SHELLY REUBEN: Parking Place: A Love Story! Chap. 22 - Illegal Entry

By Shelly Reuben
SHELLY REUBEN: Parking Place: A Love Story!  Chap. 22 - Illegal Entry

Chapter 22 - Illegal Entry

At nine o’clock on Thursday morning. Hector Van Hooft and Rosemary Thigpen met for breakfast at Rocco’s Bistro, a popular café diagonally across the street from 1582 Chestnut Avenue. It had floor-to-ceiling windows from which, seated at a small table, they could observe the offending parking space.

The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to commiserate about their shared experiences of the night before. Even belligerent people, particularly those with no valid grounds for their hostility, have a need for validation and camaraderie.

Rosemary initiated the conversation. But before she began, she first turned to her left and then to her right, as if to determine if an ambush television crew was hiding in a napkin dispenser or under the cap of a salt shaker.

A waitress approached the table, and said, “Hi. I’m Pilar. I’ll be serving your table this morning.” And as she placed menus in front of them, neither Hector nor Rosemary noticed the elegant silver-haired lady who slipped silently onto the chair of a table nearby.

Rosemary sighed heavily, crossed her pudgy knees, and made eye contact with her breakfast companion. Like a click of gun metal between friendly assassins, malice instantly met malice. First Hector told his story, which included the arrangement he had made with Burgess Meekly. Then the two of them began to strategize about how to take the enemy down—said enemy

being who or what had caused and was still causing the obdurate parking space across the street to repel and/or reject them.

But where was the enemy?

What was the enemy?

And might there also be a…who?

It was not Hector who pressed the issue, perhaps believing that with all the phone calls he had made to politicians, documentarians, and journalists on the day before, a solution for his problem was underway. Rosemary Thigpen, however, had no such confidence. She leaned forward, her thick forearms knocking a spoon off the table and her piggy eyes latching onto Hector like deer ticks

“My life,” she said, “is parking.”

She leaned farther across the table, this time knocking her menu to the floor.

Then, in what she erroneously thought was a whisper, she added, “It is my area of expertise.”

Hector raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

She picked up the fallen menu, left the spoon on the floor, resettled in her seat, and continued, “I know where people park. When people park. Which cars they park. And why they are driving the cars that they drive. I also know that your parking space is never empty. Not on weekdays. Not on week nights. Not on weekends. Not on holidays. Never. At least, not until the day before yesterday.”

Rosemary paused for a moment to study the man sitting opposite her.

“You’re a cook, Hector. Right?”

The “cook’s” nostrils quivered with indignation. “I am an Executive Chef.”

“Yeah. Right,” Rosemary flicked her fingers dismissively. “So what does an ‘executive chef’ know about the law of supply and demand?”

Hector raised his right hand to push his eyeglasses up the bridge of his nose, and in a voice as snippy as a nail clipper, he said, “When truffles become scarce, the price of truffles goes up. When large quantities of lobster are caught off the coast of New England, the price of lobsters goes down.”

Rosemary nodded her approval.

“Exactly. Well, it’s the same for parking spaces. The less there are, the bigger the demand.” She jutted her head toward the window. “Fact: For every ten public parking spaces, there are twenty cars. Carve it in stone. So when you wake up one morning and instead of seeing ten spaces, you only see nine, fact, someone paid someone big bucks to someone else at City Hall to make that parking space disappear.”

Their waitress rematerialized at their table.

She set down two cups of coffee, replaced the fallen spoon, and asked, “Are you ready to order?”

They ordered.

Hector Van Hooft glanced thoughtfully out the window. His bitterness temporarily overshadowed by his uncertainty, he said, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Rosemary scooped five spoons of sugar into her cup, added cream, slurped, and with the confidence of a paranoid schizophrenic wearing an aluminum hat to prevent aliens from reading her mind, said, “Sure it does.”

But Hector shook his head.

He said, “I want my parking space. I need my parking space. I want to blame somebody for taking my parking space. And I will find someone to blame. But other than a driver rigging some sort of a beam-me-up-Scotty device so that he can park there himself, I don’t see how keeping me out of my space can profit anyone at City Hall. Or anywhere else, for that matter. It’s a public space, and…”

Rosemary lifted a fat hand, jerked her head in the direction of the approaching waitress, and said, “Shush.”

Hector shushed.

Breakfast was served.

Rosemary speared a sausage, chewed, and around an indelicate mouthful, affirmed, “We’ve got to find out who.”

“Who what?”

“Who’s behind this?”

“Behind what?”

“Whatever hocus pocus is going on across the street.”

Another significant nod toward the parking space.

Hector buttered a slice of toast, stared at it reproachfully and put it down on his plate. “How do you propose to do that?”

“Do what?” Rosemary speared another sausage.

“Find out who’s behind the alleged hokey pokey.”

“Hocus pocus.”

“Whatever.”

“Surveillance.”

“Surveillance of what?”

“Of the parking space, of course.”

Hector arched an eyebrow. “Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”

Rosemary shook her head. “This is breakfast. We’ll do the surveillance from your apartment.”

“My apartment looks out on the backyard.”

“Then the other guy’s apartment.”

“What other guy?”

“The one who pulls into your space when you pull out.”

“Burgess Meekly?”

“If you say so. The little guy who’s afraid of you. We’ll use his apartment.”

The executive chef scoffed. “It’s not like we’re bosom buddies. I don’t have his keys.”

Rosemary picked up Hector’s neglected piece of toast, bit into it, and said, “You’re a resourceful guy. You’ll find a way.”

Hector pushed away his plate. “When?”

His breakfast companion shrugged and said, “Now is as good a time as any.”

They finished their meals, paid their checks, and walked out of the Rocco’s, neither of them noticing that the silver haired women seated nearby had moved to the table they vacated, or that she continued to watch them as they proceeded across the street.

Copyright © 2021. Shelly Reuben. Originally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - evesun.com Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.