. He smiled.

Jane declared in a tone of disappointment and hope, “It seems Mickey has stood up me for our lunch date. Would you like to join with me Richard?”

Dick’s reply was spontaneous, “I’d love to join with you.”

Mickey watched Dick and Jane, and waved to them as they left for lunch. Tony walked into his office, “Feels like a do nothing day, Mick.”

Mickey smiled, “No shit.”

Tony asked, “Wanna go eat?”

Mickey quickly looked past Tony to make sure Dick and Jane had left, “My calendar is open. Let’s go.”

***

Betty was interviewing Luca and Spike in the Osmosis Water boardroom. She had their files in front of her. There was an assortment of take-out food on the boardroom table, and as much as it resembled a balanced diet, it prophesied severe gas. “Thank you both for giving up your lunch hour and accommodating me for this review. Please enjoy the food. It’s the least I can do. I’ll make this as short as possible.”

Luca offered, “Thank you Miss. Lord, our time is your time.”

Spike quipped, “And it shore beats hard time.”

Luca gave Spike a gentle gesture to listen and not talk, but Spike was clearly excited; his knee and leg were twitching and he was rocking back and forth in his chair.

Betty looked at the two of them expectantly, “Well? .. It has been more than a month now. How are you getting along?”

Spike tried to speak, but Luca instinctively silenced him with a gentle pat on the shoulder and responded, “Coming into a new situation like this from a different culture, one expects it might take a little longer to find acceptance. I’m sure in time …”

Spike could not be silent. He interjected like an excited child, “Luca saw a man giving a plain brown envelope full of money to the Shipper!”

Betty was alarmed.

Luca quickly interjected, “Miss Lord, speaking as one not quick to jump to conclusions, .. we ‘thought’ we saw the Shipper share money with a brother employee. .. After the alleged transgression, the Shipper informed us that following the assured outcome of an upcoming election, our days here would be numbered; .. so we decided to protect our interests through informing Mr. Montana.”

Spike again jumped into the conversation, “We owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Betty assessed Spike carefully and smiled, “You seem to be very loyal to Mr. Montana?”

Spike declared proudly, “Yeah, he’s one of our own!”

Luca gave Spike his best look of displeasure; desperately trying to signal Spike to shut his fucking mouth but the circumstances were somewhat inhibiting.

Betty appraised Luca severely. He tried to remain composed. He had his legs crossed like a gentleman, with folded hands resting upon his lap, while his thumbs nervously orbited each other. Betty broke him with her stare and Luca surrendered, “Truth be told Miss Lord, Mr. Montana IS known to us.” .. He continued delicately, “Mickey, .. I mean Mr. Montana, was, for a very brief time, a guest at our previous habitat.”

Betty was taken by surprise, “Really? Tell me more.”

***

The Penitentiary Shower room was camouflaged with steam. The voices emanating from it were horrific. Voice One threatened viciously, “I said pick it up you asshole!”

Voice Two laughed hideously, “Yeah asshole! Literally man!”

Luca was wrapped in a towel, and lumbering toward the showers, with Spike following in his shadow. As they entered the steaming cauldron, all the voices stopped. It was deathly quiet; only the sound of the showers could be heard. Only shapes and sizes could be accurately discerned within the almost opaque steam, but it was clear that Luca was biggest and most powerful entity in the room. Despite his calm thoughtful nature, his sheer size was notice to all that he was the bull of the heard, and just try to fuck with him at your own risk. The steam thinned out and he observed Mickey Montana, cornered by a vicious looking inmate that was now looking at Luca like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck. A large bar of soap rested at Mickey’s heels. Luca observed the potential squeeze Mickey was in, and shouted, “HANDS OFF MY BITCH!”

The vicious inmate looked at Spike, backed away from Mickey, and protested, “Luca, you already got a friend!”

Luca closed the discussion. “WELL NOW I GOT TWO!”

***

Betty looked flushed, and almost sexually aroused as she listened intently to Luca’s recount of events.

Luca continued, “I can assure you Miss Lord, I’m a natural man, and his virginity was not compromised. .. Mr. Montana was teaching a course in business administration. Out of gratitude for the intervention I provided, he spent a lot of his free time tutoring Spike and me, privately.”

Betty cleared her throat, and inquired delicately, “What did he say he was in for?”

Luca explained, “Well it’s never polite to ask that question, and he never spoke directly about it.” He added with a chuckle, “but he did claim that he was framed. Something about a securities deal gone sour.”

Spike fortified Luca’s story, “It’s why we talked to him. The Shipper had a whole lot of money in a plain brown envelope, and gave money to another worker, I reckon to buy some votes, cause the Shipper said we can’t vote.”

Betty suddenly realized who was behind this. She muttered thoughtfully under her breath, “Daddy, you son of a bitch!”

Luca and Spike were confused. Spike asked, “Who’s your daddy?”

Luca inquired, “That man was your daddy?”

Betty replied, “In a manner of speaking.”

***

Dick and Jane were having lunch at the popular Patio Café. On behalf of his Father, Dick had enlisted Jane’s services as an Automobile Broker, to find an appropriate car for Natacha, his Father’s nurse.

Jane was making notes on a pad; but how she made the notes, was mirrored in the subtext of her body language. She had put herself on display, and she wanted Dick to know that she was in bloom for him.

Dick was a natural man; and being true to his nature, he naturally observed how perfectly Jane’s breasts were framed and accentuated by her low cut dress.

Jane was a natural woman, with all of the normal oxymoronic voodoo that served the survival instincts of her gender, and her peripheral vision informed her that he’d had enough time to appreciate the bloom, and she looked up at him. Her mouth tried to subdue a seductive smile, “Is there more you can tell me of her?”

Dick grinned at her, “She’s a modest woman”

Jane replied matter-of-factly, “Of course she’s a modest woman. She’s a Latina woman!”

Dick fixated on her as she considered car options for Natacha. He pressed, “Do you have any ideas?”

Jane rested her elbow on the table and unconsciously moved her index finger back and forth between the upper channel of her cleavage that was so perfectly revealed by her low cut dress. It made Dick visualize a worm on a hook enticing a fish.

Jane popped back into the moment and announced happily, “I know exactly what she wants. It has to be a convertible, and it has to be Red. What price range do I have to work with?”

“Dad isn’t concerned about the cost.”

Jane raised an impressed eyebrow, and closed her note pad.

Dick appraised Jane like an objet d’art, but as she returned his gaze, he smiled like a child who had just been caught with a hand in the cookie jar, cleared his guilty throat and quickly changed the subject, .. “So how did a Car Broker get involved in organizing protests?”

Jane corrected him kindly, “I do not organize protests, Richard. A Protest is always an act of civil disobedience. It’s a reaction to some thing that denies us choice. Demonstrations are always peaceful events; and when they are interfered with by emotional, or outside agitators, or the police or the military, then they become Protests against those that would deny any individual the right to assemble with others of like mind, and peacefully Demonstrate a collective intelligence, through standing up for a righteous cause.”

Dick interjected, “I’m not entirely disagreeing with you Jane, but throughout my Father’s generation, in the 1960’s to the 70’s, there were a lot of protests against the war with Vietnam.”

“Sure,” agreed Jane. “There were many Protests against conscription. The Draft was a denial of the freedom of choice for any Conscientious Objector.” .. Jane raised a finger as she regarded Richard for a pregnant pause, “Richard, you say ‘with’ Vietnam, and I say ‘in’ Vietnam, because I believe it was a proxy war of ideologies. That all happened before I was born of course, but I saw many documentary films, and I also read all that I could about that period in time. There were many individual voices from all over the world that supported Demonstrations against the United States fighting that war in Vietnam.”

Dick pointed out, “I saw a few documentaries myself, and the media rarely used the term ‘Demonstration’, it was almost always ‘Protest’; .. anyway, it meant the same thing.”

Jane sighed and smiled, “Richard, please, don’t allow the media to insult your intelligence by dictating to you what is what, and educate you through sound bites and slogans and advertising. The media is, and has always been, the artificial intelligence of an imposed virtual reality!”

Dick flinched like he’d just been reprimanded and raised a skeptical eyebrow, “So if I understand you, you’re saying the Radio and Television media is artificial intelligence and virtual reality?”

“Richard, in 1938 Orson Welles almost immersed the population of a whole city in a virtual reality of panic and fear, within their own imaginations, with the broadcast of the ‘War of the Worlds’ Radio play! .. Home radio entertainment, through public radio broadcasting, was also the birth of modern artificial intelligence. It was the Audio Billboard with all of the many broadcasts of radio shows that were ‘brought to you by’ such and such corporation, that want you to buy this product or that product, because some authority you absolutely trust is also using it.”

“Like Doctors promoting cigarettes. I’ll buy that for a dollar;” he chuckled “but come on Jane, radio and television are old technologies. Reading a book is a more immersive event. You can’t honestly call them virtual reality; especially considering all the new technologies that are consolidating those old technologies into one new device or another.” Dick exclaimed with a broad satisfied smile, “Jane, in my culture we call this progress!”

Jane looked at him with endearment, “Richard, is that really an argument? Listen to your own words; you say ‘consolidated old technologies’. Of course they are. That is progress for you. We brand it as new technology, and we even have a modern name that better defines it; we call it virtual reality, and we are told it is the future; it is something new and exciting. But it is not the future! It is the repackaging of the past. It’s a stronger version of the same old drug that is rebranded and marketed to allegedly improve the quality of our lives. .. Richard, don’t you see it? This is a corporate artificial intelligence defining for us how we should act, what to think, how to feel about ourselves, and what our lives should be like; and we have become dependant on it! .. I am not going to argue with the world as it has become, but I am going to insist that Artificial Corporate Intelligence should always be subservient to Human Intelligence. Virtual reality cannot be allowed to become an antidote for getting out of bed in the morning.”

Dick interjected strongly but delicately, “Jane, you’re trying to define one thing with two interpretations; Virtual Reality, as I understand it, is a good thing, and should be universally available as an education tool to enhance, learning about, and understanding, our world!”

Jane almost gave Dick a hands on the hips look of impatience, “Okay, I agree with you completely Richard, but who will be the content creators? .. The Media? .. All Media, starting from Radio and its successor Television, and all future ‘consolidations’ are owned by corporations that have strong vested interests to insure their future growth through the creation of profits; and ‘content’ is the commodity that generates those profits. Just imagine for yourself Richard, based on your past experience, what will be the messages the content conveys?”

Dick interjected, “Not all Media, Jane! The NPR and the PBS are non-profit, publicly owned media. In fact most countries have public media, like the CBC, the BBC, and countless others, and even Al Jazeera; .. and anyway profits are not an evil thing. The profits you earn from selling cars, pays for your food and rent.”

Jane countered, “Yes Richard, profits are not a bad thing because they represent growth, and provide for the sustainability of life; and yes Richard, NPR and PBS are certainly media that are free of the, sadly normal, in your face advertising; .. but they are also privately funded by the ‘brought to you by’ corporations that have imbedded corporate and political bias and interests.”

Dick nodded, “That’s a thought worth a dollar.”

Jane exhaled, “Richard, common corporate commercial media has become a biased voice, divided by corporate and political lines for economic and personal gain. .. What I am saying is that too often, all the flavors of media present the news of local and world events, and associate those events to banner keywords, to create concern or fear, and then steer your thoughts toward a specific corporate or political interest that provides its remedy to assuage your concern or fear, through their choices of entertainment programs, and and controlling the publics narrative through news programs that bring your thinking inline with their interests.”

Richard was confused by Jane. He wasn’t sure if her position was unreasonable, or she simply hadn’t completed her point. “Jane, I really feel your passion, but I’m getting lost! .. What is your point?”

Jane was silent a moment, and delivered a sad confession, “Richard, I try so hard to ensure that the Demonstrations I organize are based upon my informed understanding of real world situations and events, and that they remain peaceful Demonstrations of Awareness; .. I do not believe I am an egotist; but what truly frustrates me inside, is that too often the message is turned into a media entertainment, presented to the public with keyword strings like, ‘the narrative is this’, or ‘a story we’re following’, or catchy lyrical metaphors and anecdotes designed to create laughter and diminish the message, .. or it’s presented through corporately embedded entertainment personalities passing themselves off as Trusted Reporters, or Investigative Journalists, or it is presented as chaos without any message or purpose, except to offer the viewing public a virtual reality entertainment.”

Dick and Jane’s eyes were locked together, and he smiled, “You argue well Jane, but I’m not convinced there is a corporate media conspiracy.”

“Well Richard, I’m not suggesting there is a conscious one, but I am suggesting there is a very evolved corporate media self interest that has a life of its own. Just consider it the next time you flip channels while watching the TV News. It’s a vicarious virtual reality to enjoy in the safety of your home; and as it’s presented that way, it’s not threatening, and therefore there is no cause for concern or fear, unless of course that is the designed intention. .. It’s not until a situation affects us immediately and directly, like an earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami, or a terrorist attack, or the water stops flowing out of our water faucets, that we become concerned about our personal, physical, and organic real life reality, and start asking fundamental questions.”

Dick nodded and prophesied, “Just as television superseded radio, I believe the internet will eventually replace the television as the main source of entertainment and news programs.”

Jane cynically countered his prophesy, “I believe corporations and the media are already polluting the waters of the internet and all of its interfaces like tablets, telephones, wrist watches, and even our refrigerators, and I believe it will become ‘thee’ central hub of corporate and political artificial intelligence, that will produce a homogenized, tactile virtual reality for all human beings. The way technology is advancing, people won’t even know they exist unless they pinch their own skin.”

“Wow!” chuckled Dick, “You’ve got a real dark side!”

Jane smiled. “Of course I do. I am a passionate woman, and so I worry. It is just the nature of things.”

Dick laughed out loud, “Be careful you don’t get accused of having a God complex.”

Jane chuckled, “Richard, when a human being creates a corporation, a legal entity is created. It is a de-facto person, with legal rights and protections to develop, produce, and sell, goods and services; .. but because we don’t know what kind of brain gave it life, it is essentially a Frankenstein. As that corporation grows, so does its influence. It may become a powerful multinational corporate, or even a media conglomerate Frankenstein; and its intelligence is artificial intelligence, with all of the same destructive survival instincts. It isn’t sentient intelligence; it’s an extension of the human intelligence that created it.”

Dick raised a sceptical eyebrow and chuckled, “Wow, what a wild analogy!” Dick tried to minimize Jane’s position, “Corporations are created to grow, and they’re controlled through thoughtful human intelligence.”

“Yes Richard, we hope and pray that Frankenstein got the good brain and does not grow up to be a destructive bad boy, But just like Frankenstein, corporations exist, and need to continue. It makes me sad that the human endowed artificial intelligence behind most corporations usually overshadows the human intelligence that created it. That old idiom, ‘I live for my work’, is just another way of saying ‘I have an identity crisis so I adopted one’.”

Dick appraised Jane thoughtfully. He didn’t get the impression that she was a paranoid conspiracy theorist because her arguments were sound enough to qualify as healthy food for thought.

Jane had paused a moment to consider that Richard wasn’t buying her goods, but he was thoughtfully appraising them, so she added, “Richard, our bodies require nutrition so that the cells of our bodies live and grow in a healthy way, and our planet provides us the food sources that insure we have the nutrition we need; .. but a corporation requires profit to live and grow; and it also gathers from the planet the resources it needs to produce the profit it needs to live and grow.”

Dick shrugged, “This is normal.”

Jane shrugged, “Of course it is Richard. Corporations are as natural to our world as the birds and the bees; but there is a dark side to that gathering when it pollutes or destroys the ground it gathers from. It’s like a child that sees a particular flower in a garden of flowers, and tramples over many flowers to take the flower it wants to give its mother. .. Just as easily as a cell in our body can grow into a cancer, so can our corporation create a cancer upon our planet.”

Dick nodded, “Good analogies, Jane.”

Jane laughed lyrically, “We were talking about Protests versus Demonstrations, and got side tracked into talking about a virtual reality with artificial intelligence.”

Dick smiled, “You’re a woman with strong beliefs.”

“Yes Richard, I know that I am. It is why I am still a single woman; .. but it takes a lot of conviction in the gut, personal commitment, and energy, to stand up and be counted as an individual with a belief that is contrary to mainstream beliefs, and to be a ‘Living Demonstration’ through your personal actions.”

Dick added, “A lot of courage too.”

“I believe courage comes out of conviction.” Jane smiled, “There are many justifiable Protests through acts of civil disobedience, such as being drafted into military service to fight a proxy, I mean, a political war.”

Jane paused for a sustained moment, looked at Dick, and asked him carefully, “Richard, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me, but have you read the Christian Bible?”

“Ahh, .. no I haven’t.”

Jane explained, "There is a passage of text in the book of the Revelation that I take to my heart. - God is dictating a letter to a church community, and reprimands them. It translates from Spanish like this, -, .. 'You are not cold or hot, and how I wish that you were either cold or hot, but you are lukewarm, and I will vomit you out of my mouth'."

Richard was confused, “You’re saying you don’t want to be lukewarm?”

Jane tried to clarify, “I’m saying that whether viewed as right or wrong by others, it takes faith in yourself, faith in the gut, and fire on the skin, to accept any degree of suffering and abuse for the freedom from the fear to express a personal conviction, and defend a personal truth.”

Dick interrupted with a nod, “I absolutely understand that, Jane. That has to be the surety of the mindset of every graduate student defending a thesis before a doctoral committee.”

Jane’s question sounded like a drowning person’s last desperate plea to God for help before the dreaded personal audience. It was a rhetorical question because it was so obvious on the face of it. “Why does an intelligent person care what a Government, or the Media, wants you to think and believe? Do our convictions really need that kind of validation? It’s an apple for the teacher, and an unheard declaration that we live in fear of our own inner truth!”

Dick crossed his lips with a finger, and mimed as if he was looking suspiciously around the room; he whispered again, “Shuushhh, the walls are bugged. They can hear us!”

Jane raised concerned eyebrows, “Who can hear us? Am I speaking too loud, Richard?”

Dick laughed, “I’m joking Jane.”

Jane smiled, “You are finding fun in me.”

“Only because I feel so at ease.” he chuckled.

“Richard, it takes a beautiful mind to not judge the civilians and soldiers of conscience, who absolutely believe that the given cause of a war, or a situation that is evolving, or exists, is or is not, .. a just cause.”

“Jane, that sounds like a wide eyed and generous idea, but I’m not clear on what your point is.”

“Richard, I am saying we cannot shout out our judgements of the actions of others because we do not know their heart, and so it is always a personal conviction. .. I am talking about all of the soldiers, of any generation, who stepped up and volunteered their very lives to fight a perceived enemy in any war, and to protect the people they believed could not, or would not, protect themselves; .. and I’m talking about those others, like your Father and my Father, who protested against what they saw as social and political injustice; and also those like me that Demonstrate, for or against, the justice or injustice of a given situation.”

The pure attention of Dick’s eyes distracted Jane, and she stopped. “I’m sorry Richard but I lost my thoughts.”

She took a sip of her coffee and attempted to summarize her notions, “I believe that God will bless the Demonstrators, the Protestors, and the Soldiers as being pure of heart; and perhaps even endow the soldiers with a greater blessing for having risked dying for what they believed to be a just cause.”

Dick solemnly nodded his understanding as Jane finished, “I am not a person that goes to a church, Richard, but I do believe that all of life is created by God, and so we are all of the one intelligence that is God.”

Dick nodded, “You’re saying God is within our human reach?”

“No Richard. I am not saying that. Sometimes it all feels like a contradiction to me, but to say God is within our reach, is to say that God is something apart from ourselves, ‘out there’ to be gotten. .. I am saying that any situation in our life, regardless whether we perceive it as right or wrong – You and I and Everyone, IS the intelligence of God in action.”

Dick considered her notion for a moment, “Yeah, in my own way, I believe that also. .. So far you have given me three flavors of intelligence, .. Human, Artificial, and God; but for me, the intelligence of god is just ‘the nature of things’.”

Jane smiled brightly, “Yes Richard, God is nature talking its course.” She chuckled and risked a personal musing, “I say this with .. how do you say it .. ‘the cheek on the tongue’, but I sometimes wonder Richard, at the possibility, .. it is almost as though all the dead soldiers, of all of the world’s wars, reincarnated into, what you call in this country, the baby boomers generation, to conduct Demonstrations against all of the wars in the last half of the twentieth century; an now even into this new century of ours.”

