The Apartment

How is the campaign going?  Lana asks Bettina.  We’re not connecting with new first time voters, these Millennials. What’s their issue?  Global warming/climate change/save the planet. What solutions are you exploring? We hired a new social media manager.  And?  She’s good at getting out our event schedule - when she’s not blogging about what Levi is wearing that day.   Lana bursts out laughing.  She’s crazy about him, Lana.

What else?  There is no what else.  The Senator sees it as a trade-off.  His “it’s the sun, stupid” is incredibly popular among older voters.

Well, you either spend time or money to show you care, Lana muses.  What if we cleaned up trash on the side of the highway?  We’d be able to get some sun, Lana says grinning.  It’d be seen as posturing, Lana - or worse, tokenism. And it’s not scalable.  There’s just too much apathy.  I think it would be a waste of time.  We wouldn’t even make a dent, and the roads that we cleaned would fill up with junk again in no time.  It’s not even a band-aid solution.

I agree, Lana says, but hear me out.  My expectation is that most of the trash would be plastic.  And most of the plastic would be water bottles and plastic bags, like you get at the grocery store or the convenience station.  I think there’d be a lot of aluminum cans and foil wrappers too, Bettina says.  We should require people on welfare to collect garbage on the roadway, that way they’d contribute to society and it’d get them off their fat lazy asses, Lana says.  Bettina laughs.  Lana!  Never mind, Lana sighs.  The SEIU would unionize them and they'd end up making more money than people like us in the private sector.      

You were still in Texas when Louisiana tried to pass a five cent bottle deposit back in 2013, Lana tells Bettina.  It failed.  But maybe with this new green religion, the time is ripe for action on a national level.  If the Senator is going to tax my American Express charge card ten basis points, why not keep it simple add a national bottle recycling deposit mandate of ten cents, plus another ten cents for plastic bags.  Collected at the point of sale.  A 10-10-10 plan.

That’s too regressive, Lana.  It’d be a burden on the poor.  Who do you think is doing most of the littering?  Lana counters.  Don’t you think it’d be an issue that Millennials would latch on to?  I don’t like it, Bettina says.  Our retailers have enough problems dealing with Amazon as it is.

Did you write Jax a note when you sent him Kostamo’s check?  I printed off a propaganda poster from World War Two and sent it to him.  I’ll show you.  She gets her laptop and finds it.  It’s a picture of a dead paratrooper touching the ground.  “Careless Talk…Got There First”.  Lana!  I didn’t know what to say, Bettina, and I didn’t want to send just the check. Bettina gives her a look.  Have you ever been skydiving?  Of course not.  Have you?  I’ve never soloed, but I’ve jumped tandem once, strapped onto the instructor.  How was it?  It was terrifying until the chute opened, then it was alright.  But I was just a passenger, Lana, along for the ride. I didn’t learn anything.  If I did it again, I’d want to jump like a paratrooper, where all I have to do is rush out the door and the rip cord pulls automatically.  That’s the only way I would go, Lana agrees, with one of those big circle chutes. Float in the air for five minutes, and then land in a soft grassy meadow.  But I would want Tim to go ahead of me, so I could follow and copy him. Bettina nods her agreement.

Are you going to the fight with me?  She asks Lana.  No.  I was going to call Toni and see if she wanted company.  I’ll back out on Simon and go over there with you, Bettina says, I really didn’t want to go anyway.

***

Hi, Sam!  Bettina says into her phone.  Ramon and I are cooking dinner tonight.  You and Simon better show up.  What should we bring?  Lana and Rolf.  Did you already talk to her?  Nope, I was going to have you insist on it.  I’ll get right on it, Bettina says.  She calls Simon.  Hi! Are you available to take me to Sam’s place for dinner tonight?  Yes. Good.  What time to do you want me to pick you up?  I’d be up for going early so I can get some sun by the pool, Bettina admits.  Sounds great, I’ll swim some laps to work up an appetite.  See you soon. I’ve gotta call Lana.  Bye.

Hi!  Simon and I are going to Sam’s for dinner tonight.  She asked me to invite you and Rolf.  Am I allowed to show up without Rolf?  Lana asks.  Of course. Okay then.  What time?  She didn’t give me a time.  Simon and I are going early to hit the pool.  I’ll call Sam and find out, then I’ll call you back, Lana says.

Hi, Lana.  Hi, Sam.  I just talked to Bettina.  What time is dinner?  How does seven sound?  Fine. Are you bringing Rolf?  Just me, if that’s alright.  Lana replies.  That’s fine, Sam sighs.  That’s only six plates: Ramon, myself, Toni, Bettina, Simon, and you.  Small is beautiful.  I’m looking forward to it.  See you then.

