Monday, May 28, 2007

Central City’s Most Adorable P.I.

The name’s Morales, but everyone calls me Cha Cha. I hate that name. I think it’s supposed to be a “cute” name because I’m three feet tall, legally a dwarf, but for a private investigator, a nickname like Cha Cha can be a real career killer. Just devastating. If I worked at a circus, or in vaudeville, it’s be a different story, but things are already tough when you’re known as “Central City’s Most Adorable P.I.”

Anyway, this story begins the way most of mine do, with me rolling down the street in a trashcan. Well, that’s not exactly true… this time, it was a wastebasket, but let’s not split hairs. This kind of thing happens to me a lot, as a private eye. I see something I’m not supposed to, usually while standing on a crate or something, and, before long, someone decides I know too much, and sends in his kid brother to rough me up. Let me tell you, it doesn’t help your reputation to get into fights with children, especially when you lose. Word gets around on the playground, you know, one kid tells another kid, who tells his father, who no longer wants to hire you to find his missing daughter. That’s a little tip nobody told me in P.I. school: schoolyard gossip can make or break your career.

Prior to getting shoved in a wicker basket and thrown into traffic, I had been drinking at a local saloon. I had had to ask the bartender to pick me up and put me on the stool, and I needed a couple of phone books to reach the bar, and this had attracted the notice of some of the more inebriated customers of this establishment. They started calling me names like “short-stack” and “sprinkles,” real cutesy stuff like that. It was embarrassing. I told them to knock it off, but I have kind of a high-pitched voice, which only made it worse, and they started adding “princess” and “castrati” to the mix. Apparently these were some well educated drunks. A couple of them even started picking me up and playing a game of catch with me, and I guess I didn’t help things by giggling and shouting “higher.” Eventually, I decided they’d had enough fun at my expense, and I kicked one of them in the shin. “Stop stealing my dignity,” I yelled. “It’s really hurting my self-esteem.” This is when he threw me in the trash bin.

After I’d rolled for about a mile and caused several accidents, the basket finally came to a stop, and I crawled out, covered in used tissues and spent staples. This was when my client showed up, carrying a newspaper. “Cha Cha,” she yelled, “What are you doing? I’m not paying you five hundred dollars a week to get thrown into traffic!” I started to say something about it not being any of her business what I did in my spare time, when she shoved the newspaper into my hands, and interrupted me.

“Read this,” she said. I started to read the headline, something about me being sued by the Little People of America for advancing negative stereotypes about dwarves, but kind of dozed off halfway through. I’m not that into reading, never have been.

After snapping her fingers and slapping me around a bit, I finally woke up, and she told me she was firing me. Something about me being a national laughing stock, a disgrace to my people, and “an awful detective.” She started demanding her last check back, but I told her I’d spent it all on booze and, even if I hadn’t, I didn’t want to give it to her anyway.

So, after crawling out of another wastepaper basket, once more covered in snot and staple-wounds, I was again approached, this time by a stranger. He was about my height, so I immediately felt at ease. I can take this guy, I thought. He was wearing a business suit and carrying a magazine under his shoulder (his sleeves were too long for him to be able to hold it in his hands). I recognized the magazine immediately.

“Hey, that’s a dirty-mag!” I shouted. Sometimes I can’t control the volume of my voice. It’s really upsetting when you’re trying to have an intimate moment with someone and they have to sit in the next room, so as not to be deafened. The guy looked flustered. “Quiet down about that,” he hissed. “I represent the Little People of America. As the city’s foremost dwarf private investigator, you carry quite a bit of celebrity. We’re filing a class-action, civil suit against you for damaging the reputation of little people all across the nation. This was the last straw.” He handed me the magazine, opened to a full-page spread. It was me! I’d forgotten about that. There I was, sitting on my bed, wearing nothing but a towel and my trusty fedora, a bottle of whiskey resting on the nightstand. I’d been short on cash one month, and, in order to pay the rent, I posed for a few photos for a magazine. “Real classy,” the photographer had said. “Only male nudes, very tastefully done.” I thought it would be for one of those real artsy magazines like The New Yorker. Imagine how I felt when I found myself on page 69 of the latest issue of “Half-Pint Hunks.”

Well, after we argued for a while, and agreed to disagree (which would result in him suing me), I realized I was nowhere near my ride. I climbed into the wastepaper basket, and asked him to kick me in the direction I figured I wanted to go. He was happy to oblige, after first spitting his gum in the bin with me.

I got to my parking space, and climbed on my tricycle. As I sped away from the mob of fun-sized circus clowns, sideshow acts, and professional wrestlers out for my blood, picking gum out of my shirt and toenail clippings out of my hair, I realized that this city really needs a more reliable form of public transportation. This trashcan thing just isn’t working out, and my tricycle can only take me so far.

I turned a corner and cycled right into another mob, this one full of people wearing pea-coats, thick-framed Buddy Holly glasses, and Converse Chuck Taylors. Once I saw their messenger bags, I knew what I was dealing with: hipsters. Before I could get away, they lifted me off my ride, onto their shoulders, and placed me onto a stage, right next to a podium. At the podium, one of them, I guess you could call him the king hipster, started talking.

“Here he is, the symbol of our people.” I didn’t understand what was going on. I guess he could tell. “That’s right. We’ve heard your story, Cha Cha. We know you’ve been stepped on your whole life. No one takes you seriously, because of your dwarfism, yet your fellow little people have made you a pariah. Well, this is never going to change. But we can relate. We’re hipsters. Nobody likes us, either, and we’re always calling each other sell-outs.”

“That sounds kind of stupid,” I said.

"Yeah, well, like it or not, you’re one of us now. Here, have an iPod.”

I was still getting sued, and it didn’t solve any of my transit issues, but at least I got an iPod out of it. And I hear the false sense of superiority that comes with being a hipster is nice. And, in some way, I think I’ll finally have my dignity. Well… at least I kept that lady’s five-hundred bucks.