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The Observer, Dec. 20

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So many Arkansas elements to the story: A rooster, a pie and trust in a stranger.

There is a pie and sandwich shop in Alma named the Red Rooster. An artist from Fayetteville swears by it.

Seems that she was in there a couple of weeks ago enjoying a piece of German chocolate pie “with whipping cream,” she said, when a couple of ladies came in and sat at a nearby table. One had a new brown Prada purse, and she was showing it to her companion, who was oohing and aahing. The lady had bought the purse in New York City.

The artist also admired the purse and told the two ladies she might just try to get one for herself, since she would be going to New York soon.

After lunch, as the artist was about to drive off, the purse lady's companion came running out of the Red Rooster. “If I give you a check, will you get me one too?”

The artist said sure. The companion — who hadn't even introduced herself or asked the artist's name yet — handed over a signed personal check, the amount left blank.

We talked to the artist as she was walking down West Broadway in New York last week. She was en route to Chinatown to buy the purse. (It's a knock-off, not a real Prada; what a check that would be!) “I was just thinking, instead of mailing her the purse I'm going to call her and ask her to lunch at the Red Rooster. That way I can have another slice of pie. ... I didn't get to try the chocolate peanut butter.”

She added, our story is about the purse. Hers is about the Red Rooster. “It has changed my life.”

Nothing has put The Observer in a more festive mood this season than walking through the parking lot out back and seeing a Hummer with a boot. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Santa brought a boot for every Hummer, The Observer thought. What could be more in the Christmas spirit than clearing the roads of these monstrous vehicles, and imposing fines on their offensive owners? The Grinch drives a Hummer, it's said, and so do Osama bin Laden and Dick Cheney. Christmas would be happier with them and their ilk immobilized. Peace and good will might have a chance.

As one of those who lives and works on the periphery of downtown Little Rock, The Observer is often heard to lament the parking situation in the city core, especially given our tenuous grasp on the delicate art of parallel parking. Nonetheless, an errand took us down to the Metropolitan Bank Tower the other day. As always, we ended up parking at a meter a good distance from the tower; up two blocks and over another. After a blustery walk, we headed into the tower.

Forty-five minutes later, errand done, we were headed back out when something caught our eye. A little coffee shop on the ground floor had a display of puppets — marionettes, actually, complete with strings. One of them was a T-Rex dinosaur: bloody red with a faux scaly hide, and a mouthful of teeth. With Christmas on its way and knowing Junior's affinity for dinos, we went ahead and bought it. Dangling it by the control cross so its strings wouldn't get tangled, we headed out into the daylight.

It was only then that we realized that we had no idea where the car was parked. Up three and over one? North? South? With absolutely no idea where we were headed, The Observer set off, looking for the Mobile Observatory, dangling our puppet and slouching though the steel canyons downtown. There aren't many places to hide a 4-foot dinosaur marionette — at least not without getting the strings tangled — so he hovered alongside at the end of his invisible cords, nodding his head and wagging his tail from time to time as we trudged on. Drivers honked and pointed, perhaps thinking it was some kind of impromptu street performance. More than once, The Observer thought: How in the hell did I wind up in a bad student film?

Finally, somewhere along Center Street, we found our car, parking meter flashing but — thankfully — no ticket. Hence: a comedy, not a tragedy.

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