Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:
“Can someone help me?” Ethan was lugging a cooler down to the beach at night.
“What do you have in there?” Angela asked.
“A 12 pack.”
“You brought a 12 pack for yourself? That’s all on you.”
“They’re not all for me. If they were all for me, I would have only brought eleven.”
He hid the cooler behind the rocks at the beach, reached in and stood back up in a hurry.
“Why is there a gun in the cooler?”
Dale looked over casually from his blanket. “My swim suit doesn’t have pockets.”
Ethan reluctantly took the beers out and passed them around, skipping Dale.
“You can either have a gun or a beer.”
But gun control is hard to achieve, as we have seen, even at the most basic level.
“I’m having whiskey,” Dale said, pulling out a Ziplock bag of booze. The whiskey stays inside, same as if it were pb&j or apple slices. And since Ziplock bags are so light, you can carry enough for the whole family, especially if someone else carries your gun.
But Dale had almost all of it to himself. Only Tim didn’t catch on that the official drink of the evening was beer. Despite Ethan’s dirty look, Tim stuck a straw in the bag of contraband and took a long drink. He’s an advocate’s worst nightmare.
“Did you go to the concert last night?” he asked Dale.
Dale shook his head. “June doesn’t like me going to concerts without her because I always cheat.”
You could see her point even if it was bad for the economy. Of course it’s also true China cheats, but it’s a whole lot worse for the economy to make them stay home.
“What about you?” Dale asked. “How was your date last night?”
“She was a tall drink of water. I was a short glass of scotch.”
He was feeling the effects of the Ziplock bag.
“What’d you do yesterday?” he asked, too wobbly to venture farther back than that.
“Oh, yeah? What shows do you like?”
“I switch back and forth between porn and the weather.”
Hearing that, Ethan came over and threw the straw in the sand.
“You’ve had enough.”
Tim tried to defend himself. “How drunk I am now is just a sign of how sober I am at heart.”
But Ethan was more focused on Dale.
“Why’d you bring a gun to the beach?”
Dale smirked. “It’s for hunting.”
“You’re going to shoot a fish?”
“Actually we brought food,” June said nervously, before Dale could answer. She and Angela started unpacking the picnic baskets. I planned to help too as soon as I finished some urgent emails for work.
But Dale has a strong sense of justice and he sees elitists everywhere. “I guess lawyers are too important to help with dinner.”
I was trying to explain why my clients always had to come first.
“That’s what I have to do to make a living. I only eat what I kill.”
“So? That’s what I do too,” he said.
We weren’t talking about quite the same thing, but he also had a deeper problem with my situation.
“You need to get a life,” he said, meaning a real American life -- mom, dad and the two kids, cars, guns, tv, and a suburban house.
Maybe I worked too much, but I wasn’t going to apologize for being an effete intellectual.
“I have a life,” I said. “I just don’t have time to live it.”
I didn’t know why my clients always needed answers right away. I assumed they had a reason, but they didn’t explain.
“That’s how it is,” Tim said. “Important people only impart small amounts of information.”
That made sense to Dale. He hates elitists, but he worships power, money and celebrity.
All that thinking worked up an appetite for him and he wanted his dinner. But he wasn’t too happy with what he got.
“What the hell is this?” he said to June.
“Are you kidding? I can’t eat this.”
“We’re not ungulates,” Tim said. “You have to have more than one stomach to eat this.”
Dale grabbed the guacamole instead.
“It’s got onions,” June warned.
He didn’t have a problem with that. “My father never liked onions. I hated them as a kid but now I love them.”
“I wonder what will happen in the future,” Ethan said. He hadn’t forgiven Dale for bringing a gun to the beach.
“How’d you and June meet?” he asked Dale critically.
It was a great question since they seemed to have come from different universes, at least politically.
“I saw her at a bar and couldn’t stop looking at her. Her Nazi blond hair, blue eyes and pink cheeks. Like she just stepped out of a gingerbread house.”
Now even Angela thought he’d had enough to drink. But she tried to be as diplomatic about it as possible.
“Tomorrow’s a work day,” she said.
Of course he didn’t exactly have an office job. He smirked again.
“What are you doing with yourself these days?” she asked.
“Oh, this and that.”
“He’s gambling,” Grace said.
“I see, this and that,” Tim said. “Is that why you brought a gun?”
Dale shook his head and raised himself up to get another straw.
“Then why’d you bring it?”
“Because I believe in law and order,” he said. “That’s what’s wrong with America today. We need more law and order. Think about it.”
I had to admit it had the advantage of simplicity in a complex and confusing world. But I had a few questions about the details.
Unfortunately it was too late. He’d closed his eyes and was already snoring with his head in the sand.