Author Denis Johnson died Thursday, May 25, at 67, shocking the literary world. This article, the first in a four-part serial written on deadline, originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of playboy magazine. To honor him and his place in our magazine’s history, we’ll be re-serializing Nobody Move over Memorial Day weekend. Return each day to see another part of Johnson’s noir saga.
Read our obituary of Johnson here.
Jimmy Luntz woke at the Log Inn Motel and spent 20 minutes sitting upright in his bed, smoking a Camel and staring at the woman asleep beside him. Just watching her breathe. Very gently he lifted the covers. She was dark-skinned all the way down. “Oh, that’s right,” he said, “you’re an Indian.” ¶ The woman didn’t stir. He carried his shaving kit into the bathroom. Before he emptied his bladder he fished the woman’s cell phone out of the toilet and set it on top of the tank. Anita. She hadn’t told him her last name.
He took his time shaving, grooming, getting good. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d awakened beside an unfamiliar woman. As for one this good-looking—never. He came out naked and found her wide awake, sitting on the bed’s edge. Also naked. Holding a revolver in one hand.
With the other hand she held up a credit card. “What’s this?”
“Wow,” he said, “you tell me.” “What is it?”
“It looks like American Express,” he said. “Wow.” “You said your name was Franklin.” “Well, it’s not.” “It’s Ernest Gambol.” “It’s not that, either.”
“Then what is your name, if you don’t mind my asking since we recently fucked, and all.”
“Who’s Ernest Gambol?”
“Gambol is a great big asshole.”
“As big an asshole as you?”
“Bigger. Just my opinion.”
“In my opinion, the asshole is the one who steals the wallet.”
“The thing about a gun,” Luntz said, “is it can just go off.”
“I’m not pointing it at you.”
“I’m talking about this other gun.”
“What other gun?”
“The one I shot Gambol with.”
She closed her knees together and dropped Gambol’s American Express and took hold of the blanket and pulled it over her crotch. “Now it’s pointing at you.”
“You don’t have to tell me. That’s all I can look at, is that gun.”
“That’s what I thought yesterday. I saw you at the Feather River, remember? I thought, Hey, that guy has a gun. Then—sploosh. No more gun.”
“I saw you, too.”
She aimed her weapon at him a long time without speaking. She stood up. Luntz stepped backward until his shoulders collided with the wall. With her purse in one hand and her gun in the other she headed for the can and shut the door behind her. The lock clicked. Luntz heard the shower start. He let the air out of his lungs.
He lit up and smoked half a Camel, inhaling smoke with every breath.
With the cigarette clamped in his lips he went on his hands and knees and pulled Gambol’s white duffel bag from under the bed and opened it. He found his last clean set of socks and underwear. He didn’t touch Gambol’s shotgun.
He got on his socks and shorts and opened his door and tossed the last burning inch of his cigarette into the parking lot and observed a county squad car pulling up to the motel’s office. A green Caprice, mid-‘90s.
Luntz sat on the bed and wrapped himself in his own arms and closed his eyes and sat there shaking his head.
As soon as the knocking came he started for the door, but three feet short of it he stopped. He cleared his throat and said, “Who is it?”
Luntz put his hand on the doorknob and bowed his head and waited for a thought that didn’t arrive. Four more knocks. He opened the door and said, “Good morning!” to a young guy in uniform.
“Good morning. Mr. Franklin, right? How are you?”
“Me?” Luntz said. “Better and better.”
“That’s good. Do you know anything about a Cadillac parked over there at the airstrip?”
“No. A Cadillac?”
“There’s a Cadillac Brougham parked over there, and Mr. Nabilah tells me you checked in without a car.”
“Me? Yeah. No. I mean, that’s right. Who’s Mr. Nabilah?”
“The manager. He thought it might be your Caddy over there.”
“Right. Oh. Yeah.”
“And it looks like blood on the left rear tire, lotta blood. Did you maybe hit a dog?”
“No. It’s not my car. I don’t have a car.”
“There’s a hole in the left rear quarter panel. Looks like a bullet hole.”
“For goodness sake,” Luntz said.
“Can I see some ID?”
“ID? Sure. Gee. Where’s my pants?”
At that moment Anita came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her black hair slicked back, and flashed a smile that would have blown the doors off Jesus Christ. “Deputy Rabbit!”
“That’s me,” the deputy said, and then—"Oh. Mrs___“
"Right, it’s still Mrs. Desilvera,” she said. “For six more months.”
“Oh, right,” the deputy said, “that’s your Camaro out there. I mean, it looked like it. I mean—yeah. That’s your car.” He turned to look at her car, which was parked sideways across three spaces behind him.
“All mine. Is there a problem?”
“No problem. I was just checking about this Caddy out there at the airstrip. If nobody claims it, I’ll have to get it towed.”
“Tow it to the moon,” Luntz said. “It ain’t my car.”
“He’s with me,” Anita said.
“Okay, that clears things up a little. Thanks.”
“Glad to help,” Anita said. “Can I get dressed?”
“That’s fine,” the deputy said.
“Are you going to watch?”
“Oh!” he said and laughed. “All righty. Have a nice day, folks.”
Luntz said, “You too,” and shut the door in his face and sat down on the bed.
Anita dropped her towel and stepped into her skirt. Luntz stared at her breasts.
She got her bra fastened. “That was Deputy Rabbit.”
“Maybe his first name is Jack, huh?”
“Deputy Rabbit conducted my firearms training class.” “You actually have a carry permit or something?”
“I did. But it’s revoked.” She found her blouse on the floor. “Deputy Rabbit was talking about your Caddy.”
“It’s not my Caddy.”
“It was your Caddy when I saw you throw that gun in the Feather River.”
“I just borrowed it.”
“The gun? Or the car?”
“What did you say your name was?”
“Can I borrow the Cadillac. Jimmy?”
“What’s wrong with that Camaro of yours?”
“Too many people know it.”
“Like Deputy Rabbit, you mean.”
“Can I have the keys?”
“The door’s unlocked,” he said. “I put the keys under the floor mat. But I wouldn’t advise driving around in that thing.”
“Is it stolen?”
“Not legally. I guess. Gambol doesn’t deal with the police.”
“Gambol? I thought you shot him.”
“He didn’t die.”
“Is he running around looking for it?”
“Probably not. Not yet. If he is. he’s running around on one leg.”
