Bobby B – Pledge Drive

Bernie pulled the door open and her loose fitting, wide-legged cotton lounge suit swirled around her. “Hey.” She waved Bobby inside. “You can sleep on the couch over there. I bought it comfy on purpose for Hotel California moments like this.” Bernie caught Bobby’s hangdog expression, screwed up her lips, shook her head. “It’s one night, Boudreaux, not like we’re living together. Lighten up.”

“Right.” Bobby had never been in Bernie’s condo before. He checked out the sleek, brushed chrome, wire and bleached-wood décor of Bernie’s living room, the angular red leather couch that that looked anything but “comfy”, and lamps that all reminded him of modern art sculpture. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but Bernie’s was cleaner and more streamlined than any place he’d ever been except an art gallery.

Bernie’s voice was lightweight actor gravelly when it floated out of the kitchen. “I made some vegetarian pasta with Black-eyed peas in a light, fresh peppered up Tony Chachere’s gravy, and coleslaw you’ll never forget. It’s a day early but we’ll be on a plane tomorrow. Did you pick up the French bread?”

“Yeah.” Vegetarian spaghetti? Bobby didn’t have much choice. He was out of his rented apartment in Huntington Beach, Mick had gone off the radar in Texas and Creighton was in North Carolina looking for Mid Atlantic burger joint investors. What Bobby wanted was to go home. He really wanted it not to be New Year’s Eve without Carrie Louise. New Year’s was something they’d celebrated together since he could remember. In the good times when they were little kids, through the rough times, even last year in the middle of Swamp Vue. Now she wouldn’t answer her phone. And football on the first without Mama Roche’s coleslaw had to be against the law. He set his gym bag on the floor, pushed it down the side of the couch so it looked less like Aqualung in a convent.

“Did you put onions in the black-eyed peas?” He toed the bag back a little further.

“For a fact. Red pearls. I know what I’m doing in a kitchen. It might not be on the table at five for some sweet-lovin’, hard-workin’ man, but when I get to it, I’m all that. You said yourself my trinity shrimp should be on the menu at Mick’s.” She dried her hands on a dish towel, stepped out of the open kitchen. She grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the couch, took the French loaf out of his lap, set it in her own.

“Look, Mr. B.” She smiled like the sister he sometimes wished he had. “Tomorrow we fly commercial to Houston, get on a looks-like-a-charter FBI King Air to Lafayette. We pick up the money and an unmarked escort Tuesday morning, drive over to the Big Red Stick. We hand off the money, drag your sweetie out of her crooked aunt’s office, kicking and screaming if we have to, tell how the hog ate the cabbage. Done deal. Stop worrying. Okay?”

“Yeah…Are you sure she’ll be there?”

“Louisiana girls always know where the competition’s at, Boudreaux.” She smiled again. “What did I tell you?”

“Lighten up?”

“It was an order, not a question.” She popped his thigh with her palm, stood up. “Take your shoes off. I’ll heat the bread, you pick a bowl game. Somebody kickin’ anybody from Florida’s ass, or anywhere north of the Georgia-Tennessee line is good.”

***

“Paris” checked her lipstick, smacked her lips in the mirror of the dancer’s dressing room in a topless bar two blocks south of the Houston Galleria. She hooked a thumb in front and back of the bottom of her holes-hooked-together-with-thread body suit, squatted slightly, tugged and cleared her wedgie. “What’s with the sad dude, Brandi? He looks like somebody I seen before.”

“He’s in one of those car tv shows. He says anyway, right? He’s getting too drunk and I’m not in the mood. It’s a front and back, bend and shake my ass night before my period starts like better be soon, and every time he grabs my shit I wanna scream and slap the whiny bitch. Maybe if he was getting me drunk, but he’s like a major tight ass. Dance, dance, dance. While he drinks and whines and gropes. Happy New Year me. Not.” She tried her own lipstick re-do in the mirror.

