Authors: Andy Schell
Tags: #General, #Fiction
“Enchanted,” she says. “I make sure Nicolo receives the box,” she adds, motioning to my present.
We shake hands, and she holds the door open while I depart. I feel her watching me as I walk to the street. There’s something about her energy that levels me out, brings me back to my old self, and I feel embarrassed that I’m driving this Jaguar. I even wish I had my VW. I open the door, step in, start the car. Before I drive away, I look up to the duplex to see her standing in the doorway. She waves. I wave back. Drive away.
When I get back with the car, I reach back to grab my shirts, pants, and jacket from the hook behind me. A shirt falls off the hanger, and I try to reach behind me under the seat to grab it without having to crawl into the back. My fingers feel something cold, hard, made of steel. I get a horrible feeling and quickly lift my hand away. I step out, reach behind the driver’s seat, lift the shirt off the back floor, and lean down to look under the seat. A gun. A pistol. Sitting there. No case. Just sitting there.
Amity and Kim come bursting out of the house. “Come on, Harry!” Amity says excitedly. “Kim wants to show us the new condo he just bought.”
“Let me put this stuff in the house,” I tell her. I motion for her to follow me, but she is oblivious to my gesturing, so. I dump the clothes on my bed and head back out. I don’t really want to be driving with this maniac and his gun, nor do I want Amity to do so. I decide to go along and see the condo to make sure she’s safe.
We whiz down the Tollway to north Dallas, and do a walk through of Kim’s new place. It’s the quintessential bachelor’s pad, with wall-to-wall carpeting, ceiling fans, fireplaces, a wet bar, and sliding closet doors with mirrors on them so you can watch yourself from the bed as your blubbery mid life ass goes up and down while you pork girls half your age. I see Kim as a bad Southern Hugh Hefner in need of Reverend Moon and the Betty Ford Center. I’m getting an icky feeling, and at the same time I’m bored with having to fake my interest in this dump. It’s totally empty: no furniture, no paintings, no Seoul. He’s telling us what pieces are going to go where, but he can’t seem to concentrate, and he’s getting more and more agitated. I can tell Amity is slightly nervous, but she goes along with him, oohing and ahhing over his proposed design.
We get to the kitchen, and Kim picks up a carton of cigarettes, the only sustenance in the house, and takes out a pack. He tries to open the pack, but can’t; his hands are shaking, and he can’t get a grip. Out of nowhere he freaks out, screams at the cigarettes, and literally rips the pack of smokes in half, sending cigarettes flying in all directions as if they’re scampering for their lives. They rain on the kitchen floor while Amity and I look at each other, then at Kim. Not the least bit fazed, he takes a bent cigarette from the floor, lights up, and tells us about the hanging cobalt light fixture he plans for above our heads.
The drive back to our house is tense. Kim is driving about a hundred miles an hour, passing left, passing right, ripping up the Tollway while Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug” blasts on the radio as if it were his mantra. I’m waiting for some little old lady to change lanes in front of him without using her blinker and for him to pull out the gun and blow her away. I’m praying he doesn’t get stopped, because it now dawns on me there was probably cocaine in the car the whole time I’ve been driving it. Like a big fucking baggie of the shit in the glove box. What if I’d gotten stopped by a cop? How would a nice white boy from the upper classes of Wichita explain the gun and the drugs and the car and the guy it belongs to and the girl who’s entertaining him? I couldn’t count on Kim to back me up. I picture the jury throwing the book at me, the armed Yankee homosexual with the stolen car and the stash of drugs. Though I definitely have my prison fantasies, I think I’d choose living freely with Amity or Nicolo over being some lifer’s bitch.
Besides, one little felony and I’ll never make Slut of the Month at the airline.
“Amity,” I tell her after Kim is gone and she’s ironing her uniform for work, “we have to talk.”
“Yes, babe?” she asks, running the iron back and forth over her slacks with such manic energy it looks as if she’s trying to erase her pants rather than iron them.
“Kim has a gun,” I tell her.
She makes a tsk sound. “I know. He just loves the whole idea of a Wild West. Isn’t that cute, him being Korean and all?”
“Aren’t you worried?” I ask seriously. “You guys are pretty stoked, doing all that cocaine, driving around with a gun.”
She flips her slacks over and attacks the other side. “Does he have it in the car again?” she asks, annoyed.
“Yes,” I tell her. “It’s under the seat.”
“That little monster,” she says affectionately. “I’ve told him to keep that thing in the house.”
