I despised places like Wisenheimer’s with the passion of a thousand red hot fiery suns, each one burning on and on until the end of all eternity. Each piece of crap nailed to the wall was another affront to my keen sense of style. If my internalized rage was a solar flare, it was about to go full supernova. I’m sure all these words make perfect scientific sense and if you think they don’t, then most likely you’re wrong, so my condolences, but it sucks to be you.
Speaking of sucking, Rosie was losing a battle with a paper straw. The first few sips of her raspberry soda water went just fine, but half-way through, her tube was limper than the dingus of a 90-year old man after a prostrate surgery gone horribly wrong.
“Paper straws,” Rosie said as she pulled a little wad of errant paper off of her tongue. “Why even bother? Blech.”
“Paper straws,” I said. “Washable metal straws. They’re all the same to me. Straight up straw porn, plain and simple.”
“Straw porn?” Rosie asked.
“What does a man do when he watches porn other than to get off on something he wishes he had but will most likely achieve?” Mack asked. “That’s what I assume anyway. I don’t watch porn. Don’t need to. I get more pussy than a catnip factory. I try to remind myself that not every man is as accomplished a cocksman as I am, so I sympathize with the plight of the porn watcher. Now I suppose I’ll have to learn to sympathize with you lesser folk who cling to your plastic straws, desperately trying to replace them with poor facsimiles that will only give you a brief, fleeting sense of happiness until you blow your wad in your proverbial gym sock, leaving you to return to reality, more depressed than you were before.”
“I don’t understand you at all,” Rosie said.
“Few do,” Mack Smasher said. “It’s a blessing…and a curse.”
“All I know is between the words, pussy, porn, cocksman and the added bonus of you telling me that I’m lesser than you, I could just call it a day, call up my lawyer tomorrow, sue the department for an easy million and never have to surround myself with aging, middle-aged, musclebound bores like yourself ever again.”
I tipped back a stein full of frosty brew. “You won’t.”
“How do you know?” Rosie asked.
“You’re a company woman,” I explained. “I can read it all over you, like a cheap dime store novel trying to be the next best seller. You crave the approval of authority and worse, you yearn to be that authority yourself. You know getting there is hard, so you’re happy to settle for being an authority within a division that people would actually have to shit more just to find a shit to give about it.”
Rosie stirred her paper straw around and around inside her drink until it melted completely. She sneered at the wet paper and pushed her glass away. “Is it that obvious?”
“I’m sensing some sort of inherited sense of duty,” I said. “Someone made you this way. Come from a long line of cops, do you?”
“What?” Rosie asked. “No, I’m…ugh! Fine, yes. My father and grandfather. Both San Francisco PD.”
“You’re a long way from home little lady.”
“Thought I’d try for the FBI,” Rosie said. “D.C. police got me first. The first few years on the beat left me feeling comfortable, so I forgot all about the Feds. But then I got promoted to detective and all the comfort went away.”
“Good story,” Smasher said. “I give it about a three. You wouldn’t pass a lie detector with it, though.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Let me take out my red pen and draw a big, fat X over that nonsense,” I said. “Now let me replace it with all you ever wanted to do was make your old man proud. You knew the only way to do that was to become a cop, but if you stayed in San Fran, you’d always be living in Daddy’s shadow. Ergo, you put three thousand miles between you and him and now, you can call him once in a while, tell him tales of your daring do and since he’s got no contacts in the district, he’ll have to take you at your word because he’s got no way to check up on you.”
“Maybe,” Rosie said. “OK, yes.”
“But nothing you do ever impressed him,” I said. “Yakuza encounters and drug cartel busts be damned.”
“You never really wanted to be a cop so now that you’ve wised up to the fact that you could should cancer curing, AIDs reducing pills out of your ass and his response would be a tepid, ‘meh,’ you gave up moved onto the straw beat,” I said.
“More or less,” Rosie said. “You might have tapped into my subconscious reasoning but bottom line – I did my part to make the world a better place and now I deserve to live my life.”
“With banker’s hours,” I said.
I looked at my watch. 5:01 p.m. “Looks like that’s not happening tonight, Toots.”
I perused a menu. Jalapeno chili croquettes. Big beef burrito slammers. Cheese steak onion fries. It was a cardiologist’s worst nightmare.
“While we’re talking about bottom lines,” I said. “I know what yours is.”
“Is that so?” Rosie asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You’d never sue the department over my alleged chauvinism.”
