They led me into the back, away from the music and the neon. Strasser was set up in what looked like a storeroom, surrounded by things rich white dilettantes want but the SMCPD didn’t want them to have.

“This is Eric Cummings,” the bouncer said. “He’s asking questions about Œ.” Rather than saying Œ, or using the “Childlike Empress” appellation that I’d introduced, he formed the letters with his hands.

“Eric Cummings, huh?” Strasser said. He looked about my age, and there was a definite glimmer of intelligence in his otherwise Australopithecan features. “Yeah, I’ve read your column. Always got one hand wrapped around your dick and the other jammed up your ass…like you don’t know if you’re Cumming or going.”

Now that particular dirty joke, if not that particular derivation, had been hurled at me pretty regularly ever since the kids at school reached their quota on sex words (right around third grade). I’ve always found blistering sarcasm to be the best response (well, other than total silence).

“Oh wow,” I said. “You know, I’ve been a Cummings for 24 years and in all that time I never realized that my name could be twisted into a crude sexual pun. Thank you, sir, for being absolutely the first person to think of that.”

I was feeling petty smug about it until Strasser decided that his rebuttal would be to punch me in the gut.

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