At an intersection in a shady part of town where dark immigrants and refugees of foreign disturbances crept in weird tracery among the long sunset shadows, a popular family owned phô joint named the Flyin’ Bowl recently found itself with new competition. Just over the bridge that spanned a tight bundle of Santa Fe railroad tracks, this rival had the same menu, the same recipes, even the same name (the Fly in Bowl) and members of the same family steering the enterprise. Tommy Ruangsawat’s sister had manipulated the matriarch of the family into giving her blessing to an expanded operation of sorts. The remainder of the family wrote the sister off in disgust. She kept a tighter ship, a cleaner ship, and that’s why Delilah chose the Fly in over the Flyin’. And it’s usually less crowded, she said as they sat down at a table that soon revealed an unruly short leg, and Tommy has a bit of a crush on me.
Delilah’s five feet of dark hair and Asian lips settled and her eyes finally met his and he became acutely cognizance of his very precarious position. She’s way smarter than you, Poole had told him, she’s the smartest person in any room she walks into. That’s a reason not to try? isn’t that the very reason to try? Poole had given him a comic gesture of disregard.
You fuckin with the phô? she asked him with a spasm of Groucho brow and her perfect grin.
Why though? Poole asked him, why there? you could’ve gone anywhere; especially after all that crap.
Why though? Poole asked him, why there? you could’ve gone anywhere; especially after all that crap. It’s cheap, first of all and it was familiar after being in the park; dangerous sure but I think the chaos of it all may have saved my ass a few times; nobody wants to go in there. Hatchet shook his head and smiled, closed his eyes. And I have taken so many photographs, Dexter, good ones; I’ve got some amazing stuff; I’ve been to some amazing places, seen incredible things. But you could have gone anywhere, Poole repeated, I still don’t get it. Maybe I don’t either, man, originally, the plan was to drive to Ecuador, ya know? sell solar modules to Eurotrash, maybe find a brown girl, start a bean farm, breed myself a baseball team. Cute, Marcus. But things got complicated. They always do. Shit hit the fan and I thought I could disappear; I was wrong.
Hatchet gave an account of a standoff between Mexican police and the small village of Podrido after a young boy was killed by a policeman who also happened to be a member of the Asesinos. The negotiations lasted for three days and then the shooting commenced. Hatchet watched ambulances swim through the fluid distance to carry away dead and wounded policemen followed by more negotiations followed by more bullets followed by more bodies and more failed communication. He watched the final shootout last twelve hours, watched grenades thrown at women and children, watched people burn in the dusk, watched people executed at dawn behind a wall while a caravan of news crews sat blocked two miles up the shimmering two lane blacktop curling like a satin ribbon across the yellow and olive swells of Coahuila.
Here, Hatchet removed a folded piece of paper from his wallet, I printed the story that ran in El Toro; fucking incredible.
Jane Arness had conquered nursing school, laid waste to three long-term relationships, one of them with a woman, and successfully peddled some of the largest tracts of Panhandle real estate and all of this within four years.
She built a monument of respect in the feminist community by using board memberships in non-profits and charity organizations and college museums as her brick and mortar. Life with a forced smile had long ago become a pairing she disliked. She wanted to smile without having to raise with ropes and pulleys the corners of her face to please some sterile sack of guts whose rudeness nearly outweighed her need to extract large sums of money from it for the greater good. Her sanity she placed squarely on the shoulders of Hatchet and Poole and their willingness to take a beating if she felt like they needed one.
Poole lit the pipe and inhaled and handed it to Jane who was giving Hatchet a concerned stare. She’d just privileged him with another speech on his lack of employment and how handouts from the state weren’t going to last if the Feds didn’t get their shit together. It was the kind of speech she had repeatedly given Hatchet when they first met. When they were an item. An item that didn’t last long. She eventually told him that he was just too much of a man for her, a line he still found entertaining and brought it up on the slightest hint that it might be relevant to the discussion, usually on the topic that Poole called Jane’s attraction to bearded ladies.
After the weather had improved that first week of Hatchet's return and against Poole's pleading, Hatchet had moved to the banks of a secluded creek that ran through the heart of a wildlife preserve operated by an old friend of his family.
He found a deep draw where his truck could easily be driven around a caliche cliff onto a small open bank with a huge hollow elm on which he could hang heated water in collapsible five-gallon water jugs to shower. A thirty-watt solar panel charged a gel cell twelve volt battery system that ran an inverter for electricity and he and Malorie would sit by a campfire drinking beer and wine, watching black and white movies on his laptop into the early morning. She teased him constantly for what she called his mountain man ways. He told her the sky is the best bed sheet he had ever known and the sun is the most reliable alarm clock he had ever owned and he had grown to hate the idea of sleeping under a roof. The occasional high altitude airliner proved to be the only sign of civilization that ever pestered him.
