26)   Thursday, the Eighteenth: 6:00 PM – “Miz Lottie Goes to the Devil!”


At two minutes past six, Miz Lottie… still ignorant of the changeover time advancement… settled down into her chair to watch the evening news, lifted her remote and pressed.  Nothing.  She pressed again.  Still nothing. 

Raoul’s converter from the trunk of his wide old twentieth-century Cadillac rested on top of the console, under the old analog to digital box from the last transition, back in @date/details.  Raoul himself was not around, he’d muttered something about picking up more inventory in North Carolina yesterday morning, but he had hooked up the fantastical array of snapjacks, gauges and cables, so all somebody would have to do, as he explained it, was remove one jack from the old Apex converter and stick it into the new black box.

Nothing.  Still nothing.

She pressed the channel button on the remote to switch to the CBS station, the NBC and then… with a slight frown of distaste… Fox. 

Still nothing.

She heard the children laughing in the kitchen, but no local news.  No weather.  No Action Sports… the General would be angry when he got home, or maybe not… there had been overtime at the dollar destruction station, too much overtime.  The Thursday night football games had ended, but he’d watched that show with celebrities in gaudy costumes singing… not very well, Westy had said last Thursday… and other celebrities had tried to guess who they were.  They had all guessed wrong, and Westy had guessed wrong too… he thought the performer sounded old, so he declared “Sly Stallone”, but it wasn’t Rocky, not even close, it was some Congressman who’d been in the news for leaving his wife and marrying his twenty-something secretary.

Looked like there wouldn’t be a Masked Singer this week.

Finally she stood, waddled to the coatrack and donned a long, tweed overcoat dating from the Nixon Administration, located her hat and cane, and whistled…


          From the room upstairs that the teenager shared with her half-sister and her cousin, Earline replied  I’m busy…”

          “I ain’t askin’, I’m tellin’ you… get yo’self down here…”

          Earline waited three minutes before descending the stairs, disgruntled.  “Why you pickin’ on me?”

          “Cause I gotta go out, and you here.  You here ‘cause you drop out of school and don’t wanna work… your stepbrother, the General, he work, your aunt Tyesha still in school, you drafted.

Tol’ you, I gotta temporary job over the line, startin’ tomorrow.  You need somethin’ from the Chinese store?  I’ll go…”

          “I said I’m goinout, and you goin’ with me,” Miz Lottie decreed. “Not safe, ol’ woman like myself on streets aroun’ here…”

          “Not safe…” Earline parroted, then added, far more quietly, “…where was it, you said, we goin’?”

          “To the Devil,” her grandmother sighed.


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On the sorting floor at FRCOC, Just Jones and Westy… working ovetime… fed crumpled, old bills into the counterfeit detector like a pair of tough old ladies working the slots at Vegas.  Westy’s fingers were as thick as sausages and strong – he’d choked one of the stray dogs in the hood with one hand – but they always began hurting by three, even unburnt, and FREECOCK was a drug-free environment; they wouldn’t even let him smuggle in a goddam Tylenol…

          “Heard about your cousin…” Jones ventured.

       Westy answered warily.  “That so?”

“Might be he done wrong, but ain’t your fault.  Just wanted to say I got your back…”

          The statement rubbed Soames wrong.  “Thanks, but I can handle myself,” he muttered.  Both instinctively looked up to Tom Eppert, high and mighty in his crane, poking and prodding the currency downwards towards its doom.  “That’s one evil cracker, but he’s a pussy…”

“Could pull somethin’ sneaky, though… wanted to ask, you live down in Purley…”

          “And?” Westy prompted…

“Well, you know this preacher, Goodwin… holdin’ this protest meetin’ tomorrow night in the park?  He for real?” the tattooed money-killer asked.

          “He’s a good man.”

          “Well, if your cousin’s device don’t work tonight, then I might just drop by…” said Jones, “no Wheel of Fortune, no Smackdown?  We been takin’ it from behind too often, now…”

“I hear you.  Might drop by myself…” Westy said, clenching his fists – despite the pain.  And then, to himself, challenged the man in the crane to show up, too… and then his phone rang.  Continuing to stuff the cash into the shredder one-handed, he barked out “Yo!”

Jones cocked his head inquisitively, like one of those little, annoying dogs. 

