Chapter 1: Siblings
“Why are you blue?” Patsy asked, wide eyed.
Cornelius shuffled on the spot. “To distract you,” he said, “from the dress I’m wearing.”
With a look of outrage, Patsy stood up and pointed an accusing finger at her brother. “Corny, you’ve been in my closet again! And, you can’t wear that after Labor Day.”
He stared back at her, a guilty smile across his face. “So, I suppose it’s out of the question to ask you for help picking out shoes?”
“How would you feel if I went around wearing your clothes,” she asked?
“I don’t know. Carl would probably find it a turn on,” he said, referring to Patsy’s questionably straight boy friend.
Cornelius winced as Patsy gave him a sharp punch in the arm. “You leave him alone. It’s hard enough to find a shopping partner, and you’re going to scare him off. What’s this blue stuff on my knuckle?”
For the first time, she noticed that water dripped to the floor from her dress. Her eyes bugged out of her head and she ran to the sliding doors at the back of the chamber that led down to the swimming pool.
“Busted,” Cornelius whispered to himself as he booked up the grand stair case to his room. Once he locked the doors and felt safe in his personal sanctuary, he took a deep breath and mumbled, “Note to self: recommend to Carl that he take Patsy shopping.”
He stripped down, tossing the blue dress on the floor, and stepped into his private shower. The shooting jets of water streaming in from all directions inspired a rendition of “Singing in the Rain.” This drowned out the sound of Patsy screaming in the hall and banging on the door.
When he shut off the water an hour later, he could finally hear the commotion outside his door. Wrapped in a towel, he opened the door to a quite disgruntled Patsy, her hair askew, face fuming, chest heaving with heavy breaths. Cornelius waved her off, saying, “I don’t want to be late for work, Patsy. We’ll talk tonight.”
She shoved him back into his room. He fell to the floor next to the ruined dress. “The pool is ruined, again,” Patsy shouted. “You drunken buffoon…” Patsy continued her tirade, but Cornelius wandered into his closet to find some clothes. She yelled at him all the way down to the garage, and finally through the window of his car as he pulled out and left for work.
Cornelius settled into his desk a half hour late. A condition of his trust fund required him to hold down a full time job. Fortunate for him, the government had the perfect job for someone of his lack of ability.
He worked for the Office of Immigration, Capital section. Since the Martinez Act of 2016, any non-criminal foreigner wishing to become a citizen of the United States could legally buy their way in. The public lauded Senator Martinez for his practical approach to a growing illegal immigration problem and pressured the rest of the politicians to fall in line. After all, people were going to come into the country anyway, right? Why let them pay some unscrupulous non-tax paying coyote when they could put the money right into the public coffers. The unpopular president signed the bill into law in September of that year.
“You know you’re late, right?” Renee asked, leaning toward Cornelius from her own desk. She liked him, or his money, though it was all the same to him, and they regularly talked when they should have been clearing the queue of waiting immigrants. “Rough night,” he said. “Corny had a little too much of the happy juice.”
She gave him a smirk, then pulled a tissue from her drawer and pushed it at him. “You’ve got something blue on your neck.”
Just then, the shift supervisor wandered out of her office. Grabbing the tissue, he made an exaggerated frown and turned back to his desk, punching the big “next number” button in front of him. There was a loud “bing”, and the number 53 appeared in lights above his desk.
A middle aged man and a young woman stepped up and filled the two plastic chairs in front of his desk. Cornelius didn’t look up. Instead, he scratched out a doodle on the pad of paper in front of him. The partition on the front of his desk prevented the new patriots from seeing his handy work. Sometimes he could get away with this time wasting tactic for upwards of fifteen minutes.
The man and woman sat patiently before him. Finally, after a good yawn, Cornelius looked up at the pair for the first time. He liked the girl. She looked like just his type, but his boss already had him on notice for hitting on new patriots or their translators. He just looked her in the eyes and gave her a seductive smile, but she looked away, her cheeks blushing a little. He said, “Which of you is the applicant?”
“My father, Pedro Lopez, is,” the girl said, looking up.
“And you are his translator?”
“Si, I mean, yes, I am.”
Cornelius looked down and shuffled the papers on his desk, trying to look impressive, and failing.
“Have you filled out his application,” he asked?
She handed him the stack of paper. He flipped through it, pretending to check its contents, occasionally saying, “Hrm,” or, “Uh, huh.”
The girl eyed him nervously.
“Okay,” he said after ruffling the papers for a while, “please translate this for your father.” He shifted the clip on tie on his shirt, as if loosening a real tie. Reading from the three queue cards taped to his side of the partition, he recited, “You understand that this application constitutes an agreement between you and the United States of America for terms of your immigration into these United States, and that failure on your part to meet these terms will result in your immediate deportation.
“Term 1: You agree to hold down a full time time job. You agree that if you are terminated from that job that you will immediately seek out new employment and that failure to do so constitutes a violation of this agreement.
“Term 2: You agree to pay this department an annual sum equal to 20% of the median income of an American worker, decreasing by 2% each year for ten years. Failure to make any of these payments constitutes a violation of this agreement.
“Term 3: You agree to obey all laws—” Cornelius let out another big yawn and continued through his queue cards. The girl repeated everything he said in Spanish, or Hungarian. He didn’t really know and didn’t much care either. His mind had already started to wander to a new car he wanted to buy with his next trust fund payment.
