The news coming from your side of the fence is bleak these days. The Koreans are at each other’s throats — again. Jews and Arabs are stuck in “eye for eye” — still. The West has now fully inherited the Afghan quagmire from the Russians. And a black president turns greyer every day figuring out where to deploy the global police-force next. You guys could use some help from the Slickster.
The Slickster is Chad Carton, the penitentiary’s undisputed king of conflict resolution. Of course it’s a no-brainer that a kid whose name rhymes with fartin’ would grow up knowing about conflict. But it’s the way the Slickster resolves those quarrels that puts him in the mediator’s hall of fame. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him in action.
Chad is a good looking guy. His combined Cree, Scottish and French genetics give him the same chiselled features that made Richard Gere America’s fantasy gigolo. But no matter what the Woody Allens of the world believe, being a chick-magnet isn’t an easy burden to bear. Especially when you’re a chick magnet doing ten years in the pen.
“What?” I said to my sister. We were sitting in the prison’s visiting-room and had been babbling for about twenty minutes when suddenly, she froze in mid-sentence. Her eyes were as round as the moon.
“What?” I repeated.
“Oh. My. Word,” she whispered. “Turn. Around.”
I looked over my shoulder at what had caught her attention. Standing near the entrance was a curvy blonde that I had seen before. It was Chad’s girlfriend. She scanned the room looking for her guy. Normally, that would have been great. What prisoner wouldn’t be thrilled at a visit from their vivacious girlfriend and her pouty red lipstick? Chad’s problem was that he was already visiting a perky little girlfriend. A different perky girlfriend. And they were sitting only ten feet from us.
I looked back at my sister. “This is not good.” I said.
“Oh, I disagree,” she said, eyes now sparkling like a summer lake. She crossed her arms and shot me a sinister grin. “This’ll be better than good. This will be great.”
For the six months that my sister had been visiting me, she had also been observing the non-stop parade of ripe Top-Model wannabe’s visiting Chad. As he cooed sweet-nothings in the ear of each new arrival — sometimes on consecutive nights — my sister’s blood would boil. For her, Chad symbolized everything wrong with the y-chromosome. Now the hens were coming home to roost in living color. I could hear my sister salivating.
“Hi,” I heard the blonde say to Chad.
“Aaahhhh. Hi,” he said.
“So who are you,” she said, directing her attention to the oestrogen-packed auburn sitting next to him.
“Excuse me?” the darker-haired girl said.
“I said, ‘who the hell are you?'”
I grabbed my sister by the arm and we headed for the vending machines. Whatever happened next, I didn’t want to see it. As we walked past the visiting-staff’s office, I saw two male guards laughing hysterically and pointing at Chad’s table. The picture became clear as I realized that these were the architects of the train-wreck happening behind me. To visit someone in the pen, you first have to make an appointment. Then, we are usually allowed to have only one (or one group of) visitors at a time. The rare case of double-booking now causing Chad grief had not been an oversight. I guess the two Woodys in the office had been as sickened as my sister was by Chad’s seemingly endless smorgasbord of carnal caviar. Oh, that’s just plain mean, I thought as I watched the guards celebrating the young Casanova’s demise. But as the evening unfolded, it became evident that the High-Fivin’ White Guys had jumped the gun in their victory dance.
“You got to be kidding me,” my sister said to me an hour later.
“Now what?’ I said.
“Look,” she said.
“I don’t want to look,” I replied.
“Just look,” she said.
In my best effort at nonchalance, I looked towards Chad’s table. What I saw there gave me new hope for the human race. There was Chad, playing a game of cards with two beautiful girls and their thousand-watt smiles. To all the world, they looked like a group of life-long friends. Chad looked particularly delighted. Looking closer, I could see why. In the shadow of the table top, I glimpsed each girl’s hand draped casually over one of Chad’s thighs. The legend of the Slickster was born.
“Man that kid’s slick,” I said.
“What – ever,” my sister spit out.
As I read the world’s bad news this morning, a little ditty by Johnny Mercer came to mind.
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t Mess with Mister In-Between
You know, somebody should do a cover of that 1945 hit. God knows the world needs a new anthem. I wonder if the Slickster can sing.