“He does look like the car dude, though, you know.” Paris swapped lipstick for a hairbrush. “I seen that show like a thousand times. I was dancing in this place on the two lane, thirty whatever? There outside Tyler? And the bar manager maggot, he like recorded all them car shows on his computer somehow, played them all day. That was before the Cartel dudes kidnapped him. And then this bitch from Charlotte, she like said all them crazy Cartel dudes was coming back to get us girls. So I gassed up at the Exxon where the Wendy’s is at and beat it here. I think the whore was jealous, you know, ‘cause she was like the ugliest bitch in the place. The DJ like paid her not to solo main stage, you know. I think the Cartel coming back was like too deep. A lie, right, to get us gone so she could make some Skittles coin for when her ugly skank ass got home she hit the trailer flying.” She paused, tried not to look too eager, caught Brandi’s eye in the mirror.

“So like, um, if you’re not down for the car dude’s ‘tude and all, I’ll take him, you know, ‘cause after all that shit in Tyler went down I need to bring daddy some money.” She did a both hands, both boobs adjustment, tilted her head side to side, checked them out. “And like my titties aren’t sore yet or nothing, and he ain’t getting to nothing else ‘cause, no offense, who knows where his hands have been.”

“Take him.” Brandi frowned into the mirror, shifted her own lips, side-armed her lipstick across the room and into her locker. “Him and his two million dollars some hillbilly Bumble Bee is carrying around in a briefcase bullshit.”

“Say wha? A bumble bee with two million? Girl, you high?”

“No. All he can talk about.” She shifted into a schoolgirl nyah-nyah voice. “‘Bumble Bee has two million dollars, Bumblee Bee has two million dollars.’ God. You listen to that if you want and get groped out. I’m gonna go get fuck-my-cramps shitfaced at the upstairs bar, lean over the rail and make fun of the rest of you whores till I can tip out of my shift.”

***

Mick stumbled out under the buzzing neon lights and into the humid Houston night, shuffled flatfooted over the crumbling asphalt past the valet parking stand, his left arm around Paris’s shoulder. She had both arms around his middle, her knees bent in a lift-then-drag move. At the far end of the parking lot, out of sight of the security cameras and away from the screaming neon lights, she passed him off to one of two guys standing at the back of a butterscotch and primer gray Eighties scoop-nose Cutlass with the trunk lid up.

She straightened the satin shorty robe over her lace body suit, all she had on except platform flip flops with big turquoise flowers on the toe straps, copped some attitude and got in the handoff guy’s face.

“Da fuck, Cletus. One of you could help a girl out.”

“Da fuck yourself, girl. Oughta be able to carry a man, you want easy money for his drunk ass bad enough.” Cletus eyed the semi-limp and sloppy drunk version of Monterrey Mick. “You sure this the car dude? Looks like one of the Beach Boys, only all fucked up an shit.”

The other guy grabbed one side of Mick, helped Cletus prop him up on the bumper. “What do you know ‘bout the Beach boys?”

“Enough to know this could be one of them.”

“Hell, them dudes is older than dirt. Old as the Stones, even. No way this dude’s that old.”

“Shut up and pay the girl, Orrin. And get off the Stones like now.”

Orrin handed Paris two Benjamins, she took them, spun around, flicked him on the nose with them.

Orrin smacked her butt. “You got two more hours, girl. Better turn that ass into a cash register ‘tween now an then or your daddy’s gonna be pissed he finds out you wastin’ time with us. Go on, we got this.” Orrin held Mick in place with his leg, cupped his hands around a match for the cigarette he’d left hanging unlit during the Mick hand off, watched Paris weave the walk back through the parked cars towards neon wonderland.

“You think this asshole knows a bumble bee with two million dollars?”

“We find out in the A.M.” Cletus clipped Mick on the back of the head with the barrel of his generic 9mm, shoved him backward into the trunk.

“Damn, Clete. Why’d you hit the man? He ain’t done nothin’ to you yet.”

“He’s fuckin’ drunk, an gonna puke up the trunk of my ride. I’d hit him for that later anyway. Now it’s done, I don’t have to do it when it’s later.”

