Sally has just inherited her debt-ridden father's scrapyard. Developer Felix Hern is scheming to get his greedy city-boy paws on every trash-ridden inch of it. But Sally isn't about to roll over. And like they say - all is fair in love and war.
'In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In a desperate position, you must fight.'
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War -
"Sally... there are some yahoos capering around in the west section with some weird looking gear."
I'm playing fat-boy smack down with Dino when Sims kicks the door open, a layer of slick sweat coating her face. That girl really ought to get more exercise. Dino has me in a chicken-wing clutch and grudgingly releases my arms. If you're not familiar with this time-honored pastime, fat-boy smack down involves stuffing your clothes full of pillows, dirty socks, bags of laundry and oily rags until you look like the Michelin man on steroids.
And then you... ehr.
Wish I could say there is some profound, multifaceted strategy involved, but you basically just bounce off each other's fat bellies and try to cream your adversary in swiftest manner.
I'm getting rather creamed so I don't sulk about Sims' interruption like Dino does. And he'll punch me in the schnozzle if I call him Dino nowadays. It's Dean now. He's suddenly all grown up, mature, and stuff. Though obviously not too mature to play fat-boy smack down with a girl and then get in a strop about not getting to make Bolognese out of me.
"What kind of guys?" I scramble to peer out of our grimy windows, knowing damn well the west corner can't be seen without a keen will, a fifteen feet ladder and a decent pair of binoculars.
Sims shuffles her feet, managing to stroke her nose tip with her thumb and pick her molars with her middle finger – at the same time. Which if you ever have the pleasure of making Sims' delightful acquaintance, you'd know is quite a feat for her.
"Like... well. Not the hot kind."
Can't say I'm surprised. Very rarely is our stinking scrapyard teeming with hot guys. Like never. And besides, the only kind of guys that are hot in Sim's book are the kind with ample bosoms. Sims is shallow like that.
Sally and Sims.
Sounds like a joke, but what are you going to do about it? My Yeti-sized little sister's birth certificate says something completely different than Sims, something that hasn't been used since the 'incident' that took place at a church barbeque fifteen odd years ago. The entire Sullivan clan is still blacklisted. Which is kind of a relief but not a hoot when snotty kids point at you in town and whisper, "Is she one of them, Mama?"
In spite of the positively Celtic Sullivan family name, we're as Italian as Don Corleone. Old Reginaldo Montalbano thought it a splendid idea to assimilate and so, Reggie Sullivan it was. And old Reggie sired Sims and me together with a sturdy lass from Naples, our musky mother, Giuseppina. Who during the insufferable summer of La Macarena absconded with Billy-Lee Walcox, the barely legal teenage son of the town's Mayor. But that's a different story altogether, one that I'm prone to drone on about when I'm sufficiently well oiled, as Dino likes to call it.
Obviously Dad had something else down on the blueprint than a double set of chicks when he knocked Mama up. Which is why he insisted on naming me Sal after his best buddy, Salvatore, later similarly absorbed into the local fabric of Hicksville, changing his name to the impressive red-blooded American man's man name - Bob. No fuss, no fancy frills and bows. Just Bob. Uncle Bob. – Yup. Wish I was making this shit up.
I fumble under Dad's desk for the old air gun Sims and I sometimes use to entertain rats with. Seriously, they get all competitive and geared up and start plotting to overthrow us. I swear they have a new tactic every damn time.
I snatch my cap from the hook by the door. Dino is hot on my heels when I elk on through the piles of our, anally tidy and well-organized heaps of 'stock-material'. Our scrapyard is the finest on this side of Eden, and I'm not kidding – it really is the epitome of orderliness. I take great pride in knowing where every single carburetor and 1972 Chevy grill is located.
Dino comes lumbering after me, his hair flopping around his head. Dino is Uncle Bob's kid, though he's not really a kid and Uncle Bob isn't really our uncle, which means Dino isn't our cousin. I know the cliché and I think Uncle Bob is still holding out hope for us to miraculously forget ourselves and get it on.
But well. Ain't gonna' happen.
I mean once you've seen a man weeing his pants, all of that sort of flies out of the window. Granted Dino was six when it happened but I for one can never think of him as a man without remembering him trying to hide his little pink shrimp wienee while Aunt Violetta stripped him out of his red crushed velvet pants.
Dino's mama Violetta is weird in a way that has a diagnosis and an acronym that I won't put down on paper. Red velvet. On a boy. That just says it all. Luckily he's evolved a little when it comes to fashion and no longer takes his mother's advice.
But you get the gist. He's seen the grossest, least flattering sides of me. He was there when I got drunk the first time and puked my liver out (well, he got me drunk so it isn't as sweet as it sounds). Vodka drunken straight upside down and in copious amounts, does something to a girl's ability to shoot straight. Lets just say that even though he's never been inside of me, he's had my insides all over him.
