We parked our bikes outside The Holy Land Quickee's. DinkyDau Billy's Ghisallo was leaning up against the rail. It wasn't locked up.
Inside, Billy was sitting at one of the tables, a book in his lap and a cup of convenience store cappie on the table in front of him.
Leece sat down across from Billy while I went to the cappie machine to draw a couple of English Toffees.
"Hi Billy," she greeted our stalwart, "wazzup?"
"I'm reedin' a political commentary," he informed us, as I sat down next to Leece. Tookie came in as I did so. She plunked her butt down and reached across for my cappie.
"You touch that and you'll pull back a bloody stump," I told her. She snickered. "There's an idle threat if I ever heard one," she said, taking a sip from my cappie. "Can I have a French vanilla?" she asked. "Of course you can," Leece told her. Toots got up to go fetch it. I knew what was going to happen.
"So ... what are you reading?" Leece asked Billy.
"A political commentary. 'Jaws'," he told us.
"I didn't realize that was a political commentary," she said, sitting back and snuffling her English Toffee.
"I need two bucks," Tookie interrupted.
"What for?" asked Leece.
"My cappie," Toot Sweet informed her, "you said I could have one."
"Well, sure, but that didn't mean I was going to pay for it. I thought you were just asking if you could have a cappie because, you know, you're a kid and kids don't usually drink cappies."
"I'm always drinking cappies. Kin I have two bucks?"
Leece looked at me. I looked at Tookie. Tookie looked back at me with raised eyebrows. I was getting tired of the raised eyebrows thing. I dug into my pocket and gave her a Lincoln. She smiled sweetly and went off to the cashier.
"So ... we were talking about political commentary," Leece said to Billy.
"Well sure. Here we have a public safety 'issue', in this case a shark gobbling nubile young cuties and kids. The chief of police, a public safety official, is dumb enough to think that merely doing his job, protecting the public, is all that's involved," Billy explained.
Tookie came back, plunked down much less change than I expected, and sipped her cappie rather noisily. Billy gave her an aggravated glance.
"Where's the rest of my change?" I asked.
"I got a lottery ticket," she said.
"You aren't old enough to get a lottery ticket," Leece objected.
"Not legally. I asked that wetback over there to get it for me," Tookie explained.
Leece spluttered in her cappie. "You shouldn't say 'wetback'," she again objected. "Why? He is, you know, " countered Tookie, "and just because the Democrats and ACORN don't like it doesn't make it any different." It was hard to argue with her logic. We went back to sharks and politics.
"So the chief of police in Amity was dumb?" Leece asked Billy.
"No, naive is more correct, but he really thought that simply protecting the public was ... simple. Then the mayor got involved and started applying political pressure because a few of his friends -local business people, of course - didn't like the idea of losing money. They really didn't care if people got eaten. That was a risk, but if someone got eaten, it would be the chief's fault, not theirs. He should have enforced public safety restrictions."
"Ah. Kind of like ... oh ... a motel owner not wanting to hook up a fire alarm so that that the alarm sounds in the fire department, rather than waiting for someone to call it in?"
"Yes, exactly. What is the likelihood of a fire anyway? So why spend the extra money?"
"But what if there is a fire? It does happen. Look at some of those nightclub fires, and hotel fires," Leece pointed out.
"Sure. Well, then it's the fire chief's fault, not the motel owner's. Certainly not the mayor's. And the dead people, they won't really care anyway whose fault it is," Tookie chipped in.
"What about firefighters? They end up getting killed in those fires, you know. Cops, firefighters, EMS people."
"Ah well. They have a very nice monument for them. Big ceremonies every year where mayors and other political figures get together and give tear-jerker speeches. Dead firefighters and dead cops are always an opportunity to schmooze the voters."
"You run into this kind of thing with building codes and building inspections by municipal engineering departments, too," I pointed out, "everybody wants an exemption, and if they don't get it, they bypass the normal appeals process and try political pressure."
"Political whoring is what it is," Billy said, calling a spade a spade.
"It's a good thing that doesn't happen around here," Leece said.
Everyone looked at her. Even the cashier stopped wiping down the cappie machine and gave her a dumbfounded look.
We all nodded sagely.
"Yes, it is, isn't it," Tookie said, slurping noisily, "Say, I got a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk. Who should I see about fixing that?"
"Try the city attorney."
"Do I have the right last name?" she asked.