“You been watching that time management woman looks like a Q-tip on PBS again.” Orrin slammed the trunk, walked around and opened the passenger side door. “Must be pledge drive time. One of these days you’ll be watchin’ a pledge drive an all them old folk singers be dead an the Stones gonna be on there in walkers, more wrinkly an fucked up than they are now, all asking for money an shit for a DVD from back when they weren’t droolin’, or a coffee cup with that stupid tongue on it.”

“Only time they play anything worth watchin’ is pledge drives.” Cletus dropped into the driver’s side, waved the 9 at his partner. “Fuck a DVD, I’ve seen ‘em like thirty times. But I’d drop fifty for one of those cups if they had one. Lighten up on the fuckin’ Stones, man. Seriously.”

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Looney Lunes #128

WINERY SAYS IT WAS A MOUSE, NOT A RAT, THAT WAS FOUND IN SANDWICH

Headline – Napa Valley Register

I feel a LOT better. Wait. I don’t eat many sandwiches in Napa. But I knew there was a reason I liked wine from Sonoma and Russian River Valley a little better than a nice glass of too sweet, not very dry Napa Valley Queue de la Souris.

Bobby B – Numb Nuts

“Bernadette, correct?” Agent Hyland flipped the pink Ruger over in his hand, briefly looked the attractive, non-TNA, not-in-cutoffs version of Bernie in the eye. “Your license checks.” He offered her the Ruger and the clip. “I’d appreciate it if you would stop shooting bad art to make your point.” He picked up the long, shiny revolver by the barrel. “You, on the other hand…” He stood over where Mick sat hunched down in one of Bobby’s rented-furnished kitchen table chairs. “What the hell is this? A handheld buffalo gun?”

“My father…” Mick dropped his head further, mumbled into his chest. “He bought it. His first shop was in a shit part of L.A. Where jagged Beaners would cut you for paint thinner. It’s been around since I was a kid.”

“We’re going to have to run it. If it’s clean you can have it back. If,” Hyland tapped Mick on the shoulder with the gun, made him look up. “If you sign up for a Concealed Carry class. You may have trouble proving to the L.A. County Sheriff you’re of upright moral character, but they give Concealed Carry licenses away in Texas when you buy a lottery ticket. Reason enough for you to take a little Lone Star vacation, get a grip on yourself.” He handed the cowboy special off to the black agent, who dropped it in a big, zip lock baggie.

“Now that the great standoff in Huntington Beach is out of the way…” Agent Hyland leaned on the briefcase with both hands, gave Bobby more of a fatherly look than an FBI glare. “Do you know what’s going on with your money?”

“Well, what I see varies some months. I figure it’s Junior or Carrie Louise needing something, or a bill for –”

“Your real money, Bobby. The fifteen million.”

“No. I…CL’s Aunt Liz handles that. Why?”

“You aren’t pulling money out and dumping it back in, raising and lowering the ceiling?” Hyland waited, caught Bobby’s blank, open eyed look. “I thought not.” He clicked the briefcase open, spun it around, lifted the lid.

Bobby whistled, just like he had at the butter soft leather in Creighton’s old Porsche.

Creighton checked the contents of the case, then Hyland. “Couple million, close to?”

“Good eye, DeHavilland. Two million on the –”

Mick started up his loud sob. Again. He reached out, turned the briefcase around, sobbed even harder and louder. “Godammit…” Bubbles formed and popped on his lips, tears streamed down his cheeks. “God…Dammit.” He looked around the table at all of them. “God…DAMMIT. That’s mine!”

“Mick,” Agent Hyland put a hand on Mick’s shoulder, “Bernadette and the boys have a plan for you that will put some money back in your pocket, make you whole again. If you’ll find a way to get your shit straight long enough to listen to them. But right now, old buddy, I need you to stop blubbering and go with agents Wilhead and Fryke. If you need to eat, let them know. Doubtful we’ll be able to save you any pizza.” The four of them watched the windbreaker and jeans agents escort a still sobbing, nose blowing Mick outside and off to parts unknown.