Dick mused, “That’s an interesting ‘tongue on the cheek’ theory. However, I believe that the only truly justifiable war within the last 100 years was the second world war, and that was really only the climax of the first world war.”

Jane grinned, glowed, and swooned, “I am so much in agreement with you Richard. History likes to make events logical and neat and tidy.” .. She continued with a more serious tone, “From all that I’ve read, and learned from my Father, I get the feeling that our Fathers’ generation shared a saturated, and battle fatigued awareness of how wrong it all felt, and then started asking fundamental questions like, ‘Why must their be war’?, ‘What are we fighting for’?”

Jane exhaled sadly, “Why must the truth always be the first casualty of war?, and what ‘is’ the truth, the true motivation for war?”

Dick exclaimed in earnest, “I’ve wondered about that sort of thing myself, Jane!”

Jane nodded, “The social and political wars of the 20th century mutated into the economic, political, and attrition wars of this century, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and South America; and the outcomes are frighteningly uncertain to me.”

Dick added, “I find it ironic though, that the wars of the twentieth century walked hand in hand with the greatest burst of human transformational creativity in a millennium. Perhaps it’s the mysterious ways of the nature of things.”

“Yes Richard, the nature of things work in the ways of mystery. .. You asked me how I got involved in organizing Protests, but what you mean to say is, how I got involved organizing Demonstrations. .. I suppose I could compose a dramatic answer to your question, or maybe just say with .. how did you say it? …”

Dick offered, “The tongue on the cheek?”

“Yes, .. ‘the tongue on the cheek’, .. that in a past life I died of thirst while living beside a mountain stream, because the wicked King owned the stream.”

Dick chuckled at hearing this. Jane chuckled too. “Richard, I honestly can give you no other reason than, ‘this is who I am’; .. or at least ‘this is what I am doing now’. .. Water has always been an important element in my life, and it troubles my heart and mind. I cannot let it go, except when I laugh very hard, and then I pee. I gather verifiable information that needs to be shared, and then I gather together the people who share my concern that water is becoming a profitable commodity that can be bought, sold, or denied; .. and like the fire that shares its heat with the whole tribe, we Demonstrate our shared awareness of a situation that exists, and affects us all.”

Dick pointed out, “When I saw you on the TV news you were being arrested. Your Demonstration wasn’t exactly a peaceful one.”

Jane sighed, “Yes, I planned for the best, but there are always people that love the opportunity to create chaos.”

Dick asked, “Do you think that the shit disturbers were planted by the company to create a bad image of your cause?”

Jane answered thoughtfully, “No I don’t, Richard. I know that can happen, and it probably happened a lot in the past, but through the internet, and social media, we try to educate everyone that participates how much violence wounds our cause and diminishes our voice; .. but there are always a few ignorant people that have no true conviction of their own and love to create chaos and violence; .. and as soon as they do, the Police need to be involved, and it becomes an impossible situation for the Police to discriminate who the perpetrators of the chaos are; so procedural artificial intelligence kicks in, and then a chain reaction starts that never ends well.”

Jane was very aware that this shared lunch was, for her at least, a kind of mating ritual that would determine if Dick was worthy of her; and she was also helplessly aware of herself, as she continued to reveal herself to Dick with greater comfort.

To Jane’s heart, Dick proved his worthiness as a mate when he exclaimed with honest passion, “Jane, I may be looked upon as only a scientist of marine ecosystems; but to my way of thinking, all of nature is predatory to the degree that it consumes something else to become something else, or to sustain the health of the form it is; but what we call predators in nature, eat what they kill and scavengers eat the rest. The ground and the seabed consume the leftovers and nothing is wasted. It is the nature of things, and I refuse to believe that ‘war’, with all of its waste and collateral destruction, is just in the nature of things.”

Jane shuddered in her body with a warm and soothing sexual heat as she confessed, “I like how you think, Richard.”

Dick chuckled good naturedly, “I find it appropriate that you chose our lunch date to give me so much food for thought.”

Jane’s face ignited into a bright smile, “Yes, we are sharing a date.”

“Thank you Jane. Thanks for sharing and clarifying all of that; .. but, you haven’t actually answered my original question.”

“Yes Richard, you asked me ‘how’ I got involved in organizing ‘Protests.’” .. Jane paused for a thoughtful moment, “In many ways it is like trying to explain how I felt when I first lost my virginity.”

Dick chuckled, “First lost? .. Is there a second loss of virginity?”

Jane smiled, “If the virginity is the loss of ignorance, then yes; but I feel that you understand my meaning. .. The chronology of events can never convey what led me to that surrender. It’s a long sad story, and I will owe you that story, Richard.”

Dick pressed, “You already owe me a story, Jane.”

Jane countered, “And you also owe me one, Richard!”

Dick compromised, “Quid pro quo?”

Jane agreed, “Yes, ‘something for something’. OK Richard, are you familiar with the Water Wars that started in Bolivia in the late 1990’s?”

The penny wouldn’t drop for Dick, “Ahh, .. no.”

Jane smiled, “Of course not, because it is a very different planet; but it is where I was born, what I was baptized into, where I grew up in love, and what I lived through.”

Jane paused, and thoughtfully glanced at Dick, “Richard, I cannot answer your question without first telling you something of my country’s history.”

Dick was ‘involved’ in Jane, and responded with patient attention, “Please, tell me.”

Jane began. “Bolivia had suffered almost a century of unrestrained domination and control from the American and European corporations that had come in droves. They plundered the country of resources and left the common working people to live in squalor and poverty. .. It was not until the 1960’s that a new government had given all Bolivian adults the right to vote, and through the popularity of that action, started nationalizing major industries, like mining, agriculture, and other export industries, and also started redistributing farmland to indigenous people. Things looked promising for the people until about 1964, and then for the next twenty years the country went to hell socially, economically, and politically, from one military coup d’état to another, backed by foreign interests with a lot of money, that were only interested in reclaiming Bolivia’s natural resources and shaping Bolivia’s political structure to insure unhindered access to Bolivia’s natural resources.”

Dick interjected, “Foreign interests like the United States?”

Jane replied softly, “Richard, I am not a political activist, and I do not believe that pointing fingers solves anything.”

Dick nodded, “Not political; but you are an activist!”

Jane nodded, "Yes I am Richard, but I am explaining my inheritance to you first. .. Change for the better really started in the 1980's when the people of Bolivia were finally able to apply their right to democratically elect their government. .. I say a change for the better because a new country was being born, with all of the labour pains of natural birth. The government of that time had instituted overly liberal reforms to privatize just about everything that had been nationalized by the governments of the past. It was an action to attract legitimate foreign investment. .. Deals were made with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to consolidate the national debt, but the debt relief was conditional on structural reforms, specifically designed for poor, resource rich, countries, which really sums up all of Central and South America. .. The conditional debt relief was a ruse because it insisted the government abandon all centralized control and ownership of public services like public health and sanitation, education, water management, and also decreed the 50% ownership, management, and control, of all natural resources, and so those same resources and services were once again controlled by the private foreign corporations."

Jane took a measured glance of Dick and responded carefully, “This is the world I was born into, Richard. I was born on the Summer Solstice of 1990, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.”

Dick interjected happily, “I was also born in 1990, but on the Spring Equinox.”

Jane raised a brow while her head did a subtle side to side bobble that acknowledged an auspicious connection. “As a child, like all children, my whole world was my family. I had a child’s understanding of the concerns of my Parents and the events that affected our family. As I grew up, I was just itching to be with my Father and help in anyway I could, but he is very protective of me, and forced me to sit on the sidelines and observe.” .. Her composure labored, and her anger surfaced, “I thought the term ‘collateral damage’, was just a tidy military expression, a less emotional expression than ‘oops’. .. poisoned drinking water from our home water faucets was the collateral damage of the mindless corporate pursuit of profit!”

She beseeched the court of her conscience, “We just wanted, we just needed, clean water to drink; but a trans-national water conglomerate had taken control of the water services in Cochabamba, and charged so much money for their service that many people had to choose between food or water!”

She confessed with a humble embarrassment, “Fortunately we were never so poor; but my Father raged at how the injustice of it was hurting his friends and neighbors, and so he became a political activist against the austerity reforms of the government. He joined in the peaceful Demonstrations of the ‘Coalición por la Defensa del Agua y la Vida’ against the privatization of the water resources. .. I am sorry Richard that I sometimes revert to Spanish; I meant to say, the ‘Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life’ in Cochabamba. .. The Riot Police always intervened to restore order at the peaceful Demonstrations, but first they needed disorder. It seemed convenient to my Father that they always managed to find disorder. .. For better or worse, I suppose I can say that the Demonstrations that devolved into violent Protests succeeded in causing the foreign Water Conglomerate to leave the country.”

Jane was uncomfortably aware of how her seemingly natural attraction to Dick was so incongruent to the unattractive history she was conveying. “The ‘how and why,’ really started for me with the new millennium. My Father had united his thinking with Evo Morales and his political movement to create a democratic socialist government, and so in 2003 we moved to La Paz.”

The weight of her memories was like a sad confession of the sins of her country before God. “It was a very painful birth for all of Bolivia. The labor pains were extreme; and with the birth of the new century came many new Demonstrations and violent Protests, What the International Monetary Fund and World Bank called the ‘Structural Adjustment Programs’, were what the world called the ‘Economic Austerity Policies’, and they were seriously hurting us all. .. There were Protests over foreign Political and Corporate interference in Bolivia’s traditional agriculture, and also the protests over foreign control of Bolivia’s natural gas, that became so explosive, that they brought down two governments over two years.”

Jane’s eyes were reliving the events of the rebirth she was conveying. “Richard, you can’t imagine, it was a total turn around for a country that had, for many years, operated through State run capitalism; and yet the common people suffered as they had always suffered; .. but this rebirth brought to the people a feeling of empowerment.”

Richard shook his head sadly, “You’re right Jane. I can’t pretend to imagine. By comparison, I have lived a charmed life.”

Her eyes retreated deeper, and she was now lost in another world. Her voice started to tremble as she painfully explained, “My country became embroiled in a war of Protests. It was a real civil war.”

She refocused on Dick and almost accused him, “For you it was news of events that happened once upon a time, in a far away land; but for me it was my life! It was a painful experience. .. It was during those protests, that my brother and mother lost their lives. A government soldier killed my Brother, Augusto. He was just an innocent bystander, only walking home from school. The soldier said it was self-defense, and a military tribunal ruled the soldier to be innocent. .. Innocent! .. Dios Mío! It was a, .. cómo dices esto en inglés, .. it was an oxymoron of justice, because they promoted him in rank!” Jane spat out caustically, “It was murder, pure and simple murder! The soldier was a sharp shooter!”

Jane’s eyes shed quiet tears, and she quickly wiped them away for fear they would stain her composure. “My poor Madre died of the broken heart because the soldiers came to our home to arrest my Father. It was too much stress for her, and her heart gave out. I ran to my mother. My Father desperately tried to break free and help her, but the Soldiers thought he was resisting arrest, and forcibly took him away to jail. I ran to get help from my neighbors, but it was too late for mi Madre.”

Jane tried to discretely blink away her wet glassy eyes, “I am sorry Richard, I am getting emotional.”

Dick was deeply moved, and he reached over and covered her hand in his.

Jane responded to Dick’s instinctive affection and covered his hand with her other hand. “Richard, I am discovering that answering ‘how’ is very difficult.”

She gathered herself, “It was so long ago, and yet it seems like only yesterday. One protest followed another, until enough anger was demonstrated over new political remedies, austerity programs, and foreign interference in Bolivia’s natural resources, that we finally elected a real people’s candidate, Evo Morales, with a majority of the votes to become the new President, and I believe that my country Bolivia was finally truly born.”

Jane disconnected her hand from Dick’s and shrugged, “It was very late in the game for me when I started to get involved in the birth process of my country. I was a new student at San Andrés University in La Paz in 2007. My Father was desperately trying to insulate me from all of the chaos. He did not want me to be involved. He said that what he wanted for me was the stable result. There were huge violent protests over a new constitution; there were violent protests in the city of Sucre demanding that the government relocate its administration from La Paz to Sucre; and in La Paz, the miners were violently protesting new taxes on the mining co-operatives, by throwing sticks of dynamite into the streets. It was a terrifying and insane time.”

***

Martha was eating her lunch at her desk when Mickey flew into the office trying not to look out of breath. Martha was surprised, “You’re back early.”

Mickey smiled, “A slight change of plan.” Martha already knew what he was going to ask. “Is she…?”

“In the Boardroom.” replied Martha.

Mickey attempted to inquire, “Are the Parolees…?”

“No.” she replied.

***

Betty was alone in the Boardroom. She was finishing up some notes after her review with Luca and Spike. Mickey opened the door and poked his head in. She looked surprised to see him, and given the revelations from Luca, she wasn’t sure if she was ready. In spite of that, she announced, “You and I need to have a talk.”

Mickey offered, “Over Lunch?”

Betty replied, “I thought I’d have lunch with Dick.”

Mickey informed her, “He’s gone for lunch with a friend.”

Betty inquired curiously, “Gone? .. A friend?”

Mickey’s betrayal served his agenda, “Yes, .. Jane.”

***

Dick and Jane had finished lunch, and were sipping coffee as Jane was finishing the story she owed. She shook her head wearily, “It was all such a big violent mess, but that’s another story I will owe you Richard.”

Dick laughed, “You mean to stay in my debt.”

She smiled to herself and delivered a summation of sorts. “The important thing is that I learned something from that life experience; I came upon awareness, and it would not leave me, or allow me to remain with the peace in the heart.”

Dick interjected, “I think I know what you mean. As I explained about my doctoral thesis, I could have finished it and defended it five years ago, but I ‘needed’ to discover why so many changes were happening that did not conform to all that I had learned. In good conscience, I couldn’t ignore the new information my research was suggesting. I needed time to confer with others in different academic disciplines to make sense of my findings, so I chose to explore further, and one more year has now become five more years.”

Jane smiled, “Yes, Richard, you have understood me. For me now, Bolivia is a metaphor for the imbalances caused by Corporate Interests all over the world. .. I have come to understand that there is no ‘one’ devil to blame, and that the situations in the world that are like Bolivia, are only symptoms of a much larger, collective problem.”

Jane’s eyes fluttered, “I don’t mean to sound like I am posh, Richard, but as I see it, the many still unresolved issues around Bolivia, or any other reflection of those unhappy circumstances, would take too much time for me to explain, and you must return to your job soon. What I want to tell you is that I consider the Demonstrations I organize as acts of sharing awareness.”

Dick did not intellectually understand what Jane meant about sharing awareness because at that very moment he was. It was a state of being. His attention was so locked into Jane that his own self awareness seemed to have become like a passenger, sitting in her car.

Jane tripped his attention back into selfish mortal consciousness, “I really see myself as a fool, and the work I do as foolish; but I believe in my heart that the sincerity of my foolishness is the talent of my foolishness. I used to have many doubts, Richard. I believed I was right about everything, but I secretly worried I was wrong. .. I believe we can run from many situations in life, but we cannot run from our own awareness, just as you Richard, could not ignore your research, and chose to extend your thesis.”

Dick nodded his understanding as his eyes agreed with her completely.

Jane gestured her submission, “So what can I do? .. What I can do, is do what I do; .. and what I feel compelled to do, is to organize Demonstrations for the cause of Water as a Human Right, because it was in Bolivia that I was baptized over water.”

Dick nodded his understanding. “My Father has always told me to trust my instincts.”

“Your Father is wise Richard. .. When I see a mutable situation like the commoditization of water, it speaks to me, and like the cigarette smoker that must have a cigarette, I feel compelled to act.”

Dick nodded, as Jane continued, “In 2014 my Father became an assistant Ambassador to the United Nations, and so we moved to this country. This year he became an advisor to the UN on South American Issues” Her grin was her guilty confession, “I am my Father’s daughter. I am the daughter of an Activist.” .. She chuckled, “So now you know the ‘how and the why’, Richard.”

Dick looked at Jane thoughtfully. She raised an expectant eyebrow, “So, Richard, quid pro quo? Why are you working with Mickey?”

Dick grinned in embarrassment and replied awkwardly, “I am working to earn extra money to buy an engagement ring for my fiancée.”

“You mean your girlfriend. You are not engaged yet.”

“We’re engaged to get engaged, and then married.”

Jane was disappointed by this new information, but did her best to hide it, “Ahh, you are in love.”

Dick responded clumsily, “We’re good together.”

In Jane’s mind, this did not qualify as a declaration of love, and so she observed flatly, “I see.” .. She changed the subject and remarked happily, “I’ve studied your SCUBA books and I’m ready for the written exam.”

Dick was relieved that he was not to be the subject of the conversation any longer. He smiled, “Ready already? Wow, you’re a quick study, but before that can happen, you need to get your feet wet.”

From her seat, Jane could see the back of Mickey’s head as he was sitting in a booth on the other side of the Café talking to a woman. Mickey was returning menus to a Waiter. Jane muttered to herself in surprise, “I thought he had a meeting.”

Dick turned to see to whom she was referring. He was surprised to see Betty sitting with him. Jane clarified the situation dryly, “It’s just Mickey with another of his many girlfriends.”

Dick informed her, “That ‘girlfriend’ is Betty, my fiancée to be. She owns Osmosis Water, so I’m sure it’s just a business meeting.”

Jane took this information in as she observed Mickey, but she made no comment. The Waiter arrived at that moment and put the bill on the table next to Dick. Jane reached for it, but Dick intercepted it, “You invited me so I invite you.”

Jane and Dick both got up, “Thank you Richard. Excuse me, I have to pee. I’ll see you up front.” Dick took the cheque to the cashier.

***

Betty studied Mickey carefully, and proceeded casually. “I had a rather enlightening review with my parolees today.”

Mickey kinda knew where Betty was leading, and replied with confidence, “Do tell.”

At that moment, Jane walked past Mickey’s table, quickly assessed her competition, but eye contact was unavailable for her, as Betty’s eyes were riveted on Mickey. She patted him gently on the head as she walked by. “Hola Mickey.” Mickey called out after her, “Hola Jane.” Jane did not turn back but raised a hand and finger waved to him.

Upon hearing Jane’s name, Betty instantly turned to witness her walking toward the restrooms with a natural gait that totally accentuated her hips. She looked quickly around for Dick but did not see him. “You must be working Dick quite hard. I called him quite late last night and he wasn’t answering. Asleep from exhaustion I expect.”

Mickey took a moment of tactical pause and smiled, “Not at all Betty; I invited him to take a walk on the wild side. He was with us at the bar.”

“Who is us?”

“Me and Jane.”

Betty corrected him, “You mean Jane and I.”

“Yeah, the three of us, .. and some other members of the softball team. He really hit a home run with everyone.”

Betty inquired disinterestedly, “Is Jane your girl?”

Mickey nodded negatively, “She’s no girl; Jane is all woman.”

Betty was off balance, “Well I think we should wrap up now.”

Mickey feigned surprise, “Our food hasn’t arrived yet!”

Betty excused for herself, “I’m sorry Mickey but I’m really not that hungry.”

[ * ]

Betty was alone in the Penitentiary records room She had just replaced the updated Files on Luca and Spike. She began searching another series of file cabinet for something. She opened a file cabinet drawer in the MO-to-MY series; she fingered her way to a file folder, and pulled it out. The Label on the file folder read, Montana, Michael J. She opened it quickly to inspect the mug shot, to confirm she had the correct file, furtively looked around, and quickly put the folder into her attaché case.

***

It was already past 6 pm. The front office was dark. The only illuminated room was Mickey’s office. It was the CPU of Osmosis Water, and Mickey and Tony were strategizing and going over the arrangements for the upcoming Management and Staff meeting.

Tony was worried, “We’ve only got a month to lock this down. If what those two inmates reported is true, we’re in big trouble.”

“Let me worry about that Tony.”

Tony inquired nervously, “Is she on board?”

“We’ve had a few informal meetings. She’s invited to the Party but I don’t know if she’ll come.”

Tony exclaimed desperately, “COME? Try respelling the word! She’s a beautiful Woman. Come On! Use that famous Mickey charm!”

Mickey responded defensively, “What!? You think I’m asleep at the wheel? This woman can see through walls. I mean whathefuck! What do I gotta do, marry the enemies daughter?”

Tony laughed, “Now THAT’S revenge!”

Mickey reminded him, “She’s getting engaged for crissake!”

