There are times when life grabs hold you and won’t let go. You want to escape from its grasp; its hold is too tight. Even the jaws of life can’t pry you free. These moments happen to all of us. It may be something as simple as being invited to a party you do not want to attend because someone you don’t like is going to attend. But, you don’t want to hurt the host’s feelings so you go and you are caught in life’s grasp. If only life were so simple.
I wasn’t invited to a party, it was much worse. Why I gave in and said yes might confuse IBM’s Watson. Here is how it went down.
I’m sitting on the patio. The San Antonio, Texas, temperature a tad above its average 101° for a July day. Not a cloud in the sky. I smiled, finally, life was turning in my favor. La Flor* and her main squeeze, Little Carmen, are off doing whatever they are doing. I’m interested, but only in an intellectual way. I do not want to get involved. How I got dragged into a parallel universe of alt egos still baffles me.
I have a Texas sized glass of iced tea sitting on a small table next to me. Clear beads of sweat run down its sides. A nice slice of seedless, chilled watermelon rests on its side beckoning me to stick my fork into it. It’s peaceful and it’s all good. It’s all good until I hear Little Carmen’s motorcycle a half mile away. Forty-seven seconds later, yes, I counted them, the door to the patio swings open.
I did a half twist towards the door and saw Little Carmen holding it open for the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI. Training him well, I thought. I wondered what obedience school she enrolled Little Carmen in.
Little Carmen cleared his throat and said. “All rise, the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI is about to enters these promises.”
“Thanks, Little Carmen, did you mean premises?” I said, and remain seated and watched the grand entrance for the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI.
“Use is confused, Ray-Mo. See, a premise is when use is going to do something use needs to do because you premises somebody use is going to do it.”
“Thanks for clearing it up for me, Little Carmen,” I said and wondered why I agreed with him. Maybe it was his biceps, the size of my thighs. Or, his broken, in three places, nose that made him look like a hawk ready to strike his next victim. Or, maybe I have a soft spot for a guy who makes a good pizza and treats La Flor like royalty.
Little Carmen holds out his hand that resembles an Alaskan king crab for La Flor. She took hold of it and Little Carmen led her over to me. He said, “The beautiful, tough, and edgy PI is going to speak to you.” I wondered if La Flor was going to reward him a treat.
La Flor doesn’t wait for me to say anything. She said, “We practiced my entrance all morning long and LC finally has it down.”
“Practicing for the PI of the Year Award?” I said. Then added, “I see you have a windbreaker like Little Carmen’s.”
“LC is so sweet, Ray. He surprised me. He even had my right size, size 0. It has my name in writing over here,” La Flor points to the upper left side of the windbreaker.
“Do you mean script?” I said.
Little Carmen interrupts, “It’s not scribbled.”
La Flor pinches, Little Carmen’s cheek, “Settle down, LC. That’s a good boy.”
I wondered if she rubs his tummy or pats the back of his neck.
La Flor pirouettes so I can see the back side of her windbreaker.
“I like the touch, “Beautiful, Tough, and Edgy PI and underneath it says Hangs Out at Carmen’s Pizzaria.
“Big Carmen loves it. Here’s the deal, Ray, we got our first case.”
“Because of the windbreaker?”
“Is it out of state?” One can only hope. I continued, “What is it?”
“J.J. Peterson, the alt ego romance writer, is sure her alt ego boyfriend, LaRue is cheating on her.”
“Little Carmen butts in, “If LaRue is cheating on her, I will squeeze his head until it pops. Because the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI is friends with J. J. Peterson.”
“Is she paying you for this,” I asked. Right away I knew I should have addressed La Flor directly.
Little Carmen said, “No, I’ll pop his head for free. It’ll be on the house.”
“I can see how that will help,” I said.
“Thanks, Ray-mo. I get a brain burst every now and them.”
La Flor is a bit puzzled either by brain burst or now and them. I didn’t pursue it. She waited a moment, then said, “I didn’t want to take her money, in her next book, she’s going to mention that I am a beautiful, tough, and edgy PI.”
I don’t know LaRue, but I feel sorry for him. I said, “What if he’s not cheating?”
“We gonna cross that ocean when we finds dry land,” said Little Carmen trying to impress La Flor with his intelligence.
La Flor turned and kissed little Carmen on the cheek. “You are so perfect for me, LC. Be a sweet boy, and bring me the iced tea on Ray’s table.”
La Flor speaks, Little Carmen jumps, sits up, rolls over, and if he had a tail it would be wagging at a hundred miles an hour. My apologies to canines.
La Flor turned back to me and said,” Sometimes good things happened to good people like when LC came into my life.” Little Carmen wrapped a napkin around the iced tea glass. Sweet move.
She gave him a look and I thought he might hyperventilate. I wanted to get back to my peaceful place, my iced tea gone. I felt confident La Flor would want my watermelon.
“Look what Ray had waiting for you LC, watermelon.”
Ray-mo, you the man, gimme a fist bump.”
The fist bump hurt. I wonder if I should have my hand X-rayed for possible fractured fingers. I watched Little Carmen pick up my generous slice of watermelon. When he finished, all that was left was the rind. He took the rind and scaled it across my backyard.
“Why did you do that, Little Carmen?” I asked.
“I thought I could use it like a boomerang.”
“You are the creative one, LC,” said La Flor.
“Don’t you to have to go check out JJ Peterson’s boyfriend?” I said hoping to get the dynamic duo out of the house.
“We do, Ray. That’s why we came to see you,” said La Flor.
“How’s so?” I said.
“You drive a nondescript Toyota. You can be our driver. We will ride and observe.”
“What about little Carmen’s motorcycle?” I asked.
“The beautiful, tough, and edgy PI is too beautiful riding on the back of my motorcycle. She attracts too much attention.”
“Let’s go, Ray,” said La Flor.
So much for my peaceful afternoon. I didn’t want La Flor arrested in a conspiracy to murder. Even if Little Carmen said it was justified. I’m not sure how alt ego courts handle cases.
“Where to?” I said once I got into the Toyota.
“Starbucks,” said Leflore. “JJ Peterson says he hangs out there and that’s where he meets the other woman.”
“And, that’s where he’s going to meet pepperoni and sausage,” said Little Carmen looking at each of his fists.
“You are so adorable, LC,” said La Flor.
“Which Starbucks?” I said as I looked in the rearview mirror and saw La Flor and Little Carmen in a passionate embrace.
I repeated my question, “Which Starbucks? The city must have a hundred of them.”
La Flor stopped for a second, “It doesn’t matter, tell us when we get there.”
Maybe it’s the hot Texas sun. Maybe it’s the sound of the cicadas. Maybe I can blame Ray Bradbury and his book, ‘The Zen of Writing’ where he suggested to let the characters lead you on. Taking his advice, I called Big Carmen and asked for wisdom to share with readers. He thought for a moment, then said, “I’ll give you the best advice I ever got, it came from my Uncle Tony.”
I didn’t say a word, then Big Carmen offered, “Be nice to everybody, you never know when they’ll want to put extra toppings on their pizza.”
* La Flor is a fictional character and acts as my alt ego. Her character has evolved over the blog posts. She began with a single letter as her name. Her name gradually grew to two letters, then three before she settled on La Flor. She liked the name because it fit her idea of a beautiful, tough, and edgy feminine PI. It is my interaction with her persona that serves as the source of these blog posts. I have no notion how La Flor will continue to evolve. It is an adventure for me as well as the reader.