As I inched the canary-yellow Packard roadster through heavy traffic to the next Tea Party protest – scheduled for the steps of the Capitol building – I got on my cell phone. I needed a man with a camera, street savvy, and intestinal fortitude to help with the job, so I called Wronwright – I figured he might know somebody. Once I got him on the horn, I discovered that he was attending the demonstration himself, and he insisted that he was the somebody I was looking for.
“Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Paco, than to catch one of those SEIU creeps on film shoving someone around.”
I was a little skeptical. “You know, Wron, you’d have to be kind of stealthy about it. These boys play rough.”
“Let me at ‘em!”
“Well, ok. Where are you now?”
“I’m in front of the congressional building. You can’t miss me. I’m dressed as George Washington.”
“You mean powdered wig, knee breeches and buckled shoes?”
“That’s right. I aim to make my participation a statement.”
“A statement. You mean, like, “Hey, everybody, I’m nuts!”
I could almost hear him pursing his lips. “You obviously don’t understand the importance of symbolism. It’s my way of saying that we need to stick to our founding principles.”
“Oh, ok. I got you. Well, we should be there in about 15 minutes. I’m going to have to park in a garage, and we’ll be walking the last few blocks. Keep an eye out for us.”
After putting the car away, Sheila, her mother and I pressed through the crowd to the front of the Capitol. There were several thousand people, and I discovered, to my chagrin, that at least a score or so had experienced the same inspiration as Wronwright, and had decided to impersonate the father of our country.
I remarked to Sheila, “I’m not sure how we’re going to pinpoint Wronwright in this bunch.” Sheila suggested that we look for a skinny George Washington wearing eyeglasses and sipping from a bottle of Yoo Hoo. Narrowing the field down that way allowed me to spot him almost immediately. We walked up to him, just as he was slurping down the last of his chocolate drink. He grinned in recognition.
His attire seemed correct in almost every detail: powdered wig, blue cutaway coat, white waistcoat and knee breeches, three-cornered hat (two-sizes two big; it looked like he was balancing a wheel-barrow on his head). I decided to suppress my remarks on his appearance, but, unfortunately, Mrs. Doherty did not feel at all bound by the demands of tact, particularly given the fact that she and Wronwright were old sparring partners. She gaped at him and let out a guffaw that sounded like a parrot celebrating the discovery of an untended bag of peanuts. She walked up to him slowly, making a close study of his person.
“Good lord, Wronright! The resemblance is simply amazing.”
Wronwright smiled uncertainly. “You really think so?”
“Yes. You look just like Woodrow Wilson’s grandmother.”
Wronwright scowled. “An old school chum of yours?”
Mrs. D. adjusted her glasses. “No, on second thought, you look more like Florence Harding. Not quite as heavy, though.”
“I suppose you got a gander at her when she caught you and Warren in the closet at the White House.”
Afraid that Sheila’s mother might be preparing to measure Wronwright with her umbrella, I hastily intervened.
“Now, now, you crazy kids! The enemy is over there.” I pointed across the way at three large specimens wearing purple t-shirts.
“Wronwright, you got your video camera?”
He slapped the camera bag hanging from his shoulder. “Check!”
After a few minutes, the organizer of the protest began the proceedings with a few words to the protesters, and a succession of congressmen, intermingled with the rare conservative celebrity, made short, but rousing speeches. At one point, a strange murmur arose. I looked behind us and saw an extraordinary sight.
Moving through the crowd, which was parting like a school of small fish which had attracted the attention of a barracuda, was some kind of great, lumbering creature. From a distance it seemed to be an elephant, complete with howdah and rider. As it got closer, however, I saw that the beast was none other than Tiny Weiseman, carrying his young son on his shoulders. I hollered at him to come over. He smiled in surprise, and joined us.
A word about Tiny. He had held a number of minor positions in the world of organized crime, but had finally settled into the role of bookie (he was mine, as a matter of fact). He was, as a rule, a diffident and easy-going fellow, but when annoyed, he had rather the aspect of a highly mobile volcano (this is the main reason why, as a bookie, he had very few delinquent accounts).
I have referred to his young son (who was called “Junior”, by the way). Young he was – only eight years old – but he was already almost five feet tall and weighed in, I would guess, at close to one hundred pounds. An avalanche off the ol’ man-mountain. And Tiny was extremely fond of him.
“Tiny”, I asked, “what in the world are you doing here?”
Tiny lowered Junior to the ground and shrugged.
“Hey, deez Democrats are roonin’ de country. What wid de trillion dollar deficit and de taxes an’ all, howz a’ entremanoor like me s’posed to stay ahead a de game? Alotta my customers are cuttin’ back, not placin’ de big bets dey used to. I figure I gotta take a stand, jus’ like de rest a’ yez.”
I patted Junior on the head. He was munching on a cherry snow-cone. “Your boy’s growing right up there, Tiny.”
Tiny beamed. “Yeh. He’s quite a hunk, ain’t he. Smart, too. Listen to dis. Hey, Junior, what’s de penalty for illegal gambling in Virginia?”
Junior, always glad to oblige his father, began reeling off the answer, in the way a typical third-grader might have recited Longfellow's “The Village Blacksmith”. He stared straight ahead, took a deep breath and delivered his lines in staccato fashion.
“'The operator of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, any such operator who engages in an illegal gambling operation which (i) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or (ii) has gross revenue of $2,000 or more in any single day shall be fined not more than $20,000 and imprisoned not less than one year nor more than ten years.' But don’t worry, Pop. I ain’t gonna rat yez out!” He smiled beatifically at Tiny. One got the strong impression that, no matter what the inducement or threat, Junior would not, in fact, rat his father out.
“Heh-heh. Dat’s m’ boy! Say, Paco, how 'bout watchin' de kid for a minute while I go find a port-a-potty?”
I marveled at his confidence; I mean, how the hell did he think he was going to get into one of those things? Nonetheless, I promised to keep an eye on Junior.
The protesters were now working on their chants, and if I had been a Democratic congressman, I’d have been making contingency plans for moving back to Indiana or Missouri or wherever, to resume my place in (most likely) some small-ticket law firm. The tiny group of counter-demonstrators, who had congregated on the other side of the steps, gave it the old college try -shouting obscenities, mostly - but they were drowned out in the joyful, patriotic cheers of the righteous. Suddenly, I noticed three beefy guys in purple shirts heading in our direction, rolling forward like a violet fog bank. They looked strangely familiar. As they drew closer, I saw that they were Mrs. D’s new friends from the police station. They must have recognized the old girl, too, because they made a bee line for her.
(To be continued)