like a dog who can hear one of those silent whistles.
can hit a pitch that is virtually inaudible to normal human ears. If she’s really upset, or frightened, she can
shatter Welch’s grape jelly glasses – though her usual method for doing so is a
simple overarm throw after a full windup.
At any rate, Vandy was getting yelled at by the chief on the phone when
my spider sense kicked on an alarm. I
could hear Val off in the distant reaches of the parking lot.
sprinted over towards the school bus where we had parked and found her shaking,
on her knees next to the Neon.
O.K., Val? What’s the matter?”
son-of-a-bitch.” She screamed
again. My corneas vibrated.
cop.” She was having trouble catching
her breath again after the last scream.
idiot. Redlands. The big cop.
He drove by in his squad car. He
stopped. He said that he knew all about
told him to fuck off.. He pointed his
gun at me.”
of those big police nine-milimeter guns pointed straight at you could be
upsetting. I held Val in a tight hug,
hoping she’d stop trembling. “Don’t be
scared. He’s gone now.”
“Scared?” She pushed me away. “I’m not scared. I’m pissed.”
pissed.” I should have spotted it, I
guess. My only excuse is that I was in
“Of course you’re pissed.”
creep made some dumb crack about the Planned Parenthood bumpersticker on my
car.” Val turned and kicked the mini-van
in the next parking slot. A little
plastic fish emblem fell off the tailgate and broke on the pavement. “Stupid asshole.”
it was a political argument?” That
explained a lot.
up and get in the car.” Val pushed me in
through the driver’s door, and I clambered in as quick as I could. She lit up a cigarette and took a deep drag.
when the security guard with the big dog showed up. He stepped around from the far side of the
school bus. “Please put out the
cigarette. No smoking allowed on church
exploded. “Fuck off, you fascist.”
I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
get in the car.”
me, Mr. Mussolini, do you love your dog?”
I do, ma’m. Now if you’ll just…”
gets to be on top?”
get in the car.” I grabbed her waistband
and tugged her hard. She bumped her head
and the ashes from the burning cigarette in her hand showered all over my arm. “Damn.”
I reached over her and slammed the door shut.
you mother…” She was about to ask
about my dog. I could see it in her
“Ma’am” The guy was bringing the dog around towards
drive, Val. Let’s get out of here.”
turned the key hard nearly enough to break it and let the engine starter
grind. Then she slapped it into reverse
and almost ran over that poor innocent dog.
My keen hearing picked up a voice similar to Vandy’s yelling in the
distance, “Tools! Tools!” I didn’t answer. The Neon’s bald tires squealed when Val put
it into drive and stomped down with her dainty foot. By the time we hit the boulevard she had lit
up another Marlboro.
My position on secondhand smoke is wildly inconsistent. Someone can sit next to me at a bar and chain smoke until their moustache turns yellow. They can hack up pieces of their broken lungs in time with the Jethro Tull song on the jukebox. Light up a right-wing cigar, a McIntosh pipe full of cherry-flavored tobacco barn sweepings, a spliff, a hookah, or start a damn campfire fueled by plastic trash, and so long as the drinks keep coming, I am very libertarian. But if the person I purportedly love pulls out a Marlboro Ultra-Lite, I go organic-health-and-clean-air righteous.
I only torture one
person in the world over smoking – lovely Val.
See, I have a very sensitive nose.
Her apartment stinks. Her car
stinks. Her clothes stink. She says she’ll quit to shut me up. I locked her in the bathroom one
Saturday. I planned to de-tox her myself. By Monday I could send her off to work
nicotine-free. The bathroom seemed
perfect. She had a toilet to use, water
to drink, and a place to sleep; the tub.
Unfortunately, she also had a window.
