36. Miss Val


Miss Val doesn’t look it, but she used to be a killer DJ. Back in the day, she spun it all: Funk, Soul, Blues, Hip-hop. She could scratch so smooth you’d never know she was mixing the track, or so fast and freaky you’d swear the beat was shaving your head. In competitions, she murdered. Other DJs did a lot of talking, but Miss Val said not a word. She let the music speak for her. Knew the exact position of every word on every record in her stack, and stitched them together like a ransom note.

After that, she worked six years in the rooftop restaurant at the Art Institute. There’d be three waiters on staff, a dozen empty tables, and a line out the door because all the regulars were waiting for an opening in her section. She had a heroically high tolerance for bullshit. Her meanest customers always ended up tipping the highest, and by the time she left she got more mail than her manager. More fan-mail than she got as a DJ.

Miss Val works a diner now, and looks the part. She’s got a solid frame and looks right in an apron, and she has to get one of the busboys to help her get the glasses down from the high shelf. She doesn’t miss being a DJ. These days, most of her time is taken up with the foster kids.

They’re tougher customers than any she’s ever had to serve. For going on twenty years now, she’s been cooking meals and changing diapers and convincing big brothers they don’t need to secretly stockpile food for their little sisters. She’s got to keep an exterminator on speed dial, but she loves those kids more than anything.

She’s got her own kids, too, and she still keeps in touch with some of her regulars from the Art Institute. Still stops by the clubs she used to DJ from time to time, and savors the weird looks she gets from the young kids. Every bartender in the city knows Miss Val, and if she drank at all she’d sure as hell never pay.

The question she gets most is how. How does she find enough love and patience for all these people? The secret is simple. Miss Val’s love is a peaceful, reactive love. It’s inexhaustible because it contains no moving parts to be exhausted. She saves her passion for herself, and responds to the world’s shit with a kind of emotional Aikido. She takes the bad, and without seeming to move, she flips it.

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