Luntz stared while she sat on the bed and stuck her toes into the legs of her parity hose and stood up straight and hiked her skirt and wiggled her underwear all the way on. She dropped the hem and smoothed her skirt. One at a time she kicked her black pumps into position on the floor and worked her feet into them. She got on her coat and opened the door.
“Wait a minute.” Lunts said. “I want to talk to you. I mean, about last night.”
“What was your name again?”
“Jimmy Luntz. I had a good time last night.”
“It was kind of a fluke. Jimmy.”
“I get that. Yeah. But maybe we could have coffee or something.”
Leaving the front door ajar, she went into the john and came back and handed him her cell phone. “Hang on to this phone. If it still works, maybe I’ll call you.”
She gave him a little salute and walked out, and he sat there holding her phone in his hand for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes he set the cell phone aside, clapped his hands together twice and stood up. He got dressed and got his gear together. He had no jacket other than his white tuxedo. He put it on and pocketed the cell phone. He picked up Gambol’s duffel by the handle and looked around for anything he might have for¬gotten. A knock came at the door.
He opened it quickly. It wasn’t Anita.
Two very clean-cut men stood side by side in the doorway, one of them hold¬ing up a badge. “We’re with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Luntz said, “Wow.”
The man put his badge away and told Luntz both their names, but Luntz didn’t hear.
“Wow,” he said. “For a second 1 thought you were Jehovah Witness people.”
“Can I ask your name, sir?”
“Franklin. But listen—I’m about to hop on a bus. I’m late.”
“Where’s Mrs. Desilvera, Mr. Franklin?”
“The lady staving here with you.”
“Oh. I didn’t get her last name. Just her first.”
“Are you two pretty good friends?”
“They’re on a first-name basis,” the other one said.
“I just met her last night.”
“Yes. We’re aware of that.”
The other one said, “What’s in your bag? Two million dollars?”
“Didn’t she tell you she’s sitting on a pile of other people’s money?”
“We barely got introduced.”
“We understand that,” the nicer one said. “Did she say where she was going?”
“No, sir. Destination unknown.”
“Let me tell you what this is about. Mr. Franklin. In just a few days your friend will plead guilty to embezzling two point three million dollars.” He waited for a reaction and seemed satisfied with Luntz’s speechlessness.
“You didn’t know about it?” the other one said.
“No, sir. No. Embezzlement—that’s a federal thing, huh?”
“She’ll plead guilty to state charges. But until the money goes back where it belongs, we’re very interested in her. Federal charges aren’t out of the question. Can you show us some identification?”
Luntz dug out his driver’s license and handed it over.
“I thought you said your name was Franklin.”
“Yeah—but that’s when I didn’t know who you were.”
“I told you who we were.”
“Oh.” Luntz said, “that’s correct. I guess I got confused. I thought you guys were Jehovah Witnesses.”
“Look, I have to catch a bus south in fifteen minutes. I mean, now it’s ten minutes ’
"When will you be seeing Mrs. Desilvera again?”
“Never. I got the impression it was, you know, a fluke.”
“That’s the description I’m giving it.”
“What’s in the bag? That’s not her bag, is it?”
“It’s mine. Its my luggage, is all.”
“I bet you wish it was her luggage.”
“So she still has the money, huh?”
“Was she carrying anything, Mr. Luntz?”
“You mean like a satchel with a big old dollar sign on it?”
Neither of them laughed.
“Just a purse.” Luntz said. “About yay big.”
“You mind if we look around the room?”
“Help yourself. I’m all checked out. And I’m really late, so—yeah. Okay if I get moving?”
“That’ll be fine. We’ll make a note of your name, Mr. Luntz.”
“Okay. I sure hope I make that bus.”
They stepped aside for him, and the nicer one said, “Good luck.”
“I was born lucky.”
Luntz set out at a good pace without a backward glance. He had no idea where he was going.
In his pocket, the cell phone started ringing.
Gambol closed his eyes. He felt his head nodding forward and rode a Ferris wheel down into violent cartoons.
He shivered, but he didn’t feel cold. When he shivered, the pain filled his right leg.
“I want another shot.”
“Not for two more hours.” the woman said. “This isn’t an opium den.”
He opened his eyes. He wore a frilly blue nylon robe.
Probably the woman’s.
“Where s my clothes?”
“How many times are you going to ask me that?”
“Your stud went out with the rest of Unbloody trash.”
Gambol’s head drooped, and he looked down into Jimmy Luntz’s face.
The landscape had that blond central-valley look. Some pine trees. Oaks. Orchards. Farmland. Sunny and still. They drove south in the Caddy past Oroville. looking for a shopping mall. The speed signs said 65. Luntz stayed legal. He kepi his window cracked to suck his cigarette smoke away from Anita’s lace.
Luntz said, “Dude who worked in a casino in Vegas told me about this hippie. This hippie comes in out of the desert night, creeps into the casino all straggly in his huarache sandals and tie-dye shirt and Hindu balloon pants, and he goes to the roulette table and reaches into this little pouch tied to his belt and comes up with one U.S. quarter. Lays the quarter on black. Little ball comes down on twenty-two black. He lets it ride, doubles again, switches to red, doubles his dollar, takes his dollar to the blackjack and wins ten in a row, doubling every time. Ten in a row. True story. One thousand and twelve dollars. He pulls his chips and heads for the craps and starts betting with the shooter, double whatever the shooter bets. Inside of two hours the house is clocking his action and he’s tumped with free meals and he’s drunk on free booze, and he’s still at the craps, with a crowd around him. betting a couple hundred a throw. By three A.M. he’s stacked up over three grand off an initial investment of twenty-five cents. And suddenly, in four or five big bets, all gone—he busts out. Stands there thinking a minute…folks around him watching…. He stands there…. Everybody’s shouting. 'One more quarter! One more quarter!’ Old hippie shakes his head. Staggers back out into the desert after one hell of a night in a Vegas casino. A night they’re still talking about. Total cost was twenty-five cents. A night he’ll never forget.”
“For a person who doesn’t drink coffee.” Anita said, “you sure run your mouth.”
“It keeps me from thinking about things.”
“Like who you are and what the fuck you want.”
Cigarette, smoke in his nostrils woke Gambol, and he coughed, and the woman said, “Sorry,” waving it away.
“Lots of folks are quitting these days.”
“What century are you in, guy? I’m the last smoker on earth.”
“How long have I been here?”
“You don’t remember yesterday?”
“When was yesterday?”
“You were walking and talking.”
“And swearing. In a real creative style. I poked my head into that culvert, and you hopped right up and walked right to my car. Then,” she said, “I couldn’t get you out of the car. I had to do the whole thing in the backseat. Debrided the wound and all the rest. The backseat of a Chevy Lumina is not the place for that.”
