It is a sunny, pleasant morning in Newport Beach. Joseph Stalin and I are drinking coffee on the patio, and we are reading different parts of the newspaper.
“The Pope!” says Joe Stalin. “How many divisions does he have?”
“He doesn’t need any divisions.” I reply. “He’s the Pope.”
“I’ve KILLED men who dared to even THINK about speaking to me that way!” says Joe Stalin.
“The way you are talking to me right now!”
“But you asked me a question!”
“There you go again!” yells Joseph. “I don’t want the TALKING after I talk — I was making a STATEMENT.”
“OK.” I say, and I start the crossword puzzle.
After a few minutes of silence, Joseph Stalin throws down the want-ads.
“We’ll hang all the capitalists with a rope — and they’ll sell it to us!” he proclaims. He sticks his thumbs into his belt loops and looks at me.
I keep working on the crossword puzzle, it is very hard and frustrating. And I wonder inwardly, what does J.S. mean? What does the rope represent? Why a rope? How much rope? When would this hanging take place? What does the hanging, or ‘hanging’ signify — literally or figuratively, or metaphorically? etc. etc.
“Well!?!” says Joe Stalin.
“I’m sorry, you told me to not interrupt.” I reply. “But now that you asked, what is a 7 letter word that starts with an ‘A’ for the clue ‘Alike: Twin’?”
Stalin thinks. “Hmmm. Try ‘Achiral’.”
I try it. “No.”
“Now you’re guessing.”
Stalin throws all the papers into the air and I hear them cascading down the side of the balcony. “ALL THE TALKING MUST STOP!”
About a hour later Pope Pius XI comes by, after playing golf at Pelican Hill. He’s in a good mood, tan, serene, he mentions he shot an 83.
I think Joe is going to go at him for the pope thing, and I wait for it, pretending not to be hoping, but Pius and Joseph talk about baseball, and the Giants.