Tony exclaimed dismissively, “GETTING!? HELLO? ANYONE HOME!? What’s the operative word here?”

Mickey considered this, as he tore off a page, displaying the word - 'de•fact•o', from his 'Word of the Day' pad. .. The new word of the day was 'INTERCOURSE', and its meanings were displayed below the word. - 'in•ter•course' - [communication] - interpersonal exchanges between people, conversation, or intermingling, social activity; .. [Commerce]-International Trade and Trade Agreements; .. [Human Sexuality]- coitus, physical union, sexual activity'; [City]- Intercourse Pennsylvania, Intercourse Alabama.

Mickey resolved, “OK, Tony! The direct approach. Time for some phone sex.” He grabbed his cell phone and scrolled down to a number.

***

Betty’s Mother was double-checking the checklist for her daughter’s wedding, and checking off the already checked off and completed tasks. She was determined to insure that nothing would go wrong. She wanted her life back. She wanted to be home alone so she could indulge herself in any scurrilous fantasy that appealed to her, without having to worry that her daughter lurked behind the door listening. She wanted her daughter gone. She paused and looked up; she looked over at her daughter who was reading Mickey’s prison file. She inquired hopefully, “Sorry to keep bothering you dear, but have you decided a date for the big day?”

Betty did not look up. Her mobile phone rang. She dropped the file onto her lap, reached into her handbag for her phone, and without checking the call display, answered it.

“Hello?”

*

Mickey gave Betty his most seductive voice,

“Hello Betty, Mickey Montana speaking.”

*

Betty quickly glanced at her mother, and replied a little too sweetly,

“Hello Mickey.”

Mother’s ears went on alert!

*

Mickey was examining his Word of the Day,

“I thought you and I might have an intercourse.”

*

Betty looked at her phone in shock and exclaimed,

INTERCOURSE!?”

Mother’s eyes popped out!

*

Mickey was reading the definition from his Word of the Day pad, and explained innocently,

“Yeah, a conversation.”

*

Betty observed her mother’s shocked expression and decided to play it,

“Oh, of course; when and where would you like this intercourse to take place?”

Mother’s eyes were now riveted onto her daughter.

Betty reasoned that if Mickey was flirting with her so brazenly, perhaps she could use this as an asset. She quickly glanced past her Mother’s stupefied expression and responded in a seductive manner,

“My schedule is a little tight, but I’ll try to squeeze you in. I’ll get back to you soon.”

Betty ended her call, and looked at her Mother’s shocked and expectant expression with a smile.

Mother demanded information, “Who is this Mickey person?”

Betty got up to leave the room. She stepped quickly toward her Mother and made a spooky gesture with her hands, “The Criminal Element, Mother!”

 

[
**]
p=. Wet Feet

The late morning was warm, bright, and sunny. The world still felt calm and comfortable, but was well underway. Dick was wearing a ‘shorty’ Wet Suit, and arranging SCUBA gear beside his swimming pool. Betty walked up unannounced, “Betty? What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you.”

She replied defensively, “I need an appointment? I thought you and I might go to lunch?”

“Sorry Betty, I can’t do it. You should have called. I’m preparing for a SCUBA lesson.”

Betty’s response was sarcastic, “Let me guess. It’s with a woman, and her name is Jane?”

Dick responded dismissively, “Nothing wrong with your intuition, or the work your spies do!”

Betty was upset, and answered Dick’s accusation, “I don’t need spies to tell me something is wrong! It seems like we never see each other anymore!”

Dick explained defensively, “It’s not like I’m doing this for free. It’s good money.”

Betty accused, “Like you really need the money.”

Dick fired back aggressively, “So tell me AGAIN why I’M working? I’m a Dive Master and Instructor for crissake, I’ve taught lots of people! Some of them were women, and I heard no complaints before. What’s the real issue here, Betty!?”

“You know very well what the issue is!”

“God Betty, how many times have I tried to teach you?”

SCUBA is ‘your’ interest.”

“She wants to learn and I’m teaching her. She’s a friend.”

Betty proclaimed the Goddess Edict, “Men and Women can’t be friends!”

Dick pointed out, “You’re my best friend!”

“That’s different, our friendship has penetration.”

Dick quipped disarmingly, “That’s deep Betty.”

Betty lost hold of her mood and laughed, but she gave Dick a very discriminating look, “Well, just see to it that your lessons remain in shallow water.”

Dick gave Betty a reassuring hug and kiss, “Stick around awhile; Dad is having a gift delivered for Natacha’s birthday.”

“I don’t have time; I have some things to do with Mother.”

Dick cross-examined impatiently, “But you had time to come and ask me to lunch?”

***

Dick, still wearing his shorty wet suit, stood with Betty in his Carport next to the estate garage. Father walked up and greeted Betty with a kiss on the cheek, and pointed excitedly as a new Red Volkswagen Beetle Convertible with a White Ragtop, drove up and parked beside Betty’s black Jaguar.

Jane jumped out smiling, and announced enthusiastically, “Here it is!”

Dick’s Father was so excited, “Oh god, I think she’ll love this!”

Dick gave Betty a look of warning, “Betty, .. Dad, this is my friend and SCUBA student, Jane.”

Jane cupped her hands together conservatively and looked at Betty, “Happy to meet you Betty.” Betty smiled curtly and said nothing.

Jane turned and put her arms softly around Dick’s Father’s neck and kissed both of his cheeks, “It’s so nice to meet you Mr. Douglas.”

Father smiled, and enthusiastically appraised the car, “I’m just delighted! Thank You so much Jane.”

Jane opened her briefcase and gave Father a clipboard and pen, “Just sign by the X’s and we are all done.” Jane reached for the small, gold ball peon hammer, and glanced at Dick, who nodded negatively. Father signed and returned the clipboard. Jane carefully folded his copies, and Dick accepted them. Jane gave Father the car keys, attached to a pretty Virgin Mary fob. She then removed a box from the back seat of the car and pulled out a very large red bow attached to a very wide white ribbon. They all worked together and taped it on the hood of the car.

Father walked over to the gate that led to the back of the house. He smiled with conspiratorial delight at his son, pushed an intercom button, and Natacha shortly answered, “Hello?”

Father addressed the Intercom, “Natacha dear, would you mind coming out to the car port?”

***

Dick, Jane, and Betty, were standing at the poolside. Dick was prepared for Jane with all the SCUBA gear at the side of the Pool. Betty looked on at Jane with arrogant disdain.

Dick announced enthusiastically, “Time to get your feet wet Jane. Welcome to my Aquarium.”

Jane looked over the size of the pool with awe. The refraction of sunlight off the softly dancing surface water gave the illusion that the walls and floor of the pool was a painted mural of a coral reef. Dick handed her a shorty wet suit, and pointed, “You can change in the bathhouse over there.”

Jane enthusiastically removed her T-shirt and struggled to get her pants down from her hips. She was wearing a bikini and Dick took full notice of her lovely form. Betty noticed Dick noticing. Jane declared, “I must confess to you Richard, that I’m very nervous.”

Betty remarked condescendingly, “You’re certainly not shy though.”

Jane ignored the remark, and Dick gave Betty a harsh look. Jane started to wriggle herself into the shorty wet suit. She appeared to struggle to get the wet suit over her hips. Dick helped her, and then showed her how to use the back rope zipper.

Betty rolled her eyes impatiently, “I have to go now and meet Mother.” She gave Dick a quick kiss and a warning glance, “Shallow water!”

***

Betty was in her black Jaguar motoring along a neighborhood street, fingers strumming the steering wheel while listening to music. The music seemed to irritate her and she impatiently turned it off. .. She tried to comfort herself by sing-songing, ‘Shallow water, shallow water.’ .. Her song suddenly became an alarm, ‘Shallow water!? .. Dick isn’t a shallow water diver!’

Betty’s car did a sudden, hard 360 degree turn on the narrow street.

***

Jane was now in full SCUBA gear. Dick was checking her equipment making small adjustments here and there. He handed Jane a SCUBA Mask and she confidently spit into it, rubbed the inside of the mask lens with her fingers, rinsed it in a poolside bucket of water, and put it on.

Dick commended her encouragingly, “Done like a pro, you’ve studied.” He took her arm to help her walk with her fins on, and she waddled like a duck to the edge of the swimming pool. She looked down into the pool and was suddenly horror stricken at the thought of plunging into a body of water, even a pretty painted pool like this.

Dick turned her back to the swimming pool, adjusted her mask and regulator, and positioned her hands so she was protecting her regulator and mask. Dick smiled at her with encouragement, “Ready to get your feet wet?”

Jane dropped her hands and shook her head nervously, ‘No Way!’

Dick repositioned her hands on her regulator and mask. He encouraged her with a little nudge. She froze, and dropped her hands again. .. He turned her toward the swimming pool, put on a dive mask, held it to his face, and mimicked holding the regulator to his mouth and breathing slowly and evenly. He then fell backward into the pool.

Dick gave Jane an encouraging thumbs up invitation to join him in the pool. Jane remained frozen and horror stricken.

Dick crawled out of the pool. He patiently repositioned her body with her back to the pool, and repositioned her hands on her mask and regulator. He held his hand over his mouth and mask, to remind her to hold her mask and regulator firmly.

He prodded her with enthusiasm, “Ready to try it?”

Jane shook her head in acknowledgement, but remained frozen with fear, He gave her a smile and an encouraging nudge, but she was glued to the pool deck.

Dick rolled his eyes, “Come on Jane, you can do this!” He inflated her Buoyancy Control vest (BCD) to the maximum, and gently put re-assuring hands on her shoulders. She looked to him through her fingers over her dive mask lens with magnified, beseeching eyes, for some understanding.

He smiled at her with reassurance, and abruptly nudged her. Jane lost her balance and fell backward into the pool.

Dick calmly sat on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water. Jane was panicking wildly while bobbing like a cork in the water. She slowly settled down enough to glare angrily at his smiling face. He instructed her, “Now breathe normally, put your face into the water and look down.”

Jane very hesitantly, but bravely attempted it once, but she failed to do it. She looked to Dick and tried to speak. He did not understand. She pulled the regulator out of her mouth, “I’m frightened Richard!”

While she bobbed and floated on the surface of the water, Dick encouraged her patiently, “Come on Jane, you are in no danger. Put the regulator back in your mouth, breathe normally and put your head into the water.”

“NO! Richard, I’m really frightened!”

Dick smiled, and reassured her the way you might teach a child. He bargained, “Do you trust me?”

Jane nodded a nervous and unconvincing ‘yes’. He offered, “I’ll give you a cookie if you do it just once.” He again used his body language and gestured to Jane to put the regulator back into her mouth and put her head underwater.

She obeyed, and very very hesitantly put her face to the water so only the mask lens was touching the surface. Suddenly, as though in a glass bottom boat, Jane saw clearly the aquarium that lay below in full 3D. Her vision did a spiral free-fall and came to rest on the shipwreck artifact on the sandy bottom of the pool. Her vision quickly rebounded as a fish swam between her legs, and she panicked. Her head popped up, and it was a ‘Bunny in the Headlights’ look of shock and horror toward Dick.

***

Meanwhile, at the front of the Douglas Estate, Betty had recklessly driven up into the carport and almost crashed into Natacha’s birthday gift.

***

Back in the swimming pool, Jane was bobbing on the surface, and hyperventilating. Dick was trying to calm her down, “Jane, breathe normally, slowly, slowly, in and out!” He starts mimicking body motions for her to breathe normally. She took deep breaths and removed the regulator from her mouth each time to exhale. It was starting to look like someone was going to give birth.

Dick exclaimed, “Jane, put the regulator back into your mouth, breathe slowly and evenly, and lower your head into the water.”

***

At the carport, Betty had a key and opened the back gate. She walked in and stopped as she heard the commotion between Dick and Jane at the swimming pool. She heard Dick calling out, ‘Put it back in your mouth. Don’t keep taking it in and out!’ .. She heard Jane protesting, ‘It is too big! It hurts my mouth! I am frightened, Richard!’ .. She then heard Dick coaching, ‘Relax your jaw muscles. Stop biting down on it!’ .. Betty was in shock.

***

Dick was trying desperately to calm down a very frightened Jane, “Keep your regulator in your mouth and just breathe normally.” He motioned for her to paddle closer to him. He caught her by the BCD and pulled her floating body between his knees. Jane looked at him like a puppy awaiting its fate in the hands of a Gorilla. .. He removed some air from her BCD, and with one hand holding the regulator in her mouth and the other holding onto the top of her head, he smiled at her and pushed her head into the water between his legs. Jane’s hands and fins were flaying wildly but she slowly settled down under Dick’s watchful eyes.

Jane calmed down and rested her hands on his thighs. Dick gently pressed her a little deeper into the water between his legs. She offered no resistance, and gently removed Dick’s hand from her regulator and breathed normally on her own.

She was calmly looking around, as the aquarium ‘painting’ came to life for her. A fish swam by and Jane attempted to grab its tail fin.

Betty had walked into the pool area and was horrified to see Dick with Jane’s head between his legs. “Good God!”

Dick looked up and was surprised by Betty’s unexpected appearance. He caught her disgusted look. He looked down at Jane between his legs, and again up at Betty like a criminal caught in the searchlights of a heavily armed SWAT team. Betty said nothing, but her lying eyes said everything, to herself, and to Dick. She stormed off back toward her car.

Suddenly, Jane surfaced, ripped off her mask, and spit out her regulator, beaming with pride.

***

Betty stopped for a moment at the back gate as she heard Jane’s proclamation, ‘I DID IT RICHARD! IT WAS FANTASTIC, MY FIRST TIME!’ .. Betty mumbled caustically under her breathe, ‘First time! Like Hell!’

***

Dick and his Father were sitting on chaise lounges on the pool deck, having a conversation over a couple of beers. The setting sun was there to be enjoyed, but Dick’s eyes were focused inward as he complained, “I was embarrassed Dad. We were talking about Natacha’s car, and the conversation got more personal, .. and, .. and I felt embarrassed telling her why I was working. Why would I feel embarrassed? .. And today, .. God Today! .. I’m giving her, her first wet scuba lesson, and Betty walks in and completely misreads what’s going down!” He dropped his shoulders in frustration. “All of this shit for a bloody engagement ring!”

Father laughed out loud as he reached over and patted his son on the shoulder. “You know, your Great Grandpa bought an engagement ring even before he had met his wife. Well, she was a ‘Mail Order’ Bride. He was a Silver miner in Ontario, Canada; and in those days there weren’t a lot of women in the mining towns, unless you wanted to spend your hard earned pay on a poke; but Grandad decided he’d save his money, so instead he answered a matrimonial advertisement in the town newspaper. He bought a gold ring as his promise, and a postage stamp. He mailed the ring, and then he bought a train ticket to Montreal. He told me he didn’t need to go there, but felt obliged to escort his wife into her new life.”

He chuckled, “My Dad told me later, that his Dad’s new bride insisted on a white wedding. She insisted on being married in a proper church. So they were married in Montreal.”

They both shared a chuckle and a sip of beer, and Father continued in a more considered tone of voice, “Anyway, Grandad told me he had no idea what kind of woman he was going to end up with, but he told me what he believed; he said to me, ‘Sonny, destiny is just another word for the future we create for ourselves. It’s an unknown thing, but it always answers kindly to a good human heart.”

Father smiled thoughtfully at the memory, “God I loved that old man.”

Dick was fixated on the sunset, listening intently and smiling as his Father continued, “I was a single man when he told me that. .. To make a long story short, I went out and bought an engagement ring with a small diamond. I bought the ring a little large. Easier to make it smaller I thought, and I swear by Gods laughter, if I didn’t meet your Mother for the first time, that very day, in a café on my way home.”

Dick sipped his beer slowly and thoughtfully, “That’s a romantic story Dad; but I already know who I’m going to marry.”

“Of course you do son.”

***

Mickey’s Apartment was about what you would expect a successful single guy’s apartment to look like. It was larger than a modern studio apartment but still with an open spaced living room, dining room and semi-divided kitchen. The walls were basic ivory white. One wall was almost all windows, behind sand coloured vertical blinds that hid the entry to a south facing balcony. His rustic, bulbous, Texas style sofa and chair set was of chestnut brown leather and autumn toned hounds-tooth fabric. They matched his wall Artwork. I was pretty clear that Mickey liked autumn tones, because his furnishings all matched the artworks that adorned his walls.

The hard furnishings, like the coffee and end tables, sofa set, lamps and bookshelf/TV stand, were all ergonomic and unpretentious in their design, and of heavier construction with natural skins, fabrics, woods, stones, and metals.

The electronics were all black. He had a curved wide-screen HDTV with a HD sound array in a modular black bookcase.

There were no hard edges in the living room. Every wall corner was rounded in the Santa Fe style. A small, unwatered tropical plant, struggled for life in a dark corner of the living room. Although it was not water deprived, it had unnaturally bent itself to try to capture the sound waves and light rays of sunlight light from the window only inches away.

The kitchen was separated from the living room by a cobalt blue, teak wood topped, kitchen Divider Island with three normal backed, teakwood frame and cobalt blue upholstered chairs. The kitchen cabinets were charcoal. The white porcelain double sink had retro porcelain and chrome designer hot and cold water fixtures, granite countertops and a lighter charcoal tile splash. The appliances were all stainless steel with black highlights, and included a two-door refrigerator (high tech free), an electric hybrid convection oven and natural gas stovetop. Next to the refrigerator was a small ‘shrine to Alcohol’ that included a modest selection of decent off the rack wines.

There were more magazines than books scattered throughout, and no obvious reserved home-office space. There was no hint, of that television invented, divisive, bullshit notion, of the male stereotype ‘man cave’.

Mickey was sitting on his sofa with a bottle of beer in hand, a comforter across his lap, his legs stretched out upon the coffee table and reading the financial pages on his tablet. The door chime rang; he looked at his watch, got up, looked through the door security lens, and opened the door. “Betty, what a surprise! How did you know where I live?”

Betty answered coldly, “I know everything I need to know about you.”

Mickey caught Betty’s meaning, and her agitated mood, but he was curious as to why she was at his door. He raised an inquisitive eyebrow, “As opposed to everything you want to know about me? Come on in Betty, and tell me what brings you here?”

Betty declared explicitly, “You wanted an intercourse; let’s have intercourse!” Mickey was thrown completely off balance. It was like someone had just dumped five gallons of water on his head. Betty reacted impatiently, “Lose the surprise! You’ve been flirting with me from the get go, so let’s just do it!”

Mickey collected himself, appraised Betty, and responded with deliberation, “Uhmm .. I don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes our business relationship, because, .. I know we could be a good fit.”

Betty set the mark, “That remains to be seen.”

Mickey quickly considered his options. .. He had none. He knew that Betty had everything he needed to make his dreams come true. To say no would risk the death of everything. You don’t say no to a dominatrix if you want something from her; but to say yes would complicate everything because it would firmly establish a Mistress/Servant relationship. .. He decided that a little bump and grind was always good for the body, and if he performed spectacularly, it also held the possibility of some value added currency during future negotiations. He unconsciously decided that before he could wrap her around his finger, he would have to wrap himself around her finger. “OK Betty, let’s get down to business. Can I offer you a drink to get comfortable?”

Betty replied callously, “I don’t want comfort! This is a Business Meeting, so let’s just fuck each other!”

***

Betty’s Mother walked into her work room and saw the file that Betty had been reading. She examined the name on the file, and opened it to see Mickey’s prison photograph. She sat down and began to read.

***

Dick was at home, alone, and channel surfing. He was pissed off, but he also felt badly about what he perceived as a clear misunderstanding after Betty’s sudden appearance at the SCUBA lesson. He picked up the telephone, took a deep breath, and dialed a number.

***

Betty’s Mother talked to herself as she was reading Mickey’s file. Something caught her attention and her eyebrows rose and she muttered, ‘Those sons of bitches!’ The telephone rang. She dropped the file onto her lap and reached for the phone,

“Hello?”

*

“How are you, Richard?”

*

“I’m sorry dear, she’s not home. I thought she was with you! Try her on her mobile phone.”

*

***

Mickey and Betty were in the throws of the horizontal bop, and the bulbous, Texas style, sofa was rocking to keep time. It sounded like a climax was imminent. The rhythmic breathing and grunting was getting louder and louder. Betty was on the event horizon of a religious experience, “Oh my god! OH MY GOD!”

Mickey answered her breathlessly, “Just call me Mickey.”