Gambol closed his eyes. “I feel like I weigh ten tons.”
“You lost a lot of blood. A lot. I scored one liter of plasma. Nothing else but glucose and water.”
“Feels like he shot me through the bone.”
“He missed the bone. Or you’d be in the ER right now getting your leg saved and probably talking to a detective.”
“I don’t talk to detectives.”
“And he missed the big artery, or you’d be dead.”
At the Time Out Lounge in the Oroville Mall they sat in the rearmost booth, and Jimmy only stared at her, never sipping once from his Coke. She took a long swallow of vodka and Seven and said, “Oh well…was I on TV again?”
“How did you steal two point three million bucks?”
“Didn’t the TV tell you? You run a bond election for a new high school, you float the loan, turn on the computers, transfer it here and there—zip, all yours.”
“Then the money gets missed right away, and the list of suspects is extremely short. Then somebody gets arrested.”
“Well,” he said.
“I guess you were greedy enough to take it but not mean enough to frame an asshole. Excuse my language,” he added, “but where I come from that’s what they call the guy who gets sacrificed—the asshole.”
She laughed without feeling amused. “There was definitely an asshole,” she said.
“If you’ve got it stashed, you’re doing it right, wandering around acting broke. That’s doing it right. But if you’ve got it. why don’t you just disappear?”
“For one thing, I’m due in court to enter a plea and take a deal. Probation and lifelong restitution. If I miss that date, the judge’ll void the deal and max me out. That’s six years at least.”
“Kind of a long time to wait to spend your two million.”
“Have you lost count already? Two point three.”
“What’s a point or three among friends?”
“I haven’t got any friends. And I haven’t got the money. I just know who has it and how to get it.”
No comment from Mr. Jimmy.
“Doesn’t that interest you?”
“You’re interesting every way there is.”
This Jimmy was your basic bus-station javelina but a nice enough guy. He insisted on giving her two Ben Franklin hundreds before they left the lounge. “You’re with me now.”
“That’s not established.”
“By 'now’ I just mean now—right this second. That gets you at least a couple hundred.”
He led her into JCPenney. where he stacked generic-looking items on one of his arms and went into the dressing room wearing his shiny black pants and white tuxedo and came out in chinos and a Pendleton.
“Where’s your fancy threads?”
“On the floor in there. I shed those babies like a sunburn.”
“These days, life is fast.”
She picked out a JCPenney pantsuit. a JCPenney blouse, a JCPenney skirt and the cheapest underwear they had. While Jimmy stood around waiting for her she sat in the dressing room momentarily naked with these latest humiliations at her feet and rage in her heart. JCPenney.
She changed into the pantsuit, gray pinstripe, and made sure she had her shoulders back and her smile on belore she swept aside the curtain. “Does it fit?”
He stared, and then he went for his Camels and put one between his lips, realized where he was, dropped the cigarette into his shopping bag. “It fits.”
“You’re sweet,” she said, and she sort of meant it. But not as a compliment. “You’re homeless, right?”
“I have a home. I’m just not going back there, is all.”
“So right in that shopping bag is everything you own.”
“Everything I need.”
“And your white canvas bag—what’s in that one?”
“Everything else I need.”
“I know what’s in it. A sawed-off shotgun.”
He seemed completely unsurprised. “It’s not a sawed-off. It’s a pistol grip. And it isn’t mine.”
“I peeked in the bag while you were in the shower.”
“You zipped it up real nice,” he said. “Good for you.”
Jimmy Luntz drove the Caddy north. He watched the dial and kept under the limit. Again they passed through the blond country. Some vineyards here and there, lots of vineyards. Either vineyards or orchards with very small trees. He asked her if those were vineyards.
“What do you care? Are you a wino?” Anita drank from an extra-large Sprite in a go cup, doctoring it with vodka.
Orchards. A roadside stand selling Asian pears spelled ASIAIN PEARS. Then higher country, the road winding. They lost the jazz station. He found another, just geezer rock. light curves, tall pines and geezer rock. “Is that the Feather River?”
By way of answer, she took a swig and coughed.
“Hell of a lot of trees,” he said.
“That’s why they call it the forest. I hope we’re not going camping.”
“We are if I can’t find this place before dark.”
“Look. Jimmy—who is this guy?”
“I knew him in Alhambra.”
“Is That a prison?”
“It’s a city a few hundred miles from here. In your slate. California.”
She pushed the button and her window came down and the wind thudded in the car as she pitched her empty and listened for the small musical sound of the bottle shattering behind them.
“You’re nice,” he said, “when you’re sober.”
“Have you ever seen me sober?”
“I think I did for about a minute.”
She lay her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes. Luntz turned down the radio and kept his eyes going left and right, looking for a building, a sign, anything.
After a while she opened her eyes. “What’s the plan?”
“So far the plan is I can’t go back and I can’t stay here. That’s the plan so far.”
“You know what I mean. What’s the plan?”
Luntz stalled for 20 seconds, starting a cigarette. He set his lighter on the console between them. “I think if you’re looking for a gunslinger, you better keep looking.”
“You said you shot Gambol.”
“Only in the leg. I should’ve put two more in his head, just in proper observance of the rules. Instead I took pity. You don’t want a guy with pity in his heart.”
“I’d like to know what the plan is.”
“I didn’t say yes yet. Let’s sit down with a paper and pen and map out the pros and cons.”
“Don’t say great yet. Say great when I say yes.”
“I just hope I chose the right guy.” When Luntz said nothing, she added. “Don’t be insulted.”
“I’m not insulted. I just think it’s bullshit for vou to act like you had a choice.”
The woman was what they called a hefty blonde, in jeans and a sweatshirt and big pink fuzzy slippers. She smoked cigarettes and watched crime shows and fake judges on TV while Gambol nodded out and watched cartoons in his head. She laughed a lot at the shows, and when she laughed it woke him up, and he watched her.
He said, “Where’s the vet?”
“Juarez said he knew a vet could fix me.”
“A vet, huh? I guess that’s me,” she said.
“What kind of animals? Large? Like cattle? Or small like pets?”
She laughed, look a drink from her glass—some kind of booze—and set it down and lit a cigarette. “I’m a veteran. I was an Army nurse for twenty-one years, three months and six days. Dealt with lots of com¬bat trauma.” She exhaled straight upward to avoid blowing smoke in his lace. “I’m a veteran. Not a veterinarian.”