And when I got my first period and Dad only grunted uselessly turning into a beetroot red blubbering idiot (sucks not to have a mother at these crucial female stages) – well anyway. Dino stole money out of my Dad's wallet and simply hiked off to the store to score tampons. A humongous trailer-sized package. He probably figured it meant he wouldn't have to do it again. Ever. Boy was he wrong. I don't know why but I still find it embarrassing getting that stuff, but Dino is an old pro. He'll call me on my cell and holler so that you can hear him five counties away, "You need those jumbo, plug a hole on Noah's Ark kind if thingies or the normal ones."
And I will inevitably get that tic I get, making my one eye blink uncontrollably as if I'm spastic.
But yeah, Dino is all sorts of awesome. He was the one who came to my rescue that night I lost my virginity to Chase Weber and the heartless sonofabitch stole my knickers as a souvenir, whirling them around his fingers as he came down stairs to Pete Henderson's party. Dino was there two minutes later, so fast, the rubber was melting off the tires of his old pick-up truck. I have to admit, I was pretty darn upset. I still sort of am. There wasn't one thing about that experience that was remotely pleasant.
It's been six years and I still haven't recovered enough to have another go at the whole bump and grind thing. That's how much of an exquisite choice of a first lover Chase Weber was. And I mean, what girl wants to hear she has the appeal of a spasmodic stork while having her skull thumping against the headboard.
But I digress. My lack of sexual finesse is hardly the point of this pointless rant. It's just to let you know what a good old boy Dino is, not how Chase Weber gives dogs a bad name.
Dino proved to be even more of a hero one week later, when my private parts broke out in festering blisters. He actually bundled me in into his truck and drove me straight to this nice lady-doctor three towns away. Sworn to secrecy with the threat of castration hanging over his fine head. Naturally.
Examination done and proper meds dispersed, said lady doctor had summoned him in for a beating-over-the-head lecture on STD's, the importance of using c-o-n-d-o-m-s and of respecting your sex-partner. And not once did he bitch about having to take crap on that lowlife, Chase Weber's behalf. At least he came away with some free rubbers out of the whole sordid ordeal. I gave him my stash too, seeing as how I wasn't planning on having any use for them. Ever.
Proof is in the pudding. Dino is undeniably baby-cakes, sugar-bubs, manna of men. Quite plainly put – a good guy.
He just isn't a guy in my eyes if you know what I mean. And besides, as long as I can remember Dean Strabazza has been starry-eyed, spun cotton candy-besotted with the girl who lives next door to us – Claire. Now Claire is a real girl. She isn't tall as a flagpole and doesn't wear size eight shoes that you can sail to Tahiti in. No Ma'am, she is one of those small females, little rose-bud mouth and eyes like pools of unicorn-tears. Oh, and most importantly she's the proud owner of the biggest boobs in a hundred mile radius, beating even Aunt Eunice's bazookas with horse-lengths.
I might be exaggerating a hint, but well, you get the general idea. She's well-endowed, yadayadayada.
Dino and Sims stand united in their fondness for grandiose bosoms. And much as I don't exactly want his attention in that way - I like to think that this is the only reason why Dino isn't madly, heartbrokenly in love with yours truly, who's flat as a sheet of pressed scrap metal.
But I'm going off the tangent. Getting back to the question of intruders - as in getting them out. We find them there, by the west corner, mulling about, looking all busy and crinkled-brow serious.
Three guys. In pinstriped suits. Two, in their forties and one youngish – thirty tops. The two older ones are wearing cheap off the rack stuff, even I can tell, but the youngster looks like a gangster out of a 30's movie. His suit, cut perfectly, hanging on him like a second skin, complimenting broad shoulders. I spot a snug waist and slim hips. He has one hand in his pocket, hitching the hem of the jacket up, tie loosened around his neck – attempting to look casual, no doubt. But he's the kind of guy who'll never manage to look casual. Something dramatic about his slicked back dark hair and the alertness of his narrow, almost oriental eyes. He turns to stare at me as if I'm the one who has no business being there.
Okay, so this isn't exactly a rhetorical question. But really, what would you do if you found three suits with torture instruments, burrowing poles into your ground? When they nonchalantly proceed to tie up gaudy red ribbons in between the sticks, rigging up cameras or some type of measuring machinery - I lose my cool.
I kick an empty paint bucket in the young guy's direction which he neatly sidesteps.
"What the frigging frazzle do you think you're up to - kibitzing around here? This is private property!"
