The Mayor Loses His Shirt

Rembrandt's painting of anxious man
Just Add New Worries to Old

“I’m trying not to be alarmist here–” Drin says, taking deep breaths.

“Sit, sit,” Dance says, clearing extra throw pillows off the couch. He puts his hands out, offering to stabilize Drin, touching his arm lightly. “Are you okay?”

Emma hurries in with a large mug of hot tea, which makes Drin smile, once he’s safely sitting down.

“Thanks,” Drin says, and when she looks uncertain, he says, “Please, sit, I should talk to both of you, tell you both.” He takes another deep breath.

Emma pulls up a chair, perches facing him.

“What’s wrong?” Dance says, settling next to him, resting his hot, leathery hand on Drin’s forearm.

“Not those forensic reports, nothing like that. Putting it simply, it’s about money,” Drin says. He takes another deep breath, lets it out, says, “I just found out some– unpleasant facts about– where some of my– family money came from. The attorneys went digging into some things for me. Actually, it doesn’t belong to my family at all, and technically, I should not be using it the way that I have been. The fact I didn’t know doesn’t protect us. My parents’ generation never realized it either, but ignorance is no defense under the law. I don’t think anybody’s going to try to enforce it if I can put a stop to it right away. But it does mean that– “ another deep breath, “– I may have to restore funds. I’ve put together a contingency fund to cover that until I find out for sure. My salary from work will have to go to that. I’m a bum, actually. I’ll have to– move out of my apartment, sell the furniture, sell my car, all that.”

He waves his free hand at their shocked noises. “I’m not using any of those things very much, I don’t mind that part, really I don’t. What bothers me is that if I do support funding at the Metro, I don’t have a lot of extra to help out around here. I can help with rent, food, but there’s not enough for extras–”

Dance says firmly, “First priority is the Metro things you wish to do. Lacking funds, our first chairs will be totally frantic. We do not need so much.”

“Oh yes,” Emma agrees, and she pulls her chair closer, enough to take Drin’s hands. “Don’t worry about us. We lived on much less before you and Bud improved all the Metro salaries with your support. We’ll do fine, don’t worry. But what about you? It’s not cheap finding a new place–”

“Oh, our Drin must move in here, please, while you find a place, or if you stay here. If you wish to stay, it will be much better for your money,” Dance says. “Emma and ourself, we talked about inviting you to do this, but not wishing to be pushy.”

Drin lowers his head. Emma releases his hands, and pats his shoulder instead. On the other side, Dance leans into him, tucking his arm into Drin’s and clasping his hand. Dance kisses his cheek, murmurs, “It is all right, we will figure this out. Emma has the logistics, I have strength to move things, you must not be worried. And it is also okay by me if you wish to move into another apartment. You do not have to decide today.”

“Things can change…awfully fast, when there’s so much money involved. God, I’m a bum! You could accuse me of being like… some of the Metro’s flakey sorts, just… on a larger scale,” Drin says.

“But how were you to know? It is completely unfair to you. Many other people would never stop it, would never worry about it, saying nobody would enforce it. Until maybe later it blows up in their faces. It is your own strict auditing brain–the conscience?– yes, saying it never works out well, fix it now.”

Drin grimaces. His beautiful musician is right, of course, Dance knows him all too well. “It was some hidden computer file information that teslamomma dug out for me, tipped us both off to check on it, and then the attorneys found out where the hell it came from. Some super duper secret military project back in the forties that ended up building some labs or something in Louisiana, and Texas, of all places, and then petered out into spending on some kind of mercenary contracts and God knows where it went from there. I’ll have to track down that mess, but it sounds like pork barrel politics at its best.”

Emma pats his shoulder. “Forward it to me so I can try to track it down at the historical end of things. Things like land deeds, newspaper announcements. They have a whole different parish system there, property ownership is based on French law. You might be surprised what’s okay there that isn’t out here.”

Drin nods, rests his forehead in his hand. “Thank you.”

Dance kisses him on the cheek, on the ear, on the back of his free hand, and then has the unexpected wisdom to pull back and stop touching him. Dance gets up, paces the living room a bit, heads off into the kitchen. The fridge door opens and closes, cabinet doors clatter. More or less to himself, Dance says, “Hmm, but will there will onions? Celery? Potatoes? Good, I think we have enough for stock…”

Of course our Dance is going to start cooking. It’s the only big thing he does on the weekend, anyway, besides performances. He should be practicing for that bizarre ballet piece of Young’s–who does anything like A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the winter, anyway?

person holding 3 round loaves of home-made bread
artisanal home-made breads

Emma smiles, takes Drin’s untouched tea mug off the arm of the sofa, takes it back in the kitchen, and starts banging around pots and pans in there. Then she hisses angrily at Dance, “It’s so goddamn unfair on all those people at the Metro– if it was anybody else’s patron who got hit with this, they’d be in a world of hurt.”

