Image by Cupser Lynn
The Mayan’s Of Suburbia
My car has taken to expressing opinions about the places I go and the locations I would have it parked. Resisting the temptation to personify a 2003 Saturn Ion, I have had several mechanics look at it. But, like the child at the doctor’s office, my car refuses to reproduce any of its peculiar symptoms in the presence of a professional. While the mechanics invariably conclude that the problem is a cable controlling the ignition switch, none have been able to reproduce the actual problem and so I refuse to undertake the expense of repairing it.
The problem, to be stated precisely, is that the car will refuse to let me have my key. When I have had my son drive it, the car without fail allows itself to be parked and gives him the key. For a while I concluded that I suffered from some defect in my operation of the vehicle. I tried to be more temperate in my driving. This changed nothing. The car still would, at seemingly random intervals, refuse to give me my key. So I would be left to move the car back and forth, twist the steering wheel, stomp the break and fiddle with the transmission until it would yield. The length of these battles varied. But I still resisted the idea of granting my car the quality of sentient functions. That was until I noticed that there were specific places it would park and yield the key without complaint. For example, in front of my office. In my driveway. At my local grocery store. It would, however, refuse to be parked behind my office, on the street near my home or at several of my client’s offices. After considering the questions of quality of the road, the grade or angle at which it rested, I was forced to conclude that there were simply places my car did not wish to be. These caprices could not be explained by identifiable circumstance of terrain. So, I had to grudgingly accept that my car was, for reasons known only to the Gods eternal and infernal, expressing some independent views or wisdom on the subject of its destination.
Having returned home from lunch today, I found myself in my driveway cursing at the vehicle as I could see no rational basis for its refusal to allow itself to be parked. I was, in what appeared to be its’ favorite spot. I had pulled in at its’ preferred speed. But it stubbornly refused to allow itself to be parked and give me the key. I considered this for a moment. Nothing much had changed in my neighborhood. While there were five cement mixers currently parked on the street, this was not significantly different from the dozen or so trucks that had been parked along the street over the previous two days. Did my car have an aversion to cement mixers? Was it shy around bigger vehicles? I did not care. I had a quick errand to do and it was important. I twisted the steering wheel and cursed.
After a five minute long battle of wills with my Saturn I finally was able to retrieve the key. I snorted at it as if I had mastered it through sheer determination, then I retrieved my package from the passenger seat and walked to the front door. It was as I stepped onto the verandah that I first noticed what I immediately realized my car must have seen as we were arriving.
“Cusper,” the voice said in a distinct drawl.
“Frank,” I returned the greeting.
“Got a minute Cusper?” Frank asked.
I certainly didn’t have a minute and certainly not a minute for Frank “Slim” Simons. Looking over I saw him stretched out in my chair, his cowboy hat titled forward and low over his brow, his boots resting on the rail.
“I’ll make it worth your while,” he tilted his head up to meet my eye and flashed me a smile.
“Why are you here?” I growled, noting that he had a cigar clenched in his teeth.
“Well Cusper, haven’t been able to catch you at your office,” he grinned repositioning the cigar to the far corner of his mouth.
I narrowed my eyes, the cigar looked suspiciously like one of my Don Lino’s. “Really?”
“Got the feeling that your receptionist was giving me the brush off,” Frank said, getting to his feet.
Sheila actually being efficient? The thought boggled the mind.
“Then she gave me your home address,” He smiled again, “so I figured you were really not in.”
“Sounds about right,” I grunted and unlocked the door.
Frank came in behind me, his boots ringing against the wood laminate flooring.
“Your place?” he asked.
“Renting,” I said, not wishing to discuss the last few years financial debacle or my much degraded circumstances.
“Ah, a pessimist,” he said and pulled out a chair at the dining room table.
“Do you mind?” he asked, already settling himself in at the head of the table.
“Suit yourself,” I said and set my package on the kitchen counter.
There was a clattering sound as it landed.
Frank gave me a quizzical look.
“Marbles,” I explained. “It appears I have been losing mine.”
He shifted the cigar again and gave me an appreciative smile over one of the cigars from my office humidor that Sheila had no doubt given him along with my address, social security number, driver’s license and registration information.
“Cusper, I am here to talk to you about a project we are working on,” he said.
“The Clearman Commons,” I said.
“Yes, well Cusper, we would like your help,” Frank said, then retrieved a folded paper from his vest.
Inwardly I groaned. Frank “Slim” Simons, like the rest of the bipolar real estate developers that populate this state, only operates in two modes: manic and irrational. The Clearman Commons was another megamall development that had been negotiated with an “Affordable Housing” requirement. The requirement was that Simons’ group build fifty housing units priced so that they could be purchased by teachers, firemen and police officers. At the time teachers were commuting seventy miles round trip because they could not afford to live in the districts they were teaching in.
Frank had sued to have the clause removed, based on the fact that there were so many houses now in foreclosure that the additional home building was pointless, wasteful and that the objective of the clause was already being met by the prevailing realities in the housing market. He of course, won his suit.
“Frank, first of all, I am not a lobbyist. Second I do not know anything about real estate, except that I do not wish to own any…ever. Third, why are you here….really?” I said crossing my arms.
“Cusper, we have a problem,” Frank said looking down at the paper.
This was the only good news I had heard all day.
“And?” I asked.
“We think you can help,” he said and placed an index finger on the paper.