“What’s your name, lady?”
“Mary. What’s yours?”
“Fuck you.” “That’s what I thought. He nodded off and shot Luntz four times in the crotch, waited while he suffered and then left him with two in the head.
In the last light they parked the Caddy and got out. Behind the building the ground sloped toward a tiny shantytown by the rivet, half a dozen trailers, pickup trucks, a couple motorcycles. She asked him if this was some sort of gang hideout, and be said it was the Feather River Tavern, that’s all.
They entered a large cafe with a torn-up floor and secondhand tables and a view of spectacular cottonwoods dropping their seed tufts on the river in the dusk, and the trailers.
Jimmy glanced at the man behind the counter and said "Wow” and sat down at a table with his back to the counter. “Sit there,” he told Anita.
She sat across from him. “Is that him?”
“He’s not the one I want. "Jimmy sat touching his fingertips together. "He looking?”
Jimmy glanced over his shoulder at the man once more, quickly, and said, “Okay. I’ll hit the head. Ask him about selling a Harley. Like we’ve got a bike to sell. Don’t mention any names.”
“He’s coming over.”
Jimmy stood. “Get me a Coke, okay?” He touched her arm with two lingers as he walked past her.
The other man approached. He was slumped and bony, and the knees ol his jeans brushed together as he walked. “Got a special today. Trout.” He wore a red headband around a shaggy gray mullet.
“Maybe just a couple Cokes, please.”
Behind the counter he opened two cans and poured them into glasses with ice, all the while looking at her with something other than the hunger of a man. Something more like envy. Alter she’d reached puberty her mother had looked at her like that.
He brought her the Cokes and set them down, each with a cocktail napkin. His fingers were long, the fingernails too. On his left ring finger he wore a large turquoise. Anita said, “I have a Harley I might like to sell. Do you know anybody who could point me in the right direction?”
“John’s out back. He’d be the one.”
She sipped her Coke and wished for vodka. Jimmy came back from the can, hiding his face by wiping his nose with a paper towel, and sat down across from Anita again. “What did he say?”
“He said John’s out back.”
“That’s the one I want.”
He tossed down a five, and they left their Cokes and cocktail napkins and went out the front way and around the side of the building. Jimmy headed down the slope. She removed her high heels and followed, taking each step toes-first and dangling the pumps from the lingers of either hand.
Beside a teardrop aluminum trailer, a bearded biker in denim overalls sat on a flat-back chair, messing with an old guitar, the guitar flat on his lap and his head bent low. He didn’t raise his head from this operation but said.
“Getting too dark to see this shit.”
Jimmv said. “Can you actually play that thing. Jay? I didn’t know that.”
“Got to get the strings in it first.”
Jimmy said nothing more. The man raised his head. He placed his hands flat on his guitar. “I think what I want to say right here is 'What is the meaning of this?’”
Jimmy look a white handkerchief from his back pocket, spread it on the trailer’s step, seated himself and said, “First of all.”
The biker looked Anita over and then turned facing Jimmy and said nothing.
Jimmy said, “I’m not out to snitch on anybody, that’s the first thing. All secrets remain completely secret.”
“So far so good.”
“This is Anita. This is my friend Jay Capra.”
The man rose hallway and said to Anita, “You want to sit down?” She shook her head. He sat back down and held the guitar gently in his lap. “It’s a strange world.”
“Did you notice Santa Claus stopping by here one lime last spring? That guy we call Santa Claus?”
“With the white beard.”
“Works in a mall every Christmas.”
“I saw him,” Capra said. “I didn’t think he saw me.”
“Yeah. He did. He mentioned this place.”
“Say hi to him next time.”
“No.” Luntz said, “no next time for me.”
Capra kept quiet.
Jimmy placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward.
“Who’s that dude in there, Capra? In the cafe. That’s Sally Fuck.”
“Just possibly. If so, his name would be Sol Fuchs. He’s against being called Fuck. But the thing is—last names, man.” Capra plucked one of the strings and turned a key on the instrument’s neck and tightened it lo a whine. “This is a pretty fucked-up situation. We’re incognito here, you know?”
“All of us. All of us.”
Anita held out her hand and said, “Anita Desilvera. And this is my friend Jimmy Luntz.”
Capra took her hand gently and said. “Okay. Now all our dicks are hanging out.”
“Pleased and charmed.”
Capra laughed. He stopped laughing. “Fucking Santa Claus. Who else knows?”
“Whoever he told. Nobody believed him.”
“Not really. But I’m in a wild mood, so I’m taking any long shot, anything looks like action.”
“What do you need, Jimmy?”
“Remember that time I let you stay with me and Shelly?”
“I owe you. Jimmy. That’s a fact.”
“We need to hunker down a minute, Get some options figured out.”
Capra tangled his fingers in his beard and yanked at it. “How many days? I hope it’s days, man, and not weeks.”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t matter none. I owe you, and that’s a fact. But it’s Sol’s place, not mine. All I can do is talk to Sol.”
Anita said, “Till next Wednesday.”
“Wednesday’s probably acceptable.” Capra stood and set his guitar down on the seat of his chair and started up the hill. By now it was dark.
At the bottom of the staircase up the building’s side Jimmy waited while she brushed the soles of her feet and put her shoes on, and then they climbed behind Capra up to the small landing. Capra worked a key and let them in and Hipped a wall switch. A bed, a stove, a fridge. Wooden floor with the finish scratched off. For a curtain, a bedsheet. “You can eat in the restaurant for the usual price, or you can make a list and I’ll bring you shit from the store in a box. It’s up to you. I’ll get Sol to go along as far as Wednesday.”
From beneath them Anita fell the gigan¬tic quiet of the empty establishment down¬stairs. “Is the restaurant closed?”
“Open for business. But most of the folks who come here are down in Bolinas for the biker convention.” Capra looked her up and down and seemed to examine her face carefully. “So what happens Wednesday?”
“Wednesday I go to court.”
“Yeah. I know you.”
“Nobody knows me.”
“You’re slightly infamous.”
“All lies,” Anita said.
“So!” Jimmy said. John Capra didn’t die.“
"Nope. My old lady wanted alimony. That’s unacceptable. I cut her some slack. I walked.”
“Like a real gentleman,” Anita said.
“Yeah, it was, lady. I know twenty dudes would’ve taken her out to the Mojave and buried her alive for that shit.”
“I didn’t mean it.” Anita said.
