Homer Rubik was slid the 68th western omelette of the day onto a plate and toted it the length of the counter to the only customer in the place—officer Brice Sweetman, who was perched heavily on the stool nearest the window.
     “Where’s Bliss today?” he asked Homer in as affable a voice as he could manage, now that he was actually thinking of Homer’s gigantic female friend.  “I almost miss not having that stupid dog of hers piss on my pantleg!”
     “Fish really is a dope,” said Homer.
     “And Bliss?”
     “Back in her subway station, I guess, hanging around the payphone in case somebody calls her about the dumb dog.”
     Office Sweetman lifted a great forkful of fraying omelette to his mouth and washed it down with a swallow of cold coffee.
     “I’ll give you this, Homer,” he said.  “You make a pretty decent western omelette.”
     Homer nodded moody thanks and thought about how much he disliked cops—including Brice Sweetman—and Bliss and Fish…oh gawd especially Fish…and omelettes and the dishwater that Nick’s restaurant had the balls to offer up as its daily soup, and the gypsum pies that lay about calcifying in glass cases, and the vat of soy-based gravy mix on the back burner of the stove, with which Homer would glumly anoint the innumerable plates of fries and the Hot Hamburger sandwiches (a ground beef patty, white bread, gravy all over everything, french fries and a spoonful of dead canned peas) which had remained steadfastly popular since Nick’s had first opened in 1946. 
     What Homer hated the most about cooking up all this stuff was that for some cruelly perverse reason, it reminded him of painting.  And painting was all he really ever wanted to do. 
     Homer was just blue-skying increasingly impractical ideas about how to blow Nick’s to Kingdom come when the door swung open and in walked the Mayor of Toronto, the fatter-than-life Cass Tamburlaine.  He had two guys in suits in tow and, much to Homer’s annoyance, the three of them seemed intent upon scoring lunch.
     “Gentlemen,” muttered Homer.  “What can I get you?”
     The mayor looked quickly at Officer Brice Sweetman and his western omelette.
     “I tell you what,” said Cass Tamburlaine, stuffing himself into a maroon naugahyde booth, and gesturing that his two subalterns should join him there, “that omelette the officer’s having looks alright.  Make me one of those.  With white toast and coffee.”
     The other two looked slightly panicky and, in a momentary reversion to childhood dinners they had both endured with estranged fathers in southern Ontario bus terminals —circa 1972—simultaneously ordered Hot Hamburger sandwiches and diet cokes. 
     “You going to drink something, Mister Mayor?” Homer asked Cass.
     So you recognize me!”
     “Pretty hard not to,” said Homer.
     “Sure, I’ll have a Tab,” Cass told him.  “No wait, make that a Fresca.”
     “Fresca, right,” said Homer, repairing to the kitchen to extricate two frozen beef-like patties, a plastic bag of frozen fries, and two eggs from the refrigerator. 
     “I’m normally in search of a perfect Reuben sandwich,” Cass told his companions, “or even an adequate Reuben sandwich,” but they’re so fucking hard to find now!” 
     The two men nodded in a vaguely understanding way.
     “You know what a Reuben sandwich is, right?” Cass asked them.  They both looked mildly embarrassed.  They looked identically embarrassed, as a matter of fact, like Tweedle-Fucking-Dum and Tweedle-Fucking-Dee.   Cass sighed.  He decided not to bother explaining.  “Anyhow,” he told his luncheon companions, “There’s no point in trying to get one here.”
     The two nodded sagely, full of sense of appropriate regret for the losing of a sandwich neither of them knew anything about.
     “Well, be seeing you, Homer,” said Officer Sweetman, mopping his mouth with a paper napkin and throwing eight bucks onto the counter. 
     “See you,” Homer called out from the kitchen.

     Across the city, in the penthouse of a stunningly transparent condo building near the waterfront, Coal Blackstone was slowly readying herself for an upcoming photo-shoot.  This time it was for a magazine layout, a deliberate ripping-off-of-or-homage-to—depending how bitchy or charitable you felt—of editor Stephanie LaCava’s recent and influential insistence, in her magazine, Elle, that the “Lolita look” was back.  “You can be Lolita forever,” La Cava had written—or words to that effect.  Coal felt she had never encountered a more exhausting idea in her entire life.
     The photographer for the shoot was not to be her inamorato, Linc Ford—as she had hoped—but a guy named Gregory Ehrenburg, whose work Coal detested.
     Coal idly wondered if LaCava has ever actually read the Nabokov novel, or whether Ehrenburg had.  She doubted it. The book was sad and funny and wise and dispiriting and incandescently brilliant.   She knew the opening by heart:  “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
     Lo. Lee. Ta.
     Just then, Linc strolled into the bedroom, holding a slice of last night’s pizza in one hand and a can of Orangina in the other.  
     “Going out?”
     “It’s that ‘Lolita Look’ shoot,” she told him.
     Linc smiled.
     “It’s sort of a compliment to you, wouldn’t you say?”
     “You think so?”
     “Well,” said Linc, biting off a chunk of pizza, “Lolita was supposed to be pretty young, wasn’t she?”
     “Well, there you are!”
     “Being able to pass!” grinned Linc.
     “Maybe with makeup and banks of lights and judiciously arranged shadows.”
     “Ah c’mon, Coal, you’re the very essence of Lolita!”
     “Linc, I just hate that idea!  I’m two decades older than Nabokov’s nymphet, and I want to look like that!”
     “Geez, Coal,” Linc sighed, “it’s only fashion!  Lighten up.”