***

“So here’s the deal, team. Ms. Evrard, you can read over their shoulders.” Hyland handed Bobby and Creighton a sheet of paper across the pizza boxes, poured himself another chipped coffee cup of champagne. “We’ve already taken two million from Bobby under the guise of Mr. Dehavilland. The documents sent to Vernier stated it was investment money for Monterrey Mick’s burger joint.”

Creighton drew a line from one paragraph on the sheet to another. “You put that money in one of your trust accounts, because you don’t trust us?” He tapped the money with his pen. “Bobby takes this two-mill green back to Baton Rouge?”

“Uncle Sam trusts no one, Creighton. You get Bobby’s money back when this briefcase gets where it’s supposed to go.” Hyland talked through the end of his bite of pizza. “Bobby, you’ll take the cash to Vernier, tell her you changed your mind. You’re a principal in this burger joint deal and two million is a drop in the bucket, why waste it when you’ll get paid anyway.”

Bobby was lost. “Why me?”

“She’d expect you to pull some numb nuts stunt like hand her a briefcase full of money.  And Liz Vernier is already using you several times a week to make money disappear. Mostly her own. She and some partners set up an investment like your burger joint, only it’s not real and never will be. They throw money at it for all kinds of research and feasibility studies that never get done. They shovel money back and forth, pay bills for nothing, send it back in cash and she dumps it in your accounts. After she’s made room for it taking money out and shelving it in a holding account. It’s a big circle jerk that makes money vanish. The write offs as business investment losses reduce her tax burden, the money is gone, but she still has it. Somewhere.”

Hyland wiped his hands on a paper napkin, dumped a packet of ground parmesan on another piece of pizza, checked them all to see if he was registering. “The government doesn’t want to arrest anyone or make a big stink, people. They just want their share of the money. The money in this briefcase is wired to tell a room full of tech geek accountants what Liz Vernier does with it.”

“What happens when they get it all back?”

“Who the fuck knows, Bobby.” Hyland took another bite of pizza, talked around it some more. “They put it in a blind account, turn it into cash and subsidize anarchists for all I know. Our job is to give Liz Vernier this briefcase full of cash so ‘they’ can follow it to the magic money rabbit hole. After that it’s no longer our game.”

Bernie had one hand each on the back of Bobby’s and Creighton’s chairs, leaned in between their heads. “And me?”

“Ms. Evrard, you were allowed to stay because you have a reputation for being smart and overly curious when it comes to money. And you can act a little, if need be. You also have a temper and tactical firearms certification. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea when you see us running money in and out of your burger joint project to catch money launderers, and end up killing these two boys right out from under me.”

Bernie stepped around to the table, looked at Bobby and Creighton out of the corner of her eye, collected all the paper and handed it to Hyland.

“I would shoot them for that.” She leaned over the table, checked the pizza boxes, pulled one her way and frowned. “And now look here, Mr. FBI, I don’t care who your uncle is. If you don’t leave me some of that pineapple pizza, you’ll be going on the short list of shot right along with them.”

 

 

 

 

 

Looney Lunes #127

Some Things Shouldn’t Be Fixed With Tape

And that’s all I’m sayin’.

Looney Lunes #126

Don’t Throw Your Calendars Away!

FUTURE IS COMING, ACADEMICS PREDICT

Headline, San Francisco Chronicle

Heads Up! For the New Year – Give 2018 your best shot – Turn it up. Or Turn it off.

Bobby B – Way Too Much Fun

Long read- two episodes. Apologies, but they need to go back-to-back. Should have been out on Christmas Eve, but…

“It’s not right, Junior. Nothing is right.” Carrie Louise turned, looked over her shoulder from her seat on Bobby’s porch steps at the empty-but-lit-up-for-Christmas house.

“You’re right.” Eldridge Junior turned to look with her. “About all this, anyway. Never thought we’d get to here. Bobby not being in this house, us scattered all over. Like one of those movies where everybody grows up, gets different, moves away. Maybe they have a reunion twenty years down the road, people cry or get drunk and show their asses. If that happens I’m stayin’ wherever I am, lettin’ it all alone.”