Capra put his hand on the doorknob and stared at her, but he was speaking to Jimmy. “This one got the beauty that goes down to the bone. High heels or barefoot, don’t matter.”
“She can sing, too.”
“I can’t tell if she’s powered by a lot of soul or a lot of psycho electricity.”
Anita said, “Do you always talk about people like they’re invisible?”
“Usually just women.”
It was one of those hippie-student pads smelling like cat shit, incense, a little dirty laundry, dirty dishes. She said, “Does somebody, you know—clean?” just to be a bitch.
“I said I owe him. I didn’t say I was his slave.” Capra shut the door softly behind him, and the windowpanes rattled as he went down the stairs.
Jimmy lit a cigarette and said, “Honey? I’m home!”
Anita said, “Is this a smoking room?”
“Yeah. I smoke.”
“Well, fine. Smoke.”
He blew smoke and opened what looked like a closet door.
“Even a bathroom. No tub.”
Anita sat on the bed. “Jeez, the mattress is like quicksand. Help!”
“Don’t get lost. I’ll be back.” He went out the door, and she listened to the panes rattle while he descended, and then she settled back onto the bare feather pillow. It stank. A few minutes and someone shook the panes again coming up the stairs.
It was Sally—Sol—with sheets and a blanket. “Funky, funky, funky.” he said, “but it’s bigger than mine. I have a studio downstairs off the kitchen.” He stood by the bed looking haggard, diough he smiled. “Might as well live near the job—I have to be in the kitchen by six A.M. anyhow. Can you stand it, honey?”
“The renter just moved out. The plan is we clean it up and move in next week. Me and Jay.”
“You mean—you and Jay? Move in?”
“Move in. Me and Jay. That’s the situation.”
“Okay,” she said.
“Might as well take a shot. At least he’s not going anywhere. He’s stuck.”
“So you guys all knew each other somewhere. Alhambra.”
“Alhambra, USA. Jimmy burned up the life down there, huh? Fact is, there’s a real coincidence going on here. I got a little crazy down there myself.”
“Well,” she said.
“Who’s after him? Is it the cops, or is it Gambol and Juarez and all those nice people?”
“I know he knows Gambol. But you know what? Jimmy shot him.”
Sally still held the towels. Picking at the fabric with one hand. “Jimmy Luntz killed Gambol?”
“No. I don’t think he’s dead.”
“Then Jimmy’s dead.”
“I don’t think Jimmy’ll hang around for that.”
“Then what’s Jimmy hanging around for now?” He looked at Anita. “Oh. Yeah.”
When Sally was gone, Jimmy came back with his duffel and their JCPenney shopping bags and set them all down beside the bathroom door. “The earthly goods.”
Anita said nothing, making the bed.
Jimmy put on a phony smile and stuck his hands in his pockets and watched. “How’s old Sally Fuck doing?”
“He seems nice enough.”
“He’s not, not nearly.”
“Who’s Juarez? ”
Jimmy lit a cigarette.
“Or did he mean Juarez like the place?” “Sally mentioned Juarez?” Jimmy took one drag and tossed his smoke through the bathroom door into the toilet. “Juarez is not the place. He’s a guy who owns a couple dumpy clubs and porn joints. Sally disappeared two or three years ago with a whole lot of money, and there’s a bounty out for his head. It wasn’t Juarez’s money, but Juarez is the kind of guy who collects things.”
“Yeah. You’re quick. Listen. Whatever you do, don’t talk to Sally about the situation.”
“Exactly. You got it. Don’t talk to him.”
Mary understood her patient was important to Juarez. Juarez had promised her 20 grand to get this man walking again. Juarez hadn’t said what he’d give her if things went wrong.
To Mary the patient didn’t look like any¬body important. Long-limbed, long-faced, with a heavy brow and deep-set melancholy eyes that made him seem thoughtful. But he was beginning to impress her as stu¬pid. After every hypo of morphine sulfate he hopped on a cloud and held court for about 30 minutes. Apparently, he’d once eaten a man’s testicles.
“Juarez ate one, and I ate one. Neither one of us puked. Because when I hate somebody, my hatred is bitter. It eats away inside me till I do something horrible to soothe it. It has to be the most horrible thing you could ever think of. or else that hatred won’t stop eating.”
He sat on the couch in Mary’s pastel-blue bathrobe, his wounded leg laid out on the ottoman. It looked like a bloated corpse. She knew it hurt.
“I itch all over. I gotta piss. I haven’t pissed in two days.”
“Honey, you’re on a morphine bash. You won’t be able to piss till it’s over.”
“I know that loser,” he said.
“Are you calling Juarez a loser?”
“Not Juarez. Jimmy Luntz.”
She brought him the bedpan.
He gave her the finger. “Get that thing away from me.”
“Just try and pee.”
“I can’t pee on cue.”
“I like the way you laugh.”
“Honey, that was fake.”
In the nylon robe the patient looked ridiculous, holding his tool in his hand and steering it toward the metal pan. gazing at her, contented, doped up, expressionless. “Mary. Right?”
“You are what we call a hefty blonde. You look about forty.”
“I’m forty-four. Thirty-eight in the bust.”
“Forty-four years old? That’s okay. I used to like the young ones, but ever since my niece started growing a bust herself, I changed my taste. Now the young ones all look like my niece.”
Mary tossed the empty ampoule under the sink. “Enjoy yourself, big guy. That was the last happy hypo. After this it’s just oxycodone and amoxicillin.”
“I’m trying to straighten her out. She got arrested for shoplifting.”
“My niece. Aren’t you listening?”
“Sure. And taking notes.”
“I’m trying to tell her a few things, get her lined up for the future. She says there is no future.”
“Pee, or put your dick away.”
“Her dad just died. My kid brother. Thirty-seven years old. Allergic reaction.”
“Reaction to what?”
“Fuck if I know.” “You better find out. If it runs in the family——”
“Him and I were the last men in the family. Now it’s me. If I croak, the family name is erased.”
“What’s the name?”
“Just call me Ernest.”
“What do you think?”
“Yeah. Okay. What about a happy ending?”
“Not dying when somebody shoots you is about as happy as it gets.”
“Do you know what I mean? Like the massage girls? I mean a blow job. That’s a happy ending.”
“Happy for you, is all. For me it’s a mouthful of fuckwad.”
“What’s Juarez paying you for all this medical care?”
“Enough to get four acres in Montana.”
“I’ll put five on top of it.”
“For a blow job?”
“For nothing. For saving my ass. Like a thank-you.”
“You’re welcome. Now close your pretty robe.”