Near the end of the day, Renee asked Cornelius out for drinks. She did this about once a week, and he always said no. Even though he found Renee attractive, he couldn’t get over her being ten years older than him, and he had a rule about intraoffice relationships. If the relationship went south and he lost his job because of some kind of fallout, he would miss his next trust payment.
Today, Cornelius decided to accept her offer. The thought of a raving Patsy waiting for him at home gave him encouragement to stay out late.
Another 40 minutes passed after the doors to the building closed for the day. It took that long to clear out the rest of the applicants still in the waiting area. Renee practically dragged Cornelius to his feet when they could finally leave. She threw her coat over her shoulder and hung off his arm all through the parking lot. Cornelius tended to park at the far edge of the lot for the reduced risk of scratchage, as he put it.
“Oh, so this is the new stud mobile, huh?” Renee said, caressing the shiny silver hood of the little sportster convertable. Cornelius helped her in to the passenger side, then zipped around to his side and hopped over the door into the driver’s seat. Renee rewarded his little athletic display with a seductive smile and a wink.
“Mind if we run an errand first, doll,” he asked? “I’ve got to swing by the museum.” She looked a bit taken back. “I guess not.”
Moments later, the silver sportster sped away from the parking lot, toward down town. The sun sat on the horizon, shining directly down the street between the down town high rises, blinding Cornelius as he sped toward the museum. Had it been a little earlier or a little later, perhaps he would have noticed police car poised to pounce on the side of the road.
As he pulled over to receive his punishment, Renee giggled and said, “Way to go, stud.”
The minutes crawled by. Why do the always do this? he thought. As the sun slipped beyond the horizon, a spotlight flared behind them. Finally, “License and registration, sir.”
“Certainly officer,” Cornelius said, contorting his body so he could pull his wallet out of his pocket. He pushed his id and registration at the officer. “Please take your license out of your wallet, sir,” the officer said.
Not wanting to drag this out any longer than he had to, he quickly complied with the request. After a brief lecture about the dangers of driving 60 in a 35 zone, the officer said, “Now, I’m only going to write this ticket for 49 because I don’t want to have to haul you in for reckless driving.”
“Thank you, sir,” Cornelius said. Thank you? Dammit, it happened again. Every time I get pulled in, the cop cons me into thanking him for giving me a ticket.
By the time the officer cleared them to leave, the first stars had begun to show in the sky. Cornelius thanked his luck that the license check didn’t show the outstanding parking tickets he had up in L.A.
Five minutes later, he pulled into the loading zone of the new Parker Museum of Art and hopped out. “I’ll just be a minute,” he said, and he left the engine running. Renee half stood in her seat, turning to see him as he walked behind the car. “So I’ll just wait here then?” She felt a little put out. So far this evening, she’d done nothing but act flirty and sit in the passenger seat. She felt eager to get out and stretch her legs.
A passing pedestrian looked at her, looked at the car, and then looked at the “loading/unloading” sign and shook his head at her. Sitting in the open car, she became very aware of herself. Was this a good idea after all? she thought. It’s not how I pictured it.
A few minutes later, Cornelius came out through the glass doors of the museum carrying a brown wrapped package about the size of a picture frame. He reached into the car and popped the trunk, then threw the package in.
“Tina doesn’t trust the help to take good care of her paintings when they need to be cleaned, so I get to take care of it,” he said. At the perplexed look on Renee’s face, he added, “Tina’s my step mom.”
As they pulled away, Renee said, “Do you know a good bar around here? I like this place down by the beech.”
“It’s a nice night for a drive. Let’s go there,” he said.
A half hour later, they pulled into the parking lot of The Blue Dog. Neon lights and tacky palm tree theming covered the walls and roof. Liquor is liquor, Cornelius thought.
Arm in arm, they walked into the bar. After a few minutes at a table, a waitress in a cheesy pirate costume swaggered up to the table.
“Good evening, y’all. My name is Tina. What can I get for you?”
Renee laughed. “Just like your step mom.”
He forced a smile back at her. He didn’t like his step mom very much, and didn’t feel much like talking about her tonight.
“I’ll take what ever is the house special,” he said.
“Sounds adventurous. Me too,” Renee said.
“That will be no problem,” Tina the server said. “I just need to see some ID. Hon, now you know I can’t serve you alcohol.”
He went red. When they got pulled over, he put his real license back into his wallet over his fake ID. Instead of the old enough to drink 26 year old Doug Patrick, he was Cornelius Wornice, the still underage 20 year old.
“Why don’t I just give you a minute to think about what you want,” Tina said, and she zoomed off behind the bar.
“You’re only 20 years old,” Renee said with a chuckle. “No way! Now I feel like I’m robbing the cradle.”
“Maybe we should find some place else,” he said.
“Not so fast,” she said, grabbing his hand. “Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m not going to contribute to the delinquency of a minor by letting you go to another bar. At least, I’m not going to let you drink.” She gave him another seductive smile, her left eye brow slightly higher than her right. He felt her foot brush his leg under the table.
As night went on, Cornelius sipped at his club soda, watching Renee become more and more drunk. She wouldn’t stop talking about her brothers and sisters, and he found he disliked her obnoxious drunken laugh. She’d undone the top two buttons on her blouse, but he liked the office Renee more than the drunk Renee. He decided right then that he would not take this woman to bed.
“We should get going,” he said.