“I saw one on TV like that. Bobby ‘n me were eatin’ his momma’s Christmas pecan cookies buried in ice cream, the year before she left…And all these people were at a reunion or a wedding or something and they got snowed in and it messed up everything. All the snow, and…Shit.” The tears came, Eldridge waited. “It was so cold on TV, and the ice cream…I thought I was cold and stuck my feet up under Bobby’s leg…What was I? Twelve maybe? He was it, you know? My whole world.”

Eldridge put his arm around her, let her cry in silence.

“Junior…Do you ever hear from him? At all?”

“Couple of times a week. Texts, mostly. Some email, not much. You know him. Short and sweet. With the phone he can say ‘here’s my apartment’ or ‘burned the shit out my hand’ and send a picture along. He uses the computer for keeping up with business, doing research, taking online business classes. He says the Internet is the biggest university in the world when you filter the garbage.”

“Why did he just dump me, Junior. What’d I do?”

Junior pulled his arm back and his phone out. “Nothin’, CL. He wonders the same thing.” He scrolled his texts, showed her ‘tell cl hey if she’s not dead’. Here. Nothin’ to it, take a look.”

Carrie thumbed through Bobby’s texts, paused on some, huffed about others, stopped on a few about her and the tears took over.

“See, he couldn’t get you to say anything back to him all summer long when he texted you. When he called, your phone rang into forever, no voice mail. He tried email. Even called that dorm place and some girl said ‘I don’t know you, fuck off’, called him a perv and hung up. The next time he tried to call, the number was out of service.”

“Land lines are extra money, for nothing. So we did shut it off. The other stuff is impossible. He just didn’t try. Aunt Liz says he hates me for being smart and —”

“Last I looked he was paying for both of us to get college educations, get even smarter. And leaving it with us in his no bullshit, I gave my word way. Sure as I’m sittin’ here I watched him, CL, right where you’re at, try to text and call. He figured you just decided he was a dumb redneck and the hell with him and Houma. Just like his momma. You know that’s never set right with him, his momma leavin’. Figure that’s why the lights are up, for you and her. The angel there in the window? That was hers. Bought it when Bobby was a baby. It’s just like the one in your momma’s window. Bobby can act like nothin’ bothers him, but he wouldn’t let a Christmas go by without those two angels.”

“You know that to be certain sure true, for a fact?”

“I do. Bobby called the house, asked Senior to hang the lights for him the day after Thanksgiving. Senior said Bobby told him he didn’t care a damn about the rest of it, but Senior had to find the angel, and it had to go in the window. Senior found a picture in one of the boxes of lights and Christmas goings on that Bobby must’ve used to remember how it all went up, Christmas to Christmas. Senior figured it out like he would do, havin’ told Bobby he’d light the place up. Here we sit.”

“It still ain’t right.” She snuffled, wiped her nose on the sleeve of her hoodie. “Empty and all.”

“Nope.” Junior handed her a Jack in the Box napkin from his windbreaker pocket. “It ain’t. Can future lawyers say that? Ain’t?”

“At home in Houma with friends, and friends who should be here, they can.” She turned to look at the empty house dressed in empty holiday cheer, the angel in the window. “It’s starting to look like everywhere else they can’t. That’s where Aunt Liz and them are trying to keep me, though.”

Carrie Louise pushed herself up, walked across the veranda to the angel glowing in Bobby’s front window.

“What am I gonna do?” She slowly ran her index finger down the glass where the angel had warmed it. “He’s off out there in California and all, driving fancy cars, being around way too many of those pretty girls and having way, way too much fun…”

***

Bernie was laughing when she answered the knock on Bobby’s apartment door. Monterrey Mick pushed her and the door into the wall, lurched into the small living room.

“Mick, what the —”

“Shut up.” He reached across himself with his left hand, dragged her around and shoved her at the round kitchen table littered with wadded up Taco Mejor wrappers, her purse and several open file folders. Bobby and Creighton sat on the far side of the table with three opaque plastic glasses and an open bottle of champagne.