Juarez called. Gambol couldn’t make sense of the conversation. Juarez said, or Gambol said, “Fucking Luntz.” One of them said Fucking Luntz.
“Gambol. You there?”
“Then talk. Don’t just breathe. I been hearing from him time to time.”
“Fucking Luntz. This asshole makes my stomach hurt. He refuses to behave, and he refuses to make sense. I hate him.”
“It’s embarrassing to hate your enemy. When you’re cold, that’s better. Then you can move. You’re more precise—you know where respect comes from? When you’re precise. Gambol. Gambol.”
“Are you using a cell phone? What’s her phone?”
“Is it a cell phone?”
“I said no.”
“Fucking cell phones, you never know what with them.”
“I like her.”
“Mr. Gambol…. Jesus.”
“Put five K on top. That’s from me.”
“Definitely. Whatever you need.”
“Whatever she wants.”
“Sure. How doped up are you?”
“Good. But not too much. Put Mary on. She there?”
“She’s always here.” Gambol stuck the phone in Mary’s face and closed his eyes.
Luntz preferred shows with plenty of skin, but tonight he had no opinion. He let Anita control the remote and sat in the only chair with his legs straight out and his ankles crossed, staring at his brown socks and dipping his ashes in a coffee cup. She sat against the wall in the bed in her pin-striped pant-suit. One channel after another.
Around 10 they turned in. She wore her bra and panties to bed. They lay side by side, Luntz in his boxers and T-shirt. He rested his cheek on his outstretched arm and tried conversing. She told him she felt sweaty and asked him to keep his distance. He tried touching her bare shoulder with his finger. His hand shook. She turned to the wall, and then she asked to have the outside half of the bed. He got up for that, found one window that wasn’t stuck and raised it three inches. Anita turned the television back on.
He put on his pants and shoes and went down the stairs. The cafe was closed, but there was light in there from somewhere. He banged on the door. Turned his back and watched the road. Not one car.
Sally opened the door. “Jimmy Luntz, as I live and breathe.”
Luntz said, “God. There’s a lot of stars here.”
“Please don’t call me God. I’m a sinner like you.”
“Zonked in his Airstream. I won’t go in there. It smells like socks.”
Luntz brought his wrist close to his face. “It’s only eleven.”
“You want to set a couple of chairs out back? And wrap up in blankets and listen to the river and watch the stars?”
“Exactly. Exactly, man.”
“Sell me some booze.”
Back upstairs again, he stripped to his underwear while she poured a big one, not too much Sprite, and got half of it down without pausing for breath.
“You do drink like an Indian.”
“Or else my pants wouldn’t have come off last night, so don’t complain.” She lay back, raising her drink like a torch lo keep it level, and slipped two fingers into the elastic of her panties and snaked them down around her (highs and ran two fingers over her mound, back and forth, and looked right at him until he was forced to clear his throat and swallow. The crushed ice sloshed in the go cup as she finished her Popov and Sprite and set the cup aside. The TV emitted a small steady roar. In the show a man clung to the side of a speeding train. Luntz let the TV run so he could see her by its light. All through their lovemaking Anita kept quiet, but she looked right at him. When she came, she said, “No. No. No.”
Next morning Anita seemed morose, sitting naked on the bed’s edge, staring at her clothes all bunched up together on the floor. He came out of the shower and found her like that. She didn’t look at him. He sat beside her on the bed and toweled his hair and lassoed her around the shoulders with the towel, holding the ends in either hand, and she didn’t seem to mind.
He studied the general moment, taking the atmospheric temperature, and let her go. “What’s on TV?” he said. “I usually watch in the daytime.”
“I get up late and just stay in bed and burn the daylight down.”
“A night person.”
“That’s right, yeah. I blend in better that way.”
“Not the outdoor type.”
“My idea of a health trip is switching to menthols and getting a tan,” he said. “I don’t like push-ups, sit-ups, ex cetera. Et cetera, I mean.” He’d been corrected in this several times but always forgot.
“You’re cute enough,” she said, “but you got a sissy body.”
“Didn’t you know that?”
“That it’s et cetera, not ex cetera.”
“Yeah, man, I did. I just didn’t feel like embarrassing you,” she said and headed for the bathroom.
When she came out he told her, “I watched you going to the shower and I thought I was gonna break down crying.”
“Oh,” she said.
“Come here.” She sat beside him, both of them naked, and he kissed her, and the temperature felt better. “I’d like to try it sober.”
“Can we wait till after breakfast, when I’m not hungover?”
“Sure. Let’s go downstairs. What are we having?”
“No problem. Day or night, Sally can fix it.”
“Is he sleeping in the other guy’s trailer? Who’s the other guy again?”
“Where do they sleep? Downstairs or in the trailer?”
“Who? Sally and Capra? They don’t sleep together.”
“Sally told me they’re moving in together.”
“Wow. No shit?”
“That’s the story.”
“If it’s love, it’s love,” he said. “I had a woman I lived with off and on for—Jesus. Six years. And it was never love. And if it ain’t love, it ain’t love.”
“I’ll tell you what’s love: Jimmy Luntz loves to state the obvious.”
“Don’t piss on my philosophy.”
“I’m just hungover. And I’m scared.”
“You name it.”
“No. You name it.”
“Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Anything else—hell, I’ll spit right in its face.”
“What do you mean? There’s nothing else.”
“See? Boy loves to slate the obvious.”
When they made love a while later he tasted a little beer on her breath, but she was sober. They lay together afterward, and she rested her leg over his. They watched a show on TV about the miracles of forensic science, and Anita told him it was a bogus show. “There are six thousand unsolved murders a year in this country.”
“Let’s hope so,” he said and switched it off.
“Let’s do what I always do.”
“Double down, honey.”
“You want to try me in a different position?” The way she said it, his throat tightened and he couldn’t answer.
She asked him to go on his knees by the bed—while she sat on the edge with her feet on the floor and her legs apart—and get into her that way.
It didn’t work. Anita said, “You’re too——”
“I’m not eight feet tall, yeah. It can’t happen.”
But she liked it line the regular way and called him Daddyman and cried no, no, no when she came. He lay beside her and dried the sweat between her breasts with a corner of the bedsheet. Then to keep from asking questions he sat up and put his feet on the floor and lit a cigarette. But she touched his back with her fingers, and the question asked itself. “Why are you with me?”
“I like a bad man who hales himself. I want all the bad people to hate themselves.”
“Are you bad, Anita?”
“Do you hate yourself?”
