[ARTWORK: Betty White]
Yesterday, the sky over Los Angeles was pierced with a high-pitched ping from my phone, summoning me to the grand old Bullocks Wilshire Building while heading west down Wilshire Boulevard toward Santa Monica. This formidable fortress, once a sanctuary of commerce, is now inhabited by the schemers of The Southwestern Law School. As I pulled up in my UBER, the humid August air steamed through my open window, enveloping me in its clammy grasp. An elderly lady, whom I would have sworn was Betty White, with her silver hair aglow and a sweet look on her face, stood waiting under her petit lavish lavender hat next to a sign that said, “Rotary Club Luncheon – 3rd Floor.”
“Park your vehicle, young man,” she commanded in a voice that reminded me of steel scraping against concrete. “I require your assistance with some heavy cargo.”
With a heavy sigh, I reluctantly obeyed her command. I mean, who could resist the likes of Betty White? I followed her inside, half-expecting the scent of mothballs and old books to fill my nostrils. Still, instead, I was met with the unmistakable aroma of cafeteria food. Up three flights of stairs, I finally reached a room where a small crowd of elderly civic-minded bunch was cleaning up the remains of a potluck dinner, an orgy of overcooked meat and congealed macaroni. Without a word, the woman handed me a tray of barely edible food. Together, we descended to the ground floor, where I was instructed to leave the greasy mess atop a teetering pile of boxes.
I climbed the stairs again, obediently fetching another box for the old Rotarian. As I descended again, the boisterous shouts of a few dozen overly enthusiastic schoolchildren on a field trip pierced my eardrums like jackhammers. In the entryway, I caught sight of a young squirrel that had somehow found itself trapped among the oppressive confines of the urban jungle. The children were chasing it, their laughter mingling with the squirrel’s frantic shrieks as it tried to flee its captors. Instead of making its escape, the poor creature kept slamming into the transparent barrier of the glass windows, a futile attempt to reach the freedom outside.
Setting down my cargo, I bellowed, “Stand back! I have this situation under control!”
I whipped off my shirt with the flair of a circus ringmaster, revealing my tattooed torso to the world. As I slowly approached the cornered squirrel, I could feel the eyes of a dozen smartphones trained on me, their owners ready to immortalize my antics in the annals of the internet. With a flick of my wrist, I draped the shirt over the squirrel, entrapping it like a net. I could feel its tiny heart beating through the fabric, pounding like the rhythm of a jungle drum. The poor thing was so terrified it didn’t even struggle.
Gently, I carried my furry captive outside and released it next to the nearest palm tree. The creature scampered up the trunk instantly, disappearing into the canopy. I returned to the lobby, where I found the old Betty White Lookalike Contest winner glaring at me, her face twisted in disgust.
“I will not have a shirtless imbecile handling my belongings!” she spat out venomously. “Cancel the ride. I’ll find another driver.” Whipping out my device, I was ready to cut ties, but she wasn’t done. “Make sure I’m not charged,” she demanded, her voice a mix of entitlement and suspicion. Damn, she was well-versed in the dark arts of UBER technology. Humoring her, I showed an act of goodwill and obliged her request.
Maybe she wasn’t impressed with my good deed, but those kids? They’ll remember the day Gonzo saved a squirrel.