Bernie recovered, shoved Mick’s shoulder. “Look, asshole, I get enough of your shit on the clock.” She started to shove him again, and he pushed her back.

“No, you look.” Mick pulled a ridiculously long barreled, nickel plated wild west revolver out of his jacket. He wavered for a few seconds, like the weight of the gun had altered his balance. “All of you look.” He leveled the TV gunslinger special on each of his targets, moved it back and forth between them. “Two million. That’s all I want. All I ever wanted. Two mill and I’m out of here, nobody gets hurt.”

“That line is beyond stale, even in Hollywood.” Creighton took a sip from one of the plastic glasses. “Christmas Eve, Mick. Money like that is three days away, best case. Besides, you’ll just blow it on hookers and coke and be done inside a year. If it doesn’t kill you, you’ll be homeless somewhere they have zero pity for broke Americans.”

“Fuck that, and you. I stay here and I’m a restaurant? I’m a fucking artist. I turn rusty iron into dreams and you fuckers want to put empty, painted shells of muscle cars in an over-sized gas station with my name on it? Where mom and dad and their greasy-fingered little screamers can watch junior college mechanics slap Bondo on some yokel’s Ranchero? That’s somehow better than killing myself with hookers and blow?”

Bernie shoved her hand into her purse, lifted it off the table and pointed it at Mick. “No you don’t. No, no no. Not this time, buddy. I’ve waited five years for my chance out of cutoffs and off the TNA wagon. No way do you fuck this up for me.”

Mick laughed. “What the hell, Bern? You got a loaded tampon in there?”

Bernie shifted the purse a few degrees to the right and it barked like a Chihuahua being muffled in a fat lady’s arms. Just behind Mick and little to his left a framed starving artist print of rain slicked streets in Paris dropped to the floor and shattered. Mick jumped and the cowboy gun boomed a shot into the floor. When Mick looked up the purse was gone and Bernie had both hands on the grip of a pink Ruger 380 that was pointed straight at him.

Mick checked Bobby and Creighton, couldn’t decide where to point the king size cowboy pistol.

Creighton held up his hands. “We’re unarmed, there’s no money, so you two shoot each other or work it out before Santa and the pizza get here.”

“You don’t get it. None of you.” Mick looked like he was about to cry. “I just want the money. No restaurant, no custom cars, no TV show. No fucking grief. I want out the pile of shit my life’s turned into, and two mill isn’t too much to ask. I made people happy. I fucking deserve it. If it’s a year long funeral procession, I don’t care. Hear that? I. Don’t. Care. Two million doll—”

BAM, BAM, BAM, loud and sharp rattled Bobby’s front door.

“BOBBY B? FBI. WE NEED YOU TO OPEN THE DOOR.”

“Way too much fun now.” Bobby shook his head, raised his voice. “It’s open.”

The door banged into the wall again. Two men stepped inside, one black, one white, both in jeans, t-shirts and blue windbreakers, their badges on lanyards around their necks. They spotted the pink Ruger and Mick’s long, shiny cowboy special, pulled their handguns and modern danced a slow, bowlegged cross step around the room. A tall man in dark slacks walked through the middle of all the guns like they weren’t there, set a briefcase on the table in front of Bobby and offered him a small, relaxed smile.

“Agent Hyland, Bobby.” He scooted the taco wrappers out of the way with the briefcase, dropped it to flat. “You have pizza on the way?”

“Yes sir.”

“Perfect. I’m originally from outside Omaha. Bum Fuck USA. Out where they say boredom breeds excess? And I thought we knew how to cut loose come Christmas time.”

Briefcase man hooked his sunglasses on the lanyard that held his badge, looked around the room. He took in all the players, the guns, the taco wrappers, the champagne bottle. “But I have to hand it to you, Bobby. You throw one helluva Christmas party.”

