Roger L. Simon

The Mystery of the Forty Percent

It’s been a while since I’ve written a thriller, but I’ve finally been impelled to dust off the old fedora and channel my inner Phillip Marlowe (or Moses Wine) to unravel the mystery of just who are those forty percent or so who still favor Barack Obama in the polls.

(Cue noir thriller music)

With the economy and the stock market tanking faster than the 1976 Buccaneers, anarchists, thugs, and eye doctors wreaking mayhem from London to Damascus, our foreign policy, energy policy, and every other policy somewhere between non-existent and imploded, the reputation of the United States lower than Lindsay Lohan’s shoe, and the perpetually-vacationing president putting Nero to shame when it comes to fiddling, you would think Obama’s popularity would be in the low naughts.

But no. Something approaching half your fellow citizens still want this bozo to continue. Surely that large a percentage of the country could not simultaneously have had a lobotomy. There simply are not enough hospital rooms for that — with or without health care reform.

So what is the explanation for this? Yeah, I know a fair portion of our country is on the dole or working for the government directly and they don’t want to bite the hand that pays for their organic Big Macs, but that’s still not enough … not nearly …

(cue more cheesy thriller music)

I cocked the fedora, leaned back in my old swivel chair in my office on Pico & Figueroa (overlooking LA Live these days, the last of the fat cats living large in the penthouse of the new Ritz Carlton, dickering over whether Kobe is going to play for Turkey) and tamped on a trusty pack of Lucky Strikes. Good old Luckies, I thought, striking up a fag and trying not to be worried about being accused of homophobia because I still used that term. I’m a private dick, after all.

I took a deep drag and exhaled. There was nothing like sucking on a Lucky when you’re trying to solve a mystery. I’ve been sucking on them for going on fifty years — make that sixty. My dad of sainted memory always told me, if you’re going to smoke a cig, son, smoke a Lucky Strike. Don’t be one of the birch barners (I don’t know what that means, so don’t ask) who smoke Camels. That’s for wannabe dromedaries and aspiring jihadists. Not for my kid. Don’t worry if Lucky Strike goes out of business. You can always find them for a price on Ebay. It’s worth it.

So there’s been many a Lucky Strike between me and a lot of the violent crime here in the City of Angels, not to mention the broads. You could say I was hooked, if you wanted to. The doc diagnosed me with emphysema a while back and said I should kick the habit before my lungs turned into dark side of a Dempsey dumpster. But what’s a guy to do? When you need a Lucky, you need a Lucky.

Hey, wait a minute, I thought, sitting up straight. (I was having one of those eureka moments.) Those Luckies. My habit. That was just like politics. No one ever changes. Your father tells you you’re one thing … or maybe your mother … and that’s it. You’re that way forever — a Lucky smoker, staying away from Camels no matter what. Even if Camels have no nicotine and make you live to 120. You’re still with the Luckies.

No wonder all those clowns are sticking with Obama. He’s a fellow smoker too. They’re all addicted. Addicted to something so dated they might as well be smoking Luckies — or tana leaves. They can’t kick. They’ll never kick.

So what do we do, I thought, swiveling around one last time in the old swiveler before my smoker’s cough got the better of me and I collapsed on my office floor in a pool of tobacco-stained spittle. For a second I wondered if they’d kick me out of my office for non-payment of rent, but half the building is unoccupied these days, so I don’t think they’d bother.

I don’t know if we can do much of anything. Maybe give that forty or forty-five percent a nicotine patch, but you know how much good that does. Habits are habits. We could do one of those intervention things, but in the end you gotta get their attention.

Better wait, I thought with a smile, having a second eureka moment (this is a short article), we could do The Big Intervention — hey, that could be the title of my next book — force these people off their habit, like it or not. Make them smoke Luckies, even if they’ve been on Camels all their lives. It’s intervention we all do together on the same day (those of us who didn’t have a lobotomy) — November 6, 2012.

That’s the day the country kicks its habit. Bank on it.