Betty is a short woman, powerful but small. She is a veritable bundle of energy and movement, all wrapped up in the body of someone scant in stature but towering in gravity. She has dirty blonde hair, dyed near-platinum, dark brown eyes that are sharp like a hawk’s, and skin that has been darkened over years of tanning both natural and inorganic.
Betty is wider than she is tall, which is not to say that Betty is fat, but rather to say that Betty is imposing. But Betty is not imposing in the way that a bear is-all muscle and aggression-she is imposing the way that old money is, or can be. She intimidates others through unabashed and unfailing self-assurance. She is an institution, and is from a long line of people from other institutions, with an established name, and is sturdy as a rock.
On any day of the week the lady can be seen gracing the corners of 11th Street and Sansom, fresh from the Market and just a couple blocks from Broad.
Alternating between hectic and steady, Betty has an undercover swagger, moves with the utmost grace. Clean, sleek, and slim, Betty-with a little help from her friends-stays clean and well dressed day in and day out and throughout the seasons. She is not that tall, but surrounded by her friends and especially when caught in the middle of something stressful, her temper is known to turn on a dime.
On a rainy day, if you look closely and deeply enough into her glassy eyes, straight through her cranium and down through her glossy black throat, you can see a fire start to burn.
This fire burns just about every day and always with the same intensity. It is not a fire that devours, but rather a fire that ignites. It burns hot and keeps only those with the truest intentions around; forces of evil and potential suitors beware. It is also a fire that can threaten. This fire is of the utmost importance; like the Olympic Flame, it simply cannot be extinguished lest all the daily pomp and ceremony come to a complete and screeching halt. The fire sustains Betty, and it keeps her friends not only on their toes but warm and fed, too. Without the fire Betty wouldn’t be Smokin’, and all of her good friends would have to find someone new to hang out with.
And Betty does have some great friends. In fact, her friends are quite the active bunch. She has a number of friends that clean, a few that cook, a regiment that takes orders, a couple less that run food, a contingent that manages, and a lot that complain.
What do her friends complain about? Really just each other, mostly. They might all complain about Betty herself if she A) wasn’t such a good friend and B) didn’t pay them not to.
The cooks complain to the managers when the cleaners get lazy. Those who take orders complain about those who clean to those who run food…many of whom are one in the same. The managers complain to each other when those who clean do not clean well enough. And even those who clean complain to the cooks, servers, and managers about the others who clean. The contingent of clean is a much-harangued group of guys.
And as such, Smokin Betty appears to be almost beyond clean. She is squeakily, spotlessly, noiselessly clean both inside (her mind) and outside (her body) and her living quarters are about as dirty as a military barracks; take the white-glove test to her and see.
But as clean as young Betty is in appearance, in reality she is perpetually just a few days past a shower. If you look closely enough you are sure to find grease stains and leftover food in the creases of her shirt and skin; crumbs have to be wiped from her mouth and off her pants constantly. This is not because she is unhygienic, but rather because she simply has not yet learned how to clean up after herself-remember, she is only just over five years old.
On any given day of the week, and on any given night of the weekend, the old man in the parking lot is sure to be standing outside, smoking, waiting for Betty. He watches her as he maneuvers cars and dances in the glow of white heads and red tails.
“Y’all busy tonight?” he asks.
“Nah its slow as shit, man” I say in reply.
The old man, the guardian of gears and he-who-dances-with-cars, has been waiting on Betty for years, the years seeming longer still because of the daily nature of his vigil. Clad in the highlighter orange-or was it yellow?-of safety-workers and pothole repairmen, the aged guardian wears a knitted cap upon his near-hairless head no matter the season; I personally have seen him wear it on the hottest day of the hottest week of the year.
He is not much taller than me, meaning he is not much taller than the average male, he wears transition eyeglasses with lenses the precise size and shape of baby carrots, and has a sizable salt and pepper beard. He is an old, old man, that paladin of the parking lot, and it seems to me that he has few reasons to live other than to amble amongst automobiles and keep an eye on young Smokin’ Betty.