“Alleged chauvinism?” Rosie said. “No, sorry pal, but proving your chauvinism is the easiest case I could ever make.”
“Chauvinism isn’t a real thing,” I said. “It’s a made-up word, designed by flabby, blue-haired, hairy arm-pitted feminists who are pissed at the raw deal God gave them. Too manly to make a boner twitch but too feminine to have any kind of meaningful upper body strength, so they just sit around, dumping on men, inventing words like, chauvinism and man-splaining, man-spreading and toxic masculinity, trying their best to drag real men down to their pathetic levels out of a misguided, unachievable attempt to make themselves better, rather than do perform a full assessment of what skills they do have and use them to trailblaze their own path through this rough and tumble world.”
Rosie blinked. “O.K. Now I’m positive I could sue.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Your old man would think less of you.”
“That’s…you’re way off and…shut up, Smasher.”
“Whatever you say, dear.”
Our waiter sashayed up to our table. He was a total fruit. Can I still say that? Oh well, if you’re offended, hire Rosie’s lawyer. He’s free because she’ll never hire him.
By the way, I’ve got nothing against homosexuals. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing the government should be able to stop you from sucking on is a straw. Anything else is your business and not mine. What do I care? More pussy left on the table is more pussy me.
All I’m saying is I can read people. It’s a gift that only the best detectives have. At fifty paces I can tell if you’re happy or sad, if you’re being all you can be in life, if you’re in a failing marriage, if you have a sense of self-worth, if you’re cheating on your significant other, if you forgot to pay your gas bill, if you prefer cats or dogs, if you left the stove on, if you’d rather be anywhere else but here, if you’re a Scorpio or a Pisces, if you’ve got money problems, if you’re high on crank, if you’ve ever shot a man, or any other aspects of your life, be they important or trivial.
In this particular case, I knew our waiter was a fan of cock and who can blame him because I was rather fond of mine, though I must note, mine and only mine. Maybe it was the way he moved – graceful, like a prima ballerina. Maybe it was his perfect posture, like he hadn’t spent his entire youth glued to a couch playing video games as most males born after 1980 have. Or, maybe it was just the way he talked.
“Ciao, bellas! I am Humberto and I shall be your tour guide this evening as you venture forth into the wild word of Wisenheimer’s choice cuisine. Kisses! Muah, muah! Aren’t you a lovely couple?”
Rosie raised her hand. “Oh, no, we’re not…”
I interrupted. I’d like to say it’s a man’s prerogative, but Rosie will probably read this someday. Oh, who am I kidding? We both know she never will. “A couple! Yes, that’s what we are. Just a couple of tourists in from uh, Omaha. Yes. The Midwest. Lovely place. Cows, corn and apple pie. But we’ve come to see sights. I wanted to go to Cancun but the old ball and chain insisted we come here and learn a thing or two about the good old U.S. of A.”
“Well, isn’t that lovely?” Humberto asked. “How long have you two been together?”
“Oh,” Rosie said. “We’re not…”
“Fifteen years,” I said. “Now that’s hard time. One and a half decades with the same broad would make any man head for the hills…”
I reached across the table and took Rosie’s hand. She played along, but I could tell she wanted to blow chunks. I have that effect on some women, but not most. “…but I met my wittle schnookums at a pot luck dinner at an Omaha farmer’s convention and well, we’ve been attached at the hip ever since. Isn’t that right, dear?”
Rosie looked around for the nearest exit. “Um…right.”
“Fabulous!” Humberto said. “And who knew that farmers had such amazing fashion sense? Look at you sir! You look like you just walked off the set of a 1980s action flick. Who are you trying to channel? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Sly Stallone, perhaps?”
“Bruce Willis was always my favorite,” I said. “Sure, he came into the 1980s action scene late, but when he came, he came hard.”
Humberto patted me on the shoulder. “Story of my life, darling.”
Our waited looked at Rosie. “And my dear, that snappy looking business lady suit is absolutely to die for.”
“Oh,” Rosie said. “Really? This old thing?”
“Yes,” Humberto said. “But oh, my! It looks like you sat on Count Chocula’s face. Can I get you some napkins?”
“No,” Rosie said. “I think these are permanently ruined. There was a little accident. My cup was open and I didn’t have a straw and, well, never mind.”
I snapped my fingers. “Say, Humberto, what’s the deal with these paper straws?”
“Yes,” Humberto said. “Aren’t they positively divine?”
“No, not really,” I replied. “They’re kind of dry and then after a few sucks, they go limp.”