Another time I told her I wouldn’t have sex with her again until she
quit. She just said, “O.K.” She didn’t seem concerned at all by my
withholding of affection. I gave in a
day later. She gave in after a
But at that point I
figured it was best if I didn’t mention the evils of tobacco. We were
heading for St. Philomena’s, and Valerie was chain smoking. I needed to concentrate on the task at
hand. I needed to go snoop around at
Doug Hunter’s church. Everything pointed
in that direction. I told Val to stop at
my place. If I was going to cat burglar
around, I needed dark clothing. My mind
and the car were both wandering. Where’s
Torey? Does Father Hunter know?
sunny, unseasonable day had turned into a cold misty evening. As we headed south, the asphalt reflected all
the sick yellow headlights of the cars on the road. Yes,
the weather was underlining the change in mood as our quest entered a
new stage. Rain is a great device. It could foreshadow change and menace. It did.
The wet pavement on the edge of freezing hissed as Val’s bald tires spun
across it. The menace was that we could
spin into a tree trunk any second.
took a long drag of her hundredth cigarette of the day. She drove with the driver’s side window
opened to vent the smoke away from me, even now, as the mist turned into a
driving rain. Water sprayed in and
coursed down into a puddle on the back seat floor. After a last long desperate pull, like Nosferatu sucking the last drop of blood
from his virgin victim, she flicked the fag out the window. It blew back in her lap.
Fuck!’ She slapped at the glowing
ash. It slipped deeper into her crotch. Her thighs flew apart. “Shit!
burn at about fifteen hundred degrees.
You could smelt iron at that temperature. Valerie’s head was full of images of big
weeping blisters and permanent scars. My
head was full of images of a car sliding out of control. It wasn’t a fantasy. What was in front of us was beside us, then
behind. Wait, it was in front of us
was in front of us was the trunk of a large cottonwood. The Neon hopped the curb. Wheel covers took off, spinning in opposite
directions. A chain link fence between
us, and the tree caught us like the wire carrier planes try to grab after a
tough day in the “No Fly Zone.” It
slowed us just enough. When we hit, the
left headlight shattered, and the hood popped open. I thanked God I was alive. Then, I thanked Dodge the car had no air
bags. I might have been killed by the
explosive force of the unpredictable gas bladders.
read the horror stories of people killed by safety devices in Reader’s
Digest. The article was in the May ‘92
issue right after “Hello, I’m Joe’s Vagina” and “My Most Unforgettable Hat.” I love doctor’s waiting rooms. They are so educational.
was still clawing at her crotch as she jumped out of the car. Sparks were flying everywhere. I remember thinking, “Hope we didn’t puncture
the gas tank.” We didn’t. Which pissed me off a bit. If Val had set fire to herself, maybe she
would have quit that nasty habit. Like
if I stained my shirt with Chianti, maybe I’d quit drinking. It’s nutty thinking, I know. I just can’t help myself. The damage was actually fairly minor. We were on Nineteenth, back in Vaporville.
was about to give her a Mormon anti-smoking lecture I’d memorized from a
brochure, when a cop car, sirens whooping, raced towards us. I didn’t know what his hurry was. We weren’t going anywhere.
black and white Taurus was going so fast that when it tried to stop, the wet
pavement covered with leaves compromised its braking ability. With red lights blinking, it hopped the curb
and nudged the back of Val’s Dodge. The
tinkling of glass announced a broken tail light. The spotlight on the driver’s side of the
patrol unit snapped on, and the beam swung to frame Valerie.
she stood in the spotlight, a beautiful woman with both hands madly rubbing the
insides of her upper thigh. It may have
given our visitor the wrong impression.
His voice crackled out of the car’s P.A. system.
was squinting into the deer-killer light.
Her hands were still moving frantically back and forth over and around
her upper inseam and beyond. I was
watching from behind a parked car about twenty-five feet away. I found it to be comically erotic. I hoped the cop couldn’t hear me giggling.
if you’re wondering why I was hiding, you haven’t gotten to know me as well as
I hoped you would by now. When policemen
arrive, I depart. Like a fragile Monarch
butterfly whose magnetic cochlea have been stimulated by the tilting of the
earth’s axis, I am driven to migrate. So
I was in the shadows, close enough to Val to help if she needed it, but fairly
certain she could handle this even if her jeans began to smolder from all the
friction from her hands or the murderous cigarette.
place your hands where I can see them, ma’am.”
The cop was trying to go by the book.
