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“Chester’s not here,” said Maggie, glancing up from the cash register counter towards the wooden entry door, which had clattered open.  She was bent at the waist, paging through the latest edition of The SF Lightning Bolt.

“Why do you bother reading that rag?” asked John, as he stepped into the store.  “It’s a bunch of made up crap.”

“For the ads,” Maggie retorted.  “I told ya, Chester isn’t here.”

“Well, maybe I’m in the market for some peonies,” snapped John, who had made his way to the front of the counter, his large stomach leading the way.  “Got any?”

Maggie straightened up and squinted at John.  “Peonies, eh?  You strike me as more of rose kind of guy; smells distracting, but ya gotta watch out for hidden thorns.” 

“You got me all wrong,” said John.  “I’m just trying to do right by the community.  And by you.”

“Alright,” said Maggie, leaning forward onto the counter with her arms.  “I’ll bite.  Who are you representing, and what kind of money do they want to pay us?”

“Actually, there’s now two potential buyers in the mix.  I think if we pit them against one another we could drive the price up to, let’s say, $10 million.  Maybe more.

“Ten million dollars?” Maggie grimaced.  “You gotta be kidding me.  For this shack?”

“It’s for the property,” John responded.  “It’s well-located, close by the freeways, the CalTrain’s station, Downtown…Mission Bay.”

“Mission Bay?  You mean UCSF?  You know they’re not supposed to come this far into the neighborhood.  The community doesn’t want health care activities this far south.  Degrades the neighborhood feel.”

“Not the university,” snapped John.  “Though I don’t understand people’s resistance to a perfectly good employer.  Another buyer…” 

He was interrupted by the sound of the entryway door creaking.  Pete stepped in, blanching when he spotted John.

“What have we here, what have we here?” squinted Pete, his voice catching.

“Private conversation,” growled John.  “Anyways, I was just leaving.”

“Hey Pete,” said Maggie, looking back down at the Lightning Bolt, which was open to ad offering “medical marijuana, lovingly delivered by Bobbi,” accompanied by a photograph of a shirtless Black man with a massive chest wearing a pink tutu. “Chester’s not here.”

Pete nodded, which transitioned into a bobbing motion.  “So, John, who wants to buy the property, and why?”

“Need to know, basis,” said John.  As he walked past Pete he lifted his hand as if he was going to smack him – causing Pete to shift backwards on his heels – then started wobbling his shoulders and shaking his head in a poor attempt to mimic Pete’s motion.  “And cut that out.  It’s annoying.”  He turned towards Maggie.  “Tell Chester I stopped by.”

“John,” said Maggie, looking up.  “You really think we can get $10 million for this place?”

“More,” said John, as he opened the door to step out.  “Much more.”  As he left the door swung shut, smacking him on the back.  “Crap,” he growled.

“Ten million smackers,” whistled Pete.  “That’s a lot of lettuce.”

“Yeah,” said Maggie, thoughtfully.  “A lot of lettuce we don’t have to grow anymore.”

“You gonna sell?” Pete had bobbed his way to the counter, and was eying the open page of his newspaper on the counter.

“Not my decision,” said Maggie.  She closed the paper.  “Don’t you think you’re going a little far with the ads you’re taking now?  I mean, it’s supposed to be a community paper, not a porno.”

Pete shrugged his shoulders.  “A guys gotta make a living somehow.  And investigative reporting doesn’t come cheap,” he winked.

“I gotta admire your ability to wink and bob at the same time,” responded Maggie, flatly.  “And, speaking of making a living, your rent is five days late.  And,” she softened her voice, “the other tenants are complaining that your place smells.”

Pete smiled, and continued bobbing.  For a few seconds neither of them said anything. Maggie liked Pete.  He cared about the neighborhood, and was part of a crowd that was fast disappearing:  working class artists, labor union members, old-time lefties.  But his flat had become so cluttered with junk – piles of old issues of The Lightning Bolt, garbage bags full of clothes and blankets, and aging office supplies, including several office telephones, hole punch devices, paper cutters – that she saw it as a fire hazard, something she thought Chester should be especially sensitive to, given his family history.  But he wasn’t, and waved her away whenever the subject of Pete’s tenancy came up.

“Anyways,” said Pete.  “What’d John tell you about who the buyers are?”

“No comment,” sighed Maggie.  “Go talk to Chester,” she said, turning towards the outside garden area.  “No doubt he’s at the Yankee.  I gotta go water the plants.”

“Will do,” bobbed Pete.  “Will do.”

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,