“But this is our Drin, who knows what it is like to go hungry. He will sort it out, make sure the salaries are met. You wash that big pot and I’ll fill it for making some squash soup. As you said last night, we have many squashes to use up from our garden, and we have already given away an embarrassing number of funny-looking things.”

“Robert abusing the gourds last week was way too much embarrassment for me.” Emma sighs. “Better refill that pepper mill for me, Dance. I can’t get that lid off. Gotta have lots of black pepper on my squash soup.” Fingernails tap on a counter top. “You know, if we clear off that junk space, I could move my desk stuff there, and Drin could have my work space off the living room. When he has to bring stuff home, his ledgers are a lot bigger and wider than my files.”

“Oh, I do love you, you tough macha woman you,” Dance says, and gives her a noisy smacking kiss. Drin doesn’t need to see it at all.

“I can sell back those old language textbooks I’m not using, clear shelf space for his cds and dvds. We can stack some moving boxes in the front closet, too.” She goes on ruthlessly sorting out places where Drin’s stuff can be stored until they can rearrange to suit everybody. She figures out ways of restacking the garage to allow him to park a cheaper car in there. Then she comes up short. “Oh Dance, his nice clothes! Where–”

“I will make room in my closet and my dresser for everyday things. We clear out the top of the hall closet for things like his formal stuff, we hang a nice new shoe pocket like yours on the inside of the door, so we must not be not putting too many boxes in the front after all. We get that done this week, so it is all ready for him whenever he needs it.”

“Okay,” Emma says. “What if– what if– he doesn’t have enough money for everything he owes?”

“Then we will go to his family and ask for help!” Dance sounds forceful. Angry, almost. “Drin has certainly helped them on the phone enough, they can figure out ways to help him now. If he does not wish to disgrace his name, I understand, but I have no shame about going to them and telling them it is unfair to let him go hungry when he has helped so many other people.”

“Dance!” Emma exclaims. “You don’t know any of those people–”

“So what? They are his family! Yes, we– I mean it. I am not joking! He has helped everyone in the Metro and I owe him bigtime and I am not letting him down now!” Dance sounds fierce.

“Okay, okay, calm down, I was getting way premature about it–”

“Yes, but your whizzing Librarian brain, you see ahead of us, you plan, you foresee ways past problems. We need this from you. I will calm down, sorry. We were not meaning to shout.”

“Dance, he’s–”

“Drin is moving in,” Dance says firmly, “and we will make him comfortable so long as he wishes to stay with us, yes?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely,” Emma agrees.

“And if he wishes to find another place, we help him, and if he wishes to live here, we’re good there too. Are you okay with all this, our Emma?”

“Like you had to ask me!”

“But I should!”

“Oh c’mere, I gotta hug your stuffin’s out for awhile. I’d paddle your butt if you didn’t offer him room here, whether I was around or not. God dammit, it’s so unfair. The money is not his damn fault.”

“Oh, our Emma,” and there’s a brief pause in the sizzling noises of something being stirred in a hot pan.

Drin blinks hard, rubs his hands over his face, scrubs his fingers through his hair.

Oh yeah, he knows what he’s got to email to teslamomma tonight: You won that bet. Tell your Marine buddy he’s an asshole, and I’m a total shit for pulling this one, even if it’s all true. These two were only worried about money for other folks at the Metro, and for me. Dance asked me to move in and started making soup for dinner. Emma started figuring out where to stash my music cds and my office space.

But he stands up, and takes a deep breath, and goes in to reach up to the high shelves for Dance, getting down the big crockpot lid. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t deserve the big hug that envelops him from both of them at once. He hugs each one very hard, kissing them on either cheek, ceremonially. “Thank you,” he says.

“What do you think, the nutmeg too, or not? Taste this with, this without,” Dance commands, holding up spoonfuls from two small sauté pans sizzling with oil.

“With,” Drin decides, after considering the two spice blends on offer.

“Ahh, good, thank you.”

ladling gold-colored soup
Carrot and Squash Curry Soup

Drin offers to clean and chop up the hard, warty Hubbard squashes in the sink. Emma smiles, turns on the little tinny kitchen radio for Dance, and goes to sort out the mess on her cramped desk space. Dance starts whistling along with the music, with occasional cheerful comments about progress in the cooking.

When the squashes are chopped and skinned and dropped into the stock, Drin washes his hands, dries them, and turns to Dance, who puts up his hand on Drin’s shoulder. Solemnly they do a cha-cha to the tinny broadcast, shuffling back and forth in the limited floor space, with Dance giving Drin a twirl every time he reaches the widest space. Drin has to duck to do it, which makes both of them laugh.

When the song ends, Drin just opens his arms wider, and Dance walks into him, pushes him back into the fridge, and hugs his stuffings very hard. “I wish you will be very happy here,” Dance says into his ribs.

“I am so happy right here, right now,” Drin says, and rests his cheek on Dance’s hair, and kisses his forehead. Dance’s hair smells of onions and black pepper and nutmeg and a tickle of something resinous, maybe herbs or pine or just Dance himself. The smell of home, now.

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