Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Shrouded Meeting

The shroud of winter night was descending over the city like a drunken blanket sodden with sunlight and poked through by pins that would become the stars shining through.  The silver Ford F-150 with the dented tailgate and evidence of various birds that have roosted on the sides of its bed stuck sickenly to the bed rails sat at the left turn lane in the center of Blackstone Avenue its left turn indicator light blinking like the on-again, off-again progress of the building project undertaken by the truck's driver.

On the north-west corner of the intersection, a young man in his early twenties stood.  He wore a black fedora and a black suit and white spats over his black penny loafers.  The light from the street light formed a pool of warm, unflattering amber light around him; his face hidden in the shadow of his fedora.  From his gleaming brass saxophone he soulfully sent a haunting melody reminiscent of warmer, sultrier summer days in New York City lilting into the darkening streets of the city.

A gap opened up in the oncoming traffic and the driver inched his truck forward and stopped abruptly--the gap was moving slower and wasn't going to reach him in time.  A bead of sweat formed at his hairline about an inch to the left of the midpoint between his right eye and right ear and then slowly, inexorably crept down his temple toward the beard at his jaw.  It provided an unnecessarily refreshing cooling effect; it was winter after all.

The gap in traffic finally arrived and the driver gunned the accelerator and the truck, tires screeching a banshee cry like a drag queen who has just had her wig snatched off her head in the middle of her big, show-stopping number by a jealous underling with a mole the size of a dime on the left side of her nose, bolted across Blackstone and onto University Avenue.

Ahead, at the sad and lonely grey parking lot between the street and the railroad tracks that occasionally carry passengers on Amtrak to and fro going from and to the Amtrak station in Downtown Fresno and the occasional freight train going from and to places not quite understood the agent eagerly awaited to complete his task of passing the plans.

The truck barreled into the parking lot bouncing over the driveway access ramp like a giddy child on Christmas morning, turned left at the corner like a politician that has suddenly found herself in the middle of a scandal, and stopped next to the agents car with the broken windshield like a wild party at 2:00am.

The driver of the truck exited the vehicle into the chilly evening.  He could faintly hear the saxophonist's lamentations in the distance.

The agent said conspiratorially, "I want to explain a few things to you."


The two men slinked to the rear of the truck.  The tailgate was dropped and the agent spread the plans on the tailgate like a banquet on a budget.  Explanations were given.  "These are for your records," and "These are for the planning department," and "Take this to the Health Department," and "This is where they will sign off when you get your building permit."

The clandestine meeting concluded nearly as quickly as it had begun but not exactly, the plans were handed over to the driver of the truck, and the agent climbed back into his car and with a wave of his hand that said "See ya!" he fired up his engine and squealed off into the darkening night toward Blackstone Avenue where he turned right toward McKinley and disappeared out of sight but not quite out of mind and onto places unknown.

The other man opened the driver's side door to his truck, placed the plans and assorted paperwork onto the passenger seat, sighed a heavy sigh of unmitigated relief, and climbed back into the cab.  He closed the door with an air of finality and fired up his own engine and drove away.

And, as the last plaintive notes echoed forth from the saxophone, the shroud of darkness swallowed the day bringing the night and covered the only evidence -- some tire tracks, a few faint footprints, some shed skin cells and maybe a dog hair or two -- that the two men were ever there.


  1. So, I would guess 'I picked up the plans yesterday' is not quite as eloquent. :)