|Fashion Crimes of the Hyper-Casual
By Mark Lax
Originally presented in 1992.
Do I have your attention," she sang in a musky husk of a tone. "Do I have your attention?"
Hardly. Most of us were nestled up to the diner's Formica counter, filled with our own problems and
tuning-out the bustle. A few of the more aware gave her an eye as she unfurled her white boa.
The next thing I knew I had turned around in my stool. I granted her request, as I always did.
Having removed my black stovepipe hat, I slung out my smile. She returned my sentiment with a wink from
one of her gold painted eyelids. Then she went into her act.
Within moments she was strutting through the luncheonette's aisle, all decked out in that torso-hugging
sequins over gold lemay that she always wore. Her hips followed her leg's kicks as her upper parts headed in
the opposite direction. Right-left, left-right, right-left: she ground out a path parallel to the counter.
Under the suspended television she swirled out a circle. Again she belted out the two lyrics of her song. "Do I
HAVE your attention? Do I have your atten-tion?"
She said she had added something new to her act, but I must have missed it. Chances are the new part was
about to start when the chute in front of me buzzed.
I set my hands down, palms upright, right in front of the chute. Just in time, too. The white box careened into
my hands. I tore its top flaps open and unconsciously began dousing my Egg Foo Young with complimentary
The edged plastic spork in my hand diced the box's innards while simultaneously mixing in the soy sauce.
Once the yellow and brown mass assumed the consistency of library paste, I slipped my right hand beneath
With this right hand I slowly retrieved and assembled the other box that I had tucked into my sock. Then I
raised it to a level a fraction below the counter's lip. A quick casual tip and half of the contents from the first
box were spilled into the second.
I grabbed the soy sauce hose again and thumbed its flow level to maximum. Two short spurts and both boxes
were full. The one that came from my sock I then balanced precariously between my shoes.
She was through with her little dance by then. Right on cue, I impaled a chunk of Egg Foo Glop on the
spork's jagged end.
She smiled. Her brooding brown eyes darted from between pink bangs. A lot of people were watching her.
For a moment, she was in her glory.
This performance was a tease. The real act took place outside. That's where she would solicit some reward.
I hoped that her advertising paid off this time. It's hard to judge.
She seemed happy with her reception, however. In a well-practiced motion, she defiantly flung the boa over
her shoulder and began sauntering back to the door.
As if it had never happened before, she stopped abruptly in front of me. I held out the spork. Her maw closed
over its business end and erased the food bit. After a subdued swallow, she whispered "Hi Harry."
I placed the original carton in her little paws. She resumed her journey on out. While all male eyes in the
place were on those two pear-shaped things that separated her legs from her back, I levitated the other
carton up to the counter.
This wasn't illegal. Just bad form. If we didn't watch it, they were bound to start monitoring the soy sauce
output. Currently they weren't keeping track of their condiments. Thanks to this contempt for expense, both
of us got at least one first-generation meal a day.
I consumed mine tediously, savoring every drop. My lady pal had probably put hers down somewhere
outside. She did have work to do.
At least I hoped that she did. I really can't say. When I emerged, she was gone. Perhaps she had shortened
her act, had been paid for it, and relocated? Maybe no one had shown up and she was in an alley crying her
eyes out? There was plenty of room in the middle for something else to have happened. In any case, she
didn't want to be found right then.
I had a place to be, so I started for there. Thus far it was the typical start to a typical day.
My path passed a gaggle of young toughs who were swinging baseball bats down at a clump of lawn clams.
Their brittle shells exploded in puffs. From what I saw, the boys weren't having much luck.
The lawn clams were a form of calcium fungus which had recently appeared. About one out of every one
hundred of them spewed a stream of black fluid when smashed. Our government was very interested in
collecting this excretion. Quite a few people I knew were involved in the lawn clam trade. There were
machines everywhere which took in collections of black fluid and dispensed coins as a reward.