Bobby B – Money Pit

This is in-line backstory to get us to the end of season one in a couple of days. If you’re dying for some action, I just killed off two bad guys here –

Creighton DeHavilland’s office wasn’t the usual lawyer-y set up. Upstairs over a liquor store and a hair-nail salon combo in a Sunset Beach corner strip center. No sign other than C. DeHavilland on the door below the suite number. Nothing on the small center’s marquee. The office was neat, had an expensive any-way-you-want-it coffee maker on a stainless steel cart. The reheat and eat kitchen / wet bar opened up out of a closet like an efficiency apartment. The desk, at an angle in the corner, was modern and not too large. The centerpiece, and what owned the office, was a large hexagonal table. Where Creighton and Bobby were drawing on tablets that projected on two walls.

Bobby sighed, wiped his electronic etch a sketch. “POS is done? That’s what you’re saying?”

Creighton swiped the screen on his tablet. “Not done. Different concept. A straight franchise repair shop and esoteric used car lot.”

“Bernie said the car lot was her idea and it belonged to the restaurant.”

“And I said that would be a permit, zoning and liability nightmare. That’s why she’s not here.” Creighton leaned back, interlaced his fingers behind his head. “We’re already looking at a body shop with a diner on the front end. EPA will be an obstacle course. And our demographic doesn’t go out to eat with their families where used car lots line the streets. This project can’t be every good idea we have, mashed up like a German version of a Madonna song.”

Creighton stood, took his coffee to the microwave, waited for the four note chime. “We both know Bernie’s so hot to get this project off the ground we could say ‘Here’s the kitten drowning pool by the hostess station’ and she’d sign off on it. No car lot, she’s still on board. The car lot is a POS banner on Internet marketing with real estate investment brick and mortar outlets.”

“How ‘bout we build the Mad Mods diners, put a POS in the same market and contract all the paint? We don’t paint anything at Mick’s anyway. We take them down, send them out to get bead blasted and painted. All we do is wrench and weld and open boxes and wrench some more. Mick does his hand trim work and takes the credit.”

Creighton seemed to be out around Mars for a while, tapped his index finger on top of the microwave at an incredibly slow tempo. Thump…Thump…Thump…He came back from wherever he’d been, sat down and started scribbling on his tablet with his finger.

“For Bernie. We do the parking lot up like a clean used car lot. The strings of flags say happy. We do her diner on the front end like an old Route 66 gas station, only five or six times scale. Not huge, but not 1926. The back wall is plexi or whatever they use in car washes the EPA will agree with, and we put wrench and weld in full view behind it. No paint, no chemical issues. We build a POS or contract with a Mercedes-class body shop or the local hot dogs for paint. We take it’s temperature a couple of years in, test a larger, sports bar version in one or two major markets.” He sat back, looked at the wall. “Yeah?”

“Hell yeah.” Bobby was surprised at how well their grade school collages and a week’s worth of talk had morphed into a ragged reality. “Unhook that bad boy, toss it in the bucket and brag.”

“Done. I’ll call Bernie and get a mock up artist on this.” Creighton tapped his tablet, sent the grade school scribble on the screen to a printer behind his desk. “As of now Monterrey Mick’s Burgers, Babes and Mad Mods Body Shop is real. I’ll go see Mick, explain his future. Show him pictures of homeless, or a willing franchise partner or a bought-out retired nobody who can’t use his own name.”

“Names. Cray…Man, are we gonna leave ‘Babes’ in the name?”

“In this climate? Are you fucking nuts? We keep ‘Babes’ like Bernie’s going to keep wearing cutoffs after she gets her first paycheck as Director of Marketing. More name discussion. POS. Bobby, are you sure?”

“Yeah. I thought on it some more. ‘Proud Of Something’. Come in with a beater and leave with something to be proud of. Everybody needs to be POS. Proud of Something.”

“I knew you were golden. You can play dumb redneck kid all you want, I’ll be your paperwork Huckleberry.”

“We haven’t talked about money.”

“Talking money in Hollywood is crass, Bobby, because it’s always someone else’s. Let the documents roll out and then we can make money noises. Right now I need to spread some holiday cheer before the end of the year with some Christmas present phone calls. About a money pit with cachet that might turn a profit some day.”