Betty retorted breathlessly and desperately, “Don’t break my concentration!”

Mickey was now pounding away furiously into Betty’s flesh. The Sofa answered his movements by pounding on the hardwood floor. His ears were on fire, his abdominal muscles were close to seizing up, his arms were shaking from strain; the veins in his neck were ready to explode, he could smell the burning rubber from his condom, his testicles were tight and ready to fire at will. He was wondering if this woman was ever going to orgasm, yet he kept his focus on the prize; which was not the pending orgasm itself, rather, the prize was always the value he attributed to himself for being able to fire his jets on her vaginal cue.

Completely out of breath, and only to keep the situation a matter of focused business, he suggested, “It would be a good idea for you to read our Prospectus.”

Betty responded breathless, “I’ve read it! I’ll have to talk with Daddy.”

Mickey focused desperately but he could not keep his jets cool and they fired. His penis started to rapidly pulse, his peckerhead swelled and filled the burnt rubber bulb of the condom with hot white glue. It turned out that Betty was wired differently because the white-hot stream that now surrounded his peckerhead and was rapidly back-flowing up and around the rubber boot that surrounded his shaft, was the cue Betty’s body was waiting for, and she climaxed and screamed out in religious fervour, “OH MY GOD! YOU ARE A GOOD FIT!”

Mickey collapsed on top of her. She immediately discarded him, and he rolled off the sofa and onto the floor. Exhausted, he sat up, elbow resting on a knee, looked at Betty and smiled, “That was one Hell of a business meeting! You should have let me share it with you!”

Betty wrapped herself in Mickey’s comforter. Her mobile phone rang. She grabbed it from her bag, looked at the call display. It was Dick. She quickly threw her mobile back into her bag. Mickey inquired curiously, “Aren’t you going to answer?”

Betty responded indifferently, “It’s no one important.”

[ * ]

Dick rested his morning coffee on the palm of his hand as he stood in the doorway of Mickey’s office. Mickey looked up from his work. Dick inquired directly, but delicately, “I want to ask you something.”

Mickey shuffled into a more protected posture behind the safety of his desk and responded defensively, “Ask away.”

Dick continued awkwardly, “It’s about Betty. .. I need to keep things above water.”

Mickey looked unsure of where this was going. He silently rolled his chair away from his desk so he could rise up quickly if the need arose. Dick continued, “Do you mind if I have Jane do her SCUBA written exam in the boardroom? I want to be able to supervise her.”

Mickey looked relieved, “Not a problem!”

“Thanks Mickey.” He turned to walk back to his desk.

Mickey exhaled and muttered under his breath a little too loudly, “No! Thank you!”

Dick paused for a beat, confused, and turned back toward Mickey. Mickey smiled innocently, “Anything for Jane!”

[ * ]

Dick’s father shuffled into the room with a bottle of brandy and two glasses. He looked unusually sad and preoccupied. He poured, put a glass into Dick’s hand, patted him on the shoulder and settled into a large club chair.

“Thanks Dad.” Dick looked at him with concern, “How are you feeling?”

“Under the circumstances, I’m okay. .. How are you and Betty?”

Dick confessed, “It’s been almost two weeks now and she still isn’t talking to me. A very stupid misunderstanding!”

Father looked thoughtfully and sadly upon his son. He seemed to be searching the air for the right vehicle to convey his thoughts. “Son, I regret not being there for you all of those years, .. I should have been there for you, .. like your Mother was, .. at your first ball game, and at your graduation. .. I truly wanted to be, but I made choices that I now regret.”

Dick was surprised by this impromptu confession, “You’ve done nothing to me to feel regret for dad!”

“I feel that I have, .. I know that too soon you will inherit the family business, and I’m sad for this.”

Dick mused for a thoughtful beat and slowly exhaled, “The family business. .. Yes.” .. He looked to his Father, “I’ve got no experience.”

Father replied reassuringly, “Experience is the child of time, son.”

Dick smiled, “You’re philosophical this evening.”

“Look around me son. What do I own? All that I see is headed for the same dust bin my body is. .. All that I truly own is my life experience. That’s all I’m allowed to take with me before god. .. Your Mother tried to get me to see that for years.”

He pointed his glass of brandy toward Dick, “There IS a small bit of wisdom I earned along the hard way; I learned to greet every problem by saying yes to it. Obviously there are situations in life you just can’t change; .. but I came to know that if I steered my intention, with my eyes open, and my thoughts were uncluttered with hope or fear, or the final outcome .. whatever that is, .. I’d come out OK.”

Dick replied thoughtfully, “I thought I had my future planned.”

Father laughed sagely, “Do you know how to make God laugh?”

Dick shrugged.

“Make a plan!”

Dick observed, “So you’re saying it’s not the Devil who lays in wait to trash your best laid plans?”

“If you learn from it, is there a difference? .. Son, I want you to be the best Marine biologist in the world. Don’t worry about the business, the machine is already built. The majority of the cards are in your name. Let the Suits and the Board of Directors handle the day to day.” .. He took a thoughtful sip of brandy. “I know you’ll make all the right decisions. I’ve always respected your inherent good nature, your integrity and honesty. You got that from your Mother.”

Dick reminded his Father affectionately, “I’m the product of two, not one, Dad. I’ve learned a lot from you all of these years since mom died.”

Father pressed a last point, "Please remember that 10% of the net business profit goes back into the community through the foundation. .. That's my legacy."

Dick looked upon his Father sadly, and wondered how many more conversations they had left.

[ * ]

Dick and Jane were already in the water getting ready to SCUBA dive offshore of a small horseshoe beach. They raised their oral inflation tubes to empty their BCD’s of air, and they descended maybe 5 meters below the surface of the water and came to rest on the calm sandy bottom.

The underwater environment was reasonably clear water, with good visibility, and no hard currents. It was a safe training environment. Dick was at Jane’s side, gently holding her arm and pointing things out to her. A curious Seal watched from a safe distance away. There were scattered patches of sea grass, a starfish that looked like a dead fossil, and a few other species of marine life drifting about. It wasn’t what you’d call ‘aquatic central’, but more like the aquatic countryside. What really captured Jane’s awe, were the ribbons of sunlight that danced and shimmered as they penetrated to their depth.

Dick gave Jane a hand signal to watch his eyes. He took her through a review of her dive skills by demonstrating how to remove and replace her BCD, and also remove her SCUBA mask and put it back on, by tilting her back a little bit, pressing on the top of it, and then clear it of water with her nose breath. .. He signaled her to do it. Jane confidently mirrored Dick’s actions without any mistakes. He gave her the ‘Thumbs Up’, and ‘Are you OK’ hand signals. She returned the ‘Thumbs Up’.

They began casually roaming the underwater world. He looked at his Dive watch and checked his air gauge. He had more than three quarters of a tank of air left. He checked Jane’s air gauge and saw that she had a minimum of air left. He signaled to her that it was time to surface. With a thumbs up and a nod she acknowledged him, and he guided her up in a slow, spiral ascent to the surface.

On the surface, Jane spit out her regulator, “Oh God Richard, I did it, I DID IT! My first time! It was so beautiful! The light, oh the light, it dances in the water!”

Dick smiled at her enthusiasm and offered, “I could take you places where the light really dances.”

Jane fumbled to lift her mask and Dick moved closer to help her. She grabbed him by the shoulders and planted a big kiss on his lips, “That was Church! Thank you Richard.”

Dick smiled with surprise, but suggested awkwardly, “We should swim back now.” He took her BCD and inflated it to the maximum. He motioned for Jane to proceed toward the shore. As she was moving past him, he took a large loop tether out of his dive vest pocket, grabbed Jane’s fins and turned her over on her back. He looped the tether around her ankles, spun her around and proceeded to tow her back to the shore.

“That’s not fair!” she laughingly protested.

He lied to her, “It’s a ‘First Open Water Dive’ tradition.”

Jane just glared at him.

[* *]

[
**]
p=. The Battle Field

Dick’s Father was rummaging through a drawer looking for something, and happily found his Digital Camera. He called out in excitement, “Natacha!”

The nurse came running into the room expecting the worst, “Wayne, has something happened?” He smiled at her letting her know all was well. Natacha looked relieved. She stepped beside him and rubbed his back affectionately.

With a childish grin he declared enthusiastically, “Sweetie pie, get your coat and car keys we’re going to watch my boy play ball.” Natacha’s face ignited with light.

***

Natacha got into the driver’s seat of her new convertible, red Volkswagen Beetle. The white top was down. .. Father looked up at the sky because he heard faint sustained sound of distant rolling thunder. “I hope the weather holds.”

Natacha smiled brightly and announced purely positive, “Rain or Shine, the day is perfect!”

‘Where ‘do’ women get their unbridled enthusiasm from?’ thought Father as he got into the passenger seat.

Natacha was already securely strapped into the driver’s seat and putting on her large round tortoise shell sunglasses. She was peering over the steering wheel with a big white toothed grin. Father barely got his seat belt on before she revved the engine and took off as if she was driving a Ferrari. He lurched back in his seat and their laughter faded with the car disappearing into the distance.

***

Percival the Bartender was dressed in the protective gear of an Umpire. He wore padded corrugated chest protection, as well as knee and shin pads. He had an old analog, dial style, score and inning indicator strapped onto his left arm, a wide cheap paint brush to dust off the Home Plate stuffed in his back pocket, and he held a protective wire face mask. It was pretty low tech by today’s standards, but this was Softball; essentially Slow Pitch, Pub League Softball. It was social community sport, and regardless of your Home Pub, all of the players were drinking buddies.

Mickey, Dick, and Jane, and the other players, wearing their team’s green and blue, one size fits all, Baseball Jerseys with a logo for the Irish Clover Pub on the back, were standing at the batters plate, talking and sharing laughter with the players from the other team who wore no jerseys.

Jane saw Dick’s Father arriving with Natacha. Both of them were sporting excited grins. Natacha was tugging on Father’s arm and pointing excitedly toward Dick and Jane. Jane tugged Dick’s arm, “Richard look, there’s your Father and Natacha!”

Dick called out to his approaching Father, “Dad? Natacha?” As they arrived he announced with great joy, “Wow, what a surprise. I’m so happy you came; you remember my friend Jane?”

Jane gave both Father and Natacha a kiss on both cheeks, “Hola Papa, Hola Natacha.”

Father replied with genuine happiness, “I’m delighted to see you again Jane.” He looked around and saw Betty approaching from the distance, carrying several shopping bags. He also saw the spectator bleachers filling up. He turned to Natacha, “We better hurry if we want to get settled into the good seats.” He looked at Dick and Jane, “Have fun kids, we’ll be rooting for you.” They walked off toward the spectator bleachers.

Betty walked up. Dick was surprised to see her, but genuinely enthusiastic, “Betty? Wow, a day full of surprises! Great, you’ve come to watch too! Dad and Natacha are already in the spectator stands.” Dick looked to Mickey, Jane, and then back to Betty, “Betty, you remember my friend, Jane, and you’ve already met Mickey.”

Betty ignored Jane, and greeted Mickey in a reserved, but friendly manner, “Hello Mickey.”

Mickey greeted her formally, “Hello Miss. Lord.”

Betty waved off Mickey’s formal greeting dismissively, and offered graciously, “Please, call me Betty.” She looked at both Mickey and Dick, and announced matter-of-factly, “I’ve come to play.” It was not clear whom she addressed, .. “You did invite me to play?”

Dick was confused. He looked at Mickey who offered an agreeable but confused shrug and smile, “I think it’s an engaging idea.”

Dick was not sure what Betty was up to, but he knew she was up to something. He turned to Jane, “Jane, do we need any spares today?”

Jane was aware that she had been snubbed by Betty, but she smiled all the same as she answered Dick’s query flatly, “Not on our team, but I suppose I could ask Gerald if he needs one on his team.”

Betty looked at Jane like she was a low life, and addressed her very condescendingly, “Yes Jane, why don’t you go do that!” Jane bit her lip, smiled and walked off to talk with the other team’s organizer.

Dick looked at Betty with displeasure, “That was pretty rude!”

Betty ignored his remark, “Look what I bought to play with.” From her shopping bags, she pulled out an expensive pair of running shoes and a designer athletic uniform, all in bright pink, “Aren’t they pretty?”

Dick frowned, but Mickey smiled and offered, “You won’t be invisible on the field.”

Gerald approached with Jane, “Heh guys.” He smiled at Betty in a friendly manner, “You must be Betty. I’m Gerald. We’re short a player today and we’d be happy to have you on our team today. Ever played softball before?

Betty replied with her practiced, sweet, disingenuous charm, “It’s nice to meet you Gerald. I played softball once when I was twelve. Where can I change?”

Gerald offered politely, “I’ll show you, but we better hurry.” He looked at Jane with suspicious eyes. She smiled back innocently.

Betty gathered her things from the packages, discarded the empty shoebox and bags onto the ground, and started to walk away with Gerald. Dick called out to her, “Betty, you forgot your stuff.”

Betty turned without stopping and called back, “It’s garbage, just throw it away!”

Jane fumed at Betty’s careless arrogance, and with an angry shout, demanded to know, “Where is, ‘AWAY’!?”

***

The spectators in the bleachers had settled in. Dick’s Father was beside himself with excitement. Natacha gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder to settle him and remind him not to get worked up. He smiled at her. They shared a quick kiss.

***

The teams had gathered on the Baseball Diamond. On the Pitchers mound, Mickey, and Gerald the opposition Pitcher, were flipping a coin to determine first at bat. Gerald won; and they shook hands.

Mickey took his place on the Pitcher’s mound, while the rest of Jane’s team moved off to their positions on the game field. Jane was Catcher, Alfredo was 1st Baseman, Dick was 3rd Baseman, and Oliver was sentenced to the right outfield.

***

Gerald stood at the batter’s plate and thought for a minute, “Betty, get ready, you’re next batter.”

Betty stood by the Team’s Dugout. She picked up a bat and was completely girly with it. Another player showed Betty how to hold the bat properly, and swing it. Betty’s few practice swings prophesied disaster.

Gerald looked at Mickey on the Pitcher’s mound and raised his eyes. He turned to Jane, “Thanks for the spare Jane.”

Jane smiled, “Well we have lovable Oliver. I’d call that equal.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” He got set to swing, and looked to Mickey to signal he was ready. Jane lowered her catcher’s mask and squatted into position. Percival stood back behind Jane, held his mask to his face, and looked on. The ball came. Gerald hit a rocket fly ball deep into the barren right outfield.

Oliver saw the ball sailing toward his domain. He ran backward for it, to catch it at the bottom of its arc, and he tripped and fell flat on his ass.

Gerald ran the bases for an easy home run.

Betty stepped up to the batter’s plate. She practice swung a few times, and made a deliberate point of over swinging, and Jane fell back out of range against Percival’s shin pads.

Jane demanded, “Be careful! .. Are you trying to hurt me?”

Betty replied sarcastically, “Did you throw my garbage AWAY?”

Jane said nothing, but pursed her lips together hard. The clouds above the baseball field started to rapidly coalesce into an ominous ‘Gathering of Dark Clouds’. The Sounds of Rolling Thunder were closer and louder. With her fingers between her knees, Jane angrily signaled Mickey to walk her.

Mickey pitched a series of short, wide Pitches to Betty to deliberately ‘walk’ her to 1st base. Percival gave Mickey a confused look, but called out each of the four ‘ball’ pitches. Betty smiled at Mickey, and then she smiled dismissively at Jane as she walked to 1st base.

The next Batter stepped up to the plate. Mickey pitched and he hit the ball long and low, deep into left field, and ran to 1st base, as Betty made it to 2nd base.

The next Batter up, bunted toward 3rd base. Dick ran up, grabbed the ball, and fired it to 1st base, and the runner was out. The 1st baseman fired the ball to the 2nd baseman and now it was two out. Betty was running girlishly for 3rd base. The 2nd baseman threw to Dick at 3rd base, but Betty’s threatening look ‘forced’ Dick to fumble the ball.

Mickey observed Dick’s dilemma with a big grin, as Dick looked back at him helpless.

Betty tried to make it home, Jane moved up to cover the plate, and telegraphed a burning stare toward Dick. Like a slow motion visual effect in a movie, he threw the ball, and it drifted past Betty, right into Jane’s glove. .. In the distance, there was a massive charge of Forked Lightning and an extremely loud THUNDER CLAP. Jane pivoted with hand over ball in glove, and with EXTREME PREJUDICE, turned hard with her arms, and slammed Betty into the gut, right off her feet at Home plate, leaving her laying flat on her back.

A ray of sunshine burst through the clouds and illuminated Jane as she turned away with a brief smile of satisfaction. She stood over Betty and smiled, “That’s called taking out the garbage!”

Dick looked on, completely unsettled.

It was beautiful triple play, and in the spectator stands, Dick’s father and Natacha were up on their feet with half of the other spectators cheering madly.

The score was 1 run and 3 outs for Gerald’s Team.

***

Jane’s team was now up to bat, and the teams traded the field. Gerald shouted from the Pitcher’s mound, “Betty, you’re playing second base.”

Betty looked a bit lost and shouted back, “Don’t I need a mitt or something?”

Gerald raised his eyes in shock. Dick grabbed his Baseball Glove, and was about to… but Mickey was already walking toward Betty, and tossed her his glove.

Betty walked past Jane and deliberately bumped her, and muttered caustically, “Slut!”

***

The First Batter hit the ball sloppy, and started his run for 1st base. The ball bounced between 3rd and 2nd bases. Gerald ran up, caught the ball, and threw hard to first base. The Batter was out!

Mickey was second at bat. He hit a fly ball deep into the outfield. The outfielder caught it on a bounce and threw it to Betty at second base. Mickey continued his run past 1st base. Betty missed the ball, but Gerald the Pitcher, was right there to take up the ball as Mickey now stood safely with Betty on 2nd base. Mickey smiled at her, “Glad you could cum.”

“Let’s just keep this professional!” warned Betty.

Mickey laughed, “Professional? This is a game!”

Betty replied dryly, “What happened isn’t even a memory.”

Mickey reminded her, “Betty, we were good together. I’m a good fit! You said it yourself!”

Mickey corrected himself, “No, Wait! Actually you said, My God! You ‘are’ a good fit!”

Betty responded firmly, “Do you want to lose your job?”

Mickey surrendered, “OK-OK! What happened never happened, but I did try to share it with you.”

***

Jane stepped up to the batter’s plate. She observed Mickey talking with Betty, and smiled to herself.

Gerald set up to pitch toward Jane.

Mickey got ready to run.

Geral pitched and Jane sculpted a wobbly bouncer past the pitcher toward Betty.

Mickey quipped with a smile at Betty, “It was incredible what never happened!” and started to run as the ball bounced toward her. Gerald dove for it but missed. Betty caught it on a bounce and held it up looking triumphant.

Mickey held his position on 3rd base and grinned at Betty, while Jane settled on 1st base. Gerald rolled his eyes as he lifted himself off the ground and saw Betty triumphantly displaying the baseball to the spectators, and without a word, he walked up and took the ball out of her hand and returned to the Pitcher’s mound.

Oliver stepped up to bat. Mickey was ready to creep away from 3rd base. Jane was creeping toward 2nd base. Gerald looked at Mickey, and the 3rd baseman, and then Betty on 2nd base, and raised his eyes. Gerald quickly turned and Jane quickly stepped back onto the 1st base.

Oliver got ready to bat, and Jane started to creep again. Gerald suddenly turned and threw hard and fast to 1st base, but Jane moved back onto base as the 1st baseman caught the ball and immediately threw it to the Catcher, as Mickey had attempted a run for Home plate, but quickly backtracked. Gerald raised an eye at Mickey, turned to Jane and waved a warning finger at her. Jane grinned.

Gerald focused, pitched the ball toward Oliver, and immediately moved backward toward 2nd base to run interference for Betty, as Oliver’s wild swing missed completely. The Catcher was immediately up on his feet and forced Jane and Mickey to hold at their bases.

Gerald focused again, and pitched the ball toward Oliver, who once again swung wildly with a force that spun him in a full circle, and he again missed a clean pitch. Once again, the Catcher was instantly up on his feet, forcing Jane and Mickey to hold at their bases.

Gerald pitched a third time. It was a gentleman’s pitch, but Oliver swung wildly, he managed to tip the ball straight up into the air; and as the bat soared out of his hands toward Mickey at 3rd base, the ball fell neatly into the catcher’s glove. He stood ready to throw, as Gerald quickly back-stepped toward 2nd base, forcing Mickey and Jane to hold on 1st and 3rd bases.