“I’d say that’s the story of my life too, but I’ve never had that problem, darling,” Humberto said.
I slapped the table. “Ha! Highbrow humor like that is just something we’re missing in Omaha, isn’t it dear?”
“Yeah,” Rosie said. “Sure is.”
“But no,” I said. “Seriously, you don’t have some plastic straws around here?”
Humberto clutched his chest. “Sir! What an outrageous statement!”
“What?” I asked.
“My friend,” Humberto said. “You’re not from around here, so I shall forgive you, but the District of Columbia has just passed a straw ban.”
“A straw ban?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
“Precisely,” Humberto replied. “Plastic straws are now persona non grata at any restaurant within the city limits.”
“Why in tarnation would y’all ban straws?” I inquired. “And by the way, I’m from Omaha, so I say words like tarnation and y’all, all the time. Isn’t that right, honey?”
“I think so,” Rosie said. “Yeah, sure, why not?”
“Sir, I could nibble that cute little ear of yours off all day long while I inform you of the dangers of plastic drinking straws,” Humberto said. “Why, did you know that plastic straws are not biodegradable?”
“They aren’t?” I asked.
“Not at all,” Humberto said. “Why, if there were ever a nuclear war, the only thing to survive would be plastic straws and cock-a-roaches.”
Funny how the world works. I was starting to get the sense that Humberto was the only other human being in the world who hated straws as much as I did. Ah, but fate is a cruel mistress because as much as we shared in common, Mack Smasher gives up cooter for no man.
Humberto rested his hand on my shoulder. I was instantly concerned that he was transmitting second hand gayness to me. I knew that was impossible and yet, I feared the worst.
“Sir,” he said. “I can’t get too personal as I just met you, but straws are also very dangerous to humans.”
My heart fluttered. For so long, I thought I was the only one who knew that straws were a danger to humans. Still, I faked ignorance. It was hard to do, given that I am the world’s foremost expert on straw related homicide, but I did it anyway. Frankly, the performance I gave that day should have won me an aware.
“Are they now?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” Humberto replied. “I have first-hand knowledge of this.”
Oh my God. I did too, but I couldn’t tell him that.
“You see,” Humberto said. “Many years ago, there was an incident. It involved my soulmate, a dance party, a silly straw hurled about in a reckless matter and..”
The waiter choked back his tears. “Oh, I’m sorry. I get so emotional over this story. Anyway, Rodrigo is no longer with us and let’s leave it at that. I’ve said too much already. What can I get you?”
I wanted so badly to reach out and comfort this lug – not in a gay way, mind you, for, as we all know, the only thing Mack Smasher will ever allow entry into his backdoor is a doctor’s colonoscope, and even then, I’m going to need a second opinion.
I kept up the façade. “Wait. So, you’re telling me I can’t get a plastic straw here?”
“Absolutely not, sir,” Humberto said. “It would be criminal to do so and if you ask me, it’s about time.”
“Buckaroo,” I said. “And again, I’m from Omaha, so I say things like that. There was a little lady my wife and I met at uh…the hotel, and well, being a man of vast sexual prowess, the wife and I took her back and we had ourselves a little threesome. I don’t mean to speak ill of my wife’s sexual abilities. It’s not her fault that I’m so virile that no one woman could ever possibly satisfy me. Anyway, that lady told us that this here restaurant was the best place in DC to get a plastic straw.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Rosie said.
“Oh, sir,” Humberto said. “Whoever this woman was who lowered herself so disgracefully as to become your plaything was mistaken. There have not been any plastic drinking straws in this establishment in six months. Such a despiser of straws am I that I nagged and nagged and nagged the manager to replace plastic straws with paper ones and that, as they say, was that.”
“Come on, pal,” I said. “My lady friend…”
“The one you brought into your marital bed because your wife is a doormat,” Humberto said.
“Right,” I said.
“I’m right here!” Rosie said. “And I’m not a doormat! I’m not even…”
I cut my partner off quick before she could blow our cover. “She had a plastic cup from this restaurant with a plastic straw in it.”
“You’re sure?” Humberto asked.
“Positive,” I answered.
“Wisenheimer logo with Golly Gopher on the front and everything?” Humberto asked.
“That’s the one,” I said.
“Strange,” Humberto said. “I don’t know what to tell you about that other than when a cup leaves the restaurant I am powerless to stop a plastic drinking straw from entering it.”
“Hmm,” I said.
“Hmm?” Humberto asked.
