This is an excerpt from a project that will never see the light of day titled ‘Land Run.’ It contains more of my 20 something kids in the midst of grown up weirdness. For me this is like posting a sketch, not a polished bit of anything, but I’m going to cut more of these loose after the close of Bobby B Book One. From ‘Land Run’, here’s Harli and Flash.
Harli and Maddie followed the house shooter into the bar at Chili’s an exit away from his motel. The hospital complex they’d passed had brought upper middle class burbs, slab shopping centers and a mile long run of hotels and motels on the north side loop, along with the requisite franchise food places. Cookie cutter America. They could have been anywhere from Miami to Seattle.
Kevin sat at a bistro-height table by himself, listlessly drug a straw around a tall glass of Coke. He kept his sunglasses on because his eyes would tell everyone about his afternoon of some big green bud from NorCal and four baseball games on different screens in a topless bar. He prided himself on being able to clear the cover charge, pick up an unfinished drink from a table on his way in, wave off waitresses and look at boobs for two hours, three bucks, total.
His shadows hadn’t bothered to follow him into the topless bar. No stateside topless bar held a candle to Bumpers and they agreed that they’d just bitch about the sticky floor and vinyl booths, so they sat at the back of the parking lot in the rented Camry. Harli learned, during the parking lot wait and debate about everything from politics to economics to sex for hire, that Maddie had gotten a gun from somewhere. A no nonsense Browning nine with a spare clip. All Maddie had said when asked was “just in case.”
The Chili’s wait wasn’t going much better than the topless bar wait except they were inside. Forty minutes in, a twenty something guy who needed a haircut pulled up a stool by Cali Kevin and ordered something clear and carbonated with two lime wedges. The shaggy guy and Kevin hardly spoke, stirred their drinks in unison. The young guy let his eyes roam the restaurant, landing, and briefly staying, on most of the women.
Maddie elbowed Harli. “Wake up, sweety. Real estate agent on final approach, far end of the bar. Aaaaaaaand, there goes our California wonder boy to meet her. They’re mine. The anti-hipster is yours.”
Harli took a deep breath, pulled out the stool vacated by Cali Kev. “Hi. Harli. With an I.”
“Flash. With an F. Before you ask? I don’t come here often.”
“Don’t be a jerk. I don’t like this, either.”
He tilted the Collins glass and drained the last of whatever was in it. “Make it easy on yourself?”
“Straight?” She wished she had one of those hair-toss moves actresses always had at times like this. “You and the old school stoner? S’up with him?”
“A job. An easy job. Buy me another Sprite?”
“You’re the one with a job. I’m working for my dad this summer.”
“I never met my dad. What’s yours do?”
“He owns an erotic resort in Mexico.” She’d learned to say that quickly with no facial giveaways. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“So.” The waitress picked up his glass and asked ‘another?’ with her eyebrows, he shook his head in a lazy ‘no’. “You’re in the mix with video Kev and the real estate agent. And the lawyer and his about to be ex-wife. Everybody’s screwing everybody on that deal.”
“I said, don’t look at me like that.” She tried a serious don’t-mess-with-me look that fell short. “I’m not screwing anybody. And how do you know about all that?”
“I do confidant and Kev likes to talk when he’s baked, which is 24/7. I hate to break up our party, Harli with an I, but I have to go steal a car.”
“Big ‘way’, Nineties movies girl. How am I supposed to pay for college, Harli with an I? Minimum wage and two hours’ sleep?”
“Stop it with the I thing.”
“Wanna come? No weapons, broken glass or alarms. Nice car. ”
She gave it a split second. “When in Rome, right?” She slid off her stool when he stepped off his.
“Okay, Harli with an I, first —”
She stuck her finger in his upper arm. “I told you.”
“I’m listening, alright?” He rubbed his arm where she’d finger stabbed him.
“Now you are. I’ve never stolen a car. What’s next?”
“I feel like a Lexus SUV. The two spray tanners with stiff hair and tennis skirts that just hit the bar? Stop and say something like ‘didn’t I see you at somebody’s wedding’.”
He walked up to the new, white Lexus SUV hybrid like he owned it, unlocked both doors. Harli stood on the passenger side, frozen to the parking lot. He quick stepped around the Lexus, opened the door for her, slipped her a pair of flesh tone gloves.
“Old people gloves. Not compression, but for cold extremity issues. They’re pretty comfortable and aren’t obvious like vinyl.”
“No, I mean why?”
“Fingerprints. This ride belongs to the lady who wasn’t at your cousin’s wedding. I read her key through her purse when she turned around. Shut the door.”
Harli’s shoulders were up around her ears, hands clasped between her legs. She glanced nervously at him, and then all around the parking lot. “How did you get here if you have to, um, steal a car to leave?”
“The white Civic, three cars down. They’re probably missing it by now, may be hot. That’s why we needed a new one.”
“You don’t have a car?”
“I’m not local.”
“You steal a freaking car every time you need to go somewhere?”
He grinned, fastened his seat belt. “You say that like it’s unheard of, or a bad thing. Buckle up. That is a law we can live with.”
“Right.” She relaxed her shoulders and hooked up. “Do you always steal white cars?”
“I work in themes. The target today is a white Benz AMG SLS, so I started with a white Mustang. Bad choice. It had the little turbo four-banger and an automatic. What a dog. Like this thing, too sluggish. But these Lexi hybrids are real ass-kissers and I’m on a date. Get in my backpack and pull out two hats. They have cameras where we’re going.”
She reached into the backpack he’d set on the console. “They had cameras at Chili’s, date man.”
“Off-line. The hostess and the manager were on it when we left.” He checked the backup camera, eased out of the parking space. “They’ll call rent-a-nerd, he’ll charge them a hundred dollars for a four-dollar power supply on top of a sixty-dollar service call.”
Harli pulled out two San Francisco 49ers ball caps and a wall-wart power supply attached to a neatly wrapped cord.
“The hundred dollar power supply looks like this one?”
“Just like that one.”
Harli’s phone signaled her with Maddie’s text tone. She pulled her phone out, thumbed a few rounds back and forth.
Flash waited until she was finished before he dropped the Lexus into drive. “We’re good?”
She raised up off the seat and stuffed her phone in her back pocket, blew out a long sigh and looked out at the Chili’s where she’d gone in a twenty-three-year-old good girl masters in international economics honor student and come out a car thief.
“Yeah, we’re good.” She turned back to him with a big-eyed, seriously freaked look, grabbed his forearm and shook it. “Please tell me I didn’t just flush my life.”