“Do you think you’re safer with it in the house? I don’t think he should have a gun at all, Amity. He’s too out there. I’m worried about you.”
“Harry, you’re sweet, but don’t you fret. I’ll keep him in control. He’s a short man, darling’. Short-man complex. The littler the dick, the bigger the gun. Thank God he’s big for an Oriental, or he’d be carrying a shotgun in the trunk!”
“Amity, I really don’t think this is funny.”
She pulls her pants off the board and slips into them, shuddering at their warmth. “I mean it, Harry. Don’t torment yourself over Kim. He’s harmless. Gun and all.”
ver the next few days, Nicolo and I talk on the phone incessantly like a couple of teenagers. He likes the pen I bought him and tells me that he uses it at school to record lecture notes. School keeps him busy; he’s majoring in journalism at DCU, the university that sits a block from my house. And of course, there is his job at the restaurant. It seems as if every time he has a break between classes I’m out flying or running errands or chauffeuring Amity somewhere. Each time I come home to a message on my machine saying he’s free to drop by, I’ve missed him. I consider calling in sick so that I can stay home by the phone, but I need to work because my mother is now withholding the money again hinting that, until Amity and I set a date and appear in Wichita for the big shebang in our honor, she can’t send any money on because “Well, you know how strongly your father felt about this.” Funny, she’s so willing to move on with her own life, but digs up my dead dad whenever she deals with mine.
So I fly to make money, and on my next trip I’m assigned to fly with a girl who is an ex-cheerleader with the Dallas Cowboys. She has a kick-ass body and the face of a model, which is why I think it’s really great that she comes to work with hardly any makeup on, her blond hair pulled back in an elastic band, and a
stain on her uniform shirt before we’ve even set foot on the plane. Julie and I immediately hit it off.
Julie is the kind of flight attendant who says, “Here,” and drops the peanuts in your lap. She’d serve a scotch and water to a twelve year old. She doesn’t pick up trash or cross seat belts. She doesn’t even point at the emergency exits during the demonstration she just kind of nods while pushing back her cuticles. And she makes it clear that if the plane crashes she’s the first one down the escape slides. “Follow me, motherfuckers!” she yells, simulating her escape drills, then laughs maniacally. How could I not like her?
On our last flight of the day she asks, “Have you ever done Ecstasy?”
I’ve heard of the new designer drug, but haven’t done it. “No, have you?”
“Sure. Do you want to do some after we get in?”
“You have some with you?” I can’t believe it when she nods yes. A stewardess who travels with Ecstasy. “Yeah, I’ll try it.”
We layover in Las Vegas, land of body odor and perfume. Dry heat and wet armpits. Parched tongues and moist legs. Purple spandex and clammy crotches. Dehydrated grandmothers and junkie waitresses. Cigarette smoke and urinal cakes. Burdened elevators and needless churches. Dusty gutters and damp cocktail napkins. And airline crews with too much time on their hands.
Julie and I agree to meet by the pool. I walk through the clanging casino and catch the burdened elevator to the fourteenth floor, which is really the thirteenth floor, but since nothing is unlucky in Las Vegas the number thirteen is wiped out and replaced. Even the children in this town skip it the next birthday after twelve is fourteen.
I change into my swimsuit, grab my sunglasses, and my Walkman, then head for the elevator.
At the pool, Julie is waiting. In her neon pink bikini, she’s already given the pool boys a hard-on and quickly procured us two
longue chairs, towels, and ice water. As soon as I lie down she slips me the pill. “Here.”
“The whole thing?” I ask.
We both have portable Walkmans; all the flight attendants rushed out to get them so that they don’t have to listen to pilots sit around hotel pools and talk about how the airline should be run. Julie and I listen to music for a while, bake in the sun, drink water. In about twenty minutes I realize that I’ve left my body and I’m hovering over the whole hotel. I pull my headphones off, look at her.
“Oh my God, Julie.”
She smiles, pulls her headphones off. “Nice, huh?”
“I think I’m going to fly away.”
She moans peacefully. “Call me from the Grand Canyon.”
I can’t hear very well. The public address system is piped out to the pool, and a woman is constantly paging people. “Mr. Rigglepert, Mr. Jerry Rigglepert, Mr. Court, Mr. Lobbler Court, Miss Koob, Miss Mary Koob, please pick up a white paging phone.”
I start adding names to the list and saying them aloud. “Miss Peters, Miss Fonda Peters, Miss Quivers, Miss Virginia Quivers, Miss Muff, Miss Candy Muff, please pick up a white paging tele phone.”
