Still, that didn’t mean he didn’t have a sense of humor. "My coffee grounds told me that we will speak again."

She wrinkled her nose. "Cute."

He chuckled, full of himself, and continued on his way against the rising ferocity of the wind. If he didn’t know better, he would have sworn that the weather’s amplitude had increased two-fold after he left the company of that woman.

At last, he finally made it to City Hall, without mishap. The conditions had caused a fender bender or two as cars slid through stoplights and rear ends careered out of control as others turned from one sleet slick street to another.

The warmth of the building surrounded him when he stepped in from the weather, and the simple fact that there was no breeze inside made it feel almost stifling and muggy. The air in City Hall always seemed as old and stale as the building was. No doubt it was partly the ancient wooden structures inside the building and a hint of mold and mildew.

Upon entry, there was a bank of security apparatus. Joel approached, catalogue case in tow, and queued like the other persons seeking entrance into the more remote and more sensitive areas of the ancient building. He was always amazed at the spaciousness of the old buildings, and the resonance that their cavern-like nature imparted. IN the old days, no doubt such things as openness and spaciousness played an integral part of the way that they used to live. The newer building were so congested and confined that it was no wonder why a person felt stressed when they entered, stressed, while they worked and couldn’t wait to escape to the great outdoors at the end of the day. No doubt, if all builds were constructed like this grand old monolith, people would feel better about a day’s work.

When it was Joel’s turn, the security officer, a lean and lanky black women who looked mighty young, instructed him on the procedure that would expedite his entrance if he followed her instruction to the letter. He knew it by heart, having been to the building more times than he cared to recount.

He emptied his pockets of all things and placed them in a basket that was waiting agape on the table before the security screening devices. As usual, he had a stunning amount of objects in his pockets or affixed to his belt. There was his trusty PDA, his office and house keys (on separate rings), his wrist watch, two pens, a mechanical pencil, two dollars in loose change, two dollar coins, his wallet, a tin of breath mints, a paper clip (he shrugged when the sight of a paper clip bound with lint made the guard snicker), and then off came his belt.

Another security guard asked him to open his catalogue case, which he did, and the guard peered in and around the contents and seemed satisfied that there weren’t any weapons and or explosive devices therein. The German shepherd police dog standing beside the table didn’t seem interested in anything that Joel had and simply looked back and forth, tongue out.

The young guard put the basket of items dredged from his pocket onto the conveyer and another guard peered at a monitor that showed that the objects were nothing more than they appeared to be. And then Joel was asked to step through the screening device.

All hell broke loose as the device wailed and the amber lights atop the unit started spinning and flashing their glare upon all those in the area. The german shepherd’s bark added a sharp staccato to the cacophony, and a convergence of more guards to the area.

Shocked, Joel tried to back out of the unit, but he was unable to, for a guard was rushing him through and away from the civilians still queued in line, and once he was through to the other side, the guard tripped him and sent him down to the floor with the guard’s weight fully atop him.

One guard was on a walkie-talkie the next moment, and a knee was in the back of Joel’s head the next as two guards now on top of him wrestled his arms behind his back to cuff him. He squirmed, gasping for air, and couldn’t even speak for the tremendous weight focused on his neck, and smashing his face into the cold, hard, damp marble floor.

Yet another guard ordered him to stop resisting, yet panic had set in with the choking lack of oxygen and he struggled for air in spite of the warning issued. Then he heard the crackling of thousands of volts in the form of a stunning devise, which the guard happily plunged into his neck and jolted him not once, not twice, but three times until he vomited and passed out.

Joel emerged from the scanner, and not surprising, nothing happened other than his imagination running wild. He’d seen such an event played out before and it was a horrific scene. The victim in that incident had had a small amount of radioactive material on him, he learned later. He’d sworn that he had no idea of where the material had come from, and the last that Joel had heard of the guy, he was still incarcerated on a south pacific island that housed those accused (albeit not convicted since there was never a trial) of sedition, or aiding and abetting rogue states, or giving comfort to rebels , ad nauseum).

He collected his things and continued on his way to the meeting without looking back.

Joel wasn’t much of a schmoozer. His mentor wasn’t either, so he couldn’t get any advice from him on how to do so effectively. Of course, he’d taken some training courses on extra-professional discourse and business communication, but it just wasn’t in his personality and he always felt fake doing it. "You can’t fake the funk," old timers used to say, and he understood exactly what they meant.

The meeting room was spacious, just like everything else in City Hall, and was a curious mix of the ancient and the ultra-modern. The ceiling was a twenty-five foot high stamped tin ceiling with flaking paint, but there were sophisticated projection units, for both sound and visual, imbedded in it. There was a huge oval conference table made of cherry wood, with ornate legs and edgework on the table top, and PDA docking stations and flat-panel terminals in front of each position where people would sit. In those places not designated for persons today, the monitors were folded down and lay flat against the table top.

The chairs were large, ornate dark wood and leather. The room smelled of leather. And mold and mildew and old hard wood. It also smelled of old books, a subset of the mold and mildew aroma, no doubt.

He quickly greeted those already present, including members of the City Council and the Managing Director, and just as quickly separated himself from them to present the administrative assistant with the documents to be placed at each appropriate location around the table.

He found his way to the refreshments, and helped himself to a blueberry bagel and decaffeinated coffee. While it wasn’t his favorite, it was, to him, more palatable than anything else that he saw there. He was usually a pretty picky eater, preferring more natural and less processed food items, but such things weren’t the usual fare for meetings such as this. In fact, most of the stuff that he saw was a quick way to bad health, as it was mostly processed sugar, caffeine-laden, trans-fatty and filled with more preservatives than King Tut.

A quick glance at the others in the room and he saw what excessive consumption of delicacies such as those refreshments could do. Not a single person aside from himself lacked a pot belly that was more than happy to spill over their belt line and drag toward the ground.

A red flash caught his eye as the door opened to permit more attendees and for a second he thought maybe something had exploded, but there was no sound other than that of voices. He turned to the redness and it was quite a bright red too. Very brilliant and totally at odds with everything else in the room, which tended to have more austere colors of brown and more brown and the austere clothing made of navy blue and gray pinstripe suits.

And naturally, when the red came into the room, it was hourglass in nature and swayed enough to make one seasick if one found himself trying to reconcile the motion of those curves against the stationary dark backdrop. Long, shapely legs in black stockings, mostly exposed since the redness stopped just above mid thigh, slithered past one another in a slinky, eye-twisting manner.

Slack jawed mean froze mid-action, whatever the action, when the saw the woman. Red dress, cut so low that you could almost see her navel, and cut so high from the bottom end that you could almost see the curves of her ass from the front. In fact, you could see her navel, or at least the depression of her navel, for the garment clung to her so tightly that it was hard to tell if it was an actual garment or one of those painted on garments. Cliché as that description was, Joel found himself sniffing the air for solvent.

But what he smelled instead was sexuality. Maybe it was in the scent of her airy and heady perfume which roared into the room with its seduction like fog pouring into a seaport to confound the senses of those trying to traverse some dreaded straits. And those in the room were no doubt confounded by this woman.

When Joel tugged—power-lifted—his eyes up from the mesmerizing sinusoidal motions that ran from her knees to her shoulders (smooth shoulders at that, draped with lightly wavy red hair), his slack jaw went slacker. A sultry smirk had already formed on her lips and on her sultry face as she stared at Joel and sashayed her way toward him. The smirk evolved into a grin and then teeth flashed as the smile made its way toward a laugh, and she threw her head back with a short, sexy, seductive, breathy laugh.

"I guess your coffee grounds were right."


Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton