Gold, Chapter Fifteen

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By Steven J. Moss

Chester scooped up a litter of glass on the sidewalk, carefully placing the particles in a plastic bag.

“Extra, extra!” Pete called out, as he strode towards Chester’s bent back.  

“What?” said Chester, straightening-up.  “Oh. Hi Pete.” 

“Hey there,” said Pete.  “Another smash and grab, eh?”  He whistled softly.  “It’s a regular epidemic, as you know from reading the Bolt,” he winked, though ineptly, like a three year old who could only master a fluttering kind of squint.

“Yeah, more like a smash and nothin; there’s nothing to steal.” Chester bent back down to finish his work.

“Anywho, I wanted you to be the first to see the latest issue, fresh off the press,” said Pete.  He held up a copy of The SF Lighting Bolt.  The headline on the cover, in two inch font, shouted “Pressure Mounts to Turn Plants into Park.”

“What?” said Chester.  He walked the plastic bag to a public trash receptacle and threw it in before taking the paper from Pete.  “What’s this?”

“It’s our lead article.  About you,” Pete started to bob, “and community calls to turn your shop into a park.”

Chester stared at the article, blood rushing to his face.  “Are you friggen kidding me,” he said, his voice rising. “I told you I didn’t have anything to say about the shop!  And nobody’s talked to me about putting a park here…”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all there,” said Pete, pointing to the paper.  “Unknown buyers –probably the university medical center, trying to expand into the neighborhood – who want to purchase the property, its murky history, community reaction…”

“Murky history,” Chester blurted, his face red.  “I can’t believe you print this garbage…”

“Hi guys!”  An orange-haired 40-something woman had walked up, holding a leash attached to two small poodles, one black, one white.  Chester, grasping his chest and breathing heavily, stared at Pete, who was bobbing.

“Hello, Joanne,” said Maggie, icily, as she stepped out of the shop.  “What’s going on,” she said to Chester, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Ask him,” Chester pointed towards Pete.  “I’m out of here.”  He got into the truck, fired the ignition, and pulled away.

“Pete, what’s going on?” Maggie repeated.

“Well, um, I was showing Chester our article, about the shop, and,” he looked towards Joanne, “community efforts to make it into a park.”

“What community efforts?” asked Maggie.

“PERP voted on it last month,” Joanne interrupted.  “We emailed Chester inviting him to the meeting, but he didn’t show.” 

PERP – Potrero’s Environmental Residents for Protection – was a small but insistent advocacy group, which tried to influence the size and scale of development in the area.  Led by Joanne, its power mostly stemmed from its handful of members’ willingness to attend endless community, Planning Department, and Board of Supervisors meetings.

Maggie glared at Joanne, and then turned towards Pete.  “How dare you,” she seethed.  “After everything Chester has done for you.  If it was up to me, you’d be out the streets, rent control be damned.  And you,” she pivoted back towards Joanne.  “You put on a holy air, while all the while your boyfriend, or whatever he is, is pushing us to sell out to developers.”  Flashing Pete a final glare, she strode back into the shop.

Pete bobbed while Joanne bent down to pick up a small pile of poop her black poodle had deposited, which the white poodle had been enthusiastically sniffing.  “John Crocket is representing the developers who want to buy this place,” he said, slowing and the stopping his bobbing.  “You’re dating him?”

“No comment,” said Joanne.  “Come on, Civic and Pride,” she said, tugging at the leash. “Time for us to go.”

Each month the View publishes a chapter from Gold, a serialized tale of politics, capitalism, and corruption in San Francisco.  Previous chapters can be found on the paper’s website,