Oliver was obliviously running for 1st base and Jane was not moving. Oliver was yelling at her, “Run Jane! RUN!”

Jane was infected by the 1st baseman’s laughter. The Catcher rolled eyes toward Gerald, and threw a fast pass to the 1st baseman, who put Oliver out.

Mickey was laughing as he walked over to Gerald and gave him Oliver’s bat, “You think we should tell him?”

Gerald smiled, “You know Mickey, it’s what I like about Oliver; he lives the dream.”

Oliver stood next to Jane confused. The 1st baseman pointed to Gerald, who had just walked over and returned the bat to Oliver. Gerald pointed to Mickey back on 3rd base feigning an injury. Oliver laughed a guilty laugh, and called out, “Sorry Mickey.” and sheepishly walked back to the team dugout.

Dick stepped up to bat. Mickey was still on 3rd, and Jane was still trapped at 1st base.

***

Dick’s Father was rapt with attention. He quickly took his Digital Camera to capture the moment, but his hands shook and Natacha gently steadied them.

***

Gerald pitched. Dick connected. It was a rocket over the Pitcher’s head. The ball screamed above Betty, who had jumped out of the way. Dick started his run to 1st base. An infielder ran to take up the rolling ball as Dick passed 1st base.

Mickey made it to Home Plate safely, and turned to watch Jane running past 2nd base. Betty stuck out her foot to trip Jane, but she jumped over it and made it safely to 3rd base.

***

Dick’s Father and Natacha were standing and cheering wildly as Dick made it to 2nd base.

***

The Pitcher received the ball. Dick held on 2nd base. Jane held on 3rd base and glared at Betty indignantly.

Mickey smiled as he witnessed, Betty flip off Jane with the angry ‘bird’ finger from behind her back as she turned toward Dick.

Jane pursed her lips, and shook her head in disbelief.

***

Dick looked at Betty apologetically, “I’m sorry we’re on opposite teams.”

Betty replied flatly, “I won’t hold it against you.”

Dick remarked awkwardly, “I’ve been trying to get hold of you for over two weeks now to clear up a stupid misunderstanding, but you haven’t returned any of my calls, and you’ve not been home when I came by. Are you sending me a message Betty?”

***

The Sixth Batter hit the ball solid, and it soared high up over Gerald’s head. Gerald screamed out, “Betty, heads up!”

Dick started his run. Betty cowered and put her glove over her head for protection and Gerald crashed into her while attempting to catch the ball. The ball fell right at her feet.

Dick had rounded 3rd base and was hot on Jane’s heels. Jane made it safely to Home Plate, but he slowed in mid run to turn and make sure Betty was OK.

Gerald had taken the ball from in front of Betty. The Sixth Batter had just made it safely to 1st base, but Dick was now trapped between 3rd base and Home Plate.

Dick feigned a backtrack to 3rd base. Gerald committed and threw to 3rd base, but Dick ran for Home plate.

There was a faint rumble of thunder in the distance. The 3rd Baseman threw the ball hard and fast, and it drifted past Dick, right into the Catcher’s glove.

Percival the Umpire called Dick out by a split second. It was now 2 runs and 3 outs and the teams again traded the field.

Betty returned Mickey’s glove with a toss and made a point of walking past Jane. She deliberately bumped her and whispered caustically, “Bitch!”

Jane completely ignored Betty’s aggression, which just infuriated Betty all the more.

***

The game continued in a highly competitive, but dubiously friendly way, because it was an inning after inning battle between Jane and Betty. Jane succeeding, with heroic efforts, to never be stuck on 2nd base with Betty while she succeeded in hitting Jane each time she ran past 2nd base. Dick consistently fumbling the ball as Betty rounded 3rd base; and Jane continuing to take out Betty at Home plate, and each time a little harder.

Neither Betty nor Jane was fully conscious of the forces of nature within each of them that were driving this extreme competition.

Mickey laughed hysterically with each exchanged assault he witnessed between Betty and Jane, while Dick was forced to participate in the ongoing drama with confused disbelief.

Gerald scratched his head, looked to Mickey with a confused smile, and gestured in Italian, ‘what the fuck is going on?’ Mickey just smiled and shrugged.

***

From the lookout of the spectator’s seats, Natacha was very confused, and even worried. Father smiled at what he observed on the field with sage like approval, looked over at Natacha and patted her thigh in reassurance, “Don’t fret sweetie.”

***

It was now the bottom of the (7th) last inning,. The Chalk Score Board showed an even score. Jane’s team was at bat with 2 runs, and 1 out.

Jane sat next to Mickey and Dick in the team’s dugout. She called out loudly, “Oliver, you’re up!”

Oliver sat on the dugout bench asleep, with his head fallen forward, and a beer glued to his hand. He stood up too quickly, swooned from a sudden rush of blood to the head, and fell back down onto the dugout bench. She rolled her eyes impatiently and signaled to Dick.

***

Dick walked up to the batter’s plate. Percival stepped forward and looked over at Gerald, and motioned for Dick to hold his position. Gerald looked over to Jane to explain why she changed the batting order. Jane mimicked drinking a beer with her hand and thumb, and pointed to Oliver, who was sitting next to her with his head fallen forward and a beer glued to his hand.

Gerald rolled his eyes and gestured to Percival the Umpire that ‘all was OK’.

Dick gave Gerald the thumb-up that he was ready to bat. Gerald pitched a windmill fastball, and Dick hit the ball hard and solid on a low trajectory past 3rd base. An infielder caught the ball on a bounce and threw to Gerald, who was running interference for Betty at second base. Gerald threw hard and fast to 1st, but Dick won 1st base. He held there to win the game, because 2nd and 3rd bases were empty.

***

Oliver suddenly stood up alert, as though his name had just been called, ran out of the Dugout, grabbed a bat, and ran to the batters plate in front of the next approaching batter.

***

Gerald surveyed the baseball diamond, with 2nd and 3rd bases empty, Dick on 1st base, and Oliver at the batters plate. He smiled to Jane, and signaled the Umpire that it was OK for Oliver to bat.

***

Jane made the sign of the cross and clasped her hands together in prayer. She and Mickey were standing in the dugout watching Oliver. Jane rubbed Mickey’s arm affectionately and gave him a concerned look.

***

Gerald smiled and sent a very compassionate and civilized pitch to Oliver. He swung wildly and missed.

***

Jane cringed with despair, “Mickey I swear, if he ever comes to a game drunk again, I’m going to stuff him in the trunk of the next car I sell and not tell the owner.”

Mickey put his arm around her shoulders, “Have a little faith Jane. Oliver’s got a guardian angel.”

***

Another pitch. Oliver swung so wildly that he completely missed the ball, and the force of his swing, swung him in a full circle. The Catcher ducked at the last second and avoided a serious injury.

***

Jane cried out in horror, “Oh, Dios Mío!” Mickey burst out laughing.

***

Dick started a run for second base.

The Catcher quickly rose and threw the ball to Gerald who had moved back to cover Betty at 2nd base.

Dick quickly backtracked to 1st base.

The Catcher looked at Oliver in dismay, “You’re a little enthusiastic today!”

OLIVER smirked at the Catcher, “Ah, sorry Greg, this time I hit it.”

“Me or the ball?”

The Catcher squatted. Oliver reset himself at the batter’s plate and Gerald mimed a ‘Pro’ mode gesture to the Catcher, to try to psyche Oliver out.

***

Jane couldn’t look. She covered her eyes.

***

Gerald pitched. Oliver stepped into it. He smacked the ball solid, and Gerald dived high and sideways but the ball was just out of his reach and it soared past him. Betty ducked out of the way.

Oliver started a desperate dash for 1st base, tripped, fell flat on his face, and did not get up.

Betty was waving wildly for the center outfielder to throw the ball to her. The outfielder threw to her just as Dick ran past her at 2nd base.

Gerald had run up and snatched the catch right out of Betty’s glove. “Sorry Betty.”

The Catcher was up on his feet at Home plate.

Dick held his position on 3rd base. He spotted movement from Oliver, who was re-animating back to life, so he started to creep a few steps to distract the Pitcher, and look for his opportunity to steal Home plate.

Gerald turned away to bait Dick, when he observed Oliver stumbling toward 1st base. He immediately threw hard to 1st base.

Dick saw his opportunity, and his base creep had turned into a full commitment to run, and he was now half way between 3rd base and Home plate.

Oliver just made it safely to 1st base on a desperate slide and passed out.

***

Dick’s Father and Natacha were suddenly on their feet screaming with enthusiasm.

***

The 1st baseman quickly threw the ball back to Catcher.

The Catcher had quickly moved to intercept Dick. The 1st baseman fired the ball hard and sloppy to the Catcher who was moving to intercept Dick. He caught the ball but was off balance as he turned and twisted his body to touch Dick.

Dick dived under the Catcher’s arm and touched the Home plate. Percival the Umpire signaled ‘Safe’!

Jane’s team won the day!

***

Half the spectators were on their feet cheering madly. Father turned and enthusiastically gave Natacha a big hug and kiss.

***

Everyone was coming off the field. Jane’s team piled out of the batter’s pen carrying a large cooler of refreshments.

Oliver returned to mortal consciousness at first base, rubbed his ankle and tried to get up. Jane saw poor Oliver, and motioned to Mickey she was going to help him.

***

Before Jane could get to Oliver, Betty intercepted her and pulled her forcibly aside, “I want to talk to you!”

Jane brushed her hand off angrily, “You’re very rude.”

Betty accused her, “That’s my fiancé you’re trying to steal.”

Jane declared defensively, “Richard is my friend!”

***

Dick was being congratulated and shaking hands with players of both teams while they broke out a cooler of frosty beers.

***

From the spectators stand, Father and Natacha observed the confrontation between Betty and Jane; Betty with her dominating posture, and Jane’s wild arm and hand movements. It looked pretty intense. Natacha exclaimed, “I didn’t realize baseball was so rough.”

Father took her supportive arm and smiled, “It’s just Nature taking its course.”

***

Mickey observed Betty and Jane and figured he had better intercede before Jane got too explosive. Dick noticed Mickey’s concern and caught up to him.

***

Jane challenged Betty’s ownership, “Anyway; I don’t see an engagement ring on your finger!”

Betty howled aggressively, “Listen you little SLUT, keep your hands off my Dick.

Jane was red faced defiant, but she saw Mickey and Dick approaching, and quickly signaled to Betty with her eyes. Both women in perfect unison turned to them, hands behind their backs, greeting them with high school charm and innocent smiles.

Dick looked at Mickey, and then to Betty and Jane, “Fun Huh?”

It was beaming smiles from both coquettes.

***

Betty’s Mother was listening intently from the unwelcome side of a door. An argument was taking place on the other side.

Dick vocal amplitude informed her, that he was beside himself with anger, “I SAW WHAT I SAW! WHAT IN HELL WERE YOU THINKING? I DID NOT INVITE YOU TO COME AND PLAY BASEBALL!”

***

Betty stood her ground hard, and tried to set him off balance with subtext, “Who suggested it was YOU!?”

Dick demanded, “What are you suggesting Betty!?”

“I’m Suggesting that this is your last week of work in this fucked up situation and I think you have forgotten what this was all about!”

Dick fired back, “I’ve been trying to figure ‘that’ out ever since YOU created this FUCKED UP SITUATION!”

Betty could see this was a dangerous argument. Dick was truly involved in his state of anger. She tried to disarm him with her femme fatale routine, “Oh Dickey, what is happening to us?”

Dick blinked in confused amazement because Betty’s manipulative subtext spoke volumes to him.

[ * ]

Dick was at home drinking his Saturday morning coffee and searching through yesterday’s mail. One letter caught his attention, and he felt the envelope to confirm, by the shapes inside, that it was the one he was expecting. He smiled to himself, put it in his back pocket, and quickly picked up the telephone and dialled.

*

“Hello, Jane?”

*

I want to come by the studio. I have a surprise for you.”

*

“Oh, OK great, give me the address.”

Dick took a Pen and wrote on the envelope.

***

Dick was motoring along in his two-tone, terracotta orange and black, BMW i3 electric car and he spotted a Pet Store. He quickly bounced around a couple of afterthoughts, pulled over and parked.

In the pet store, Dick saw some stuffed soft dog toys. He squeezed one that looked like a rabbit and it squeaked. He picked up another and squeezed it. It also squeaked, but then as he was putting it back on the shelf, he inadvertently squeezed the toy rabbit in the middle, activating a voice box inside it, and it spoke out like a cartoon character, “Guess Who Loves You?” He squeezed the middle again, smiled as he listened to the rabbit, and he took the toy up to the cashier.

***

Jane rushed into her apartment and startled her pet terrier into a fit of barking. She dumped several items of make-up from a drug store bag onto her bedside table, excitedly looked them over. She decided against using them, so she gathered them up and threw them into the trash basket beside her bed. She quickly stood and started fretfully adjusting her clothes and hair in front of her full-length mirror.

***

Elevator doors opened and Jane’s Father stepped out holding a finely wrapped gift. He stopped in his tracks as he observed Dick holding a small toy rabbit at his daughter’s door.

***

The door buzzer rang again, and Jane nervously did a last quick adjustment to her hair as she passed the mirror before answering the door.

Dick stood there with a big grin, holding out a brown and white soft toy Rabbit. She happily greeted him in the traditional Spanish way by kissing both of his cheeks, and as she received the soft toy Rabbit from him, it squeaked. “Oh how thoughtful Richard, but how did you know it is my birthday?”

Dick smiled, “Today is the start of summer!”

Jane held the toy Rabbit too tightly and it activated the cartoony voice box inside it, “Guess Who Loves You?” This declaration was more than Jane had expected, and her cheeks flushed as she smiled like a little girl.

Jane’s dog lifted its head, and popped up its ears when it heard the soft toy. It ran up to Jane and started barking. She tried to calm her dog, and it grabbed the stuffed toy from her. Jane quickly caught the dog and tried to get the stuffed toy Rabbit back, but the dog growled and refused to release it. All the time the toy kept sounding out, “Guess Who Loves You?

Jane wrestled with her dog, and succeeded in winning back the soft toy, and her dog barked in protest. With a puff of air to clear her eyes of her battle disheveled hair, and in her endearing Spanish to English translation, she assured him, “Don’t worry she’s had a rabbi shot.”

Dick couldn’t help but laugh, “You mean ‘rabies’ shot?” Dick wasn’t sure if he should clear up an obvious misunderstanding. .. “Jane, .. the toy is for the dog.”

Jane was so embarrassed, and she laughed as she dropped her arms while still holding the soft toy. The dog quickly grabbed it from her hand and ran off. In the background was heard the sound of the dog barking, growling, and molesting the soft toy Rabbit as it kept sounding out, “Guess Who Loves You?

Dick pulled out the Letter from his back pocket and waved it at her, “This is the birthday gift I have for you; but I did not buy it; you earned it! You are now a CERTIFIED Open Water Diver!”

Dick was still standing in the doorway, and Jane offered sweetly, “Please come inside Richard.”

***

Jane’s Father smiled as he observed Dick enter his daughter’s apartment, and as her door closed, the elevator doors opened for him.

[* *]

[
**]
p=. Act Three

Betty, Mickey, and Tony, were in Mickey’s office having a late afternoon meeting. Betty was in control; she held all of the cards and she knew it, “I’m unwilling to surrender my proxy at this time.”

Mickey pressed with his professionalism, “Miss. Lord, I am confident I can make them understand the benefits of staying with my program.”

Betty responded dispassionately, “In the end, the union vote doesn’t matter, because they will all be laid off as the company is reformed. They can be rehired at much lower salaries, or new employees will be contracted and trained.”

Tony listened intently, and although the accountant in him saw the limited traditional logic of Betty’s position, he was Mickey’s loyal friend and business partner, and so he exclaimed, “That’s a nasty end run!”

Mickey responded in the language of business, “Miss. Lord, I’m against that strategy. My employees are already seasoned. They know this business. Training new employees isn’t cost effective.”

Betty was not a woman to stand on ceremony. She knew her place, and her place was with her convictions. Still, she liked Mickey, and so she warned him softly, “Make no mistake; if the vote goes against you; you’re out.”

Mickey wasn’t intimidated, “If I’m out, them I’m out! But just consider this Miss. Lord; I believe very strongly that you’re being manipulated.”

“By whom? Them or You?” She got up and gathered her effects to leave.

Tony quickly got up and opened the office door for her. Betty paused for a beat at the door, and in a deceptively cold manner, looked Mickey in the eyes, “Good luck, Mr. Montana.”

Mickey knew his opponent well and replied confidently, “Can I give you a lift to the Board Meeting tonight?”

Betty replied evenly, “No thank you.”

Mickey came back with, “Can you give me a lift? My car is in the shop.”

Betty remarked indifferently, “If the vote is friendly, then be out front at seven pm. I may just drive by” She walked out, and Tony delicately closed the office door behind her. He was confused by Mickey’s self-assured smile. “Mick, was that a Chill Wind, or a Chinook?”

Mickey was already past all that. He pondered aloud, “The next step is the important one; the only one! Fifty percent is a null vote.”

Tony was still confused, “Mick, with Luca and Spike we’re talking seven employees, and we don’t know how many took the bribe; .. do we?

Mickey was distantl, “I need Luca and Spike now.”

The penny dropped, and Tony received the prize of enlightenment, “Coming to you buddy, right fucking now!”

***

Betty was in her black Jaguar, trapped in heavy traffic, and talking on the hands free speakerphone to her Father. Her daddy inquired buoyantly,

“Pumpkin!”

*

“Tell me Daddy.” replied Betty flatly.

*

Daddy’s disembodied voice inquired delicately,

“Blossom, is everything OK with you?”

*

Betty responded to the windshield of her car with contained impatience,

“I have a small personal matter to tend to right now with Mother, and no, I ‘will not’ share the details with you, but if my instincts are correct, I’ll be picking Mickey up at seven.”

*

Daddy’s laughter resounded through the car’s audio system,

“There is no blood thicker than family. I’ve always loved you, Peach.”
*

Betty’s eyes were fixed on the windshield,

 “Uh huh. Bye Daddy.”

She turned off the car phone.

***

Mickey checked his watch; it was almost 4:30pm. Luca and Spike sat expectantly before him, and Tony stood next to the door. Mickey looked up, “Tony, would you mind excusing yourself? I need a private moment with Luca and Spike.”

Tony nodded, and closed the office door from the outside. Mickey appraised Luca and Spike for an uncomfortable moment, “I want to discuss job security with you both.”

***

The Shipper looked out the window from his small office at the entrance to the warehouse loading bay He was confused because he observed Luca and Spike with box cutter knives, cutting off the top section of a seven foot high plastic Water Bottle that had been previously used for an advertising campaign. He mumbled to himself, ‘What the fuck are those two degenerates up to now?’ .. He watched them walk off with the two sections of the water bottle, and disappear down one of the isles in the warehouse. He was pissed off, and stormed out of his office after them.

The Shipper walked up to Luca and Spike, stood with his back to the corner of the warehouse, and confronted them angrily, “What the fuck are you two degenerates up to now!?”

Luca stood a good foot taller, and almost one hundred pounds heavier than the Shipper. He stepped forward and stood squarely in front of the him, trapping all escape, and offered diplomatically, “This can go easy, or hard. It’s your choice!”

***

Dick arrived at the Multi-Media Center that doubled as Jane’s de-facto headquarters for her upcoming demonstration. There were many people finishing up fabricating banners and signs. Jane was busy sorting Information Handouts.

Oliver was drinking a beer, while his assistant, Veronica, was cleaning a lens on his HD video camera. He saw Dick arrive and waved in greeting. He called over to Jane, “Jane, your squeeze is here!”

Jane came over looking a little unkempt, and on her approach, she swatted Oliver on the back of the head. She tried to fix herself up a bit, but it was of no use, “Hello Richard, I wasn’t expecting you.”

Dick tried to look nonchalant, “I thought you might have time for a walk and talk.”

“I’d like that Richard.” She looked over to Oliver, “Oliver, can you manage things, I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Oliver reassured her, “No problem.”

***

It was late in the sunny afternoon. Dick and Jane were walking along a quiet street, side by side, in silence. Jane could see by Dick’s ‘hands-in-pockets’ body language that he wanted to say something. She took a risk, but directed her question to the empty sidewalk in front of her, “Richard, can I tell you something of how I feel?”