Metrolithic Chemical, upon whose lawn the clams had originally appeared, claimed that the fungus was a
natural manifestation. I had my doubts. There were a number of vocations that I pursued, and science wasn't
one of them, so what do I know?
I let the world pass on by as I tracked on towards my little domain. In a few blocks, I was over the Anton
Cermak bridge. Several hundreds of feet later I entered the portal of the ancient StoneContainerBuilding.
From there, I wound down the steel steps to an area which had once been a sub-basement. I drifted past the
partitioned sections until coming to the blue steel door marked 'Regional Sole Headquarters Samyeald
World-Wide Diversified and Janitor's Closet'.
My shoes rested on the pock marked cement floor. I put my hand into the hole were a knob used to be and
pushed the door inward. Haloed under the glow of a single suspended light bulb was my regulation grey
metal desk. Time to do the accounts receivables. After that, I had a number of other tasks to perform. The
day, as I said, was shaping up typical.
I fired up the computer that was recessed into my desk's top. The thing began cycling through its resident
programs. I, for my part, sorted my sticky bundle of post-it notes into three piles: urgent; immediate attention;
and do it now. Once that was completed, I removed my top coat and knickers.
It was time to take advantage of my office's one convenience: its wash basin. The computer bleeped as I
dunked my pile of black clothing into the sink. A considerable interval had passed since I last did this. These
clothes were now too gamey, even for me. Tomorrow I would do my underwear. Maybe the next day I'd do my
So there I sat, barefoot, in my boxers and frayed tea shirt. Monday's normal rituals were now well under way.
"Are you Harry Samyeald? The dick," a deep sultry voice came through the door's hole.
I looked down at my name-tag. Building rules: one must always wear one's name-tag.
Harry Samyeald Private Investigator, Auctioneer, Appraiser and General Contractor. Yeah, it was me.
My imagination took hold of the moment. It had been a long time since I had a request for this spectrum of my
Whatever it was my mind was conjuring to match the sultry voice--a buxom heiress with really low standards
and lower morals, actually--became dispelled by the invasion of a fire hydrant-shaped shadow.
There she stood, her off-red rain slicker basking in the backlit florescent luminescence. Her head was
wrapped in used cellophane, except for a place where what seemed to be two connected pop bottle bottoms
poked out. If she had any other facial features, I didn't see them. She did, however, have a very nice pair of
yellow snow boots.
No sooner had she made pop bottle bottom contact with me, when she spun around. Her hulking form
stooped over. With a mighty heave she ushered a little red wagon into my supposed work area.
Waves of various types of mostly silver coinage filled the little wagon's bed. In the center of this currency
pond jutted an upright tan shopping bag bulging with more of the same. The handle of an aluminum baseball
bat was cocked snuggly inside the shopping bag.
"Take change," she asked.
For what, I wondered. "Yeah."
"Missing persons? Do you do missing persons?"
"All of my cases are missing persons," I answered. The other two cases had been missing persons, so this
"My son. I think he's missing. How much do you charge? Do you want me to count this?"
I'll spare you the business end. Other than wanting the wagon back, she wasn't too insistent.
"So what makes you think your son is missing?"
"Didn't call me. Not yesterday. Not the day before or the day before or the day before..."
Again, I have to fast-forward. If my addition is correct, her son had been missing for about two months.
"Did you report it to the police?"
"Did. Said I have to wait 42 thousand hours before they do anything. All they do is have him declared dead.
Don't want him declared dead. Want him found."
An understandable sentiment. Thus began my most interesting (and third) case. Since the rest of our
conversation went at the pace you saw above, I'll give you the dope mainline.
Her son's name is Carmine Edwards. He's married. Has a teen-age daughter. May be separated. He has a
job, but Mom isn't sure what as. Carmine's some kind of consultant. Went to a trade school when he was 40
to learn it. Has something to do with utilities and government contracts. Mom doesn't know any of his friends.
His sister's name is Carmella. The siblings are close, but the girl doesn't talk to Mom. Neither does Carmine's