“Lottie,” he said, and frowned and then he frowned even more.

“What you mean?  Warn’t suppose to change over the televisions until midnight, tonight, get to see half the talkshows and then plug in that device.  Uh huh?  Well I can, if I have to.  Alright.”

He hung up, grasped a sheaf of Jacksons and tried to rip it in half.  Money is tough and he grunted, flexed his fingers and twisted again, snarling “mother…” until the bills gave way.



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Forging ahead like a great, tweed battleship, Miz Lottie Soames replaced her phone in the outsized bag and rounded the corner of Grape Street, making for Feargal’s down the block, trailed by a suspicious Earline.  Over the door, Leo’s improvised banner proclaimed… ENJOY SUPERBOWL SUNDAY.  REDSKINS-raiders in MOD-HI-DEF.  DOORS OPEN 4 PM.  $40 COVER, FREE GUMBO!

       “Can’t go in there…” Earline tugged her great-grandmother’s sleeve.  “I’m seventeen…”

       Lottie raised her cane menacingly towards the door.  Git!”

       So Earline held the door open and the matriarch swept in, glaring at three barflies at the counter as Leo’s eyes fairly popped out of his skull…

Miz Lottie!  Westy ain’t in… still at work, I do believe…”

       Ain’t lookin’ for Westy.”  She lifted her cane towards Leo’s pride and joy, the brand new Tungway Plasma .44… presently showing the old Washington Bullets upsetting Seattle in the 1978 NBA finals on ESPNClassic… thwacked it down on the bar.  “Oprah!”

          “Yes, ma’am…”

And a barfly grumbled, “Hey wha’bout thgame?”

          “We won,” Leo answered, and turned the channel to the local station that ran the afternoon talkshows in the evening.  “Well, well, well… been awhile, Miz Lottie!  How bout a soft drink… on me!  We got seven-up, Pepsi, diet…”

          Earline squinted at the Tungwa.  “That Miley Cyrus’ new boyfriend?”

          “Look like a bum!” her great granmama decreed.  “Can’t those children in Hollywood dress right, all the money they make?  I’m cold…” she coughed.

          “Uh, little hot water and honey, set you right,” Leo suggested and pointed, “maybe a li’l dash of that brandy… it’s French, you know…”

          “Well that’d be alright,” Miz Lottie relaxed.  “But save that Pepsi for Earline… she only seventeen…”

          She dug deep into the bag and seized her change purse, Leo waved her off.

          “On the house, Madam, since it’s medicinal…”

          Lottie took a sip, nodded.  “Leo, my television’s gone off and I don’t know how to work that black box Raoul left us.  You know anything technical?”

          “Maybe,” Leo put his elbow on the bar and his chin in his palm.  “Sometimes… sometimes those devices, well , you gotta just slap ‘em around a little, like they were a bad boy…”

          Lottie nodded, then turned her gaze on Earline.  “Or a bad girl…”

          Whuffo?” the teenager sulked.  “I din’t do nothin’…”




          Thirty six minutes later, Westy’s cellphone rang again.  “I’m… dammit Lottie, I said I would be working overtime,” he snapped, knowing even then that his aunt would have at him for the profanity.

          The FREECOCK Supervisor, a man on a salary and a good one – good enough to prevent any hint of foul play – had left, turning the premises over to the night supervisor, Chet Spindlewort, a thin, perpetually angry fellow with an inch-wide mold on the side of his chin.  “Keep it short, Soames,” he barked, pointing to a pile of bills still to be destroyed.

          “I… what?” the General shouted into the phone and, despite the supervisor’s stony glare, Jones stopped and stared, holding two fistfuls of cash.  Gus and Freddie stopped working too.

          Soames!” Spindlewort growled.

          “Sorry, Chet, I gotta go home,” Westy hurriedly tried to explain, then just threw the money he was holding at the shredder, turning to his comrades in overtime.  Miz Lottie tried turning on that converter my ropy-ass cousin sold here and it blew up!  The house is on fire!”

          Soames!” the manager bellowed again as he headed towards the door to the locker room, loose bills dribbling through his fingers.  “Don’t you dare!   I’ll write you up… you’ll lose, you won’t just lose the hour, you’ll lose the day.  Soames!”

          Seeya,” Westy whistled over his shoulder.


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