She supposed he could also be "writing." But the reality of his creative process could scarcely earn this title. At the most productive of times the living room would be scattered with napkins full of scribbles, scraps of paper and torn newspaper articles. Each of which had a place that was somehow vitally important to his argument. Rarely did any of these ideas make it to paper. To ensure no one would steal his latest thought, "as they had done so many times before," he would use only his memory until he was ready to write a final draft. The method often consisted of staring at the floor for hours and having to start over the following day. She had to admit however, his predictions about how people would react to any given event were often astoundingly accurate. This was quite a skill when trying to convince others to break the law.
By that afternoon Hermosa felt like Betty; Betty felt completely at home. She had made three sales since lunch and already had earned enough in commissions to pay for a decent dinner. This place had an atmosphere, a certain je ne sais quoi, she hadn't found anywhere else. The store looked the same as the ones in Phoenix, Houston or Dallas, but the people here were different. All the women were thin and had sun-streaked hair, sometimes they glanced at hers-dark and plain. They wore flowing clothes and walked like they were gliding on air. There was a power in knowing she had fooled all of them, every last demanding one.
Hermosa arrived at the apartment exhausted. Three weeks of commissions didn’t make up for the fact that she was constantly snapping to attention at the whim of any degenerate who walked in from the street. She had received her first paycheck but it wasn’t enough to pay the bills. She was getting anxious.
“Tony,” she called out as she opened the door. “We’ve got to get this maldita show on the road.”
He was sitting on the coffee table with his legs crossed. A hairy gut was spilling over the waistband of white briefs Hermosa had given him many months ago. Apparently he hadn’t felt the need to put on pants today.
“Hello my Hermosita,” he beamed. “I’ve made a breakthrough today. I think tomorrow I will begin to write.”
“That’s fantastic Tony. Don’t forget to use paper.” She went to the kitchen and opened the old refrigerator. “Damn it. Where the hell did all the food go?” She slammed the heavy door.
“It ran out. I made you a sandwich.”
She sat at the table and gazed blankly at two pieces of bread stuck together with a glob of peanut butter. “I’m sick of this Tony. Are we ready yet? Have I wasted enough time with these fashionable tramps? Is your plan ready to actually work this time?”
“Yes,” he responded. “We are ready to start, and this is definitely going to work. You’ll get your clothes and money, I’ll deal a blow to the bourgeois consumer culture that has overrun the occidental world.”
He had yet to convince her that stealing clothes from department stores was somehow liberating the proletariat. She didn’t really care. It sounded plausible enough to him. “There is nothing morally wrong with stealing from your enemies. Theft is a common act of war and I am waging war against western culture.” He claimed to care nothing about the monetary value of their heist, or even what they stole. The main concern was the act of dissent. Hermosa thought he liked the money too, he wouldn’t admit it. He certainly liked the food.
“And what makes you think we’ll get away with it this time? Someday you’re going to have to admit you don’t know everything.”
“Darling,” he paused for effect, “I do know everything. Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, all flukes.”
What a stubborn fool, she thought. If you would only open your eyes. You can read everyone but the person closest to you. Just admit it. Admit you can be wrong.
“What about the cleaning crew?” she said. “What makes you so sure we can trust them?” She wanted to make him say it again.
He shook his head in disappointment, “Trust in the perseverance of the working class. Those who will help us are being exploited by the system we are stealing from. It is in their best interest; we are stealing for them as much as for us.”
She took a reluctant bite of the sandwich. She was tired of listening. If he had continued talking she wouldn’t have noticed. Amazingly he had always been right about the cleaning crews. They were surprisingly cooperative. True, they were getting paid a month’s wages to occasionally pick up a marked garbage bag and drop it into the back of a truck, but they did it with such enthusiasm. Tony had always told her exactly what she would say to convince them.
She stood up and headed towards the bedroom. “I’m going to start collecting tomorrow.”
He hunched over to search for a paper scrap, “be sure to change the inventory list exactly how I told you. ’Night baby.”