Friday, August 10, 2012

11. Mr. Grobschmidt Smiles

Chapter Eleven of the Untitled Saga of Jimmy & Hitch will begin in just a moment, but first a word to all Frog Hospital-dom.

There might be two or three dozen people following this story. The rest of you might wish for a return to the usual smash-up of political commentary and small stories about real people -- but you will have to keep waiting, because the story is getting too good to stop. The boys finally got to the Frog Hospital and later the same day they will begin heading out to the Butterfly Ball on Dodge Valley Road and then out to Fishtown.

Meanwhile real people, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are running for President of the United States. I belong to the faction, quite large I expect, of Democrats who will vote for Obama all the while complaining loudly about what a disappointment he has been. I am very unlikely to budge from this position. Obama, when he had the Congress in 2009, should have focused on jobs and putting people back to work. He could have flooded the zone with stimulus money, laying it on extra thick in Congressional districts that were in play in 2010. Supposing he had done that, and gotten the unemployment rate down to 6 percent or lower -- many voters would have been very happy about that and he would have kept the Congress in 2010 and gotten a general vote of confidence. With that success behind him,with a strong majority in Congress, he could have passed a good (that is, less complicated) health care bill.

But he did it backwards, and the result is a 2,700-page health care bill that this Democrat, along with Justice Scalia, will never read entirely, and which created a furious opposition that might very well undo Obama this November. Meanwhile the jobless rate maintains its stubborn pace of over 8 percent and many people are simply discouraged.

Out-funded by Romney so far, Obama still has the immense advantage of incumbency and he has something even more important -- luck.
His greatest luck is having Romney for an opponent. Nobody likes Romney, not even his dog. Obama, like many of our Presidents, inspires people -- some people, some of the time. That's an important quality in a leader. In contrast, Romney is a complete dud.

I would say that Obama wins it by a nose in November, but the Congress is up for grabs.

Meanwhile my luck holds, because I will be spending Friday night in Manhattan Beach, which is the epicenter of Beach Volleyball and where it all began. Misty and Kerri are coming back from London with Olympic gold medals, coming to the real beach and the real sand. This is a very happy day for Southern California. Jan and Dean rolling down Ventura Highway! I wish they all could be California Girls.

Chapter 11 -- Mr. Grobschmidt Smiles

The crowd, of up to a dozen and more, slowly dispersed after Keith Brown was arrested. He looked somewhat noble as he perched in handcuffs in the back seat of Larry Yonally’s police vehicle. In America, you can be on the front page of the newspaper if you commit a felony or a heroic deed, either one. And this was Keith Brown Day, officially and forever in a small town the size of LaConner. People don’t get shot at in LaConner too often, or get arrested on multiple counts of attempted murder. He would be on the front page of the town’s weekly newspaper, right alongside news of the Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast, which pharmacist Fred Martin did not attend because he belonged to a rival fraternal organization, the Rotary Club.

Barbara Cram could buy a carton of Marlboros now, and know she had enough phone gossip to take her clear into October, like who was there, and who said what, and what drove him to it, and who is to blame, and did Lisa ever really exist.

Lisa became a debatable topic. She was Keith’s psychotic illusion, his dream girl, his blow up doll on lonely nights on the river with only the wind to keep him company. That’s what people said – nothing wrong with a little make believe, but when you start to think you’re Christ Almighty with a message to save the world….

Jimmy, Hitch and Aurora Jellybean had their own quiet celebration after coming down from the roof of the Lighthouse Inn and after wishing Keith Brown good luck in his new life at the Steilacoom Institution for the Criminally Insane.

Jellybean testified, with no effort to persuade her friends, “As you know, I am no longer a real person. I have become a character in a Tom Robbins novel, so I have to say, in an imaginary sense, that Lisa is very real to me. We are figments and we stick together.”

“So you think Lisa is in trouble somewhere,” Jimmy said.

“Not at all. Lisa is alive and well out in the river and she is very glad to get Keith Brown off her back. He was harassing her – it is possible to harass an imaginary woman, and that is wrong.”

“We need beer,” Hitch said.

“I think we ought to head out to Fishtown and take a look around.”

“Beer first.”


“We can saunter and sally forth.”

The trio headed northward, down First Street, passing the Pier Seven building. “This building gives me the creeps,” Jellybean said. “I see a bloody knife. Do you see it?”

“Jellybean, turn off your X-ray vision, we’re going for the beer,” Jimmy said, going past Pier Seven, and then past Pearl’s shuttered warehouse and oyster bar. Pearl was passed out on the grand piano inside, dreaming of Othello, Xerxes and Captain Bligh, humming well-loved operatic arias in her drunken sleep.

Past Pearl’s, they came to the Frog Hospital itself, in a Quonset hut, owned by Mr. Grobschmidt. Clyde Sanborn said Mr. Grobschmidt looked like a frog, so it only made sense to call his grocery store the Frog Hospital, because that’s where the beer was.

“Do you think he looks like a frog?” Jellybean said.

“Well, they say he disappears on spring nights when the air gets soft – goes out to the marsh to sing with his brothers.”


“He’s too fat to hop and he’d sink a lily pad. Ever see him eat a bug?”

“He sells Schmidt’s beer, 12-packs, icy cold, the cheapest beer in LaConner – God bless the frog man.”

“How we going to pay?”

“By being one with the now. By clearing our minds of all doubts. Beer is us.”

“Then maybe we can go to the Boom Shack and hang out with Robert – he would like some.”

“He would like it all.”

“So is double mooching all right? I mean if we mooch the beer off of Mr. Grobschmidt, is it all right for Robert Sund to mooch the beer off of us? That’s a double mooch.”

They entered the Quonset hut, under a round roof with blinking fluorescent suspended lights. Mr. Grobschmidt, at the cash register, hailed them. “Yes, the magic trio, greetings, I am highly jovial this fine summer evening. I have risen above the petty profit motive of a small-town grocer. I extend to you a one-time offer, meaning once only and never, never ask me again, but you each may select the beverage of your choice, and it will be on the house. Now you have sent Keith Brown packing. All is well and life is good, until the next trouble comes.”

“And fried chicken?”

The room darkened.“Food? I sell food, I don’t give it away,” Mr. Grobschmidt said.

“We can owe it you.”

“All right. Fried chicken for three, plus home fries and a container of ranch-style dressing. I can fix you up tonight because of your loyal service to the town of LaConner. But I must tell you how it is. Jimmy? Maybe you could start working for a living. And Hitch? Get a boat, go fishing, stop coming in here for free food. Jellybean? You live the lush life and you will die alone. Think about that. Now, get out of my sight.”

Mr. Grobschmidt labored his fat belly off the stool by the cash register, whistling his song, “Tis money for food, and food for money. And the people will always be hungry for more.”

Hitch, Jimmy and Jellybean continued north on First Street, past Nasty Jack’s, past Nelson Hardware, to a tiny lot with a tiny house – the Boom Shack, dwelling of Robert Sund, Swedish poet, pool shark and provocateur. The evening began.


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