I looked down to see that he had laid out a plat map and his finger was resting on a small state road.
“Yes?” I said looking at where his finger lay.
“You are familiar with the McClintock rider, that there has to be a State road west of here before we can develop this land?” Frank said.
“Yes,” I answered. It was known to nearly everyone in the state.
“Well, perhaps you know that the council just passed an order that this area will never have a road,” he said casually.
“Yes, about a month ago I believe,” I answered, looking closer to the map.
“Well, we have a fifteen acre parcel that we plan to use as part of the project. But we can’t. We are looking at some options,” he said, moving the tip of his finger about vaguely over the map.
“You mean lawsuits,” I corrected.
“Among other things,” he conceded, “but the problem is I don’t have a handle on the motive.”
“Motive?” I asked.
“Rulings like this don’t just happen,” Frank said, “There is a reason.”
“You don’t believe in legislative cockups?” I smiled.
“You mean like the state ‘Healthcare’ package or the ‘Affordable Education Act’ ?” he grinned.
I shrugged. These were two of the state legislatures more interesting laws this year. The first left a four month loophole in the law allowing insurance companies to make no reimbursement whatsoever, and the second cut funding to three of the states nationally ranked research universities, froze tuition rates and started another college project. The net results of which were universities were cutting staff and services, while insurance companies were dancing naked in the street singing ‘we’re in the money.’
“I have a feeling you might be able to get a handle on this for us,” Frank continued.
I walked to the window and looked out at my neighbor’s backyard where a dozen workmen were pouring concrete.
“Frank, do you know who the developer was for this development?” I asked as I crossed over to get my marbles from the counter.
“Is it important?” Frank said, his tone betraying curiosity and irritation.
“It is to me,” I said, and started setting my marbles in small grooved piece of wood around the room.
Frank paused and cast his eyes skyward as if in recollection. “Would probably have been Gordon Emory, I expect.”
“You expect right Frank,” I said, making a small mark on the wood I had just set a large green marble in. “This was one of Gordon’s early developments.”
“You ever been to Cancun?” I continued cryptically as I set about placing more marbles.
“Sure, hell, been damn near everywhere,” Frank said, his agitation growing. “What about my problem?”
“The two are related,” I said setting my last marble in place. “If you head west across the Yucatan there is a Pyramid located at what was once a center of Mayan life. I refer of course to Chichén Itzá.”
“Yes, thank you for the geography and history, but I have a land deal that has been monkey wrenched,” Frank snapped.
“Not far from the pyramid is a cenotes, or as we know them, sinkholes. Tourists pay to swim in it and not long ago the Mayan’s would cast sacrifices into cenotes. Which got me wondering why do we put up bill boards for lawyers to invite us to file lawsuits when our houses fall into one of these? And why the sacrifices?” I sat down opposite Frank, who looked frustrated.
Frank pivoted the cigar about in his mouth a few times, chewed on it then tipped it downward. “I suppose they were killing lawyers?”
“The thought had occurred. But then I realized what had really happened. They were sacrificing developers for building where they shouldn’t,” I smiled a vicious smile.
“Cusper, I haven’t got time for this crap,” Frank said taking the cigar from his mouth and pointing it at me in a manner I found offensive.
“Gordon Emory developed this area from farm land that his family owned. It was never meant to have houses on it. Surveyors knew about the water erosion, the caves and the lack of bedrock. So now my neighbor’s house is sinking,” I said solemnly.
“Cry me a river,” Frank said folding up his paper.
“Well, it is an underground river of sorts,” I said to him as he rose from the table.
Frank grunted and stormed off toward the door.
“I will tell you something for nothing Frank. Gordon has a grandson,” I called after him.
Frank stopped, “Yeah, Seth Emory.”
Frank turned and faced me and asked “So?”
“McClintock’s cousins own the land near your property. That is why McClintock put the original restriction in. He didn’t want you getting ahead of his family. Seth’s family owns a large parcel three miles southeast of your project,” I observed.
“So he is trying to cut into the Clearman Commons project?” Frank asked skeptically.
“No, he wants to make sure that McClintock’s cousins don’t get any money. In case you haven’t heard McClintock is running for office again next year,” I said.
“What is the beef between McClintock’s and Emory’s?” Frank “Slim” Simons formerly of Bayonne New Jersey asked.
“Well, McClintock made his money suing developers over sinkholes and one of them was Gordon,” I flashed him a toothy smile.
“Even if that is true….” Frank began exasperated.
“It is,” I cut him off.
“I can’t take all of that to court. I need something simple or leverage to get Seth to change it,”
“The only leverage I have right now is my home which I think is tilting,” I shrugged.
Frank let out a long disgusted tone, “You know I will have to sue the council.”
“Yep, and you will win. In a year or two,” I sighed.
“Damn Cusper, I knew you would know why but I thought it would be something…” Frank trailed off.
There was the sound of something striking the floor in the far side of my house. “Useful? Sorry. No. Right now all I have is my marbles and I appear to be losing them….again.”
“Thanks Cusper. Do I owe you anything?” Frank said, and stepped back to the door.
“Except for a cigar, no,” I said rising from my chair to see him out.
“Thanks,” he said and slammed the door behind him.
I heard another marble landing on the far side of the house. My car was definitely showing better judgment than I was lately.
# # #
Text Copyright 2012 Cusper Lynn
Text Copyright 2012 Hellbent Press
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