Luntz went down once around three P.M. and came back upstairs with burgers and fries and soft drinks and vodka. She made love like a drunken nun, and he liked that, but the conversation afterward was not at all aimless or relaxed. “What you really want,” he told her, “is revenge.”
“Yeah. I’ve fantasized about revenge. Do you want to hear how sick it gets?”
“The judge has the money. Or half of it at least.”
“What about Hank?”
“I’ll lake care of Hank.”
Luntz said, “You don’t hide two million in a shoe. They’ve got it in some offshore account.”
“The judge is a sick old man. When we put two guns in his face, he’ll come up with it. We’ll make him transfer it.”
“Must be eleven felonies in that scenario.”
“Unreported felonies. You can’t steal stolen money. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it really make a sound? Fuck no!”
Lunlz said, “You’re the sure shot. In my whole life, I’ve fired exactly one bullet.”
Anita said, “I can knock bottles off a fence all day. But I’m not the guy who shot a guy.”
Blondie sat on the ottoman, helping him with leg lifts.
“What’s your name again?”
“How much more of this shit?”
“Till I say. Or else you’ll lose muscle mass, and you’ll gimp around for months.”
“It looks good. I mean the sutures and all, a very professional job. Were you in a war?”
“I was on a hospital ship off Panama dur¬ing that thing and at the Army hospital in Frankfurt during the first Gulf. And I did six months in Iraq in oh-three.”
“No shit. Where’d you get all the equipment?”
“Stole it. I work as a temp sometimes, in different clinics. And the hospital.”
“You sell it out of your garage, or what?”
“Nope. I just like to steal things.” She helped him lie on his belly on the couch and started an alcohol nib between his shoulder blades. He told her, “Baby, don’t ever stop.”
“That’s what they all say.”
“I’m sorry if your car’s ruined.”
“No, man, I know gunshot wounds are bloody. I had the whole backseat and floor covered in plastic sheets all ready for you.”
As he spoke, lying there under her pleasant hands, he felt his chin lifting his head up and down. “I guess this whole business is pretty fucked, huh? Guy with a hole in his leg just shows up and moves in.”
“1 don’t mind. It’s got some reality to it. Like war.”
“So how did our boy talk you into this?”
“He sends me money every month.”
“Because my attorney said so.”
“You were married to Juarez?”
“I know what you think—I got fat and middle-aged and he dumped me. But no. he dumped me way before that. Then I joined the service.”
She helped him ease over onto his back, and she began on his shoulders and chest.
“Are you a natural blonde?”
“None of your business,” she said, “but yes, I sure am.”
“How’d you get mixed up with a Mexican?”
“Hey. Mexicans are human too.”
“I’m just curious. Wait,” he said as she moved her hands to his legs, “you’re skipping the important part.”
“How well do you know Juarez?”
“We go way back.”
“Not as far as me,” she said. “Ever wonder why Juarez doesn’t have any Mexican friends? Why he’s not in with a totally Chicano gang with headbands and tattoos and all that? I mean, where s his Mexican buddies? It’s because he’s not Mexican. He’s Jordanian. And partly Greek, I think.”
“You mean Juarez is an Arab?”
“Arab, yeah. His name is Muhammed Kwa-something.”
“He’s a fucking Muslim?”
“What? I don’t know.” She put her hands lightly on his groin.
Gambol pushed her hands away, gripped the back of the couch and hauled himself to a sitting position. “I could’ve called any one of a thousand guys on the phone to get my ass out of that culvert. And not one of them would’ve done it. Only Juarez.”
She tried to close the robe for him. gave up. moved to the end of the couch, wide-eyed. “Sorry.”
“Juarez is not a fucking Muslim.”
“I didn’t say he was. Sorry.”
“Come here. I’m going to come in your face.”
“Lie back down and keep the leg elevated.” She stood up and gave him the finger. “You’re not ready for target practice.”
With her lipstick in one hand and the bottle in the other, she look two swallows of Popov, and it went down like mother’s milk. Jimmy wrested it away from her and screwed the tap on and said, “No drunks in court.”
She leaned into the mirror and got her lips just right. She turned to him. “I’m nervous.”
“Beautiful women don’t get nervous.” He rested one hand on her shoulder. “Just cross your fingers and stay calm. And don’t talk fast.”
“I’ve seen it done.”
He escorted her down the stairs.
Just before she got in the car. he took out his wallet and handed her five $100 bills.
“Take it. You’re with me now.” As she got into the Caddy, he said, “Remember,” and raised two crossed fingers—"and don’t talk fast.“
He shut the door for her as she turned the key. She gunned it twice. He tapped a finger on her window, and she lowered it all the way.
He put his forearms on the sill and leaned toward her and said, "Let’s get it.” “For real?”
“Don’t say it if it isn’t real.”
“I’ve more or less done the hard part, which is gunning down a member of the gangster police force. I declare their shit null and void.” His eyes were wide and his face tight with fear.
Mary came in from the store and set two white plastic bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. The next thing she did was light a cigarette. She wore a skirt today.
Gambol held out the classifieds and shook them at her.
“Call this guy.”
“Buy the gun. He’s offering a case of ammo, too, but don’t take it. Is there a gun store in town?”
“How would I know that?’
"Look in the book for a gun shop. Get me some MagSafe ammo for a three-fifty-seven Magnum. They come in packs of five or six. Get me ten packs. You need me to write that down?”
“Don’t strain your mind.”
She opened a drawer in the kitchen and found a pen and pad. Sat on the coffee table and placed her cigarette on the ashtray’s edge and crossed her legs like a secretary. She had good legs. “Say again.”
“MagSafe. Three-fifty-seven Magnum. Ten packs. And a box of fifty regular rounds, too—the cheapest, it doesn’t matter. And get me clothes, three of everything. Extra-large shirts, extra-large T-shirts. At least a forty-inch waist for the shorts. And forty-two waist and thirty-six length for the slacks. I’ll reimburse you later. And shoes, jogging shoes. Eleven-E.”
“It won’t be the same, you without your cute robe.”
He looked at her legs.
“Ernest. What are you looking at?”
“Let me ask you something. What did you think, lighting against the Arabs and knowing you used to be married to a fucking Arab? That one of them used to fuck you?”
“Hey. Arabs are human too.”
Gambol ground his thumb down onto the burning ember in the ashtray and extinguished it. “And get a new robe for yourself. Get a short one.”
Gambol examined the gun. It looked fine. When he needed to know for sure, he could take it five miles in any direction and find a place where gunshots wouldn’t disturb anybody. Mary stood before him until he noticed her.