“Hmm,” I said. “Very well. Gimmie a plate of the chimichanga cheese sticks with extra marmalade ranch sauce on the side.”
“An excellent choice, sir,” Humberto said before turning to Rosie. “And you, ma’am?”
Rosie handed the waiter her menu. “I lost my appetite.”
“I am so sorry to hear that,” Humberto said. “Toodle-oo, Omaha farmers. I shall enter your order presently.”
As soon as Humberto was gone, Rosie piped up. “What was that?”
“We’re undercover,” I said. “If someone’s violating the straw ban, they’re not going to fess up to a cop.”
“And Omaha farmer was the first thing to come to your mind?” Rosie asked.
“Pretty much,” I said.
“Yeah, well,” Rosie said. “Call me your wittle schnookums again and you’ll find out where I’ll stick those chimichanga cheese sticks.”
I grinned. “Duly noted.”
I took in the scene. As a cop, it was crucial to take in the lay of the land and survey my surroundings. All across the joint, there families chowing down on fat laden fried foods, doing to their best to contribute to America’s burgeoning obesity epidemic. I didn’t agree with Michelle Obama on much, other than the fact that kids today are a bunch of little fat fucks. The former first lady and I disagreed on approaches though. She tried to better the kids with motherly advice and love, whereas if I’d ever been given the authority to do so, I would have marched all the little lard-buckets in the land on daily ten-mile death marches until they sweated the pounds right out of their veins.
Sorry, I meandered off-topic. Back to the scene. I was about to down the last of my bear when some schmuck decked out in a big, furry Golly Gopher costume stopped by our table. Giant head. Googly eyes. What a disgrace.
“Hey there, wise guys!” Golly said in a silly voice. “Golly Gopher here to give you a great, good golly day!”
“Buzz off, rodent,” I replied.
“Aww,” Golly said. “Someone’s caught a case of the grumpy wumpies. I know how to cure those! With a golly wolly doodle doo song! Oh, my name is Golly and I’m here to say…”
I looked into the unmoving eyes of the mascot’s head. “Listen, imbecile. Creeps like you are a dime a dozen and during a sale you can get a gross for thirty-five cents on the barrelhead. What’s your story? Let me guess. You’re a struggling actor. Your performance in the high school play went over gangbusters so you thought you’d move to a big city, see if you can try your hand at some theater, gain some experience in a smaller acting market, earn a little scratch before you head off to Tinsel Town. Only problem is, debasing yourself in this cartoon animal outfit is the best gig you were able to come up with. You’d give it up in a heartbeat for a job that paid a livable wage, but you’ve gone too far now. All your high school friends live substantive lives. Cars. Houses. Wives with big titties. And you? You’ve spent so much time in this get-up that you figure the only way to make it is to double down in the hopes that what? Some random talent scout will wander into a D.C. family restaurant of all places? Discover you, whisk you off to Hollywood, where you’ll be in so many pictures that you’ll be able to call your father and laugh at his offer to let you take over his vacuum cleaner repair shop? Am I getting warm?”
The mascot lowered his cartoon head. “It’s a tuxedo rental shop.”
“Good money, man,” I said. “Why don’t you go back home, apologize to your old man and learn the tux trade before you end up opening your back flap for two bucks a pop to any sicko with a furry fetish to saunter in?”
“That only happened one time and…hey, come on man. Just let me sing you a song.”
I reached into my jacket and cocked Thunder’s hammer. The distinctive sound traveled to the costumed weirdo’s ears.
“Is that a gun?”
“Wanna find out?”
“Not really,” Golly said as he walked away, his furry head hanged in shame.
“Smasher,” Rosie said. “I’ve been wondering where I should draw the line with you and I feel like threatening Golly Gopher should be it.”
“Nonsense, doll,” I replied. “The night is young.”
Humberto returned to the table, a plate of hot chimichanga cheese sticks in hand. He sit them down on the table. As he did so, I couldn’t help but notice the lines of a prominent tattoo emerging out from underneath the short sleeve that covered his supple bicep.
“Oh, how foolish of me!” Humberto said. “I forgot your marmalade ranch sauce. I will be back in two shakes of a bunny’s nose.”
I watched our waiter walk away toward the kitchen. As he reached the swinging double doors, his eyes locked onto mine, the look on his face betraying a sense of urgency. I stood up.
“Smasher?” Rosie asked as I walked away. “Where are you going? Your overpriced appetizer is getting cold.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll be fine it’s just…sometimes a man has to get his own marmalade ranch sauce.”