Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Search Of

Chloe Cleavage had been living in her penthouse apartment at Southwest Plaza for two months now, and she was starting to think maybe Calico Johnson had not done her such a great favor setting her up here. While it was true that she had never lived in an apartment this big, it seemed puny after spending a few days living in his Potomac Manors mansion. And though not having to pay rent had enabled her to make substantial investments in her career wardrobe, she was eating every single meal out because the kitchen cockroach problem seemed unfixable. And that was just as well, because the trash chutes were closed, and she couldn't stand taking her trash down eight floors to the basement trash room, which was too disgusting for words, so she had to take it out in tiny bags that she dumped in the lobby trash receptacle. (Though she did make the effort to take her fern plant all the way to the trash room after she had discovered mysterious white bug babies writhing in the dirt--grodie to the max!) Then there were the nightmares she had about a monster living in the parking garage beneath the building, but she couldn't tell Calico about that because he would think she was crazy. Actually, she was afraid to tell him any of these complaints because he was letting her live here for free, and when she had asked that one teensy thing--which was that she didn't like the view of the freeway, was it possible to move to a penthouse on the other side of the building?--he had looked at her with a look that almost (but this was impossible!) looked like malevolence. But how was it possible he was running the management company in this building and yet didn't know all these things before he put her in here? She decided to put him (and the ubiquitous tenant association meeting flyers) out of her mind and spend a very focused two hours surfing her dating websites.

Over at the White House West Wing, the Rahm Emanuel wannabe was also trolling the dating websites--not for a date, but because he was desperate to discover undiscovered talent for the Obama Administration. He was sick to death of looking at resumes passed along from Obama's campaign staff (who kept giving him the same two-hundred resumes month after month after month), and had decided to look for people in a different way. So far he had found a female ski instructor who belonged to an investment circle and a book club, a male restaurant owner who cooked at a soup kitchen once a week and coached his daughter's soccer team, and a female professor who taught African-American literature and liked to restore antique furniture on weekends. He was considering them, respectively, for the Federal Reserve, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Labor. And this time, when Emanuel asked him why they deserved to work for the Administration, he was going to muster the courage to say, "Because the American people deserve an Administration that's not riddled with vacant political appointments after a year in office!" If only I could persuade Oprah to take Ben Bernanke's job....

Over at the State Department, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was also spending a Sunday afternoon at the office musing on how they could lure Oprah to their team after her show went off the air. And wouldn't my girlfriend love it! Things had gotten more than a little peculiar after Eva Brown had returned from her top secret (Project R.O.D.H.A.M.) deployment in China (and Pakistan, and Afghanistan) with an adopted "Chinese" daughter (almost certainly a Tajik, in actuality). The Administrator had proposed on New Year's Eve, saying he wanted them all to be a family together, but Brown had said she loved him too much to tie him down when she would almost certainly be returning to China after she graduated law school. Loves me too much. He smiled sardonically, absentmindedly scratching the allergic rash he was not supposed to be scratching. (The doctor had said that he was allergic to his glasses because the rash was only around his eyes and the back of his ears, but it was all part of the adrenal fatigue and autoimmune collapse which gave him one new symptom after another.) Sometimes Eva spoke to the little girl in what she claimed was a western dialect of Chinese, but he was pretty sure it wasn't. I used to keep secrets from Eva because I loved her too much. He turned back to the Beijing embassy dossier on fallout in China from Clinton's internet freedom speech about how the Information Curtain was like the Iron Curtain: the Chinese authorities were saying "ideological imposition", "internet as a weapon to achieve worldwide hegemony", and "unfettered internet equals information imperialism" because developing countries could not compete with the content juggernaut from the West. But China was estimated to have 384 million internet users--the most in the world--and its "netizens" were getting fed up with the Great Firewall. They knew that the government's dispute with Google was not "commercial", as the government claimed...but that didn't necessarily mean they were ready to believe Hillary's view of the world.

A few miles to the east, at the National Arboretum, The Warrior was perched high in a loblolly pine tree, staring down at the reunion of Angela de la Paz with her long missing mother--the crazy one, the unstable one, the one they had told Angela had fallen into the Potomac River and drowned. He listened as the mother tried to explain to Angela that she had drowned, but then had been rescued and resuscitated, but then she had amnesia, and then..., and then..., and then....Angela looked at various moments incredulous, deliriously happy, confused, angry, dazed, and blissful. Dr. Devi Rajatala continued hacking invasive English ivy in suspicious silence, not ready to release the girl into this woman's custody. Angela was young enough to still need a mother, but old enough to feel the risk of looking to this woman to be it. Then there was the more practical concern, which was that Angela's mother had no money and was staying with Angela's grandmother, but if Angela returned there, they might toss her back in foster care because of the danger posed by other relatives. Angela tried to explain to her mother that she needed to get an apartment and a job--that was the only way she could get custody of Angela back--and it had to be an apartment big enough for Angela, and her mother, and her grandmother. Angela's mother looked up at the gathering rain clouds, gripped with despair; she had thought it would all be easier than this. "I could take you to Los Angeles," her mother said at last. "I know people there." Angela asked what kind of people. "You know, people." Angela looked at Dr. Raj, but Dr. Raj pursed her lips and said nothing. Angela asked her mother if abuela could go to Los Angeles, too. "Well, she's very old--I don't think she could take a long move like that." The Warrior knew that Angela's destiny was here, in battle against Ardua of the Potomac, but he was going to need Dr. Raj to deal with all this--The Warrior was clueless about how modern families could get so messed up.

"Here's the deal," Dr. Raj suddenly said, throwing her small hacksaw a little too forcefully to the ground. "It costs money to move cross-country, and you don't have any. You're not going to take her anywhere until you prove you have money. And you better get it legally! And you better show me you have enough for your own apartment, because you're not taking her to live with 'people', because that's how adolescent girls end up getting abused. If you had real friends in Los Angeles, they would send you money to take care of your daughter, and would help you get a job."

"Wait a min--"

"And if you really wanted what's best for her, you'd keep Angela here! She loves school, she loves her grandmother, she loves working in the National Arboretum--all she needs is a safe home. And right now, I'm the one giving it to her."

"She's living in your office, which is not much better than a shed! How dare you speak to me like this! I'm the victim! I've been through sufferings you cannot imagine!"

"Yes, I can imagine them! And I want to keep Angela as far from them as possible! So can you get a job or not?"

This was not how Angela had always dreamed her maternal reunion would go. She had never believed her mother was really dead, but she realized now she could barely remember her mother and didn't know what to expect from her.

The Warrior jumped down from the pine tree, and Angela's mother jumped back in fright. (He could see they were all crying now, and sometimes a man needed to take charge of the womenfolk.) Angela embraced The Warrior, and then Angela's mother realized he was the man that abuela had told her about. "The girl is staying here," he said solemnly. "She is safe here, and loved. When you have a job, you can get her. She will help you get a job." He was pointing at Dr. Raj, who had never done anything but study trees and become an arborist, and she had no idea how to get any other kind of job. "Don't worry," he said to Angela, "everything will be alright." With that, he left them as abruptly as he had joined them. Rani the donkey filled the sudden silence with a bray, then walked over to nuzzle Angela.

"You can help me here for now," said Dr. Raj, handing Angela's mother a rake. She could only pay her out of her own paycheck, and this would make it twice as hard to keep Angela hidden. "Tomorrow we'll talk about your finding a real job." With that, the women turned to the task at hand and toiled in silence, and a flock of starlings flew off to report to Ardua.


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