After an afternoon searching the drag, I found Maria Sklodowska in Toy Joy, staring at the lava lamps.
“This I do not understand,” she intoned severely. “Lava this is not. I know lava: lava is not your friend. Who would make lamp with enemy of Mankinds?”
This from a woman who handed out radioactive dross like it was candy. A glowing bouncy ball ricocheted off the wall behind Maria Sklodowska. Her ears were glowing: no earrings, just the ears themselves. She loved the blue-green glow of polonium set just inside her lobes. Daddy Pierre was crazy for it, but Daddy Pierre was gone, pobrecita.
“It’s not lava, Maria,” I said. “It’s just goop.”
“Goop, Bob?” she said. “What is this goop?”
“What you see bouncing up and down. That is the goop.”
“Radioactive it is? I love radioactive.”
I hated to let the chica down, but radioactive love was not a joking matter. “Sadly, Maria, no.”
“Sadly, Maria, what? Sadly I am not. I love life. Today I make intercourse for Quizmaster.”
“Make intercourse, Maria? Something tells me you made something else.”
“I to Quizno’s, I fill out papers, I make intercourse with manager.”
“Words, Bob, I make words with him—”
“Interview, Maria. You make interview.”
“Interview, intercourse, what is—”
“Believe me, Maria, there is difference.”
Why was my English turning Polish? My indefinite articles were vaporizing. I needed to assert my homeland.
“So, what is Quizmaster, Maria?” I asked, slip-sliding farther down the slope of my eroding Mother Tongue.
“Ah, Quizmaster, Bob. Quizmaster is Assistant Manager of store. We are boss of artists.”
“Artists in a sandwich shop?”
“Sandwich artists, Bob. You do not think food is art?”
I smiled ruefully. “Well, I’ve learned that fiber is art, so I suppose food can be art as well.”
“What is this art of the fiber, Bob? I think that I eat this fiber. Am I eater of art, Bob?”
“Consumer, perhaps. Eater, no. Different kind of fiber, Maria.”
“Of this I am glad, Bob. Picasso is not food. I am not sure Picasso is even art.”
“About that assistant manager job, Maria—”
“You like ice cream, Bob? Jen and Barry’s?”
I decided to roll full tilt down the eroded bank. “Yes, Maria Sklodowska, I love Jen and Barry’s.”
She smiled her ghastly blue-green smile upon me, her latest unstable nuclide. I could feel the benevolence of her canines, in rough collision with the vicissitudes of her molars. In her sleep, Maria Sklodowska was a grinder.
Jen and Barry-lovers though we were, we opted for Amy’s Ice Cream just down the street. Easy access, homegrown bidness, sleepy little dive under Benign Godzilla at Mangia’s Pizza. A win-win-win.
“Zodgilla is Marxist, Bob. Is leering like Karl.”
“You knew Karl, Maria?”
“I may be radioactive, Bob, but I am not ancient. Statue of Karl, Bob. Statue of Karl in Gdansk leers like Big Candy Mountain Rock. When I see your Mount Rushmore, I think that Roosevelt Comma Teddy is leering just like Karl back home. I do not trust your Safari Man with asthma.”
How do you respond to a Republican campaign speech like that?
“Forget Zodgilla, Maria. Let’s head for the ice cream.”
No surprise, Maria Sklodowska was gaga for Blue Rocket—rainbow sherbet in shades of blue, one glowing strip of lime right down the middle, like a camel blanket from the boys at Pixar.
“Is radioactive, the—”
I decided to call the end of the world as we know it. I felt fine and, yes, I was in love, a radiant vibraphonic isotopic hyperpsychic interphasic fusion jerryberry Michael Stipe biopic of middle management soul attraction. L-O-V-E, cher. Love. I be in it, I be by it, I be with it, I be from it, I be in the oh so glorious jiminy-cricket ampersand OF it.
“Sweet sister Maria, I hates to tell ya, but the Whole Wide World of Sports is radioactive.”
“You tellin’ me, Bob. Into the Blue Rocket we jump together, cheri?”
“Dollop of Mexican Vanilla on top, sugar. Pound in the gummi bears, sweetness, and you got yourself a date.”
“Jelly up and jam tight, mój niewielki becquerel. We commit centrifuge tonight!”
…Yes, when you hold me tight, you make me feel all right…