***

Lana shows up at fifteen minutes to seven and sees Bettina’s Mustang, Toni’s Dodge Ram, Jon’s Tuscan, and Ramon’s Mazda 3 in the drive.  There’s a note on the door.  Just let yourself in, Lana.  Lana walks into the mansion and makes her way into the kitchen, where she can hear meat sizzling.  Hello?  Anyone? Hi, Lana, Ramon says, as he stirs some chicken strips that he’s got panfrying.  It smells delicious, Lana exclaims.  Chicken Jalisco, Ramon replies.  Why are you cooking all by yourself?  I enjoy cooking, Ramon replies.  Want a taste?  He opens the oven and cuts a piece of meat off a peppered roast and offers it to her. Only if I can kiss the cook, she tells him.  He offers his right cheek and she leans in and places a hand on the side of his shoulder to steady herself, and brushes his cheek with hers and makes an air kiss by his ear.  He grins at her and offers her the fork.  This is amazing, she says as she chews.  It’s all in the marinade, he tells her.  Wine?  She shakes her head no.  It’d be wasted on me; I have a beer palate.  Ramon breaks out laughing.  Better add some glazing, she tells him, as she looks at the stove.  I know what I’m doing, he replies, and stirs the chicken some more.

How is Tia?  Lana asks in Spanish.  She is well; you are very dear to her, Lana. How is Raul?  He appreciated your letter very much, Lana.  But until such time as The Jew relents, he will not contact you.  I’d like to introduce him to my parents at your wedding, if you would help arrange that.  Ramon sprinkles some ground chilis over the chicken, and then stirs them some more.  I’ll talk to Samantha, he finally says.

Now how is this Levi?  I think he is likely to be your future counterpart, Don Ramon. What is your opinion of him?  I like him.  I took him to a Glock event and he impressed me.  And he’s a better shooter than me.  But can he do it under pressure?  Ramon asks.  I hope he never has to, Lana replies softly.  It was a Jedi thing with him, Ramon.  Some men just have it.  To be able to just pick up a strange weapon and shoot like that has to be seen to be believed.  What did Rolf think of him?  He’s still working for us, Lana comments, not answering.  Are you going to the fight?  Of course.  Is Raul going with you?  Of course. Will you take a message to him for me?  Yes.  I never want to see him wear a pink shirt under his suitcoat ever again. Ramon stares at her blankly.  It’s not only wrong for a man to be effeminate, but it’s also wrong for him to look that way.  He breaks out laughing.  Lana looks at him.  If he’s decided to move on…  Ramon stops laughing.  I understand now, he tells her.  He puts the cooked chicken on a platter.

Everyone is out at the pool, playing water polo, if you want to let them know that that the food is ready.  Sure.  Lana goes out to the pool, and Sam sees her and shrieks her name.  Everyone stops playing.  Please don’t splash me, Lana says.  I’m taking drink orders.  Everyone swims to the side of the pool, and tells her what they want.  When’s the food going to be ready?  Simon asks.  It is ready to be plated; Ramon is keeping it warm.  Let’s eat, Bettina says, and climbs out of the pool.  The others quickly follow.  You are to hold onto me, Lana tells Toni as she uses the ladder to exit the pool.  I’m not that big yet, Toni protests, as she wraps her towel around herself.  We’ll take care of her, Lana – Emilie says, shooing her away, you go on inside.

Everyone sits down to dinner ten minutes later. Delicious!  Sam trills.  This is amazing, Emilie enthuses.  Jon nods his agreement.  So you all like the meal I’ve prepared and yet only Lana kisses the cook?  Ramon says gravely.  You did not!  Sam tells Lana.  I’d like to kiss Simon and Jon too, Lana admits, but I don’t think they know the Latin form.

Simon stands up from the table.  Teach me.  Lana gets up and goes over to him.  Offer me your right cheek.  Don’t freak out - I’m not going to hurt you.  Everyone laughs.  I’m going to put my left hand on your shoulder to steady myself.  I’m leaning in.  I’m going to brush your cheek with mine and make a kissing sound.  That was practice.  Now let’s do it for real.  An air kiss?  Toni says. Essentially, Lana says, returning to her seat.  Alright, Doc, stand up.  Simon says. No, no.  Lana protests, waving her hands frantically.  Men shake hands.  Everyone laughs.  What about girls?  Emilie asks. I don’t have many friends, Lana says, so I go straight to a hug, she admits.  We used to do four air kisses at my soriority at SMU, while holding hands to greet our sisters, Bettina says.  Show me, Sam tells Bettina.  Let’s say I’m receiving, Bettina says.  She holds out her hands for Sam to grab and then pulls them up between them while offering Sam her right cheek.  Sam makes an air kiss, and Bettina reciprocates.  Do it again until I squeeze your hands, Bettina tells her.  Sam does, and Bettina kisses her again, and then drops their hands.  Let me try, Toni says, getting up, and she and Sam go through the exercise.  I don’t know if I could do that to a guy, Emilie admits.  I asked Lana if she wanted to taste my cooking, and she told me only if she could kiss the cook first.  It was very sweet and ladylike, Ramon says, not at all forward.  I’m impressed, Lana Radley, Bettina says as she grins at her. What’s a guy supposed to do then? Jon asks Lana.  Err on the side of caution.  My father is really good at this.  I’ve seen him put up his hands and back away, and tell women, I only hug my wife.

I’m going to call you out, Lana.  Toni says.  You are such a flirt.  I heard about what you did to Levi at that Glock event.  Lana puts her head down and her hands in her lap.  What did she do?  Ramon asks Toni.  She gave him a neckrub and sang for him.  It was a praise song, Toni, Sam says laughing.  Let it happen???  Toni exclaims.  That’s a praise song?  Bettina pulls back her chair and stands behind Simon, and gives him a neck rub. It’s not just a praise song, Toni.  It’s a blessing, an encouragement, and a reminder.  She closes her eyes and sings and then rubs his shoulders and sits back down.  If I wasn’t in love with you already, Bettina - that would have done it, Simon tells her.  You are so brave and fearless, Lana, Emilie says.  Look who’s talking, Bettina says.  Sitting down with Jon at Auggie’s.  I just couldn’t bring myself to ask him out, and then he was there in the kitchen, Emilie says beaming, and then suddenly kisses his cheek.  Everyone grins over at them.  Well, Lana?  Ramon asks, his eyebrows raised.  I’m willing to be misunderstood. We were in a room full of guys, and I wanted everyone to think that he was my boyfriend.

But you knew what it would do to him, Toni insists.  Yet another guy puts Lana up on a pedestal.  What should I have done, Toni?  Lana asks softly.  Toni frowns at her.  I’m not good with what you did to Jax.  He was there for you and you just crushed him.  Jax isn’t a victim, Lana responds.  I don’t want you around Mike, Toni says suddenly.  No one says anything.  Promise me you won’t go to the fight, Toni says, looking down at the table.  Lana doesn’t reply, and Toni starts to choke up.  If he loses the fight, I’m afraid he’s not going to marry me, she sobs. Sam hesitantly puts a hand on Toni’s shoulder.  Bettina gets up and goes over.  Switch seats with me, Jon.  He wordlessly complies and Bettina wraps her up in a hug and whispers to her softly.  Toni eventually stops sobbing as Bettina rubs her back. Now let Miss Bettina see your left hand.  Everyone watches as Bettina closes her eyes and traces the outline of Toni’s hand with a finger.  Eventually she brings Toni’s hand up to her own ear, and holds it there.  Bettina laughs.  You’re going to have a beautiful healthy baby girl, who Mike will name Simone Crae.  BETTY! Bettina snickers and wrinkles her nose.  I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never been wrong.  They touch heads.  Toni sighs.  Sorry everyone.  My doctor said this might happen.  Everything in my body is turned up to eleven.  That was not about you, Lana.  I know, Lana says softly.  Please forgive me.  Only if you invite me over here to watch the fight with you.  You’re invited, Toni says.  We went to the same soriority, Lana tells her, and then gets up from her chair.  Toni meets her halfway around the table and they exchange air kisses while holding hands, then Lana wraps Toni up in a hug.  Simon, I’m backing out; you’re on your own.  Bettina tells him.   He nods and doesn’t say anything and watches Lana as she goes back to her seat.  Well, I’m going to be there, Sam insists.  I’ve got to work, Emilie admits.  Sorry, Toni.  I understand completely, Toni tells her.

So what do you think of Levi?  Jon asks Lana.  I like him, but Bettina says I’ve got competition.  There is a new girl on the campaign staff who does our social media. She’s crazy about him.  Bettina admits.  She blogs about all their interactions, what he wears each day, what he eats, how he reacts to various people.  Lana’s the off screen villain.  A shameless man stealer, Sam says.  Everyone breaks out laughing.  I’ll look for it, Ramon says grinning.  What does she say about you?  She loves Sam.  Radical outspoken feminist nonconformist to the patriarchy, who rejects bourgeoisie oppression by pretending to embrace it, just like Buck Neezy, her ex.

You deflected the question, Simon tells Lana. I find much to like about him.  You just restated what you said before, Emilie says giggling.  Lana looks down with her Mona Lisa smile.  Leave Lana alone, Bettina insists.  She’s going to be under enough scrutiny when we go back on the campaign trail.  Now I need some advice. We’re having trouble attracting first time voters, these Millennials.  They’re really turned off by PJ’s stances on global warming and carbon.  How can we reach them?  You’re not going to win everybody, Bettina.  Simon tells her, just accept it.  Sam nods her agreement.  We need to reach out and be inclusive, Bettina insists.

How about you buy Lana a Tesla SUV for her tail car?  Ramon suggests.  All the cameras are going to be on her when she goes back to work.  Bettina’s eyes light up and her mouth opens.  How are you going to keep it charged on the road? Jon asks with his head down.  Leave that to me, Bettina says.