No call

LYNN thought Jennifer Warden would call Cathy when her latent sense of sisterhood and her obvious need for attention overcame her prejucide toward Cathy’s perceived alien properties: politically left, socially alternative, ethnically Jewish.

DC thought Cathy handled the encounter well by using the business card to establish herself as a counter-authority to Jennifer’s dad and set a secret bond between two women.

HANK thought Jennifer would never call. She had gone to Stop the Draft Week for reasons unrelated to its purposes, may already have been contacted by the DA who obviously had the photo of her and might be setting Cathy up for witness-tampering.

JIMMY thought a well-written, heartfelt letter by himself appealing directly to Jennifer might shift the balance of her conscience despite her attitude, plus if Stew were released on Beverly’s habeas motion, Stew would contact his sister on Jimmy’s behalf. Cathy did not challenge Jimmy’s belief that “helping jimmy” was an innate human trait emergent in anyone given half a chance. She did not challenge it because she thought it was true.

CATHY dreamed that Jennifer surprised her in a friend’s apartment and set her up to be raped by Hells Angels. From then on, she kept Jimmy’s .45 in a cigar box under the bed to offset the firepower she imagined Jennifer had access to. When she rehearsed and rerehearsed the call she believed would come, Cathy was never surprised, stayed always in control, ably countering Jennifer’s demented arguments. Of course Jennifer-in-Cathy’s-mind always said whatever Cathy wanted her to.

“How do you rehearse surprise anyway?” Lynn said one night late in April. They faced each other on the couch-halves in the bay window, legs out, gently stoned. “You can’t surprise yourself. Like you can’t tickle yourself or scare yourself.”

“You can fool yourself,” said Cathy, “like fooling myself into thinking she’ll call.”

“That is false consciousness,” said Lynn, mocking her husband’s jargon.

“If I’m not fooling me, who is?”

“You can’t stand on a rug and pull it out from under yourself.”

“Do it all the time.”

“But if you stand on it,” said Lynn, seriously stoned now, “and pretend not to know you’re going to pull it out from under you, you’re in on the joke and if you’re in on the joke you’re not the, what would you be? the jokee. You may not be the joker, but if you’re one of the people waiting for the joke to happen, the jokee can’t be you.”

“Anything you say.” Cathy collapsed sidewards across Lynn’s legs.



The call came like glass breaking.

“How did you find me? How’d you know my name?” she demanded .

Cathy did not say Your brother. Everything about Stew skittered recklessly. She said, “Why do you want to know?”

“Cause you’re fucking with me. Who told you? What do I get out of it?”

“We have a photo.” Not a total lie.

“Cop photo?”

“What other kind is there?”

“Shit you can’t even imagine, that’s what other kind. Who’s been talking to you?”

“No one. We’re a law firm. We have investigators.”

“What do I get out of this?”

“What do you want?”

“Not on the phone.”

“Fine. Where?”

“Mel’s Drive-In.” Click.

Cathy assumed the click meant now.



People's Guide to SF Restaurants

Mels’ Drive-In 2165 Lombard St. Inexpensive. WA1-3039

Open late. Owned by Harold Dobbs, foiled in his 1963 bid for Mayor by the first mass arrests of civil rights demonstrators in the Bay Area. Only a handful of Mel’s 200-some employees were black. Saturday before the election, the Ad-Hoc Committee to End Discrimination picketed Dobbs’ St. Francis Woods home, producing the following outburst: “This is what the people of San Francisco would face if Mr. Shelley [his Democratic opponent] were your mayor. No person’s job would be safe. No person’s home and family would be safe.” The next day, 50 demonstrators were arrested at Mel’s Drive-In and arraigned Election Day. Dobbs lost heavily, signed a hiring agreement the next week. 50s style food. Recommended: burger ‘n’ fries.


Cathy slid into the naugahyde booth, “We’re not enemies, Jennifer.”

“We’re not anything. Who told you about me?”

“People saw you at the demonstration.”

“You said there was a photo.”

“That too.”

“How’d you get my name? The cops?”

“I’m not with the cops.” What is it with this girl?

“You could be anybody, lawyers, cops, they’re all the same, military, 902.”


“Pretend you don’t know. You know shit. How’d you get my name?” So loud the waitress veered away. Cathy signalled her back, explained that her friend was upset, you know, about men, ordered the burger ‘n’ fries. Jennifer did not respond to the waitress’ And you, Miss?

“I saw you at the Gathering of the Tribes.”

“Say what?”

“The thing in the park. With the music. I saw you backstage.”

“Are you a private investigator or something?”

“Did you read our ad in the Midnight Special?”


“Then you know who I am. If you’d called, I wouldn’t be out looking .”

“Who’s the creep? You sleep with him?”

“We live together.”

“I’m supposed to save your boyfriend.”

“A cop grabbed you.”

“That’s what pigs do. I wasn’t there about any of that shit.”

“Why were you?”


“If it weren’t for Jimmy the pigs would’ve —”

“Like you care. What? I’m nothing to you. You want me to save Mighty Mouse, you’re on my case like a vampire, you run ads, Save My Boyfriend. What you don’t get is, none of what means anything to you means anything to me, nothing.”


“What do you mean, except.”

“Were you looking for someone?”

I am not at all dumb.

“You are so smart,” said Jennifer, half-rising. “That really devastates me, your powers of deduction. You and my fucking dad. You know what I think? I think you’re in this with him, ok? Back off!”

The waitress approaching with the tray did so.

“Back off back off back off,” up and running.

“Could you bag that?” Cathy asked the waitress, “I’ll be right back.”

She caught Jennifer at her car, a red Mustang.

“Wait,” she said, grabbing at a sleeve. Jennifer slapped her arm away, hard.

“Your brother Stew,” said Cathy.

Jennifer held suspended, her back against the car.

“You fucking kike.”

Cathy could have punched her out, wanted to, balanced herself to, heard behind the furious words the respectful tone, the rage of the master criminal against the detective who has found the clue.

“Where is he?” Matter-of-fact and plaintive.

My turn, sweetie.

“You know my number.”

She turned back to the diner, prayed Jennifer would follow. She did not.

“We get a lot of that here,” the waitress said.

Cathy ate her burger on the verge.