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Chapter 33 - Eye of the Hurricane
Sometimes life requires an intermission.
It did so late that Friday night.
In consequence, after our heroes left City Hall and/or Maid Marion’s apartment, they took time out to be in and of themselves rather than in and of a group.
Jimmy Christmas hurried back to his TV Studio to write and edit his “breaking news” account for the Ten O’Clock News. Other local media outlets led with stories about the parking space, Hector Van Hooft’s press conference, and the protest-turned-riot on Chestnut Avenue. But only Jimmy showed footage of Cadogan McClure, The Great Filmmaker, distributing fireworks to demonstrators, and booming orders through a megaphone to throw rocks, set fires, and break windows.
Jimmy ended his broadcast with these words:
“According to U.S. Penal Code number 3101, ‘whoever performs an act to incite a riot shall be fined or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.’ In light of that law, will Cadogan McClure be held accountable for his actions? Or will the riot he incited on Chestnut Avenue merely be the opening scene in yet another of his award winning films? This is Jimmy Christmas reporting about The Little Parking Space that Could for the Ten O’Clock News.”
After she left Maid Marion’s apartment, Daisy Dalrymple also had a purpose associated with her profession. She returned to the company where she’d been employed for the past few months. First, she listened to a barrage of messages left on her answering machine by Cadogan McClure. All demanded that she be in the office on Saturday (not part of her job description) to help organize a second demonstration set to start on Chestnut Avenue at 10:00 a.m.
Daisy deleted the messages, and cleaned out her desk. Then she entered Cadogan McClure’s private office, searched for and found paperwork relevant to his plans for the following day, and put them in her purse. She did the same in Tallahassee Dan’s office. After which, she walked away, with no intention of returning, and leaving no forwarding address.
When Lilly Snow left Maid Marion’s apartment, her original intention was to return to her apartment, take a bubble bath, make a cup of hot chocolate, wrap herself in the Afghan that her mother had knitted for her birthday, and start to re-read her favorite novel, The Count of Monte Cristo for…oh, she guessed maybe the twenty-third time.
But she changed her mind when she saw the debris on Chestnut Avenue.
Broken bottles. Singed newspapers. Wrappers from unidentifiable incendiary and explosive devices. Torn posters. Abandoned gloves, scarves, hats, and even a depressing-looking red sneaker with a hole in its toe.
Worst of all, though, was the parking space in front of her building.
In some Twilight Zone Meets Ouija Board kind of a way, the parking space had reached out to her, and in rejecting a relationship with that isolated rectangle of asphalt, she felt as if she had betrayed an inamorato or a best friend. True, Lilly had not asked to be the love object of…of…an object. But to herself, if not to the world, she had to admit that Amos Goode and Noah Pitt were probably right.
Crazy, yes. But right.
So she stopped at Rocco’s Bistro on her way home and asked the girl behind the pastry counter to give her a large, empty paper bag.
Lilly left the bistro, crossed the street, stood on the curb in front of her apartment building with the toes of her red boots pointed at the parking space, and said – aloud – “I am so sorry. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be in this mess.” Then, because she was incapable of long bouts of solemnity, she added, “Ha. Ha. Maybe I mean that if it weren’t for me, this mess wouldn’t be in you!”
She shook out the bag, stepped down from the curb, entered the bit of street that no one but she could enter, and began to clean up. When her bag was half filled, she heard the roar of an engine moving up the street. The roar stopped beside her parking space. She turned and recognized the snowplow in which, three days earlier, she had ridden with a driver who seemed very much to wish that she had been somewhere else.
A key turned, and the engine went silent.
A vehicle door opened and closed.
A man walked around the front of the truck.
He said, “Hi.”
It was Noah Pitt.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com