Dick gave Jane a sideways glance, “Yes of course.”

Jane considered her words carefully, “When I am with you, like I am now, the clock stops. I feel like the dragon inside of me has no fire. I feel the peace.”

Dick smiled thoughtfully, “It’s strange, Jane, because you have the opposite affect on me.”

Jane looks at him surprised, “Noooh! How is this so?”

Dick tried to let his hand avail him, “I always feel so off balance and uninvolved when I’m with you. Your passion is so active, and mine is so academic.”

Jane took a hopeful approach, “The opposites attract.”

Upon hearing Jane’s hopeful declaration, Dick immediately stopped and faced Jane. He put his hands squarely and gently on her shoulders, “Jane, .. you and I have become such good friends, .. unfortunately, it has created a lot of stress between Betty and me. She’s very threatened by you.”

Jane’s eyes revealed she had been dreading this moment.

Dick struggled to find the appropriate words, “Jane, I’ve finished my tenure at Osmosis Water. I have chosen and bought an engagement ring. .. If this marriage is ever going to work for me, I have to find a new shared pasture with Betty.”

Jane replied softly, “I understand, Richard.”

Dick showed his frustration, “Well I don’t understand it Jane, but I know it’s the right thing to do.” .. He was sad, and unconvinced of his conviction. His stomach gave him a gentle nudge and he echoed it to Jane’s shoulder and smiled weakly, “Heh, maybe I’ll come to the Demonstration tonight; .. make my first stand.”

Jane was teary eyed, and she didn’t know what to do with her hands, her voice was shaky, “I’d like that Richard, if you decide to do it.”

Dick took both of her hands in his. It looked like they might hug each other. Jane looked deeply into his eyes; she desperately wanted this last embrace. Dick struggled to maintained his distance, “Say goodbye to the team for me?”

Jane tried to speak, but she couldn’t; she swallowed and nodded. Hers eyes broke him up inside and he couldn’t hold them with his own eyes. He squeezed her hands affectionately, let go, and walked away.

Jane’s liquid eyes looked on after him, and she whispered softly, “Vaya con dios, Richard.”

***

Mickey, accompanied by Martha, Tony, and the Warehouse Staff, including Luca and Spike, had all assembled in the Osmosis Water Boardroom. Mickey checked his wristwatch, and looked around the room, “Where is the Shipper/Receiver?”

***

The Shipper/Receiver was in the warehouse, behind a wall of large boxes, trapped inside a large Water Bottle angrily struggling to free himself. His hands and feet tied with duct tape, and but for a breathing straw, his mouth was taped shut.

***

Back at the Management and Staff meeting Luca and Spike sat with innocent and attentive poker faces.

Mickey addressed the room, “I want to call this meeting to order to address this sudden and somewhat surprising desire of some of you to organize. This is your privilege and your right. .. It is not our place or our desire to interfere with this process. However, it is our imperative to defend our previous proposal to you all.”

Mickey paused, glanced at his wristwatch, and looked around the room with disingenuous concern. “It is our hope that once ‘our’ position is clear and understood, you will decide that it is in your best interests to reject the proposal to organize for a Union, and instead organize into a cooperating, profit sharing, private Corporation; .. pending of course, the forthcoming approval to dis-integrate from Orbis Aqua Corporation. .. I want to make it clear and understood by you all, that without that approval, these proceedings are moot.”

Mickey looked at his wristwatch again, “The time for this meeting is now and we cannot wait any longer for the Shipper/Receiver to grace us with his presence.”

The Warehouse Worker, who Luca observed receiving money from the Shipper, raised his hand and interjected stupidly, “I wanna make an objection?”

Mickey addressed him politely, “Perhaps your objection might wait until we’ve laid out our proposal?”

The Warehouse Worker looked at Luca and Spike sourly and exclaimed, “I object to the participation of these two ‘ex cons’!”

Mickey gestured to Tony, who confidently stepped up to answer the worker’s objection, “The work release program is fully supported and mandated by the Corporate Head Office. It is also this Company’s position, and a Statute of Law, that a ‘Parolee’ shares all the rights and privileges of all other employees. AND, it is our express wish to encourage them, upon obtaining a full parole, to stay with the Company and share in its growth, benefits, and their own futures.”

Luca gave the chastised worker a raised eyebrow.

Mickey stepped back up to the command position, “Thank you Tony.” He continued his address to the troops, “I have asked you all here today to put forth the Company’s Position, and to answer or clarify any questions you may have on our privatization initiative as you consider your willingness to vote to organize. By now, it should be clear to all of you the plan we have of removing Osmosis Water from the public trading board and returning to the Private sector. You have all previously received copies of the same brochures that are now in front of each of you, that outline all of the proposed benefits for the company and yourselves. Your signature on the back page of the brochure is a no vote toward organising, and your agreement and contract to stand with company’s transformation. .. That said; this contract is only binding with Orbis Aqua Corporation’s decision to allow Osmosis Water to dis-integrate from the Public stock exchange; in which case there would be no binding contract and you’d be within your rights to organise into a trade union.”

Mickey changed his pitch and his tone, and became the charismatic poster face for the archetypical salesman. “We promise ‘Transparency’, ‘Competitive Benefits’, and based upon our potential growth projections within the present marketplace, we promise ‘Opportunities for Advancement’.” He lifted his hands like a politician, to hold up their waning attention, “The ‘Keywords’ I want to impress upon all of you is, Personal Ownership, and ‘Profit Sharing’!”

***

A tantrum was in progress. Betty was upset, and her Mother was enjoying a degree of control over her distressed daughter. Betty hollered in exasperation, “I told you already that I can handle Daddy, and I can!”

Mother waved Mickey’s prison file in her face, “Don’t you realize who it was that set him up?” She pressed her point, “It’s your ‘precious Dear Daddy’ that is the real criminal element here!”

Betty offered no response; it was as if she had not heard a single word her mother had just spoken.

Mother planted her hands on her hips and eyed her daughter with grave suspicion, “There’s a lot your not telling me girl! You’re asking me to surrender the only leverage I have left over your Father!”

Intensely frustrated by her mother’s innocent, old school, mentality, Betty exclaimed, “MOTHER! Sign the paper! For once in your life, trust me! I need your proxy! I am trying to save our company!”

***

Dick sat alone in the dining room with his meal in front of him. He made an unenthusiastic attempt to eat, dropped his fork onto the plate and pushed his diner away.

Dick’s Father walked into one of the Dining room entrances and stopped when he observed his troubled son. Natacha walked up to Father carrying two plates of food and observed his concerned look toward his son. She silently shared his concern.

Dick got up and left the table.

Father and Natacha walked carefully and quietly into the dining room so not to disturb the sombre spirit that was still present, and Father took a moment to breath in the room. He wanted to understand his son’s rare distress.

Natacha quietly set the food upon the table and whispered softly, “Richard has not eaten. Is he feeling ill?”

Father patted her hand affectionately, “Richard is in love.”

“Of course he is. Have they decided on a date? I hope it’s very soon.” Father did not look at all well, and Natacha could not hide her concern. .. “It’s just that .. it is so long overdue.”

Father read Natacha’s concern; he gave her a reassuring smile and affectionately squeezed her hand in his.

***

Dick looked despondent and restless. He was sitting hunched forward on the sofa studying one of Jane’s information handouts when his Father casually entered the room, sat in a chair, and picked up a newspaper. Dick looked up, “How are you feeling Dad?”

“As expected I suppose.” He looked at his son with concern of his own, “Do you want to talk about it, son?”

Dick shrugged impotently, “I don’t know how.”

He saw Dick pondering Jane’s Demonstration information leaflet, and offered dispassionately, “Sometimes our actions appear thoughtless because they are immediate. .. Son, I don’t always recognize when I’m making a choice; and when I do, I don’t always know if it’s the right choice; .. but I always go with my gut.”

Dick looked at the demonstration leaflet for a thoughtful moment, and rose from the sofa, “I Love you Dad.”

[* *]

[
**]
p=. Awareness

Across from a posh Hotel, on a city center street, was a city block sized public plaza park area where many Riot Police Officers were erecting ‘crowd control’ barricades along the sidewalk, to prevent access to the United Nations Summit on Water that was to take place within the posh Hotel very shortly.

The main streets on that city block were barricaded by a perimeter blockade a full city block further up and down to control automobile traffic. The remaining three sides of the park plaza area allowed unrestricted access to the Media vehicles, Special Event delivery Vehicles, and the foot traffic of arriving Demonstrators.

Centered along a side street to the Plaza, and to the left of the posh Hotel across the barricaded street, was erected a small stage and a podium dressed with a logo for the United Nations Water Summit. .. Two women were stapling a white canvas skirt to the bottom front and sides of the stage. On the skirt was printed, ‘WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT’.

On top of the stage, a technician placed a handheld audio bullhorn beside the center, microphone enabled, lectern and then proceeded to test the PA system. Another technician was setting up a large multimedia video projection screen above and at the back of the stage. A woman set a tray with a nondescript water glass and a clear glass jug of water onto the podium lectern and covered it with a small towel to keep the drinking water clean.

Near the stage, some ‘First Nations’ musicians were rehearsing and tuning their drums.

News Media Vans were setting up at strategic positions around the perimeter of the event horizon.

***

Betty’s Father, Mr. Lord, was preparing to address a Board Meeting at the Orbis Aqua Corporate offices. Sitting next to him was the company Lawyer, Mr. Butkiss. Directly across the boardroom table, Mickey sat next to Betty. Also present, but not necessarily ‘present’, were all of the members of the Orbis Aqua Board of Directors.

Mr. Lord signaled the recording secretary, and brought the meeting to order, “I wish to thank the Board members of Orbis Aqua Corporation for agreeing to convene this special meeting here in the Lord Corporate Board room. .. To the matter of a vote for Osmosis Water seeking ‘take-private’ measures and realizing integration into the private sector as a private corporation, under the Lord Corporate Umbrella, through our corporate subsidiary, Orbis Aqua Corporation, this meeting will come to order.”

Betty exchanged a nebulous look with her Father and interjected, “I request permission to address, for the record, a matter of contention to these very proceedings.”

Daddy looked around at the other Members of the Board. There were no dissenters. He looked to his daughter, “Betty Lord, you have the floor.”

Betty calmly opened her attaché case and pulled out a document from a stack of ‘COPY’ marked copies. She stood up and passed the copies to the Members of the Board as well as her Daddy. “I submit to you all, copies of a signed affidavit, procured at my request, testifying to the fact that an agent of this corporate office, in the person of Mr. Butkiss, presumably acting as an agent for, and at the behest of Lord Corporation, who acted on the behalf of it’s affiliate subsidiary, Orbis Aqua Corporation, and for (‘cough’) reasons as yet not fully understood,…”

Mickey interjected impatiently, “For reasons that defy all business logic.”

Betty ignored Mickey and continued, “…engaged in illegal payoffs to the Shipper/Receiver of Osmosis Water; who in turn engaged in furtherance of the said payoffs to other employees at the Osmosis Water plant, in an alleged effort to secure votes in favor of accepting the establishment of a labor union.”

Daddy mildly perused the affidavit, looked at the other Board members, who were also perusing the affidavit with shocked expressions on their faces. They all turned to Mr. Butkiss, who had stood up to speak but was immediately cut off by a gesture from Daddy, who proceeded to address the room, “On behalf of the board of directors, I want to express our Shock and Dismay.” He briefly perused the affidavit further, “I want to assure my daughter that this office, its directors and officers, and its affiliate directors and officers, had no direct knowledge of these alleged activities.”

All the Members of the Board, in unison, mumbled agreement, “No! No knowledge whatsoever!” They all looked at Mr. Butkiss with accusing eyes. Mr. Butkiss was indignant and again rose to his own defense, but Daddy gave him an unremarkable look to be silent, and the Lawyer seemed to relax and settled back down into his chair.

Daddy took control back, “I invite my daughter Betty, Mr. Michael Montana, and the Recording Secretary, to wait outside the boardroom while I informally address this matter with the Board.”

***

Betty, Mickey, and the Recording Secretary, exited to the waiting area outside of the Boardroom. The moment that the door to the boardroom closed, the muffled sounds of argument began drifting out, from inside the boardroom.

A clock on the wall displayed the passing of time. It was just past 8pm. Mickey looked at Betty expectantly, but her face revealed nothing and she remained silent.

***

Jane was born into this chaotic world with a mission, and her innate survival skills were lucid passion and refined heretical intelligence that she expressed with a clear, resonant, and fearlessly honest voice. She walked onto the stage wearing a simple, common bathrobe.

The last of the crowd of Demonstrators were finishing removing their clothing, and putting them in recycled paper shopping bags that had the logo, ‘Water is a Human Right’ printed on them. Most of the women were bare breasted, but a few had taped their nipples. All wore Fig-leaf or Oak-leaf String Panties, and a few, mostly women, had taken the ‘genital junk’ disguise a bit further and had embellished their bodies and hair with flowers and leaves. The gathering of Demonstrators looked more like a gathering for an ancient Pagan ritual.

Jane removed her robe, and she was about as naked as the law would allow. She positioned herself on the podium behind the lectern. The crowd of Demonstrators fell into expectant silence. She tapped the microphone to determine the sound level. She removed the small towel off of the jug of water, picked it and the water glass up and slowly poured water from the water jug into the water glass. The sound of the water flowing into her water glass also flowed out from the (PA) Public Address system’s speakers and over her audience like an audible baptism.

She raised her glass of water to her audience of naked supporters and declared with calm authority, "WATER IS LIFE! .. WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT! .. Our bodies are almost 70% water! Our planet surface is covered almost 70% by water. .. But that 70% is only two one-hundredths (0.02) of the actual mass of our beloved planet earth. .. Barely 3% of that two one-hundredths percent - (0.000006%) of all the planetary water, is Fresh Water! .. AND, .. of that barely 3% that is Fresh Water, .. barely 1% of that 3% is accessible for Human use. .. AND, what is truly alarming, is what what most of us do not know; - barely 20% of that 1% is easily accessible as Human Drinking Water!"

Jane took a sip from her glass of water, placed her water glass back onto the lectern, perused her large audience of naked supporters for a silent beat, and promised, “OK, no more statistics! – We are gathered here tonight as a congregation, not for a religious or spiritual Mass, but as a critical mass of awareness. .. I am happy for us all that it is a warm summer evening, and I thank you all for coming here tonight, and for your naked support of this desperate cause, because this Demonstration is not about being self conscious, it is about being globally conscious.”

She joked, “Some of you here tonight may recognize me from numerous television broadcasts. – Yes, I’ve been a guest on many TV news programs; .. I am always the one being arrested or in handcuffs; .. but who I am is not important! Like yourselves, I am a glimmer of awareness, and I am here to share MY awareness with YOU, and hopefully our COLLECTIVE awareness will plant seeds beyond the digital end of those Television News cameras hiding in the background, .. because it is through shared ‘awareness’ that we evolve as a species.”

***

Back at Lord Corporation, Mickey, Betty, and the Recording Secretary, waited in silence. The wall clock ticked tirelessly. Ominous silence drifted out from inside the boardroom. The door to the boardroom opened and Daddy stepped into the waiting area. He smiled at Betty and Mickey, but addressed the Recording Secretary, “Would you please come inside.”

As the boardroom door closed, Mickey looked at Betty, “Are we good together or not?”

Betty appeared vacant, and said nothing.

***

Jane silently perused her audience of support and declared passionately, “The ‘fundamental issue’ is WATER. .. WATER IS LIFE! Almost one billion ‘visible’ people on our beloved planet do not have access to water that is safe for any Human or Agricultural use. Many more people, beyond that ‘visible’, deprived population, .. and YES, I am talking about YOU, .. are being poisoned through your own water faucets, and do not know it, by agricultural and industrial pollutants like cryptosporidium, nitrates, lead, cyanide, arsenic, fluoride, herbicides, pesticides, and God knows what else!! .. What flavour of water are you drinking?”

She petitioned the crowd with her inviting arms, “WATER IS LIFE! .. Every one of you that is willing, please join with me in a prayer for this desperate cause.” The multimedia video screen on the podium displayed Jane’s prayer with a little white ball bouncing on top of each word to establish a unified chorus. All of the Demonstrators joined in with her mantra, “Water is life! Water is a human right! Our Demonstration is Intelligence in action. Our Demonstration is God in action!”

The crowd of demonstrators repeated the prayer once more in perfect unison as media agents armed with cameras, recorded the moment while searching for conflicts.

The multi-media display on the stage behind her finally went blank as she collected everyone’s attention, “Water IS Life! Without water there can be no life! .. It is no longer a problem that a mere billion human beings on this planet live with, .. it is now a problem we ALL live with. It is a PONDEROUS problem TODAY, NOW!”

News Media cameras were quickly being moved in front of the stage, and Jane addressed them directly, “I welcome this opportunity to also share this ‘awareness’ with all of you all in TV land. You may ask your televisions, tablets and smart devices, .. ‘What is ‘awareness?’ .. I define awareness as intelligence, and I define shared awareness as ‘Intelligence in Action’. And you might also ask your televisions and digital devices, .. ‘What, pray tell me, is the issue that we need to be aware of?’ .. Quite simply, it is the one thing in this world that we all take for granted; .. WATER!”

Jane directed her message back to her audience, “What is really frightening to me personally, is that this PONDEROUS PROBLEM is viewed by some, not as a problem at all, but as an exploitable business opportunity! .. Water is LIFE! We need water to live, and as access to water is fast becoming controlled and traded as a commodity by private corporations for profit, then those same corporations hold the quality of our lives, and our very life, in their hands. .. This ponderous problem is a GLOBAL PROBLEM!”

Jane directed her message back to the News Media Cameras. “Most of us are unaware that ‘awareness’ is what we all are. .. Awareness is the most powerful force on earth. Human civilization has evolved over the millenniums on the back of evolving human awareness. .. Awareness is the active principle of all life; from the individual flower in a field of ten thousand flowers that broadcasts its personal sound vibrations to inform a nearby honey bee it is ready to give and receive pollen, to all of us here tonight broadcasting to the world our vibrations about our concern for the Human Right to free access to fresh water. Awareness has no regrets or desires because it is not the past or future. .. AWARENESS will not, and cannot be ignored!”

Jane pointed directly at the Television broadcasting cameras that were focused on her, and she beseeched her digital audience with her outstretched hand, “AWARENESS carries information! Shared Awareness is a transmission! AND .. from the television broadcasting cameras and microphones that are carrying, via radio waves and satellites, the images and sounds of this Demonstration of our Collective Awareness of the human right to clean fresh water .. to the ‘WiFi’ radio wave that carries a message, a picture, a video, or a song to you through your digital toys; .. Awareness carries realizations of external and personal conditions in the forms of insights that can create great personal joy or great personal pain!”

She paused to take a deliberate sip of water. “At our birth, our awareness starts out as a seed, and as it blossoms, it expands our basic survival awareness that we ‘exist’, and as we grow and evolve, it brings to us the degree of clarity that our personal life experiences allow us to recognize and hopefully accept, and if need be, to act upon.”

Jane directed her message away from the Media cameras and back to her supportive audience of comrades, who were all armed with personal conviction, “Awareness is a nourishing wind that blows away the fog of our ignorance.” She chuckled, “We are here tonight to blow some minds.” She managed to evoke a few chuckles from the generationally removed, expat hippies in the crowd, but the majority of demonstrators were millennials, and so missed the analogy. .. “We are all sleeping giants; and once we begin to rise and shine, to wake up and become aware of a fact as an actual fact, or of a situation that actually exists, then there is no hiding from your awareness of it, because awareness will not be ignored! It will haunt you!”

Jane paused briefly, and appeared to struggle with an idea before she continued her sermon, .. “As a bilingual person, I find language to be very limiting. I find it impossible in both languages that I speak, to separate the notion of ‘awareness’ as something apart from the notion of ‘us’ or ‘I’. Nevertheless, our brain alerts us to a problem in our body through our awareness of physical pain. In the same way, our bodies have their own intelligence, and are therefore aware of every cell within; .. so also our beloved planet, that we are born of, is aware of every living thing on and within it; .. and WATER is a living thing in pain.”

The Television News Reporters were suddenly distracted and quickly moved their cameras to capture the noisy disruptive activity along the barricaded street behind Jane’s small stage. She turned around and witnessed many more Police officers had arrived in full riot gear, armed with riot-sized canisters of Pepper Spray. They were taking their positions behind the ‘crowd control’ barricades that had been erected to prevent the ‘crowd’ of peaceful Demonstrators access to the UN Water Summit that was soon to take place within the posh Hotel behind them.

