Shangri La

Jerry's dead. His widow runs the place now, the Hardyville Trailer Park and The Shangri La. Both popped up on the radar on my first mission to Bullhead, couple of weeks ago. Sitting at the front end of a dusty gravel drive that passes by trailers stacked against the river. Old ones, rusty and held up it seems by plywood panels, shaded with groves of palm. I couldn't tell if the roots poking up were from trees or trailers, they'd both been there so long. Grime covered motorcycles huddling in shade--no plates; broken barbecues; mis-matched chairs and gray wooden planter boxes sprouting flowers and dried up withered stuff that couldn't stand the heat.
The Shangri La is the motel wing of this riverside lean-to.
Didn't catch her name but she showed me a furnished room. Upstairs. Introduced me to Morris, but Morris didn't say anything.
He grins at me when I say hello, sitting in the sun next to the vacant studio suite. He'd be my next door neighbor if I moved in there. Doubt if he'd make much noise.
600 a month includes cable, no internet. Furnished with a kitchen.
'Kathleen lives down here," she said, pointing down the second story hall. "Works at the Riverside. Most people here are full-time residents. Mary sold her place in San Diego, couldn't afford it no more. Moved in here."
600 a month moves just about anybody in. Me? Couple of months, play like I'm on the run or something, hole up, sketch out a few scenes, see what pops.
She took my card, but said she didn't have much use for them.
"In case I call you up, later," I said. "Maybe you'll remember me."
Up the road a few blocks I stop in to the Longhorn Gun Shop, just as my friend texts a message about buying jeans and shirts. My fashion advisor, she has the scoop on what guys need. Turns me on to some cheap shopping at Sam's.
The Longhorn has an old time rough wooden plank door, big brass handle, chimes that sound when you walk in the cool dark room. Glass cases hold turquoise jewelry. Rifles and automatic weapons line up against the walls.
The biggest guy I'll see in three days walks out from the back.
"Ammo?" he says. "We've got ammo."
I pick up a couple of boxes of 9mm and .45. I ask him about shooting ranges in Bullhead City.
"We just shoot in the desert," he says. He gives me directions to a road heading east, to a deserted hillside where locals fire away.
"Targets?" he says. "No. There's old cars out there, though."
I didn't bring any guns, but I want to check out the local shooting spot but get a bad feeling when I spot two police cars positioned at the beginning of the dirt part of the road. Some other time.
After cruising the waterfront looking for fixers on the river I end up at Lazy Harry's Bar and Grille, overlooking the curve of the Colorado River.
'Music Food Cocktails Darts'. Old boys inside complaining about the heat.
"Ten weeks in a row", the guy next to me explains, "been over 110 F. 117 today." Men compare the temps at their houses, everybody agreeing it's hot, even for Bullhead. I drink an American Ale. Seemed like the thing to do, with four boxes of pistol ammo sitting in the back of my Jeep parked up against the river where I could keep an eye on it.
Later on I pull up at the Castle for a salad and a beer. The waitresses seem nice when I ask a few questions about winter rentals.
"Winter time this place is packed at night," the older one says. The younger one is cute and spotless, bright eyed. "Pretty much an older crowd," she continues.
I tell her I had a drink at Lazy Harry's.
"How'd you find that place?"
"Cruising some property, came up on it," I say.
"That's the place for gossip and gathering," she says.
I know now what she means by 'older'. Older than me.
Brand new homes up on the hill sell for just over $200K. Not many left, but they're nice. I could hang out here, I think. Check out the river scene for a couple of months in a rental, before I decide to pack up and leave California for good. Could happen.
Next day, I'll get my first major rejection email on my novel. But first, I'll have a round or two at the tables, see if my luck has dried up like the rustling stalks hanging on in the weathered planter boxes down the path from the Shangri La.

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