Jen’s crusade

Susannah Fontaine-Williams orders a martini, extra olives, and in a moment, the flight attendant brings it. SFW intercepts it as the flight attendant, a too tall man with a hard to place Scandanavian accent tries to place it on the tray table. She takes a big swallow, licks her lips, and says, “Oh, that’s good.” She downs the remainder in one gulp and pulls the olives out by their toothpick skewer. “Another, please,” she says, tucking the empty toothpick in the little square napkin.

“To Leibowitz,” she says, yesterday’s headline fresh in her mind. New Jersey Pharmacist may have had Connections with French Crime Family. In smaller print, Six, Including Alleged Mob Boss Freddie de Saveur, Die in Car Explosion at Beach Resort. A man she’d known less than 48 hours first saves her life and then sacrifices his for her sake? It makes no sense.

The flight attendant, Lars or Swen or something like that, has to stoop as he carries her drink down the aisle. He hands it to her and this time she places it on the side table. She twirls the glass by its stem and some spills over. She licks her hand and the outside of the glass.

“I’ll have one of those too, if it’s not too much trouble Jens,” a woman’s voice says. She pronounces it “Yens.” Susannah turns her gaze from the window and the jets lined up at their gates. The woman next to her, separated by the wide side tables of business first, smiles. SFW, her hair dyed black, hopes the woman does not recognize her. She turns to watch the idling jets belching black haze from their engines and listens for the thud of the door closing and the subtle slow movement of a very large airplane rolling back from the gate. She misses Bob.

Jen, energetic, passionate, persistent, had worn down SFW. SFW had recorded Jen herself far from the studio. On the show, a garbage special, Jen’s pixelated face and disguised voice describing the scene unfolding on the screen. A phone secured to a battery tucked into a plastic laundry bottle left in a household recycling bin. A pickup, a dropoff, then trucks filled with recycling going to a landfill. A camera on a cheap drone flying over a mountain of garbage. At night, illuminated by green night vision, the clomping of footfalls homing in on a strengthening phone signal. Then shovels and thickly gloved hands digging and pulling at the mixture of plastic, bottles and food waste, bagged dog poop, until zeroing in on the phone. The audience gasps, applauds, and then a commercial for laundry detergent.

“Funny coincidence,” Susannah says.

“What was?” the woman says. Susannah Fontaine-Williams looks at the woman with the copycat martini wearing a dark blue suit, a corporate get up. She thinks maybe she recognizes her and reflexively tucks her extra-dimensional bag under the arm farthest from the woman.

“It’s nothing. I must have been thinking out loud.”

They were such quirky cars in their day

What I’m trying to say is, I went to see Leibowitz the day he died as he sat half asleep in his car, a nice Saab convertible with 220,000 miles. It was one of the early ’90s models, in that deep Saab red and I tell you it looked as good as the day he drove it new off the lot. I knew he’d be there at the beach; who do you think put him there? I approached on the driver side, his face in the sideview mirrow, eyes obscured in the shade of his tweed bucket hat. He saw me. He said, “Muckross, this is a nice surprise.”

“Hey Leibowtiz,” I said. “what’s doing?”

“I’m waiting for some people.”

“OK. Hey, you want some crullers? I got coffee too”

“Oh, uh, you know, I had something already.” He coughed and spit a bloody glob onto the sand.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “I got a cold.”

“Seems serious. You should see a doctor.”

“Appointment next week.”

“That’s good.”

“Listen, I want to get a little shut eye before my meeting.”

“Sure. No problem. I’ll see you later.”

He pulled the brim back down over his eyes and raised an arm to dismiss me.

Editor’s note: And what Muckross knew in that instant was that in spite of everything – and everything is for spite, his favorite one had nothing to do. Perhaps something happened when she bifurcated and her benefactor became a dog. Perhaps the reboot just didn’t work and this fascination with the almost dead Leibowitz meant an unnecessary diversion from the blond talk show host. Still, almost dead Leibowitz, sitting in his almost classic car on a chilly summer morning, the fog of sunrise lifting from a story line going nowhere fast, held no interest for him. Meanwhile, another newly introduced only to be quickly abandoned character walked away with his crullers.

And what has Susannah Fontaine-Williams been up to all this time away from our scrutiny? Nothing really. Call it a funk. Witness this encounter with Jen, a suburban trash collector.

“Nice separating,” the garbage collector said. “You got your cardboards and papers together and your plastics, bottles and cans in another place. That’s the way to do it.”

“Well it’s important, isn’t it? Separating. ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle,’ as the saying goes.”

“Not really,” said Jen; that’s what the name on her blue jumper read. Jen. This was a Jen. Susannah Fontana-Williams adored Jens. “Lots of time this stuff just ends up in a landfill or on a barge floating out to sea.”

SFW tilted her head. This was going to be an interview.

“You know,” Jen said, “I saw that panel you had a few weeks ago.”

“What did you think?”

“Good stuff.”

“How do you know about where the recycling goes…where the trash goes?”

“I stuck a cheap phone in the recycling and tracked it online. I was curious. I had to find out whether any of this effort matters or if it’s just a token gesture to make us feel good about ourselves.”

“Good about ourselves?”

“For…well, you know, floating garbage islands, mass species die-offs, the Antarctic ice shelf sliding into the sea…”

“Mmmm hmmm.” Jen had guilt.

“So anyway, this stuff is supposed to go to be sorted out for distribution at the county waste recovery center.”

“Yes.”

“Well, it went there and stayed for a couple of days.”

“And then your battery died….”

“It didn’t. I had a suplemental charger connected and bound it all up in duct tape. I put it inside a plastic Tide package which I resealed with more duct tape. A few days later my package is on the move to Pennsylvania where it’s living out its days in a landfill.”

“Could have been a mistake,” Susannah said. “Maybe that particular load was put on the wrong truck.”

“I reran the experiment 7 more times and each time got the same result. But I need more info.”

“And are you going to do with all this info?”

“My friends and I follow the trucks to the sorting facility and follow the trucks that leave. It’s very sophisticated. One drops off, and another follows. You know the mob’s involved.”

SFW waved a hand to stop Jen and stared at the blue recycling container.

“You know,” Jen said, “you could do something like this on your program.”

It’s been done, SFW thought. It’s all been done before.