Chapter 6

Round him she drove,
talking and singing he whiled


Estrelica and Vic crossed the threshold of the Comet tavern and scanned the sea of faces for an anchor or at least a buoy. Vic immediately spotted Jason seated in one of the upper booths and made motions towards him. Just as they got to the table, Jason and a handful of the women he was with all got up to leave.

"Don’t take this personally or anything. We just hate you," Jason reprimanded them.

"Oh, yeah? Well, buy us a pitcher then, goddammit!" Vic blurted to Jason’s disappearing act, as he and Estrelica sat down on opposite sides of the newly vacated booth. Estrelica looked at Vic.

"I love you I love you I love you

I hate you I hate you I hate you" Estrelica underlined.

"Yeah, I used to love you...." Vic answered.

"USED TO?" She demanded.

"Yeah, but that was when I knew you. Now I don’t know so much." Vic replied.

"Oh, yeah, like it’s ME who changed." She reprimanded.

"Well, it’s not like before when I’d call you up just to hear the sound of the dial-tone. YOUR dial-tone...nah." Vic answered.

"What the hell are you talking about? You never even leave a MESSAGE. I have to track you DOWN."

"Yeah, but you always know where to find me."

"Yeah, out with some MADONNA, or is it WHORES this week?" She inquired.

"You know, I remember the first words you ever said to me. I had just come over to The Halfway House and we were all gonna go out and you had only just started coming around, and we were waiting for Dan to get out of the bathroom and you came up to me and said, ‘Today I had a banana that was THIS BIG.’"

"I didn’t say that," she denied.

"Yeah, you did. and I thought to myself: Half an hour. Half an hour and she’ll be all mine. I’ll take her out behind the dumpsters and show her my concert ticket collection and that’s it: Off we go."

"Yeah, I remember your ticket collection and the one for Medusa’s Box, which wasn’t a ticket at all, but a stamped piece of a rubber doll."

"It impressed you didn’t it?" He asked.

"Oh, yeah. I went home and stamped my OWN piece of rubber doll and the next day I had YOU."

"You know what I have? I have a photograph of you and Janine in an old tin rowboat up in Alaska. Her head is on your shoulder and you’ve got your arm around her and you’re just gazing off, thinking about the coffins coming over on the Mayflower."

"You have that?" Estrelica asked.

"Yeah; there’s metal everywhere and the weather’s just gone down and it was a Sunday afternoon from the way the light falls on it."

"So, do you want me to sign it or what?" she asked.

"Yeah, I do. Then I’ll just keep it until you get your shit together and then I’ll pay rent with it."

"Yeah, like the time you needed Dave to move in so you wouldn’t get evicted."

"Do you want your own room on Sri Lanka or would you rather have the shed? It makes NO difference to me."

"I’d rather sleep in your long johns. MY long johns that are still in your closet." She confirmed.

"Yeah, I feel really bad about that. I never wear them, either. I can’t. They’re too sacred."

"You know it, babe." she puffed.

"Did you know that I saw you nude a long time ago? I was at Teddy Bear cove, I think it was my first time there, and you were laying on the sand by yourself. Of course, you looked like you wanted to be by yourself." he said.

"Yeah, I used to go there all the time."

"It’s good to see that you know how to wear clothes, too."

"Only around you, my dear. I had heard about you a long time ago. I heard that you used to sleep in your boots when you first got them." she said.

"I was drunk, and besides, my feet were cold. I only had an East German flag for a blanket. It was miserable."

"Sleeping in your boots?"

"No, actually they were Nick’s and I was staying at a dealer’s house one night so I didn’t dare take them off. That was when I was crashing under the on-ramps because the sound of the traffic used to put me to sleep." Vic remembered.

"When was that?" She asked.

"Year ago June."

"That was when I was living in the Daylight building with the dwarf at the end of the hall, and the wiring was about to explode any minute because of the leaks in the roof. Did you know that this band is coming?" she said gesturing to the music filling the place. "I’m going to go see them. I haven’t been to an all-out dance-and-get-sweaty-free-for-all for so long. You know what I used to think life was all about? Sweating. Nothing but sweating. Waking up in a sweat, working until you sweat, going to sleep in a sweat. No finer perfume around, like when you smell your armpits after you’ve been smoking pot all week and your pits have that sweet smell of sweat from crashing through the brambles giddy as a kite, and then crashing on a black sleeping bag that just may or may not be infested with scabies."

"Sounds like a story" He said tilting his head.

"Nah, I don’t have any stories."

"Yeah, I don’t have any stories either. None that are any better than the NEXT guy, of course."

"Yeah, probably not."

"Well, there was the time I stripped my gears when I was ten. I was going down to Royal Hills on my bike, where no one ever wanted to go, and there’s this huge steep hill that leads down to it, and I was already bombing down it and I changed gears so I could pedal while I was going down, but the chain came off, so I aimed it at this huge rhododendron bush in someone’s yard, and this dog ran out at me, this huge German Shepherd, and it got caught beneath the wheels and broke it’s leg. I landed in the bush and had spider webs all over my face, but my bike was all right. The gears needed a little working on, but apart from that...the dog hobbled over to me and bit me on the ass before scampering off. So, here I am with spider webs on my face and this dog has the gall to bite me on the ass. I chucked a rock at it, but it missed. Next thing I rode was a Yamaha. Enough of that bicycle shit."

"Yeah, you’re right. Sounds like any story." She said.

"Didn’t I impress you? THIS story will impress you..."

"WHAT? WHAT?" she exclaimed in mock admiration.

Jason finally returned with a pitcher of Ed’s and slammed it down in front of Estrelica and Vic as he flicked back his snarling fountain of shoulder length jet black hair from his face and made room in the booth for himself. An olive-colored vest hung on his chest with a Rodeo tee shirt underneath, the name of the band he was in. Jason had the eyes of a pigeon, scanning constantly being able to see how everything was leaving and returning at the same time.