The two old guys keep doing what they're doing while that young asshole stalks up to me and offers a big sissy-paw and a sharky grin. He's got a razor-sharp jaw and is built like Spartacus. The kind of smug jerk who thinks he's all that – you can tell from a mile away. He's as tall as me which means he's one tall sucker. I mean, I bruise my chin with my knees when I drive. And I can tuck Uncle Bob under my arm-pit if it rains. I mean, not that I ever would want to. Uncle Bob has a tiny problem with personal boundaries. I try not to encourage him.
"I'm Felix Hern - of Hern & son Development."
As if that ought to mean anything to me. Doesn't seem very developed. I look him over, clutching my air gun to my chest. Not going to touch his dainty lily-white hand. Some office poof who hasn't worked a day in his life. For sure. He still smiles like an idiot, ignoring the fact that I refuse to shake his hand.
"I didn't ask who you were. I asked what the hell you're doing cavorting around here? With that?" I point the air gun at the mountain of stuff they've brought along.
I don't like him – and I don't trust him. At all. He's got one of those open honest sorts of faces, that without fail, always, belongs to the most unscrupulous.
"This land is about to be divested."
Er. Dive... what?
"No Buddy, no nothing is getting dissected, divested or any damn di- here. And you better get your pudgy behind off this here land. Pronto."
I know he isn't pudgy. In fact he looks rather well proportioned but he's standing on my land talking smack. As far as I'm concerned, I can damn well call him pudgy if I feel like it.
"I'd like to speak to your boss if he's around."
"No he ain't around! He's dead, you asshole! Now move along. Ain't no business for you to be here."
"Dead? No... no I don't mean Reggie. I want to speak to the new one - Sal Sullivan. He around, per chance?"
Dino sidles up to me and puts a protective arm around my shoulders, mumbling, "Cool it, baby. Ain't no need to get worked up."
I am cool! Seriously, as cool as cool can be. But I shake off Dino's cloying arm anyway. I swear, that guy treats me like an imbecile.
"I've got it, Dino," I wheeze and glare at the city-slicker instead, puffing out my chest. "Sal ain't receiving visitors. He's busy."
He smiles at this. Though god knows why. A little twinkly devious smile that makes me want to break those perfect teeth with the butt of my air gun. But don't worry good folks, I'm not a complete savage. And I am cool, I can be completely cool.
"Busy? Well I was told I could find him here and I really need to talk to him about the property – I was thinking we might be able to work something out, outside the bank's involvement." The main honcho, suit guy looks positively Asian when he squints like that. Like some kind of Kung-fu movie star in pinstripes.
Bank's involvement? Dino squeezes my shoulder with a his large warm hand and whispers hoarsely in my ear.
"Don't battle him now. Always say less than necessary." I swear, I bet he does the same thing during sex with his never-ending entourage of stand-in Claire-clone look-alikes.
Dino is weird like that. He looks like a big dumb oaf, but he reads like nobody's business. He's really into that Chinese guy, that book fellow with his freaky wisdom, Sun Tzu, whom he always quotes. I mean into, as in would have drooled and humped old Sunny's leg if Dino were a dog and old Sunny were still alive. It was somewhat cute when he was a squirrel-eyed eight year old but if you've been around him for the last twenty four years it loses its novelty. Anyways... Normally his babbling really gets my goat, but now I'm thinking he might actually have a point for once. I try not to hyperventilate.
"What the hell are you talking about, douchbag? Who told you, you could just clomp on in? You saw a 'welcome-in–greedy-prick' mat anywhere?"
"The bank notified me about the impending foreclosure... Seeing as how I'm a good customer and I wanted to have first dibs -"
Foreclosure? Bank? What the hell? So maybe I'm not as immersed in Dad's business yet as I ought to be. But this has got to be a mistake. Sullivans have owned the scrapyard for the last thirty years.
Must find out what he's talking about. Dad hasn't said anything about any dealings with the bank. Foreclosure, don't know what the heck that is but it sure doesn't sound like it's a trip to Disneyland.
"So hey... listen," the suit says flashing two full rows of teeth and ditto gums. Dad always said you can tell a person's true social class by their teeth. And this one's incisors all aligned with front teeth, no gaps, no irregularities, summa summarum, he positively reeks of upper crust. " Are you like some kind of – well. You are very light."
I find that the best defence is offence. Well, at least that's what Dino always says, when I can resist not zonking out.
"Are you saying I look like an albino?"
I do. But I can tell the question catches him off guard and makes him uneasy. Which is the whole point of it. And honestly, I might very well have been albino since I have no color whatsoever, anywhere. At least I don't have those scary red rabbit eyes, but watery grey ones, Still, I have to dye my eyebrows not to look like a newborn mouse baby, all pink and transparent. Even my hair has about as much pigment as a bowl of basmati rice.
