THE HINKY BRASS BED
On a sizzling Monday afternoon in July, Jewel Heiss was serving a ticket on a convenience store owner on Walton Street near Michigan Avenue, watching the smog over Lake Shore Drive turn pink, and trying to stake out The Drake Hotel across the street at the same time. Her boss had sent her to watch his wife, who also happened to be her best friend.
On the sidewalk, the Swiftymart owner whined, “Every time you come here, you ticket me. This is persecution. I’m gonna call the city.”
Jewel smiled sunnily. “Every time, your scale still isn’t fixed. Fix it and keep it fixed.”
Sweltering in her polyester pantsuit, she hoped the pink stuff would abate before she had to get on the Drive. The pink was one problem da mayor’s admirable anti-magic Hinky Policy hadn’t been able to wish away.
The Swiftymart owner sweated and lit a cigarette, the dumb-ass. She backed away. Sure enough, a pigeon swooped down out of nowhere and snatched the lighted cig. He screamed, “I hate birds!”
“Look, they really do smoke!” A gaggle of tourists aimed cell phones and cameras at the pigeon. “That’s so cool!”
Mindful of Policy, Jewel said, “They don’t really smoke, you know. They just eat the tobacco.”
They all watched the pigeon carry the cigarette to the gutter.
Stakeout was not Jewel’s bag. Stakeout was for cops. An investigator for the Chicago Department of Consumer Services, she rated a badge but no gun. The scariest things in her arsenal were a clipboard and thick book of tickets.
She tore off a ticket now and handed it to the Swiftymart owner.
“Oh, look, it’s trying to pick up the filter end!”
Jewel turned to the least fun part of her job, administering The Policy. “It is not smoking. It wants the filter for nesting materials.”
“Omigod, it just stole that guy’s cigarette,” said another tourist who was slow to catch up.
Jewel spotted a streak of iridescence over the pink smog on the Drive. Groovy. Something new she wasn’t allowed to talk about.
“Pigeons don’t smoke,” she said, quoting lame Policy guidelines. “They’re attracted to additives in the cigarette paper.”
“No, it’s trying to smoke.”
The iridescence formed a teardrop shape and then suddenly shrank, as if something were sucking it down into the pink smog over the expressway.
“That pigeon is smoking! Wow! Get a picture of that!”
Jewel was about to deny again, but even she could see that the pigeon had the filter end in its beak and seemed to be puffing away merrily. Another pigeon waddled over to it and stuck its pointed head into the cloud of second-hand smoke. She sighed.
Just then her quarry emerged from The Drake and wobbled languidly toward a cab. Nina looked fucked and happy. Jewel’s heart sank.
Her best friend was guilty as hell. Ed would blow a blood vessel.
She plunged across traffic. “Nina, wait up!” …