The Police were disruptive as they organized themselves through orders delivered over bullhorns and Police Car Public Address systems. They chose to ignore their own awareness that a peaceful Demonstration was in progress because their presence was predominately for the protection of the United Nations delegates that were now arriving in front of the Posh Hotel like Movie Stars in limousines; and also as an ounce of prevention against the very real possibility that the Demonstration event got out of hand.

The Television News cameras quickly moved away from the front of the stage toward the perimeters of the Plaza to capture coverage of the arrival of the UN dignitaries,

Jane turned back to face her supporters and continue her sermon, “The issue of Fresh Water, that is presumably going to be discussed this very night in that Posh Hotel behind me, is linked to so many other issues, with lofty names like Geopolitics, Economic Development, and the Global Economy; which by the way are, .. how do you call them?, .. ‘nicknames’, for a larger and inevitably necessary idea, presented as the evolving New World Order; .. but this evolving New World Order is casting a shadow that hides the darker side-effects of those lofty aspirations and notions.” .. She cast her hands out toward her audience as she tossed out an unrehearsed notion, “Consider those ‘catch-all’ phrases like ‘Global Warming’, and ‘Global Cooling’, and all of the naturally cyclic actions, and the collective unnatural actions, that have brought our world to its present state; .. The problems for our planet, arising out of each of those two word groups, ‘Global Warming’, and ‘Global Cooling’, would fill volumes of books, and Clean Drinking Water would be nothing more than a chapter.”

Jane raised a warning finger, “Clean Drinking Water is NOT an IGNORED issue! .. It is an issue that is well hidden by the shadows created by the brighter lights of the more immediate opportunities that appear to be so easily within reach and offer a more immediate reward to Corporations, who in turn offer the public the promise of greater happiness through endless access to new commodities, goods, services, and dreams, .. but at such a cost.”

On the multimedia screen behind her was a visual presentation that Oliver had created for her speech. It was a montage of shadowed corners and crevices, stripped naked by focused light, revealing all of the unseen, creepy crawly things that lurked in those shadows. .. Jane took her cue, “Only the light of ‘awareness’ will displace the shadows that hide this issue, .. so it can be recognized, .. and the parents of the problem identified, .. and a solution sought and implemented.”

Jane took a large breath of air, a sip of water, and re-engaged her audience of unabashed, naked supporters, “The Big Picture is just too large, too mutable, and simply too complex to easily comprehend. .. Isn’t that what you call an oxymoron? ‘simply complex’. .. Can it not be both?” I prefer the word ‘simply’. It feels much softer, and more promising; don’t you think?” The crowd of attentive demonstrators shared their collective laughter.

She again changed her tone dramatically, “This issue of Clean Drinking Water is no longer a debate for scientists, or currency for politicians; the situation EXISTS and the prognosis is not good. Only fools believe they are separate from their folly! When I say WE, I am referring to each and every one of us. WE have made our planet sick. .. Not ‘THEM’, or ‘YOU’ or ‘This or That’ .. ‘WE’! .. And the sickness now threatens our very existence.”

Jane listened for the quiet murmurs of denial and continued, “Ahh, yes, but ‘WE’ can honestly argue that ‘WE’ were not aware that our actions would create such problems.”

She raised her tiny fist in the air and magnified its power with the strong declaration, “Don’t blame the Devil for offering cookies! ‘WE’ ate them and they gave us pleasure! AWARENESS is available NOW, and WE can act responsibly NOW! .. Intelligence in action is ‘change’, and it is accountability to ‘awareness’! Our collective awareness WILL GROW to become a global awareness, a shared global intelligence in action, which WILL ultimately resolve the situations that created the problems of access to Fresh Water for ALL life forms on our beloved planet!”

“You may ask yourself, ‘How can I act NOW? I am only one person!’ Our ‘awareness’ of our sick planet will inspire us, each as an individual, to do what is in our power to do, and that in turn will build the ‘collective shared global awareness’. I truly believe in my heart that this will happen like the ripples the marry on the pond, and our world will ultimately become healthy again. I believe this because Awareness will leave us nowhere to run or hide; and through our collective awareness, intelligent action will come about naturally, and these issues will be resolved.”

***

Betty looked at the clock on the waiting room wall and smiled to herself. It was already past 8:30 pm. She opened her attaché case. Mickey looked at her expectantly. She handed him a legal sized envelope, “There’s your warhead.”

Mickey opened it, examined the contents carefully, and looked at her with surprise, “Your Mother as well?”

Mickey felt like his house of straw had just turned into brick. He put the envelope in his briefcase. The door to the boardroom opened.

Betty dialed a number on her mobile phone, made a connection, but suddenly closed it.

***

Jane stood bare breasted and unabashed behind her podium. She looked as natural as any other living thing in that park plaza that also embodied her collective of naked supporters. She gestured an open palm as she confessed, “I used to be a very angry person because I used to believe the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the MultiNational Corporations that hold the governments of this world on leashes like pet dogs, were the Devil, the Beast of the Apocalypse of the Christian Bible, and the Beast of the Earth of the Muslim Quran. I do not believe that any longer. .. I do believe that the Devil of this world lives within the actions spurned by that whispered, sacred Corporate prayer, .. ‘Profit at ANY cost’! .. We all have our religious, spiritual, or philosophical convictions of what God IS, and I personally believe with my whole heart, that the intelligence of ‘awareness’ for any and all human beings is God’ in action. .. I also believe that if God has a plan for human beings, then God has a plan for the creations of human beings.”

The Demonstrators cheered and raised their arms in solidarity as though the singular expression of a hive mind.

Jane echoed their body language and raised her arm high into the air as she bellowed out a strong warning, “Ignorance is Bliss only for the ignorant, and Not for those that ‘choose’ to ignore!”

The Demonstrators were rock-concert energized, and cheered loudly!

Jane embraced the faces of her audience with a gesture of her hands, “There is a saying that ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. .. I want us all to be aware that the very flawed International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, were originally created with very good intentions. They have MANDATES that are really quite positive! These are noble institutions but their POLICIES often affect common people in very negative ways because they almost always give first audience to the voices of Governments and Corporations, which has resulted in the severely diminished availability of Sweet Water access all over the world. .. The issues that these noble institutions deal with are so unbelievably complex because their policies are shaped, primarily by governments of the wealthiest Nations of our World, .. that also have very good intentions, .. for themselves. You have all heard a politician use the phrase, ‘Our Interests’. I’ll get to defining that soon.”

The Demonstrators cheered loudly, and the Riot Police in the background shuffled nervously in reflex to the energized crowd.

Jane gave her supporters a calming gesture, “It is an irony for me personally, because I believe that these very same Institutions, these Global Corporations I speak of, will ultimately be the saviors of our world.”

Jane’s audience went deathly silent! These noble beings were not blind followers.

Jane continued confidently, “Yes! ‘Saviors of our World!’, even as they are laying down their destructive foundations around the world. As long as we do not pollute the process with the violence of our impatience, but instead nourish the process with the love of our shared awareness .. I say with my heartfelt confidence, the Saviors of our World!”

Jane’s audience remained desperately attentive, but still deathly silent as they waited for a clarification! Even the Riot Police were on a higher degree of alertness from the threat of the roaring silence.

Jane took the water jug, poured water into her glass in front of her microphone offering another audible baptism. She took a sip of water, and deliberately allowed the silence to abide, before her voice boomed with the force of a reprimand, “I just said that ‘If God has a plan for human beings, then God has a plan for the creations of human beings’. I did not say it because it sounded good! .. I am not saying we must be silent! We cannot be silent, because we are all an integral, biological, part of the process of our shared, evolving world!”

Jane took a calming breath. “I absolutely believe this! I believe this because these Corporations and Institutions have the resources to finance the architecture of change within themselves! .. They WILL evolve because they were created by human beings like you and I; .. and human beings have the gift of awareness, .. the gift of self awareness, .. and ultimately human beings have the gift that IS the birthright of all of us, .. ‘the awareness of the awareness of self awareness’ that marries the individual back into the one collective called life; and THAT is the catalyst of real change in our world.”

Jane made a small fist as she delivered her holy trinity. It was her wish, her affirmation, and her prayer. “It must happen! .. It will happen,” she tapped her chest over her heart, “and it can only happen in here first!”

She paused for a moment to peruse her audience, and collect her thoughts, “The International Monetary Fund and its twin, the World Bank, have a policy of conjugating with Transnational Corporations, or, if you prefer the term, Multi National Corporations. .. One major problem that has arisen from this joining together is the offspring they produced. These offspring are the Water Giants, and they want to control every aspect of sweet drinking water on the planet, .. for a profit. .. I invite you to type the words ‘Water Giant Corporations’ into your favorite internet search engine and you can discover more about them. .. It sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? This is a ‘wide-screen’ issue!.. It’s a 3-D Horror Movie, and this is one monster that is jumping out of the movie theater screen.”

***

Dick leaned against a tree a ways off. He was legally naked, wearing his oak leaf string panties that protected his trunk and acorns from public exposure and thereby unsettling the moral superiority of refined society, but he was naked in solidarity, with crossed arms and a smile, as he looked on proudly at Jane and took in her words and ideas.

***

“I spoke of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as Noble Institutions. These institutions operate alongside, and within, the very flawed, collective body of the United Nations, which is made up of people from many different governments of the world; and each government has its own agenda and ‘interests’. .. There is that word again. .. So, within this allegedly democratic collective, some governments have the power to veto another government’s ‘interests’, if that government’s ‘interests’ are in conflict with their own ‘interests’. That is the flaw I spoke of.”

“There are alleged to be 196 recognized countries in the world, and all but three of these ‘recognized’ countries are members of the United Nations General Assembly. .. BUT, .. Only five countries, China, Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, are considered ‘permanent members’ of the United Nations Security Council, which is the real power base of the United Nations as a whole. Those ‘Big 5’ countries, each have the exclusive power to prevent membership to the UN general assembly. They decide which 10 other countries will be allowed to participate for two year terms with the Security Council power base, and any one of these big 5 can veto the interests and concerns of ‘any’ of the 188 other recognized UN member countries of the world, and can also veto the concerns of any of the other ‘Big 5’ Permanent Members of the Security Council. .. Is the flaw becoming clearer? .. I personally believe that ultimately, the undemocratic structure of the United Nations Security Council, and its affiliates like the UN General Assembly, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, as they are presently structured, will fail altogether.”

Jane took a moment of pause to take a sip of water. “I’m sorry, but I digressed a little bit to paint a picture of complexity.” .. She raised her water glass to illustrate her next point, “We need Water to Live and Thrive. It is how God designed us. Corporations need profit to live and thrive. It’s how we designed them! .. However, our ‘life’ is less important to ‘our creation’ than its ‘profit’. Perhaps it is time to redesign our creation, to create a model for Business that can co-exit in harmony with humanity in a global way.”

The crowd of demonstrators all clapped and shouted in loud unison, in support of Jane’s entreaty, and the Riot Police shuffled nervously. Jane continued, “I believe that we must first start to consider ourselves as global citizens of one planet and bury the false ideology of a fractured world of Nations and Nationalities. We must remember we are human beings first! We must keep our personal faith alive in our hearts through our deeds and how and what we share in with others, suspend our beliefs that I am Spanish, or I am American, or I am Canadian, etcetera, and my interests are not your interests!”

Jane raised her hand in a beseeching gesture, “Please, JUST CONSIDER, that this view of ourselves has always created division in our shared world. Ask yourself, am I a human being, or am I an Individual? .. As an individual, I have my personal beliefs and interests, but as a human being, I have shared interests. No?”

***

As Betty and Mickey entered the Boardroom and took their seats at the conference table, Daddy stepped over to close another exit door, and picked up a torn open, plain brown envelope, lying on the floor with a $100 BILL beside it. He crumpled them up and threw them in a trash basket. The Lawyer’s chair next to Daddy’s was vacant. Mr. Butkiss was nowhere to be seen.

Daddy smiled and signaled the Recording Secretary that he was ready to continue, “Let the record show that the matter of Mr. Butkiss and his alleged transgressions of commonly acceptable business practices, has been determined, to the satisfaction of the Board of Directors of Orbis Aqua Corporation, to be a misinterpretation and of the facts observed in the affidavit.”

Mickey was shocked beyond all belief. Daddy continued, “That said, Mr. Butkiss has for some time now expressed his wish, to pursue other areas of interest, and to spend more time with his family. His request was reluctantly accepted by this board, and myself. His long service to Orbis Aqua, and the Lord Corporation, is greatly appreciated and we wish him the best, in all of his future plans.”

The Board members all mumbled agreement as Daddy continued, “However, there is a further matter to address. The board has for some time now been greatly concerned about the competence of the Management of Osmosis Water.”

Betty interrupted, “Daddy, I believe we are here to address another matter?”

Daddy perused the faces of all of the smug and self-assured members of the board. “Yes of course, the matter of sanctions can be tabled and addressed at a later date. .. So, on to the matter of Osmosis Water’s integration into the private sector, under the Lord Corporate umbrella.” He looked to his daughter with conspiratorial confidence, and declared, “I move that we resolve this petition through a vote by a show of proxies. .. Seconded?” .. A Board member raised his hand. Daddy proclaimed, “The matter has been Seconded, and the vote will proceed.”

A ripple of opening briefcases cascaded around the board table and stopped on Mickey's. He knew his moment had arrived. It was payback time. He stood up defiantly, opened his briefcase slowly, pulled out the collection of his signed proxies, copies of Share certificates, laid them on the table like a winning poker hand, and declared confidently, "Gentlemen and Ladies, I stand as the holder by proxy, of 51% of the private shares, and the owner of 100% of the public shares of Osmosis Water Corporation, which represents 76% ownership of the Corporation. I hereby declare that the release of Osmosis Water Corp from the Lord Corporate subsidiary, Orbis Aqua Corporation, and its conversion to the private sector will in fact proceed immediately."

Shock and dismay rippled across the faces of the Members of the Board. Mickey smiled at the disingenuous theatre before him, and he addressed them all dismissively, “I believe this matter is now concluded!” Mickey gathered up his control from the table, shuffled the papers together into a neat stack, dramatically dropped them into his briefcase, closed it and declared, “My Lawyer will contact your Lawyers.”

Daddy shared a furtive look with his daughter. The board members all mumbled in dismay amongst themselves. Mickey and Betty rose from their chairs to leave. Betty smiled at her Father, “Goodnight Daddy.” She looked to Mickey with a smile that had debt written all over it, “Can I give you a lift, Mr. President?”

As they walked out the door, Daddy looked around at the members of the board, laughed out loud, and exclaimed enthusiastically, “That’s my little girl, a chip off the old block.”

***

Up a side street with a steep incline, centered off from the plaza, and away from the action of Jane’s demonstration, Oliver very slowly drove down in an old beat up yellow Panel Van, found a parking space, and was about to attempt backing up into it. His camera assistant, Veronica, jumped out holding a ‘wheel block’. It was a block of wood with a loop of rope attached through a hole in it.

Oliver’s beat-up Panel Van engine revved loudly. It was breathing heavy and chocking (“I think I can, I think I can”) while he slowly backed up, and carefully manoeuvred the Panel Van close to the curb.

Veronica put the wheel block behind the rear wheel closest to the curb and called to him, “Don’t forget to turn the front tires into the curb!”

Oliver turned off the engine, jumped out, ran round and opened the back of the van. Veronica (the Babelicious) admonished him, “Oliver, the front tires are turned away from the curb!”

Oliver took out his Professional, hand held, HD Digital Video Camera and thrust it into his assistant’s arms. “We’re late; we need to hurry!” .. He looked down upon the crowd of hundreds that was flanked by dozens of police officers in full riot gear.

Veronica looked worried, “Look at all the Riot Police.”

Oliver reassured her, “It’s a peaceful Demonstration. Nothing can possibly go wrong. .. We’re late. Jane will be pissed off. We better hurry.”

Veronica was carrying the HD Camera as well as the accessories bag, Oliver slammed shut the back of the Van, charged off, and his foot got caught in the rope loop of the wheel block, pulling it away from the rear tire, and he fell face first flat onto the sidewalk.

Veronica rushed to help him up, “Oh my god! I hurt just looking at you, Oliver.”

Oliver lifted himself up off the sidewalk. His arms and face were scraped and bleeding. His face suddenly went white with horror. .. The beat up old Panel Van had been stolen by gravity. It rolled away from the curb, and quickly started to careen down the steep street toward the demonstration. “Holy Shit!” he exclaimed. .. Oliver grabbed the wheel block and they immediately started to run off after the accelerating Van, as Oliver shouted out repeated warnings, “Look out! Look out below!”

***

Jane heard the voice she knew so well. She looked past the crowd and saw the fast approaching runaway Van. The demonstrators had their attention fixed on her. She quickly pointed and cried out a loud warning, “OH SHIT! WATCH YOUR BACKS PEOPLE!” She immediately grabbed her robe, and her bullhorn, and jumped off the stage.

***

Oliver and Veronica’s attempt to catch up to, let alone stop, the runaway Panel Van was futile. It was now a life of its own, with a destiny of its own. There could be no stopping it. Oliver’s artistic instincts took over. Out of breath, he stopped his assistant, dropped the wheel block, took the Video Camera from her, and immediately started to record the impending disaster.

***

The demonstrators all quickly grabbed their shopping bags of clothing at their feet and started running out of harms way.

You could almost hear the harmony of the percussion of heavy boots falling into formation, and batons hitting shields in readiness, as the Police quickly mobilized with fearless robotic intent .. to restore order to disorder.

The charging Van easily took out the street barricade and then a row of bicycles as it bounced over curbs onto the park plaza area and careened at high speed into the stage, destroying it and everything on it. From the rubble of the destroyed stage, the sound of ear piercing feedback, created by a microphone, too close to a loudspeaker, permeated the air.

The force of the crowd caused the Police Barricades to topple. It was total pandemonium as the tsunami of demonstrators fell onto the riot police. The peaceful Demonstration was now a full-blown Riot.

Dick looked on with shock and awe. He saw Jane wearing her robe, and screaming into her Bullhorn, trying fruitlessly to restore some order.

If the Riot Police represented crowd control, then robots could not have demonstrated better programmed choreography. It wasn’t pretty to watch, but it was professional, well trained, reflexive and conditioned control, without the luxury of emotion; and sadly, it resembled more an army of baton wielding rednecks splitting open apples in a barrel.

The demonstration was now pure pandemonium. It had turned into Hell’s Capitol City, from the out of control fray of Riot Police and Demonstrators. All reason, logic, and self awareness, was abandoned to the survival of the fittest.

One Female Police Officer, in full riot gear, and armed to the teeth, was helpless as she took a beating from the fists of a legally naked female demonstrator, while trying to arrest her. Another Riot Police Officer looked on and laughed hysterically.

The Riot Officer lost her patience, stepped back, and doused her with pepper spray. The woman immediately collapsed to the ground with burning eyes.

***

Dick’s Father and Natacha were watching television. Father was flipping through the channels, and he stopped on a news station broadcasting the ‘breaking story’ of the pandemonium at the peaceful Demonstration. A Television News Announcer, with a big smile, waxed poetically, “In yet another breaking story we’re following, it seems a peaceful nude protest at the UN Water Summit is making big waves.”

The television now focused on a close-up of a woman’s crotch protected from the censors by figleaf string panties, and pulled back to a wider shot revealing a very dishevelled Jane. She was open robed, and her bare breasts were revealed as a blurred out close up. The image pulled back and showed her desperately trying to restore order with her bullhorn; and then the image went extremely wide to include the melee of the demonstration.

Natacha pointed to the television and exclaimed excitedly, “Dios Mío! Mira! Es Jane! La amiga del Señor Richard!”

The television image flipped to an ‘on the scene’ Reporter, who was covering the situation for a public audience that ‘had the right to know’ (cough) the ‘truth’; .. and also to bring the news on home, in an up-close and personal way, and wherever possible, deliver negative or positive, descriptive sound bites that were ‘inline’ with the Broadcasting Network’s politics and paying sponsors.

