Pippin – 2

The satellite radio was playing soft jazz, a compromise.  Lacy, the owner of the Prius and thus the radio, loathed rap almost as much as Hugo, her passenger, loathed contemporary country.  They had failed to agree on sports talk, public radio, golden oldies, adult comedy, and the BBC, without getting near bluegrass, CNN, opera, or a hundred other stations.  Out of frustration on her part and fatigue on his, they both threw in the towel early and settled on soft jazz.  Soft, so Hugo’s deep and lengthy nap would not be disturbed. Soft, because Lacy didn’t care much for jazz either.  It was another give-and-take of sorts, one of the many that had sustained their teamwork over the eyes.  He slept and she drove and both were content.

Before the Great Recession, the Board on Judicial Conduct had access to a small pool of state-owned Hondas, all with four doors and white paint and low mileage.  With budget cuts, though, those disappeared.  Lacy, Hugo, and countless other public employees in Florida were now expected to use their own vehicles for the state’s work, reimbursed at fifty cents a mile.  Hugo, with four kids and a hefty mortgage, drove an ancient Bronco that could barely make it to the office, let alone a road trip. And so he slept.

He rolled to his right, closed his eyes, and said, “I want a new partner.””That’s an idea, but the problem is nobody else will have you.””And one with a bigger car.””It gets fifty miles a gallon.”He grunted again, grew still, then twitched, jerked, mumbled, and sat straight up.  He rubbed his eyes and said, “What are we listening to?””We had this conversation a long time ago, when we left Tallahassee, just as you were beginning to hibernate.””I offered to drive, as I recall.”Yes, with one eye open. It meant so much. How’s Pippin?””She cries a lot. Usually, and I say this from vast experience, when a newborn cries it’s for a reason.  Food, water, diaper, momma—whatever.  Not this one.  She squawks for the hell of it.  You don’t know what you’re missing.””If you’ll recall, I’ be actually walked the floors with Pippin on two occasions.”

“Yes, and God bless you. Can you come over tonight?”

“Anytime.  She’s number four.  you guys thought about birth control?”

“We are beginning to have that conversation.  And now that we’re on the subject, how’s your sex life?”

“Sorry.  My mistake.”  At thirty-six Lacy was single and attractive and her sex life was a rich source of whispered curiosity around the office.

They were going east toward the Atlantic Ocean.  St. Augustine was eight miles ahead.  Lacy finally turned off the radio when Hugo asked, “And you’ve been here before?””Yes, a few years back.  Then boyfriend and I spent a week on the beach in a friend’s condo.”

“A lot of sex?”

“Here we go again. Is your mind always in the gutter?”

“Well, come to think of it, the answer has to be yes. Plus, you need to understand that Pippin is now a month old which means that Verna and I have not had normal relations in at least three months.  I still maintain, at least to myself, that she cut me off three weeks too early, but it’s sort of a moot point. Can’t really go back and catch up, you know?  So things are fairly cramped up in my corner, not sure she feels the same way.  Three rug rats and a newborn do serious damage to that intimacy thing.”

“I’ll never know.”

(The Whistler, John Gresham, pages 1-4)



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