It’s not like pot where you laugh uncontrollably. It’s like being on acid. And Quaaludes. And just a little bit of coke. So Julie and I start floating this name thing with quiet amusement.
She adds, “Miss Horse, Miss Rhoda Horse, Miss Skank, Miss Lotta Skank, Miss Case, Miss Charity Case, please pick up a white paging telephone.”
A pilot shows up. A pretty-boy captain. Young and studly.
He’s married but dates a stewardess at the airline. So cliche. He automatically has the pool boys line his chair up with ours. He tries to educate us about the economics of substituting DC-10’s for the
747’s on the Hawaii routes. We’re into the name thing. He doesn’t get it. We leave.
Burdened elevator. Sunglasses on. Ride with the masses. Are those earrings or chandeliers? Freckles or bits of bacon? Fresh flowers. I smell fresh flowers.
The hallway now, floating forward, not really walking. We separate to change into clothes, then meet again.
Burdened elevator. Clanging casino. Doormen. Sidewalk. One hundred degrees at least. Into the nearest hotel. Two vodka and grapefruits to go. We raise the plastic cups of booze and citrus to our mouths. Float down the sidewalk. The sun melts our heads. The sidewalk liquefies our shoes.
“Caesar’s,” Julie says. “I love those things on those chicks’ heads.”
I see them in my mind: casino waitresses who walk around carrying trays of smokes and battery-operated earrings and call out, “Cigars, cigarettes, electric jewelry.” Ancient Roman hairpieces, beehives of shit on their heads.
Cocktails evaporate. We beg the plastic cups to replenish, but they deny us. The gates of Caesar slide open. We exit hellfire and glide into Antarctica. We’re polar bears craving cocktails. The grapefruit at Caesar’s, a different hybrid, taps on our tongues. Surrender the twenties for quarters and sit.
Drop the coin. Pull the handle. Drop the coin. Pull the handle. Bang. You win.
The floor has disappeared. Ceiling too. Everything in between colored slightly outside the lines with thick Magic Markers offering a toxic high. Amplified living. Soundtrack traveling through our heads, flossing the cochlea. Tokens falling into trays, the sound of a thousand cymbals in an orchestra. Nerve cells in our skin on alert. A bald guy smoking, smoke washes over my skin, mixes with the cold oxygenated air that shoves me on the shoulder.
Julie has to pee. Myself. At the urinal, no dick. It shrank. To nothing.
We leave the casino, no genitals, but wealthy with quarters. The Pink Flamingo. It’s pink. We see flamingos. This must be the place. Grapefruit. Vodka. Cash money.
Stand on one leg. Laugh. Drop the coin. Pull the handle. Drop the coin. Pull the handle.
Again we win. Time to go.
The MGM Grand. The catastrophic fire a few years earlier. The grapefruit and vodka will be excellent because they have to try harder people were burned.
Drop the coin. Pull the handle. Drop the coin. Pull the handle. It must be nighttime. Who knows from the inside of a casino? We sit on our stools, our quarters all eaten by the system. “So you’re going to be Amity’s next husband,” Julie says.
I’m drunk and heady, but far below my earlier cruising altitude in the ionosphere. “Sort of.”
“I heard she finally had an honest arrangement that you knew about her past and that you guys were straight with each other.” She starts laughing. “Get it?”
I laugh and realize I’m starting to feel my head again. “Straight as I’ll ever be,” I answer. “Yep, I know about Aden and how she fucked up the marriage.”
“I know it’s none of my business, but did she ever go into detail about the money? I mean, the rumor was it was like a half a million or something, and then the next thing we knew, it’s like six months later and she’s left the cowboy and been taken down by that lawyer, Victor, and she’s broke and in the treatment center.”
My face is burning. I’m on fire within all this air-conditioning. I chuckle, act as casual as possible. “Cocaine makes you do fucked up things.” Treatment center? Was it that bad? I didn’t get a penny, she told me. I think that’s what she said, but my head’s not so
clear. “I’m not sure where the money went. She doesn’t like to talk about it,” I state, groping for the truth.
“I don’t blame her. If I lost a Mercedes, a condo, and a Western art collection, I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. It’s a miracle she still has her job. Actually,” she says, “that’s not true. Steal a milk carton off the plane and you’re fired. Do a bag of blow before you fly, and as long as you turn yourself in, they pity your ass and pay for your rehab. Then they give you one of those brown noser awards at the annual jack-off ceremony. The system’s fucked.”