He got out of the patrol car still holding the microphone. My cochlea buzzed with electricity, a
palpable sense of danger. I backed up a
little further in the shadows.
stopped rubbing, but her hands remained in her crotch. “Can’t you see them where they are, you
moron?” She was checking the folds,
looking for damage.
place your hands on the hood of the car.”
honestly think I’m going to pull a gun out of here?” She started rubbing the insides of her thighs
place your hands on the hood of your cli… ah… the hood of the car.” The cop’s mind was wandering.
looked into the light, looked at her car hood tilted straight up by the impact,
snorted, and shaking her head, put her hands on her hips.
tall cop had noticed the red Neon’s hood sticking up by now. He realized he had made a ludicrous
request. He keyed the mike again. “Place your hands on the trunk…”
had done more damage to the Ford than was first apparent, because at that point
a loud hissing cloud of steam issued from the grill of his car. Now Val looked like she was in some wet,
green, overgrown disco. The rain was
falling like thousands of crystals, scattering the bright spotlight beam that
was highlighted by the fog produced by the Taurus’ radiator. Where were the Bee Gees when you needed
them? I started humming “Stayin’ Alive”
under my breath.
“Play…sah…han…n…unk…ease.” The radiator steam was shorting out his
billowing steam almost produced a strobe effect with his emergency lights, red
and blue flashing. Val shifted her
weight and tilted her pelvis a tad. She
looked good except for the bloody lip from the collision.
“Pl…ccc…kkk….sssss” He tossed the mike down in disgust and threw
his door open. The spotlight mounted on
the door shifted to an apartment window to the right of the lower cottonwood
branches and reflected back on the cop.
It was Officer James Redlands — in person and well-lit. Hell, the guy was everywhere. I wondered if he had followed us from the
A voice from above,
“Shut off that fucking light! What the
hell is going on?! I’m tryin’ to get
some sleep up here!” There was a bald
guy with big bare chubby man boobs yelling out the apartment window. The spotlight didn’t bring out his best
features. Some people, like Cher, need a
softer light to look their best. This
guy sure had better tits than Sonny’s Ex. “Shut off the light! You dumb prick!”
I will arrest you.” Redlands felt
going to pay for the damage to my car?
You pushed me right into the tree!”
Val was in fine form. Officer
Redland’s head was on a swivel.
off the fucking light!” Man boobies
your badge number? I hope you know that
I’m an attorney.” She rubbed her neck
off the fucking…”
like some nerve…”
could you put your hands on the…ah…ah.”
She couldn’t put them on the trunk of her car. The steam was jetting right across it. She couldn’t put her hands on the fence. It was down.
The tree was out of the question.
He was running out of “by the book” in his crew-cut brain. Suddenly his muse arrived and slapped him on
put one hand on his gun, pointed a big finger at her feet and said, “Please lie
down on the ground.” Then firmer, “Get
down on the ground! Do it. Now!”
you fucking nuts? I’m an injured
accident victim, and you are asking me to lie down in the cold mud. I could go into shock any moment.” She was in rare form.
you.” Val was really pissed now. “That is you isn’t it? Officer Redlands?” She squinted into the bright spotlight. “You fucking pervert.”
word “pervert” seemed to frighten Mr. man boobies. Maybe he had a woman with boobs like his up
there in his kitchen. Maybe she was
talking dirty and throwing raw eggs at
his half naked body to excite him. Maybe
he could sense that things were going further south than even he cared to
go. Whatever. Whether it was fear of exposure – a funny
thought – or just, god-I-don’t-want to-be-subpoenaed, his window banged shut, and his light went
think I was smiling. It was a funny
situation – at least on my sliding “funny situation” scale. I was anticipating some of Val’s finest
banter. There was the expectation of a
truly comedic verbal beat-down in the air.
Then the spotlight clicked off.
The mood changed in a
heartbeat. I had worked my way back from
the tree along a line of scraggly, untrimmed hedge until I was almost even with
Redlands where he stood in the door of his squad car. I wasn’t more than five feet from him when he
clicked off the spotlight. Then he
reached into the car and killed the emergency flashers on the roof as
well. It was suddenly dark — very dark
under that tree.
walking towards Val.