"No. Just, you have a unique coloring. I didn't mean to imply-"
"Coloring? Is that what you racist clan bastards call it now?" Actually, the clan would have squealed in joy to have me as a poster child - seeing as how well I'd match their sheets. But the aim here is to make the enemy stumble, to lure him out of his comfort zone, and I've found that nothing does that quite as efficiently as a well-aimed charge of racism. "You've got a nerve Buddy, coming here with your fancy-schmanzy big city talk, calling me an albino! Now get the hell off my land before I kibosh you."
I wave at him with the air gun, crossing fingers that he has bad eye-sight and mistakes it for a real shotgun.
"Are you threatening me with an air gun?"
"No…" I totally am. It might not look like much but I reckon I could bruise him quite sufficiently with it. I can't believe he doesn't even deign my racism-accusation with a reply. Doesn't even try to defend himself. What's the fun in that? But I decide to put that aside. A great strategy, pretending as if you haven't heard.
I can see Dino out of the corner of my eyes, shoving his hands in his overall pockets. His zipper is undone all the way down to his bellybutton, towels and clothes spilling out like intestines as if he's been gutted. I notice that the suit looks him over with quite a disinterested glance before turning his attention to me again.
"Keep your finger off the trigger, Sal," Dino says though why I have no idea. Hey, I can control my actions. It's not as if I'm some trigger-happy maniac. I'm calm, collected, and - ehems lady-like. Yep. Absolutely.
"You're Sal Sullivan, aren't you?" The smirking slimy bastard. Looking like the cat that got the canary. I can practically see the yellow wisps of feathers sticking out from the corner of his mouth.
"Atta' clever boy. Now buzz off or you'll be in a world of hurt! Scram." I brandish the air gun in what I imagine is a menacing way. I don't fail to notice how Dino rolls his eyes and sighs. We're going to have that talk about loyalties again.
They start gathering up their gear while I stand there trying to embody Calamity Jane or some hard-ass like that. As he stuffs some drawings into his messenger bag, city boy peers at me.
"I have to say, even if your manners leave a lot to be desired, you do have a smoking hot figure Sal Sullivan."
Cavolo! The cheek of this suit-boy pursing his lips giving me a lazy once over as if I'm indeed some smoldering pin-up girl.
Dino the disloyal bastard has the nerve to snigger. I look down realizing that I also still have the whole fat-boy smack-down cushion armor tucked into my jumpsuit. I mean, I have a car pillow across my buttocks, a bag of rags around my middle giving me the girth of Santa and a diverse selection of padding for my arms and legs.
I'm not about to look like I care what some stuck-up city-twat thinks of my figure, so I cross my arms over my impressive chest and try to look as aloof as possible. As if this is the way I always dress – and even if I were – who the heck is this asswipe to judge me? I'll show him manners.
"If the view offends you, you might want to scuttle on back to whatever polluted hell-hole you sprung from, sissy-boy," I say. I even curtsy a bit but it ends up more of a wobble. You try curtsying in five inches thick stuffing. It isn't a completely undemanding exercise, I tell you.
And what does that Felix guy do? He goes and frigging winks at me. Winks! Who the hell does that, except for deviants and perverts?
"I just gave you a compliment. The least you could do is say thank you."
"My pleasure," he says so quickly I become unsure whether I actually said what I aimed to or if an accidental 'thank you' might have dripped out. Damn it. "So... Sal Sullivan, I guess I'll see you around, seeing as how I will be buying your garbage dump and turning it into a top-notch, five star apartment complex."
My jaw falls down on my work boots. Apartment. Over my dead fat-boy stuffed body.
"You're welcome to come and check out the blue-prints some day - if you're interested."
He sticks a goddamn card in my hand and I open my mouth to plunge my fangs into his throat, but Dino cuts me short with his Zen-Yoda, war-strategy crap.
"Don't be an eager beaver, Sal... Ponder and deliberate before you make a move."
That boy is like the damn horse-whisperer. There is something annoyingly soothing about his Art of War shit. So instead of crippling suit-boy, I remain motionless watching his (surprisingly delightful) ass as he walks away with his cohorts.
Just before suit-boy disappears behind the fence he lifts his hand and freaking waves at us. A jolly little salute, as if we are now BFF.
What the flying duck is going on?
And Dino actually flicks him the bird. I mean, this is shocking on a level that you can't even begin to imagine. Dino is the polite one. The good guy. I've never seen him make a rude gesture in his life.
"Come on Din – er, Dean. Time to pick the lock on Dad's safe."
He hobbles along after me, like a big faithful old Labrador. Or not so damn faithful. I'm not forgetting that snigger and eye roll in the near future. Traitor.
"Dibs on the first try with the crowbar," he says.