"Jason, Jason, Jason...." Vic exclaimed.

Jason piped up: "You know, I was at your parents wedding, and they came up to me and said, ‘Jason, one day you’re going to have to look out for our son.’ And I said, ‘What? Look at the parents he’s got. What does he need me protecting him from?’ And they said, ‘Well, you see, he suffers from, what do you call, water on the brain. And water on the brain makes you think too much.’ So, I said to them ‘Water on the brain?’ And they said that the only cure was baptism by brew."

"Baptism by brew?" Vic repeated.

"Baptism by brew. I...I was quite alarmed to actually hear your parents say this, so I said to them, ‘Don’t you mean baptism by fire?’ And they said; ‘He’s an Aquarius, for Christ sake, give the boy firewater.’ So, I’m here to be your godfather."

"Oh, Jason, that’s so touching." Vic whined.

"No touching. DRINKING DRINKING DRINKING DRINKING. That’s what they said; swear to God." Jason affirmed.

Estrelica chimed in. "So, Jason, look at your handiwork. What do you think of your godson?"

"Well, I see a very fine specimen of what a bottle of Night Train can do to someone who’s heard one too many songs end as he crawls into bed listening to the beat of his own heart because he can’t just go on over and ask the girl to dance. I mean, just because I’m his godfather, it doesn’t exactly follow that I have to stick around and hear his worthless stories. I do know that when he was too young to talk, his parents took him to a pub and he found the fusebox and hit all the lights. I knew then that he’d live to be the death of everyone’s parties."

"Wow. Thanks Jason, that’s very kind of you." Vic said.

"Don’t mention it, lad. Don’t mention it."

Vic took out his blade and started to carve the three slight initials of his name onto the table as Estrelica looked out of the corners of her eyes to see what he was doing, all the time being kept in stitches by Jason.

Jason asked Estrelica where J. Dove Dixon was on his travels and she reached over to use Vic’s blade to sketch an outline of Peru and a line at the top of it to indicate the equator, which ended up going straight through Vic’s name.

"He’s on the west coast right now, in Trujillo, and he wants to get across the Cordilleras up to the equator, then up to Bogota for his last few weeks before he gets back to England. I just wrote him a letter this morning. Hopefully he’ll get it. He uses the poste restante in every big city he knows he’s going to be near, but I know he hasn’t received a few of the letters I’ve written just from what he responds to. I don’t know how long he’s going to be gone, though. He says until he’s sick of it, but...whatever."

Vic looked over at the dart boards and saw a girl he recognized in a straw hat with an unraveled black ribbon.

"Just a sec," he mumbled and excused himself.

Estrelica turned to Jason and asked him how the cab business was. Jason had been a taxi driver for about nine months with the Classic Cab Company, a fleet of three original Checker cabs owned and operated solely by a guy named Rick. Tanks, they were. Jason had been hit three times since he’d started driving, and had come away with pencil-thin streaks of paint on the bumper, while the other cars had hobbled away with hammered sidewalls and bent axles. Plastic progress. Jason’s cab, Number 3, more affectionately known as Frank, had just under a million miles on the clock. Not bad for a ten-year-old. All three of the cabs were decked out in beer bottle green with a two-inch checkered border running the length of the cab at belt level. The only real problem Jason ever had with Frank was that he had a slow power-steering fluid leak. Apart from that, Frank could sail down I-5 from Vancouver to Seattle on a fresh June day with two Amway wives in the back happily nattering away, doing 110, without so much as a rattle to let on how the pace of the traffic just kind of let it spread its wings like they were always meant to be spread.

"I got shot at just now. Minutes ago. I was going to call it a night and I was heading up Madison near the Sorrento Hotel when these two guys flagged me down. I didn’t really want to stop, but I could have used a few extra bucks so I pulled over, and they said they wanted to go to Oscars, you know, the ‘family’ restaurant on 21st and Madison. So I took a deep breath and figured I’d take them. Well, on the way, one of the guys turns to the other and says ‘Look, I don’t even know you.’ So I figured we were all in for a fun ride. When I got to the intersection at 21st and Madison, naturally, everybody and their brother was hanging out on all four corners, then just as I pulled into the parking lot of the place, suddenly all of these black guys swarmed around the cab. So one of the guys rolls down the window and says ‘Get away from the cab, I’m going inside.’ And these black guys are saying, ‘Man, there’s nothing in there.’ ‘Get away from the cab, I’m going inside.’ ‘There’s nothin’ IN there, man.’ ‘Get away from the cab.’ So he opens the door and heads into the place. I turned to the guy who was still in the back seat and said, ‘So, is this something big or just something little?’ And he says, ‘Oh, just something little.’ So, I sit and wait for about five minutes with the meter running and the guy finally comes out and I start to get out of the parking lot, right to the intersection where the light was red, and I had one foot ready to hit the gas and I had my body poised so that at the least little sound I was under the dash, and it took years for the light to turn green. When it did turn green, I gently put my foot on the gas when all of a sudden there was a gunshot right behind the cab, and I flew up Madison and over the hill and by the time I got them back to where I picked them up, it was all ‘Look, it fell on the floor.’ ‘No, it didn’t man, that’s dust.’ ‘No, really, look, right here.’ ‘No, man, that’s not it.’ So, I had to open the door for them. ‘C’mon, guys, the nights over’ and I got them out. Ten dollar tip on a five dollar ride, but I’m shaking. Do you have a cigarette?"

"Yeah, sure" Estrelica said, giving the pack to Jason.


Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 6, Part B

Round him she drove, talking and singing he whiled