“THE BIG BLUE BOX HEIST”

I was in the office playing solitaire—real cards—and checking email when the beautiful babe showed up. Big eyes. Long dark hair. Legs up to there. I glanced at the lucky guy with her. “What kind of dog is Gorgeous?”

“Mixed,” he said. “Great genes.” I nodded at the lucky bastard. “And you are—?” I asked. “Citizen,” he answered. “John Q. Citizen.” I trashed an email from my bookie. “What brings you here, John Q.?”

“They say Sam Spadinsky is the best private eye in town. And aren’t you—” I grinned. “Sam Spade was my grandfather. Married late—but right. Grandma Ida made killer matzah balls.” He stared. “Name got changed after my great-grandfather Moishe Spadinsky went through Ellis Island.”

“As to my problem, this could take some time,” John Q. said. “No rush,” I said. “You walked in, you punched the clock.” He stroked the top of Gorgeous’ head. She purred. A dog? “I’m looking for answers,” he said. “Okay,” I said. “Give with the questions.”

“The OakTown caper,” he said. “Valuable big blue boxes heisted.” I placed a red ten on a black jack. “No mystery. Men in blue suits. Work for the Orange Man.”

“It’s not who,” said John Q. “It’s why.” I rolled my eyes. “Election’s coming up.” He glanced at Gorgeous. “But people from both parties vote by mail,” he said. “To make a case in the court of public opinion, I need the real motive.”

Gorgeous yipped her support. She sounded like my ex—who, to be fair, didn’t appreciate my snoring. “It’s all about keeping the wrong people from casting ballots,” I said. “Wrong people?” John Q. asked. “Why shouldn’t everyone be able to vote?”

I took a flask of Scotch from my desk drawer along with a book. The flask was for show. The book was the real deal. “Goes way back. It’s all here. These Truths. A history of America by a gal name Jill Lepore. I’ll read you three passages about the 19th century.”

“Page 234: Abel Upshur, President John Tyler’s secretary of state, on slavery: ‘However poor, or ignorant or miserable he may be, he [a white man] has yet the consoling consciousness that there is a still lower condition to which he can never be reduced.’

“Page 256: George Fitzhugh, this American social theorist from Virginia—‘some [men] were born with saddles on their backs, and others booted and spurred to ride them,—and the riding does them good.’

And page 269: Chief Justice Roger Taney on the 1857 Dred Scott Case argues that Congress has no power to limit slavery in the states because the guys who wrote the Constitution considered people of African descent ‘beings of an inferior order . . .’”

“I had no idea!” said John Q. “It seems beliefs about keeping some people from voting is deeply rooted in our national history.” I raised an eyebrow. “Misbeliefs.” Gorgeous barked her agreement. “How much do I owe you?” he asked. I shook my head. “This one’s on me.”

After John Q. left with Gorgeous, I ran the table on my solitaire game. I felt good. I’d given John Q. the cards he needed. Then I emailed my bookie for the odds on how well he’d play them.

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4 Comments

  1. In this darkest of times, you have a way of shedding both light and laughter on difficult topics in the same sentence. When people seem to be surprised that this country suffers from systemic racism, you’ve spelled it out very clearly in historic terms that anyone can understand. Even so, this election will be a close one. If the orange man wins, we are in for an even darker time for years to come. At this moment in time, I weep for my country but I pray for our democracy to prevail.


    • David
      Sep 04, 2020

      What’s amazing, Carolyn, is that in reading THESE TRUTHS, we realize that nothing is particularly new. I’m not comforted that this nation fails to learn from its history and, in many ways, maintains an endless cycle of disdain and hatred for “others——of which we are two.


  2. Joan Sutton
    Sep 08, 2020

    Thanks for this. And I really want to read Jill Lapore’s history.


    • David
      Sep 08, 2020

      You’re welcome, Joan. THESE TRUTHS is a big book—about 780 pages—but worth the read. Amazing how American history keeps recycling itself.

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