Work in Progress…

photo-illustration by Derek Pell

It was early November in San Francisco and way too cold for a tank top. Still, a strawberry blond sidled by wearing one. She was one of maybe two dozen demonstrators who’d been protesting against the 1% who was running the country into the ground.

The fog was snaking in and folks were on their way home.

The blond was dragging a picket sign on the pavement with the word OCCUPY in bold red letters.

Rand leaned across the table, grinning, said,  “She can occupy my Sealy Posturepedic any time she wants.”

“You have a waterbed.”

We were sitting outside a café on Columbus. Rand had moved our table into the alley so he
could chain-smoke.

The espresso was cold now and I was debating another when he started to pontificate.

“You know, Dan, the real problem ain’t those assholes on Wall Street. The real problem is the dope-flow. Whole country—beggars and billionaires—stoned sideways to Sunday. And then everyone’s like…whoa…surprised the country’s in the fucking toilet. Gimme a break.”

I raised my cup. “This count?”

He shook his head. “That shit keeps you awake so you can rage.”

Randolph T. Henderson had a theory for everything and if you listened long enough you’d find yourself nodding even when you knew he had it backwards. 

He’d have made a great debater.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “you could begin to turn things around for the country if you  stopped running errands for the labs up north.”

“What? Join the ranks of the unemployed?” He tossed his cup into a nearby dumpster. “Hell no, man, I gotta eat.”

No contradiction there.

I could hear the stragglers’ footsteps, but they were just dark shapes in the fog.

“I saw your shots in the Examiner Sunday. Fucking film noir.”

I was a stringer for the paper these days, having lost my full-time gig in the purge last summer. Assignments were rare and mostly dull… Bay Area real estate. But the Starbucks shots had been fun. “Make it look like the forties,” the editor said.

“It’s the one on Powell, right?” said Rand.

“24th and Noe. Has those seedy apartments above.”

“Don’t think I’ve hit that one.” He shook his dreds. “How’d you get that fiery effect inside?”

“Two speedlights with gels. Wireless.”

“Well it looked like a fucking opium den.” He lit a cigarette. “Noirbucks, man…you nailed it.”