Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Morning Serial (Bowl Two)

Previously on The Grand Caper: When the U.S. decides to go metric, two men go a little mental. Dave, the leader of a grassroots effort to stop the conversion meets Ray, who's "crazy, but only 3/5ths so" and together they created a bestselling book parodying the effect metric conversion would have on popular culture. The success of the book is what will give them the capital to go ahead with their plan: stealing Le Grand K, the kilogram standard housed in Sevres, France.  

We pick up with them walking through the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, Ray's hometown, after an appearance on David Letterman.

Or, if that didn't bring you up to speed, click here for last week's installment.

"So this is where you grew up,” Dave asked, as they headed south down Manhattan Avenue so Ray could prove that the streets were indeed in alphabetical order.

“A, Ash. B, Box. C, Clay,” he called out as they approached each sign. “D, Dupont. E, Eagle. F, Freeman…”

“Okay, I believe you. Can we stop now? I’m tired.

“G, Green. H, Huron. I, India…”

“Well then can we at least take a cab? These shoes weren’t exactly made for walking.”

“Well then why make them?” Ray asked seriously. “And more importantly, why buy them?”

“I wanted to look nice for the show. I still can’t believe we were on Letterman!”

“Speaking of letters, here comes J, Java! K, Kent. And off to our left is Newtown Creek, site of the nation’s worst oil spill…that is until the Exxon Valdez and BP stole our title.”

“I’m sorry for your loss?” Dave tried, still not sure what to make of his new friend and business partner. “There’s always next year?”

“Of course I’m not happy about,” Ray explained. “But not in the way you’re thinking, smartass. My point is, it should have stayed the nation’s largest spill because we should have learned our lesson.  There shouldn’t have been another one. Or two. Or goddamned dozens. But we never learn. No one listens. When money talks, reason walks.”

“Well, I for one see no reason to continue walking,” Dave pressed. “Are we there yet?”


“Your childhood home. Isn’t that what we came here to see?”


“What do you mean, why? You said you were born and raised here.”

“I was.”

“So I thought you wanted to check out your house. Visit the old stomping grounds.”

“Well we all know what happened to Thought, don’t we?”

Dave just shook his head, perplexed.

“Thought thought he had to fart, but he shit his pants instead!”

“So then why are we here,” Dave pressed, ignoring Ray’s “explanation.”

“We were in town, so to speak. It’s been a while since I’d been back here – not since the Asian long-horn beetle fiasco…”

“The what?”

“Long story…ha, ha! Get it? Long story? Long-horn beetle?” Ray giggled crazily. A full 5/5ths crazily in Dave’s opinion.

“What is the matter with you? I've never seen you like this. Is something wrong? You seem so nervous. Well, more nervous than normal.”

They had stopped walking, and spotting a bench, Dave took the opportunity to rest and rub his feet while waiting for Ray to explain.

Ray took several childlike spins around a street sign before continuing.

“It was the summer of ’96 and I was working for the phone company.  Literally for the company, not part of it.  It was my job to trim the tree limbs that were interfering with the telephone wires coming off the poles. An advance crew would mark the trees, and we would go out, prune them and then come back and dispose of the wood. But one day we ended up with a full load well before the end of our route, so I decided to just dump the load in some nearby woods…”

Dave gasped in mock horror. “For shame! You of all people, growing up in the land of the largest oil spill, a litterbug?”

“I know, I know.  But it was just wood. Ashes to ashes, right? But it wasn’t. Turned out the branches were infested with Asian long-horn beetles, and my illegal dumping spread them into Amityville.”

“Amityville? As in "Horror?"” Dave asked, seizing on to the one detail he found interesting.

“Yes. The same. But those beetles were worse than any flies…or flying pigs. For one thing, they were real. And another, they  totally destroyed trees.”

“So what then?” Dave asked, struggling to find the point in the story. “Let me guess. They ended up eating all the trees and putting you out of business? Or did you got arrested?”

“No, no. Nothing like that. No one even found out it was me.”

“So why are you telling me all this?”

“You asked!”

“Me? When? All I wanted to know was why you’re acting so jumpy…well, jumpier than usual. You’re the one who started with all the bug stuff.”

“Well, it’s sort of connected. You see, it seemed like good idea at the time…dumping that wood. But it ended up causing a lot of trouble. And even though I never got caught, and it wasn’t really my fault, I still feel guilty.  You understand what I’m saying?”

Dave nodded.

“Good.  Because you see, I have this other idea that seems like it might be pretty good…”

And that’s when Ray told him about Le Grand K

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