Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 4 | Winter 1985 (Seattle) /// Issue 14 of 24 /// Master# 62 of 73

couldn’t get a plan; I couldn’t figure an action because this was the sort of deal where everybody’s doing the right thing, sweet as pie, and it’s still totally fucked up somehow when it slapped their dresses. Cramped as things were, the area around me and this guy cleared like we were a couple showing off on a dance floor, and I could stand there and watch—like I was a long way off and out of danger—the adrenalin explode in his veins; his face went scarlet, his nose blood spread out on his T- shirt, and his eyes bulged like a cartoon character being strangled . When he came at me I knew for him the fight was over. You le.t yourself get that mad and you lose, you waste everything. So I just stood back a ways and let the man do his bee in a jar routine, and when I saw two rent-a-cops coming, I creamed this poor fucker so solid it skinned my knuckles, bad. Why would I need a gun in a deal like that? Jarrett just loved this. He talked about it the rest of the day, went over it in detail, and when he told Sharon Iwatched her in the mirror. She didn’t seem to think much of it. This was my little game with her: whenever we went to pick her up I’d try to guess exactly where she’d sit; then being real casual, I’d adjust the mirror to that spot so I could watch her, try to catch what she was thinking. She was onto this pretty soon. She'd dodge me no matter where I put it. What I’d do then is massage the steering wheel with my hands, making my extensors ripple, figuring Sharon would like seeing that. Their nights weren’t really the high life we hear about, I guess. Jarrett and Sharon didn’t go for the Hollywood scene, considering the fact they were smack in the middle of it. What they liked most is to eat with friends, most of them from outside the business. That seemed okay. I could hear them laughing their asses off, even from where I was up the drive. They ate real high on the hog, too, junk I always steer clear of, like salmon mousse; ducks with caper sauce all laid out on the plate to look like they’re still flying; and the weirder stuff, like jellyfish and squid dick, probably; and it seemed like all of it had to be served in flames, or stabbed with swords, or eaten on hot black rocks. Iknow because after the first month we became friends, I guess you’d say. I think decking the guy at the hydrotube is what turned the tide with Jarrett, like I’d saved his life or something. Now, instead of Selena bringing my meals to the little house, or them buying me hamburgers when I drove them evenings, they’d have me eat with them at the table or take me to whatever restaurant, so that’s what I’m talking about. They loved my stories. One night I told them about me and Kyle and the lifeguard and the Australians, and Kyle’s head sticking out of the sand. We couldn’t help it—Jarrett and me got laughing so hard we couldn’t work the corkscrew. Finally, he handed the wine to Sharon and she did it for us. When I got to the part where the one guy was feeding the sand to Kyle, calling him a bloody little poofter, she started laughing, and nobody could pour the wine, we were so weak from cracking up. They also started feeling embarrassed about leaving me in the car, Jarrett said, “Like a collie with his nose against the glass.” I didn't mind. I’d drink vodka from a windshield cleaner bottle I ditched in the glove, crank up one of Jarrett’s old Dick Dale tapes through the headphones and think about the beach, or great times I’d had, or Sharon and what she’d look like naked, and whether I had an ice cube’s chance with her. Sometimes I’d work on plans of what I’d do if I got her alone. One of the ideas was to tell her I’d been thinking about the day we met at Huntington, and I figured this would get to her. Another idea was to just grab her and get her down and pull her clothes off with my teeth; maybe that would do the trick. Then I’d think I should use humor on her. She thought I was so funny. That I knew for sure. So, anyway, if they went out, I got included, and was introduced as a friend. Sometimes when the three of us walked along together, like when we took Gielgud out for a grunt, we’d get to screwing around and link arms, me in the middle. Being that close I got the chance to really watch Sharon, see exactly what her deal was with Jarrett. She wasn’t one of his groupies, I’ll say that first. She had a way of acting: There was a kind of area around Jarrett she wouldn’t go into unless things were right. She’d come into a room and stand away from him until she'd checked him out, saw which way the wind was blowing, you might say. It looked like he did the same with her. Then when they talked directly to each' other she’d pick her words real carefully, almost slow; the lovey-dovey stuff came a little at a time. Their arrangement had its share of thrills and spills, like I guess regular romance is supposed to have, but she always seemed to be in there handling it like an egg toss. Maybe she was afraid of him, is what I wondered. If that’s what she keyed to, no problem. I could make her afraid. But nothing makes me jealous. That’s another one of my strong points. Driving them home from work, I’d watch them in the back; after a minute of quiet she’d pat his leg, and they’d start in on their day, and whoever was doing the talking, the other would listen until the ball was in their court. Somewhere along Ventura one might rub the other’s cheek or something with the back of their hand, and by the time I swung the gate open at the place, and we curved through the pavestone drive, they were pretty much making out. I thought sometimes that’s the only reason they hired a driver—I mean, a Lamborghini's no limo—so they could get white-hot on the way home from wherever they’d been. So the rule is not to be the jealous type. In fact, I used what I saw. Later on, in the shower or someplace, I’d think of her back there with Jarrett and give my mule a righteous flogging. Which was great, because then, every time I looked at Sharon, it was like we were having this secret thing together. Right about this time I started thinking I’d better call Sis. She’d think I was dead by now, I figured, so the surprise would be pretty funny. If I’d known the way it was going to turn out, if I'd known it was going to start something I couldn’t stop, I would have kept my mouth shut. A few times when I had the place to myself I cruised the phone, got my hand near the plastic, then for some reason chickened out. One Saturday I saw Sharon go out to catch some rays by the pool, and I went and did it. Kristina was real happy to hear from me and all that, but naturally she wanted to know things in particular. The more I wouldn’t say, the more curious she got, until I guess it seemed pretty stupid my putting her off. Even so, Iwas thinking Sis had a real great voice, and Ijust knew she was sitting there, holding her two year old by the edge of his T-shirt while he tried to get away. Just then Sharon walks in dripping wet and so beautiful with her slippery skin, and figures out who I’m talking to, and grabs the phone out of my hand and says to Sis, “Guess who this is?” Sharon thinks it’s hilarious when I try to get it back, and so I look at her wrist, knowing what I could do, knowing I could fix this deal, right now. Sharon’s turned her back to me and is talking about the old times, giggling, talking faster, heading toward something. I feel that sensation in my arms and fingers, like there’s sand in my veins. All of a sudden, out of the clear blue, she invites Sis over for dinner. “And bring the baby,” she says. On my way out the door I hear Sharon call my name, but I'm gone, walking across the yard, into the island of shrubs in the middle of the drive-around as if it was a steaming jungle; there was a place in there, some tight quarters, where I could think for a minute. I stripped the leaves off a few branches, felt them pack into the palm of my hand, then fall into the shade near my feet. Sis always said she didn’t get me. She says I’m a Good Time Charlie who’s itching for a fight, and that doesn’t make any sense to her. And I say, yeah, well, that’s because you don’t surf waves with your body. It’s so fine and wild and dangerous in there, you could get lost. But I never forget for one minute it’s really a hole, is what it is, and I’m the sort of person who likes to see how close he can get without falling through it, without letting go—once you do, you’re a dead man. You got to keep your head about you, stay sharp upstairs, never lose the plan. That’s the way to work the good times, that’s how you do the right thing, Sis, and come out alive. You guard the perimeter. That’s why I have to chip some face bones now and then, I’m just guarding the perimeter. So then I was standing in the bushes thinking, the problem with this was, I a.k.a. books 5241 U.Way N.E. 522-8864 Left Bank Books 92-Pike 622-0195 Clinton St. Quarterly 23