***

Back in the real world, Jane was desperately trying to calm the perfect storm, but her bull horn was a whisper against the screaming and yelling of the Demonstrators that had so quickly become Protestors; and the loud, ear piercing, nerve raking acoustic feedback coming from the destroyed stage PA system, only served to amplify the chaos. A couple of Riot Police officers moved in on her. One officer was trying to restrain her, while the other held a riot sized Pepper Spray Canon at the ready.

Dick had his clothing bag and was frantically trying to get out of harms way. He caught a sight of Jane in the clutches of the two Riot Police Officers. The spirit that had orchestrated the whole event moved within him. He did not hesitate. He dropped his bundle of clothes and ran to help her.

***

Betty’s Mother closed her research book on bridal bouquets with frustration and decided to take a break from the impossible labors of organizing a wedding on behalf of her belligerent daughter. .. She sat on the sofa, turned on the TV and channel surfed. .. Each channel was more boring than the last, and so she resigned herself to take in the pending evening news. The lesser, it would seem, of all the other broadcast evils; but first it was the Station Identification with the rolling Banners and dramatic Music that introduced the Rock Star News Anchors as the absolutely trustworthy Super Hero Guardians of the Truth.

Mother soon sat in voyeuristic paralysis, as she watched the orchestrated, ‘breaking news’, broadcast of the unconscious melee at the peaceful, nude Demonstration; .. but what really caught her attention, was just too close to home, and her interest morphed from being entertained, into genuine shock. The broadcasters, in their ‘innocent’ attempt to put a human face on the unfolding events, showed a close-up shot of tree trunk and acorns, and then a wider shot of legally naked Dick illegally wrestling Jane away from a Police Officer.

Mother declared to the empty room, a desperately empty prayer, “Oh my Lord!” She frantically grabbed the telephone and dialed a number.

***

As lounges go, it was devoid of middle and lower class lizards because it was a Posh Lounge. In truly prophetic Orwellian design, a television mounted above the bar, was making available all the information that its public audience ‘needed’ to know. The sound was muted so it would not compete with the ambient noise of the lounge patrons conversations. Only the text that scrolled across the bottom of the screen was available to feed the empty attention of the few lonely patrons sitting at the bar and drinking expensive hard liquor alone; because their lives were in a holding pattern anyway, and so they would ultimately take what they could get.

Mickey and Betty were sitting across from each other sipping celebratory drinks and enjoying a pleasant social intercourse.

Mickey raised a glass of champagne in a toast, “To a special day.”

Betty met his salubrious gesture as their champagne flutes touched, “To a special day.”

“Don’t get me wrong Betty, I like Dick a lot, we’ve become friends.”

Betty interjected sarcastically, “Don’t you mean drinking buddies?”

“But you and I are alike, Betty. We fit! You said so yourself.”

Betty hid behind her glass of champagne, but her red cheeks exposed her, “That’s not fair!”

Mickey countered, “All is fair in Business, Love, and War!”

Betty responded doubtfully, “Love?”

Mickey tried to assure her, “We would be good for each other, Betty!”

“You forget, Mickey, I’m about to become engaged.”

“That’s a stubborn mistake! Face it Betty, Dick is a Saint. You and I are both Sinners. He’s the wrong kind of person for you.”

Betty mocked him, “And you are?”

“Again, you said so yourself, Betty, I’m a good fit.”

Betty’s mobile phone rang. She checked the number on the call display, and with impatient eyes, she answered it,

“Hello Mother!”

*

“Mother slow down, .. what are you talking about?”

Betty looked up to the television above the Bar. She saw the live news coverage of the riot at the UN Water Summit demonstration, where she witnessed naked Dick wrestling with the Riot Police Officer that was trying to restrain Jane.

Mickey was at a loss to determine if Betty’s declaration was shock or disdain as she fixated on the news broadcast and declared, “Oh my God!” .. He quickly turned to see what had caused her alarm.

Betty immediately closed her mobile phone with a snap, got up, and grabbed her effects. Mickey also rose and fumbled for the money to pay for their drinks, and when he looked up, Betty was gone.

***

Father and Natacha stood and watched with frozen attention riveted to the television. .. As Dick wrestled Jane free of the clutches of the Police Officer, he received a shot across the back of the head from the other Riot Officer’s Billy Club, and he fell to the ground.

“Good God!” cried out Dick’s Father in horror! He instinctively and reflexively moved toward the television image to help his son. He was deeply alarmed because he did not know if his son was just unconscious or dead. His blood pressure had immediately gone critical as he cried out loud in painful, earnest prayer, “Oh, Good God, My Boy!”

Natacha was equally alarmed and held tightly to Father’s arm as they witnessed Jane break free of the Officer and drop to the ground to make sure Dick was still alive. Dick blinked.

Jane quickly turned and gave the Riot Police Officer an angry look. The first Riot Officer back stepped, and the other Riot Officer aimed his pepper spray canister at them. She quickly turned away and covered Dick’s face with her body to protect him from the Pepper Spray.

Dick’s Father’s extreme excitement was ringing alarm bells backed by the sound of his pounding heart. His strong voice overlaid with the melee broadcast coming through the television, “Good for you Jane! Good for you Son!”

Father grabbed his chest in pain and collapsed to the floor. Natacha immediately dropped to the floor to assist him and desperately exclaimed, “Oh Dios Mío, ahora no!”

Father’s eyes were still on the TV. .. Dick and Jane offered no resistance as the two Officers started to drag them away.

Natacha quickly tried to reach for the phone. Father intercepted her arm, and took her hand tightly. He looked at her lovingly, and with a labored voice, he proclaimed proudly, “My boy grew up. I’m happy I lived to see it.” The light in his eyes slowly extinguished.

***

The Police station Detention room was white cinder block walls without windows. The Holding Cells were six in total, with three on each side facing each other. They were basic white painted, metal barred cages, with flat benches. A double row of cold fluorescent lights ran the length of the hall of cages.

The arrested female Demonstrators were separated from the male Demonstrators in the facing cages. In all, there were about fifty arrested Demonstrators. All the previously naked demonstrators were now wearing white paper, Painter’s coveralls, courtesy of the local law enforcement.

An Officer had wheeled in a cart stacked with the clothing filled, white recycled paper shopping bags.

From her seat on the bench in her cage, Jane saw the stack of shopping bags, each with their logo, ‘Water is a Human Right’. She announced aloud, “Look! Our clothing has arrived. Look at the shopping bags. Read the logo everyone. This is why we are here now!”

***

Jane was sitting in a cell with other women demonstrators and through the cell bars she saw Betty walk in, escorted by a Police Officer. Betty looked toward the cells and saw Jane. If looks could only kill. She gave Jane the kind of scathing look that only a woman could give a woman, and spat out, “This is how I always pictured you!”

Jane’s cohorts, not understanding what was going on, rose to her defense, but Jane settled them with a gesture. She stepped up and looked at Betty through the bars, “From my perspective, it’s you who looks locked up.” .. Betty said nothing. She turned her back to Jane and looked into the opposite cell to see Dick sitting behind bars. Dick shrugged and smiled at her, but he didn’t get up.

The Officer escorting Betty approached the cell with his keys and opened it. All of the arrested male demonstrators looked up expectantly. .. The first Officer called out Dick’s full name, “Richard Benjamin Douglas?”

At that moment, a second Police Officer appeared escorting Natacha and the Family Lawyer.

Dick stood up and exited the cell. .. His expression quickly changed to concern as he recognized the Family Lawyer and Natacha coming forward because Natacha was crying.

Betty stood stoic but was surprised that Dick walked quickly by her without any acknowledgment.

Dick was totally winded as he quickly approached Natacha because in those few forward steps he understood what had happened. He slowed to a stop. The wind had abandoned his sails. His lawyer attempted to pull him aside. Natacha tried to speak through her tears and Dick embraced her tightly.

Jane observed Dick’s distress and she shook the bars of her cage futilely. She called out to him, “Oh Richard, I’m so sorry.”

Betty, not understanding what was happening, turned and looked at Jane coldly, “You should be!”

At that moment more ‘suits’ arrived, following a very distinguished looking Latino man, Jane’s Father, who was escorted by another Police Officer. He stopped when he saw his daughter behind the cage bars, and his composure broke.

The Officer unlocked the women’s cell and called out, “Jane Rafaela Ferrada?” Seeing her Father, Jane’s eyes flashed an angry ‘not now’ look, as the cage door was opened. She ran past her Father straight to Dick. She looked at Natacha, “Dime lo que ha pasado?” .. (english translation) “Tell me what’s happened?”

Natacha responded with a broken voice, “El padre de Richard murio esta noche.” .. (english translation) “Richard’s Father has died this very evening!”

Dick was in shock, Natacha released him from her embrace and Jane embraced him tenderly and whispered impotently, “Por favor, Por favor!”

Jane’s Father observed his daughter embracing Dick and with great curiosity he walked over, followed by his entourage of lawyers. .. Betty also observed Jane, and quickly moved with malevolent intent to confront Dick, but was suddenly unable to get by all of the people surrounding him.

Jane’s Father, completely misreading what was transpiring, walked up, pulled Jane back, and confronted Dick, “Are you the young man that has taken my daughter’s heart?”

Dick was snapped out of his reverie and looked at this strange man, confused.

Jane tried to run interference, “No Papa, Ahora no!”

Jane was reflexed into silence by her Father, who stood in front of Dick, and demanded to know, “What are your intentions toward my Daughter!?”

Betty looked on in shock!

With a frozen expression, Dick looked at his interrogator, then to Jane, and then to Betty.

[* *]

[
**]
p=. White Wedding

It was a new year. It was the season of blossoms. The Wedding was in the backyard of the Lord Estate, set amongst beautiful blooming Magnolia trees, Gardens, and Gazebos. There was a small Orchestra playing light jazz in a gazebo adjacent to a wedding arena filled with people settling into seats. Luca and Spike, dressed in tuxedos, were being seated by an Usher.

Standing in front of the preacher’s podium, Mickey and Dick were talking, and essentially wearing the same style of suit. Tony also stood with them, but wearing something a little more ‘Italian’, and although he carried his signature unlit cigar, but given the occasion, it was a new cigar. His left hand however, was absent his tarnished wedding ring. A beautiful head turner walked by and Tony decided to inspect her at closer range and so he walked off in pursuit.

The Justice of the peace came onto the podium, armed with a Good Book, and Mickey and Dick shook hands.

The music changed, announcing the arrival of the bride.

Betty’s Mother, seated in the front row, breathed in a large, ‘At Last’ deep breath, exhaled, and smiled with satisfaction.

A very pregnant Betty stood with her arm looped through her proud Daddy’s arm, and was about to be escorted down the aisle. She held a bouquet of Ivory roses with Persian Buttercups and Eucalyptus.

***

Dick was sitting on a white wrought iron bench that wrapped around a tall shady Oak tree. A waiter approached and placed two champagne flutes, and a bottle of champagne in a bucket on the small round table next to him and proceeded to open the bottle of champagne. Dick motioned for the bottle. .. He took the bottle, poured champagne into both flutes, bucketed the bottle, and passed a flute across the table to Jane. They touched glasses in a toast, and each took a sip.

Dick leaned back and rested against the tree. He sighed heavily, “Isn’t it ironic.”

Jane smiled and raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

Dick reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, heart shaped, burgundy velvet ring box. He didn’t open it, but just turned it over and over and over in his hand and finally laughed, “I worked hard for two months for this engagement ring.”

Jane smiled at him as he continued his lament, “I chose it. It could only be a blood free, laser marked Canadian Diamond. I spent all I earned on it, .. only to end up as a guest at my own wedding.”

Jane was concerned, “Are you OK, Richard?”

He smiled with a breath of relief, “I didn’t see it coming! I guess somewhere along the way I changed. We will always be friends. It’s the one thing we always were.”

***

Betty, holding her bridal bouquet of flowers, stood next her Father who was giving Mickey a big hug, “Welcome to the family Son! .. And I’ll have your balls cut off if you ever screw my daughter.”

Mickey patted Betty’s swollen belly, “I think you’re a little late, ‘Dad’!”

Daddy laughed uproariously and enthusiastically slapped both of Mickey’s shoulders, “That’s my boy, a chip off the old corporate block.”

***

A large group of women had gathered excitedly near Dick and Jane’s table. Jane heard her name called, “Jane! .. Heads up!” She turned and reflexively caught Betty’s Bouquet. Mickey winked at her, and Betty smiled.

Jane held the symbolic promise of the bouquet close to her breast and smiled compassionately at Dick, but he was again lost in deep thought as he continued rotating the small velvet heart shaped box around and around and around in his hand. Jane was fixated on the rotating engagement ring case, and her eyes were filled with expectation. .. He spoke, “Jane?”

“Yes, Richard?” she blurted out desperately.

Dick continued awkwardly, “We have shared some safe water…”

Jane was holding her breath and suffering from oxygen deprivation as Dick continued rotating the small, burgundy velvet heart shaped box around and around and around in his hand, “What are you trying to say to me, Richard?”

Dick stammered, “It is .. I think it’s time we went deeper; .. you know, .. where the light dances.”

Jane was on the edge of her chair, crushing the bouquet stems while listening with extreme attention and expectation. Her eyes were fixated on the tiny, burgundy velvet, heart shaped ring box that was rotating with a life of its own in Dick’s hand. .. “I’m not sure I understand, .. I mean, I think I understand, but ..”

Dick spit it out, “Jane, will you come to Cozumel Mexico and SCUBA with me?”

Jane’s face morphed from expectation into angst!

[* *]

[
**]
p=. Denouement

Underwater, looking up into spectral, dancing ribbons of sunlight – two SCUBA divers fell backward from a boat into the water. The divers joined hands as they descended. The cascading ribbons of dancing sunlight from above ignited the liquid atmosphere with an ethereal beauty. The ribbons of light danced more aggressively as the two guests disturbed the spirit of the water with their fins.

Dick released Jane’s hand as he came to rest at a shallow depth on a sandy patch amongst a beautiful coral garden, with waltzing sea grasses, and a myriad of tropical fish playing among corals ignited by the ribbons of sunlight freefalling from above. Jane hovered a few meters away, taking it all in. The beauty of it all took her thoughts away.

Dick motioned for Jane to join him, and she came to rest on her knees in front of him. Dick gave her a hand signal to watch his eyes as he removed from his dive vest pocket the small heart shaped, burgundy velvet ring case and opened it toward her. The modest diamond nestled onto the ring ignited into a full spectrum of color from the cascading ribbons of light falling from above.

He lay his hand on his chest, touched his heart with his finger, pointed to her, and beckoned for her left hand. She offered it to him in way that was made all the more gentle by the resistance of the water, and he placed the ring on her finger.

Jane’s eyes absorbed all of it’s beauty, and she engaged that hand as she gently laid it upon her breasts, touched her heart, and floated closer to him.

Dick’s eyes were smiling through the lens of his SCUBA mask behind the bubbles of his last exhaled breath, when suddenly Jane removed her BCD, took a deep breath out of her air regulator, let it float away with her BCD and air tanks.

Dick was instantly alarmed and moved closer to assist her, when suddenly she ripped off his mask and pulled his regulator from his mouth. Dick immediately reached for his spare regulator to get air, but Jane took it away from his hand and it floated behind him. She ripped off her mask, wrapped her legs around his waist, embraced him tightly, and pulled his mouth to hers in a passionate, breath sharing kiss, as Dick immediately lifted them off the sandy bottom, and they held that breath sharing embrace as they gently spiralled upward through the cascading ribbons of dancing light and surfaced.

 

[****§****]

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

About the Author

I am a humorist, an iconoclast, and a very curious fool. Insight always follows my stupidity.

Kenneth Wayne Hanis 1955-?

Other works:

  • ‘The Fine Art of Being Difficult’ – Nonfiction Novel – (TFABD)

  • The Fine Art of a Kiss – Adaptation – Feature Film

  • Bitching and Complaining – Feature Television Film

  • When We Lived in Caves – Miniseries (TFABD)

  • The Critical Mass – Novel

  • The Critical Mass – Adaptation Feature Screenplay

  • The Curiosity Shop – Short Feature Film

  • What’s Your Story? – Non Fiction book on the ‘process’ of writing

  • What’s Your Story? – Adaptation – Documentary Screenplay

  • “one beautiful moment” – Book of Poetry

  • Backpacker’s Survival Spanish/Spanglish Guide

  • Mochileros’ Guía de Supervivencia Inglés/Espanglish

 

 

[
**]
p=. Acknowledgements

As unconveyable love, I acknowledge my deceased Father, my Mother, my siblings, most notably my big brother Lorne, all of my teachers, friends and lovers, friendly enemies, employers and co-workers, strangers, and all of the assorted people that have come into my life, or contributed to my life through their personalities, their beliefs, and their artistic forms of expression; and also to those mentioned above that have left this world, for they all left some part of themselves within the many chapters of my life experience. .. Thank you.

Reference to a book by Poet T.S. Eliot (188-1965) ‘Four Quartets’ published by Harcourt Brace & Company in 1943

Interpretive reference is made to lyrics from the song, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by the Rock Band, Procol Harem, Deram Records UK 1967, – words by Keith Reid, Gary Broker, and Mathew Fisher.

References (visual and dialogue) are made through inference to The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, are paraphrased to create characterizations toward modern, western cultural mythology. – “The Godfather” Part #1-(1972) Novel Author is Mario Puzo. Feature Film Screenplays by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, Director is Francis Ford Coppola, Producers are Francis Ford Coppola, Gray Frederickson and Albert S, Ruddy and Fred Roos et al. Production Company is Paramount Pictures, Alfran Productions et al.

Reference through inference is made to the style of the soundtrack music of the composer Ennio Morricone, for a Writer, Producer, Director, Sergio Leone, ‘spaghetti western movie’.

Reference through inference is made to Orson Welles 1938 Mercury Theatre production of ‘War of the Worlds’ Radio Drama based on the novel ‘The War of the Worlds’ by Author H.G. Wells. Narrated by Orson Welles. Producers are John Houseman, Orson Welles, Paul Stewart, CBS Producer is Davidson Taylor – Recorded at Columbia Broadcasting, New York.

Reference is made to Frankenstein for the creation of analogy. Frankenstein is a creation of the Author, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, in her book titled “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”. Published in the United Kingdom in 1818, by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.

Reference is made to the luxury car ‘Jaguar XJ’, Jaguar Land Rover Limited, – a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors Limited, Mumbai India.

Reference is made to the luxury car BMW, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Germany. Also the BMW i3 Electric (and extender) Cars, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Germany.

Reference is made to a 1964 Ford Thunderbird. Ford Motor Company, Dearborn Michigan.

Reference is made to a Volkswagen Beetle & Eos Convertible. The Volkswagen Group, Germany.

Reference is made verbatim to a question my friend Wendy Abbott said to me many times in the mid 1990’s in reference to peoples’ lazy attitude toward throwing their garbage waste and their recyclable items ‘away’. Her question was, “Where is away?”

[* *** Cover Design by Kenneth Hanis *** *]

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The Critical Mass - Author's Proof

Dick takes a job he does not need, to earn the money for an engagement ring he does not want to buy for Betty; but upon meeting Jane, a Latina immigrant woman who is a die hard environmental activist, his heart is arrested, and his life takes on a life of its own. Betty overheard a jeweler explain the 'tradition' that a man must spend two months of his wages for an engagement ring. .. She has long felt that she and Dick are good together, and so it's now time to get married - on her terms. .. She arranges that Dick will work at a job of her choosing for two months. She ransoms her intimacy, to force Dick to comply to her demand. The day Dick entered the 'real' world to take on a job for wages, his protected life became a memory; there could be no turning back. .. Armed with his naivety, honesty, and integrity, he made friends, friendly enemies, and unbeknownst to himself, he found true love in an immigrant Latina woman named Jane. *** The overriding theme of the 'The Critical Mass' is - "We make plans, and God laughs", because Nature always takes its own course. .. This theme embodies two sub themes, expressed primarily through the 'Activist' character of Jane, and I express them as: (1) - "Corporate Profit at all cost, is to artificial intelligence, - as Profit sharing, is to human intelligence". (2) - "Water' is a Human Right, and not a Commodity". 'The Critical Mass' is an entertaining and enlightening Romantic Dramedy, that also conveys clear and present emotional dangers, and has an untelegraphed, and unexpected, ending. I hope my novel interests you.

  • ISBN: 9780988077348
  • Author: Kenneth Hanis
  • Published: 2017-03-21 12:05:25
  • Words: 64058
The Critical Mass - Author's Proof The Critical Mass - Author's Proof