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By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 39 - All Dressed Up
The title for Jimmy Christmas’s broadcast on Saturday night (you can open the link on the news station’s website) is “All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go.” The concept being that despite the meticulous planning Cadogan McClure had done to create a hostile environment around an ephemeral object on Chestnut Avenue (Now you don’t see it. Now you still don’t see it), by the time he arrived at the “party,” not only were all of the guests (protesters) gone, the guest of honor (invisible and impenetrable parking space) was gone, too.
Jimmy’s on-camera presence was effective and impressive, but it was his video images that really told the story.
Two more encounters, somewhat less compelling but interesting nonetheless, added to the drama.
The first involved Hector Van Hooft, who was not hard to find since he lived in the building adjacent to the parking space that – given recent events – seemed to be having its fifteen minutes of fame.
Rosemary Thigpen, Hector’s cohort at the press conference, was a little harder to locate, but not by much.
Since she worked as a meter maid for the city, Jimmy asked his beautiful chauffeur (would Maid Marion be attracted to a younger man, he wondered?) if she could call the mayor and get Thigpen’s contact information. The whole process – only Miracle Elsie Abbot was able to access confidential personnel files on a weekend – took less than an hour.
First Jimmy called Hector Van Hooft. Then he called Rosemary Thigpen.
He asked them to meet him at 11:00 o’clock that morning in front of 1582 Chestnut Avenue. The TV news intern explained that he wanted to conduct on-camera interviews as a follow-up to the events of the previous day.
Despite the grogginess of Hector’s voice (since he worked nights and slept days, the call woke him up), Jimmy Christmas could hear the executive chef preening under the glow of media attention. And Rosemary Thigpen seemed cocky bordering on condescending when he spoke to her on the phone.
Neither were aware of any overnight changes on Chestnut Avenue, since no journalist had covered the vehicle evacuation, no blogger had mentioned it, and no pedestrian with a cell phone camera had photographed it. In The Big City, a car…or even a bunch of cars…being towed was not unusual and was about a mile short of being considered “breaking news.”
Cadogan McClure was also uncharacteristically silent.
After the indignity of two carefully crafted events going terribly wrong, his ego was a smudge at the bottom of his ugliest shoe. Granted, he would have liked to find a target for his rage, but – even worse being deserted by his cast and crew – The Great Documentary Producer had also lost his “cause.” For one cannot protest against an invisible and elitist parking space when it is no longer invisible and everybody and anybody can just waltz in.
Which left Rosemary Thigpen and Hector Van Hooft stunned by the turn of events when they met in front of Van Hooft’s apartment building at 11:00 a.m.
Hector pushed through the lobby door onto the sidewalk, briefly met Jimmy Christmas’s eyes, and then shifted this vision to take in the entire block, on which there was not a single car.
Literally, as if he were a cartoon character in the Sunday funnies, his jaw dropped open.
He said, and I quote, “Huh?”
Jimmy Christmas was standing in the very spot in front of Vann Hooft’s building – west of the curb and east of the street – where only Lilly Snow was able to stand the week before. With a video camera mounted on his shoulder and a small microphone pointed at the executive chef, he said, his voice was more cheerful than mocking, “Come on in, Mr. Van Hooft. The water is fine.”
Hector and Rosemary stared, as the protesters had done two hours before, at a snowless, sparklingly clean, and vehicle-free expanse. Then they walked forward almost somnambulistically, as if pulled by an irresistible silk thread.
Hector stretched out his arms and felt with his hands for an invisible wall.
Rosemary did the same, but less cautiously, swinging a leg with each step so that if anything had blocked her path, it would be savagely kicked.
Nonetheless, neither encountered any obstacles, and both were soon standing beside Jimmy Christmas in the space that (so the story went) had once permitted entry only to a blue-eyed, pug-nosed, recent import from the Midwest.
“Where did it go?” Hector demanded, as disconcerted by the invisible barricade’s disappearance as he was when it had suddenly appeared.
Whereas Rosemary exclaimed, “It’s a trick. Somebody paid somebody to do something at City Hall.”
The interview went on for several more minutes, but only those two statements, “Where did it go?” and “It’s a trick,” made it into Jimmy’s broadcast on the evening news.
The second interview Jimmy Christmas conducted that Saturday was of City Councilman Richard Fix, who had also been awakened by the TV intern’s telephone call.
The major difference between Richard Fix and Hector Van Hooft was that a day after the press conference on Chestnut Avenue, Richard still had absolutely no idea what all the fuss was about. Yet, only feeling alive when he could read his name in a newspaper or see it in an Internet blog, he agreed to meet with the young reporter in the City Hall Rotunda at 2:15 p.m.
Not having boned up on the nature of the controversy (as usual), Councilman Fix arrived for the interview looking dapper in a three piece blue business suit with a red bow tie. The skin on his brown face was so smooth, he looked barely old enough to shave, and his button black eyes gave him the appearance of an amiable if dimwitted Teddy Bear.
When Jimmy Christmas thrust the microphone at the politician and asked his opinion about the hullabaloo surrounding a now missing parking space, the only word that registered in his mind was “space,” which somehow – like two atoms colliding to create a new molecule – latched on to the word “outer” from a TV special about the Apollo 11 moon landing that he had watched the night before. Next thing you know, Richard Fix was promising that if he was reelected, he would submit a bill to fund exploration of outer space because, and Jimmy included this statement, into his news story: “Even aliens from far off civilizations can get along with earthlings, if we just take the time to sit down and talk.”
The overall impression viewers received after watching Jimmy Christmas’s four minute news segment was that:
Humans can be foolish:
All this for a parking space?
Humans can be envious:
You may have it, but I want it.
Humans can be dangerous:
One demonstrator’s sign read, “I don’t know what we’re protesting. I just like violence.”
And humans can be ambitious:
For the first time…ever...Cadogan McClure was exposed as a power-crazed maniac instead of an empathetic Everyman.
The only one to survive Jimmy’s newscast unscathed was Richard Fix, whom viewers perceived the way movie-goers did Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. If the City Councilman wanted to believe that he was Santa Claus or that he could successfully negotiate with aliens from outer space…so be it.
Richard Fix may have been an affable idiot.
But no one wanted to break his heart.
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