A few days subsequent to his confrontation with the angry fellow in the nightclub, he and Malorie lay cuddling under heavy blankets watching Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. Hatchet spent most of the film describing to her how Howard Hawks had drastically changed the setting and the plot from Hemingway's original novel, erasing most of the author's hints at Marxism and completely relocating the story from Florida and Cuba to the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Malorie tried to change the direction of the conversation, remarking Bacall’s age at the time of the film and her anorexic slouch but Hatchet continued with Hemingway's sympathies for the communist supported Loyalist during the Spanish Civil War. So she finally relented to his obvious desire to press her into a deep political discussion, something she had done a worthy job of avoiding until now, deflecting his unremitting hints at his anarchism since the moment she had unveiled her intentions for public office. Their most esoteric conversations thus far had been over literature or film or her depressing family history. Now, after many desperate and ignored attempts to discuss religion with him, a far more important subject in her opinion, he was forcing her to discuss politics. I thought you were an artist, she jabbed him, compose me a poem or something. I’m doing cocaine in the bathroom of your heart—. Oh fuck that.
He chose a spot called Rice Tank, named for the adjacent earthen water catch built for the Rice family cattle herd roughly ninety years ago.
Hatchet liked it for its relatively long distance from Glen Springs Road, the one lane backroad barely maintained by the park service with gravel pooling in the lower ruts, plagued by dangerous terraced slabs of unearthed rock and craters. If one followed it south, Mexico lay at the bottom of two hours of haggard decent through the desert across the Rio Grande. Since the terror attacks of 2001, it became highly illegal to cross into Mexico from the park but Hatchet knew wandering bands of immigrants and errant drug runners and just plain stupid gringos did it all the time. Moreover, where he planned to go in Mexico, rumors held it could be difficult to find people for hundreds of miles but he knew even out here in this brutally indifferent wilderness, there existed all possible manner of human activity. Rice Tank lay directly at the foot of Chilicotal Mountain, a 4,000 foot oblong stretch of hill with a lapsed rock face high up near its spine that had been shedding massive cubed boulders down its western face for millions of years. He parked his truck at the south facing campsite and pitched the tent for use in the off chance of inclement weather.
"Woody told the story of Bob Simmons from Denver, Colorado.
Bob arrived in town for the funeral of a grandmother with whom he never enjoyed much of a connection. While in town through the weekend, Bob woke up Sunday and went to Church just as he had done every Sunday morning since the summer of his 6th year. By the time of his grandmother’s death, Bob barely knew anything more about the Bible or Jesus than he did at six but he certainly attended services and he certainly liked to be entertained and it didn’t take much to entertain the somewhat dense slug of a guy who was Bob Simmons from Denver, Colorado, so naturally Bob frequented the local mega churches in the Denver area, all of them found on the same web site on which he found Calvary Fellowship this particular Sunday morning. Bob traipsed through Calvary Fellowship to an aisle seat, his personal preference, and within minutes, three men approached him, wearing flimsy plastic card necklaces with the gaudy Guardian logo flapping against their chests as they walked. The loud music forced the Guardians to lean into his ear. They asked to search his bag.
My bag? Your pouch. My pouch? Your fanny pack, sir. Oh, that? You want to search it? Yes, sir. He removed the belt and handed it to the nearest of them who unzipped it. Any weapons or needles I need to know about before I put my hand in here? Nope. Nothing dangerous or suspicious was found but two of the Guardians still felt he posed some sort of threat although no one is quite sure what that threat could’ve been especially after the initial search. Minutes after the first invasion of Bob Simmons’ fanny pack, the two most adamant of the Guardians returned to his pew and asked to search his bag. Again. Bob Simmons felt slighted. No, he said, you’ve had your fun. Now leave me alone.
"Composed and quieted, he returned to the show, determined to ice over.
From here on, fear is of no consequence; there is no turning back, he told himself as he snagged another champagne in stride, nodded and smiled his way to the darkened patio and a cool breeze laced with fall. He sat among an older group many of them probably not locals. He looked at his watch again staring at the hours between him and the deed. After drinking the rest of his champagne, he stood to return to the party and possibly smooth over his behavior with Jane but there at the end of the rail stood Malorie, the dewy-eyed girl who drank white tea in the afternoons. She was searing the very dust in the air around her, immolating any hint of iniquity within her range of influence like some magical cream-red stick of incense, the subject of palpable jealousy in the middle-aged faces around her.
Excuse me, he said, physically compelled to step right up to her. My name is--.
"The next morning was Saturday morning.
He and Olivia sat in miniature chairs around a miniature table dressed with miniature utensils and ware on the second story deck at the rear of Allison's parents' house. Olivia, now nine, spoke to her guests with calm cadence. There was a stuffed Chihuahua and a lion and her father and a little green parrot dressed as a pirate with a salty sneer on his face and another little bird sitting on his shoulder. He could hear her but he wasn't listening. She poured them tea, real Earl Grey off the kitchen stove.
From the deck, he could see across the stilted highway into the canopy of neighborhood trees on the other side. An apartment complex broke through it and stood against the flatness of the clear sky as the painting of a building, not a real place but a decoration. He was staring at the cosmic blue brushed against its edges without a thought in his head. All he could grasp or care to involve was the suggestion of a penumbra between the two. His brain meat barely sizzled with activity.
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.