Gambol said, “Jesus Christ.”
“Is this the kind of robe you had in mind?”
She unfastened the belt of Gambol’s robe, and he said, “I told you—no bedpan.”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” she said and knelt before him.
He watched her. She enjoyed what she was doing, he saw that. And he smelled breakfast cooking, too.
She paused and raised her face to him. Juarez didn’t pull you out of that culvert. I did.“
She lowered her face to him.
Luntz unzipped the duffel bag. He laid the shotgun on the bed.
Capra didn’t touch it. "Pistol grip’s illegal in California.”
“And smoking’s illegal. Everything.”
Capra ran one finger along ils length. “Where’d you get it?”
“Won it in a poker game.”
“Do you have evil intentions?”
“I thought I might sell it or something.”
“How much you want for it?”
“I don’t know. I might keep it. If I knew how to use it.”
Capra hoisted the gun. “Watch my thumb. See this button?” Luntz watched as Capra ran the slide back and forth repeatedly— klick-ACK! klick-ACK! klick-ACK!—and eight red shells popped out one by one onto the mattress. “Well, don’t travel with it loaded, for one thing. Cops frown on that shit. Any¬way"—as he ran the slide back and forth again, klick-ACK!—"that’s all you need to do, right there. You hear sinister noises downstairs, just"—klick-ACK!—"and to an intruder, that’s the ugliest sound in the world.”
“How do you get the shells back in?”
“Under here. You want 'em out, push this button like I showed you and run the action. And this one is your safety. Red side out means safety off. Push it in and your trigger don’t pull.”
Luntz accepted the gun from his hands and slipped the shells back into the magazine one by one and made sure he had the safety on. “I think I’m considering a little move.”
“I’d be willing to accept some help.”
“Jimmy. I’m not like that. If I was like that, my ex-wife would be dead.”
Luntz replaced the gun in the duffel and zipped it shut and shoved it his whole arm’s length under the bed.
“Unload it,” Capra said. “You going to unload it?”
“No,” l.untz said.
“Don t let Sol find out about that weapon. He’s skittish.”
“You always used to call Sally Sally, like everybody else.”
“If it’s love, it’s love.”
“I’m just saying things change, man.”
“Don’t I know it.”
Capra put his hand on the doorknob but stood still.
“You’ve gotten quiet. I like it.”
Juarez called. He told Gambol, “A really funny thing happened.”
“I’m not in a mood for funny.”
“This is a really funny thing. But it’s not for this kind of phone. This is a pay-phone-to-pay-phone kind of funny thing. Call me in ten minutes.”
“I don’t have any pants on.”
“I won’t repeat myself.”
“What are you wearing, honey?”
“Fuck you. Give me two hours. I need an hour just to get my pants on. Make it four o'clock.”
“Exactly four o'clock p.m. Get some pants. Then get ready to laugh your pants off.”
He did sound like an Arab.
She didn’t know if she talked fast or slow. She forgot to cross her fingers. She didn’t glance once at Hank, not once, that much she knew. That was the important thing.
Afterward, outside the courthouse, Hank gave her back the key to the house. Just walked up and handed it to her like a flower. “Babylove. Gome on over. You’ve got a couple things at the place.”
“A couple? My whole life is in that house.”
“We don’t have to break off contact.”
“The fuck we don’t. Five days ago in the Packard Room you didn’t have anything more for me than Cajun chicken.”
“Five days ago the last nail wasn’t in.”
“In my coffin?”
“Poor choice of words.”
He wore a tailored charcoal suit. His shirt looked like cream.
“How much did you pay for that tie?”
“Money’s no object. Not lately, Babylove.”
“Do you have some formula you’re working here? You call me Babylove X times and poof you’re not a piece of shit?”
“I am a piece of shit.” He put his hands in his pockets and smiled. He wasn’t that good-looking. He simply had this way about him that suggested it was his party and the human race was lucky to be his guest.
“You never let me in. You ripped off two point three million dollars and never mentioned it. And then you framed me for it.”
He said, “Somebody has to be the designated bad guy.”
“Why can’t the real bad guy be the bad guy?”
“In this kind of situation, that honor goes to the cutest. You’re the cutest.”
“What an honor.”
“The one they’ll punish least. I’m not as cute as you. I know it’s cold-blooded, and I’m horrible and mean, but lift your head up and take in the scenery here. Does it look like prison? It’s over, and we’re both standing on the street.”
“Meanwhile I pay eight hundred a month, and no job.”
“Babylove. Wake up. It’s over.”
“Eight hundred a month for life. How over is that?”
“Are you staying around?”
“What do you think?”
“I’m not staying around either. Why don’t we not stay around together?”
“Do I look that desperate? All I need in this world is half a tank of gas to get to the next man. And he’s a better man than you.”
“Don’t kill me. Don’t you know you can kill me, talking that way? I’m the one who’s desperate.”
“You lie and you lie and you lie.”
“What do you want? Just tell me.”
“1 want to see you grovel.’”
“I’m groveling now. How do you like it?”
“I love it. That tie must’ve cost two hundred dollars.”
“There’s more where that came from. Why don’t we share the wealth?”
She turned around and left. She didn’t look back.
Later she drove by the house. He probably wasn’t home. No reason he’d be home at 11 a.m. But his gray Lexus sat in the driveway. The Lexus didn’t mean he was home. He might be driving a second car. He could afford one. He could own eight cars by now. He could be heading a parade of newly purchased automobiles down Main Street. In her shaking hand the key chain jingled. She put the key in the lock. She swung open the door. He was home. “Babylove,” he said. “I’m pouring you a drink.”
Seven minutes later he went down on the floor by the bed.
She said. “I like you on your knees, Daddyman.”
She saw tears in his eyes.
She was weeping too. “Now beg.”
Ernest Gambol proceeded into the traffic and across the street, looking neither right nor left, setting his aluminum cane down hard with each step forward. The pain was good pain. Different than before.
He entered the parking lot of the Circle K. As he passed behind the Wonder bread truck idling out front, its reverse lights flared. He struck the nearest one with his cane and shattered it. He made his way to the pay phone, where he rested his weight on both feet equally and allowed four min¬utes to pass. He punched the buttons and called the pay phone out front of O'Doul’s.
Juarez answered. “Alhambra here.”
“Are you ready to laugh?”
“You got your pants on?”
“Are you ready?”
“I said I was.”
“Do you remember Sally Fuck?”