Franziska normally preferred to read in her comfortable apartment, a cushion at her back, a cup of coffee by her elbow, and her favorite lamp illuminating the crisp pages. However, she'd spent a long, grey winter in Germany, and now that she was in southern California once more, she felt inclined to take advantage of the warm weather and sunshine. There was a nice park within walking distance of her apartment, and now she was there, on a warm wooden bench, enjoying a book of short stories and a slight breeze. She was wearing tidy, casual clothes - tidy khaki slacks, a short-sleeved blouse, and a wide-brimmed hat to keep glare off the page. She had also hoped the hat might obscure her face enough to prevent recognition from passer-by; her whip was being repaired, and she had a reputation to keep up.
Unfortunately, she had not counted on the Butz.
"Hey, Franny! Whatcha reading?"
Franziska's eyebrow twitched at the interruption, but she didn't so much as look up from the book she was reading. "I'm reading a book, Larry Butz. Kindly leave me alone." She'd have whipped him if she'd had her weapon, but she did not, and the heat of the afternoon was making her feel strangely violence-averse.
"Yeah, I can see that, I just meant, what book is it?" Larry asked, sitting down on the park bench next to her. He peered over her shoulder, invading her personal space and apparently oblivious to the tightening of her grip on the book. "Something in... izzat Russian?"
"Yes, it's in Russian," she said stiffly, turning a page.
"Wow, you can read Russian?" Larry leaned back and looked at her with admiration. "I knew you were smart, but wow! Russian! I can barely read English!"
Franziska sighed. "Only a fool would brag of being only marginally literate. Now leave me alone."
Larry shut up, although he stayed seated. He leaned back and stretched his arms "casually" along the back the bench, behind the prosecutor's back. Franziska looked up once more to glare at him, and he withdrew his arm.
He still didn't leave, though. He pulled out a sketchpad and pencil, and started drawing.
Franziska found the scratch of his pencil almost peaceful - after she'd checked that he wasn't drawing her, of course. No, he was drawing a male figure, a self-portrait, she thought. It was good that even such a worthless fool as Larry Butz had some ability - and she had to grudgingly admit that he was a talented artist when he put any effort into his work. Besides, in the warmth of the afternoon, the sound of pencil-on-paper was a comforting one, reminding her of afternoons spent pouring over books in Papa's study while Miles worked through a book of German-language exercises - or later, took copious notes on his reading.
On the subject of her younger brother... he still referred to the artist as a friend. Perhaps Larry Butz was not such a worthless fool after all.
She was forced to reverse her opinion yet again after a few minutes, when he started humming tunelessly to himself. Larry Butz was indeed a completely worthless fool.
"Will you stop making that wretched sound?" she demanded when he did not cease after thirty seconds. "It is-"
This time Larry was the one who didn't bother looking up. "What're you reading?" he asked easily, still sketching.
Franziska closed her book in exasperation. "I was reading a collection of works by Nikolai Gogol, but now I shall be leaving."
"Gogol? Go-gol... Google?" Larry asked, and Franziska opened her mouth to correct him and berate him, but he went on. "Oh, that guy! Yeah, he wrote that one about the nose that jumps off the guy's face and runs all around town."
Franziska blinked in astonishment, feeling uncomfortably off-balance. "Yes. The Nose was one of his works." How could someone like Larry Butz have even the faintest clue about Russian literature?
Larry grinned, still drawing. "Yeah, that one was great. I laughed my ass off when I first read it - I mean, you'd think stuff by foreign writers is all serious classics, but not Gogol." He rubbed out a bad line, holding his pencil in his teeth. "Anyway, I know it's all a castration anxiety metaphor, which kinda ruined everything, but it was still fun to read," he finished when his mouth was clear.
"A castration metaphor?" Franziska demanded, not sure if she was more shocked by Larry Butz making commentary on Russian literature, or his particular take on the story. Or did she misunderstand him? No, no, she was quite sure she knew the meaning of the English word 'castration' - she'd made sure to look that word up before coming to practice law in the States. Perhaps it was Larry who did not?
"Yeah, noses are, like, phallic symbols," he said, sketching away. "So having his nose fall off, it's like, you know, getting his - er, you know - cut off."
Franziska snorted. "What a foolish notion. Noses are not phallic symbols, and only a fool would think so. That story is a satire of the striated Russian society of Gogol's time."
Larry put down his sketchpad on the bench to look at her. Franziska eyed it dubiously as he continued. "Look, Franny, trust a guy on this, okay? Noses are totally phallic symbols."
"Women have noses, too," she pointed out, wondering why she was even bothering to keep up such an absurdly foolish conversation. "Something common to both sexes cannot be a phallic symbol."
"Men have longer noses, though. So, phallic symbol."
"My nose is longer than your penis. Your argument is invalid," Franziska retorted.
The effect of this on Larry Butz was nothing sort of miraculous. The artist choked on whatever he was going to say next, his expression cartwheeling from shock to embarrassment to indignation. Franziska watched his eyes bugging out with amusement.
"And how would you know that?" he managed, voice still strangled.
Franziska pointed at the sketchbook, and the unfinished self-portrait gracing the page. It was undoubtedly meant to be Larry Butz, from the facial features, and from the ridiculous bulging muscles and body hair it was undoubtedly nude. However, it was also unfinished, with a great white spot in place of a groin.
Flushing and speechless, Larry Butz snatched up his sketchbook and fled.
Franziska laughed to herself and returned to her reading. Larry Butz would always be a fool, but sometimes an entertaining one.