DESERT RUN (excerpt from 'Lane and Mia')

Nasty’s had a little tournament going in the back room, a dozen guys chalking their sticks and pulling on beers around ten o’clock. Boris had staked out end seats at the bar.

“Polish sausage is on special,” Boris said when I walked up. We did the knuckle-fist touch. “Fries, pickles. Pretty good last time I had it.”

“Ate already.” Leaning in to the bar, I caught Slash’s eye. “Arnold Palmer, please.” He nodded. “Hey, Slash, put in some of those lemon wedges, okay?” Slash tapped the bar with his finger and went to the refrigerator. Nasty’s used real iced tea and homemade lemonade. Arnie would be proud. The pool balls at Nasty’s clicked in a rhythm sometimes all at once, four tables in back, a wooden thunk-click, balls in the pockets. A shout, a groan, a clink of beer glasses.

“So what is this place you got in mind?” I said. “Where is it, at the end of a dirt road?”

“We can get a game with some of these guys,” Boris said, nodding towards the pool tables. “Couple of guys we could take real easy.”

“Don’t want to waste karma. Got it all stored up where I need it. Pull it down like beer from a keg.”

“Jesus Christ. All right. Fuckin’ pool game, man. I could use the money.”

“Karma is like cash, dude, spiritual currency, to be used wisely and for the greater good and the enlightenment of the species.”

“And I thought you were off the medication. What’d you do, switch up to meth?”

“Hey, I’m not laughing, man. I spent three fuckin’ months at county getting shit together. Three months. Mia said I didn’t even know I was there half the time. In and out. Still got some work to do, though, dude. You’re going to help? Or no, you’re chickening out. Hmm?” The Arnold slid across the bar. “Thanks, Slash.” Slapped a five down next to the coaster.

Skinny long-haired freak at the front table snapped up a twenty from the rail, spun his cue stick like hands of a clock going twelve to six, then back the other way, Tom Cruise-style; ‘Color of Money’. Paul Newman was awesome in that movie. He and Jason Robards, Nicholson. Old dudes could play characters, defining the archetypes, cultural heroes we could depend on. Over and over. That was the cool thing about DVD’s. Lock in to something real, you watch it over and over, perfect it, learn it, master it. Sat there in my smoking jacket all day for a couple of weeks, ‘resting’, but I don’t waste time. Don’t waste time, don’t waste karma. Eventually, it all runs out. Just a matter of when.

Boris wanted that long haired freak, I could tell. Smelled money on the table, that was his problem. Couldn’t grasp the real issues, the bigger picture.

“Boris, tune your frequency, dude, I need you, man. Dial it down.” Boris turned from the pool tables back to the bar, put his finger up. Slash pulled a draft and set it down.

“One game man,” he said. “Just one game.”

“Where is this place, man? Where is this happening?”

“So you sat around all day watching ‘X-Files’?” Boris had foam around the top of his lip. “Got all pumped up nominating yourself for ‘alien abduction of the year’?”

“Uh, no. That’s not it dude.”

“Well this place, I’m telling you, nobody goes up there. We pop a tire or something, this time of year, morning comes, we fry.”

“You ever heard of a spare tire?”

“Why do you think I want to get a game here? Unlike you, Mr. Employed Truck Driver, I don’t have unlimited domestic funding.”

“And I don’t have unlimited time. I almost found that out. I did find that out.”

“Congratulations. Welcome to the human race.”

“Yeah, I’m alive. Great.” I leaned closer. “But how alive am I?”

“What are you, mixing shit now? Little meth, Arnie Palmers, what else? Splash of Karma on the rocks?”

Boris’s teeth were so fucking ugly, I really wanted him to consider an orthodontic-surgical approach, or a good pool cue to the jaw. That could be arranged.

“Thanks, Slash.” I slid the tall glass across the bar. Stood up.

“Sit down, man.” Boris pulled an index card out of his front shirt pocket. “Okay, okay. Come on.” He handed the card to me. It was yellow, light blue lines. In black ink; a time, a date, a GPS coordinate.

“I don’t have GPS,” I said. “That’s what this is?”

“Can you borrow one?”

I nodded. If I had to. They could locate us, then, I thought. GPS worked both ways. At least in this town. I didn’t say anything. Filed it away, kept it in my head. Go home, write everything out, dispose of the yellow index card, take a shower, clean off, wipe down. Jump in bed with Mia, lay my head on her beautiful thigh, the two of us arranged like a ‘T’.

1 comment:

spiker_writer said...

Love this, Kurt. This has the cool stylings of literary jazz, retro funk, and the grit-ology I've learned to love about your writing. These people swan dive off the page into my friggin' psyche, Man. Rack 'em, Big Baddy! This tease left me yearnin' for more.