Rather than go random, and facing time constraints, I’m using this September scene-a -thon to flesh out an idea in a completely alien (first-person personable) format. It should be noted that I went to Half Price Books yesterday and picked up no fewer than 7 ancient Mickey Spillane, Faulkner and Earle Stanley Gardner pulps. So…
“I don’t like helicopters.” She hooked my arm with hers. Hooked. A perfect word.
“Why?” She would always look better in one of my shirts, crazy hair, inquisitive eyes and all than I ever would.
“I was flying before I could drive. I’m probably alive today because of my deep and abiding distrust of helicopters. Besides,” I flipped an omelet the size of the twelve-inch skillet, “with good weather I can be airborne in 75 feet, maybe less, so…”
“Who needs one, right?” She furrowed her eyebrows. “You do know the only reason it flipped with such ease is all the butter.”
“It’s a skill.”
“Don’t kid yourself. It’s the butter.” She released my arm, ran a pizza wheel through the omelet and held back half while I tilted the pan and let half slide off onto her plate. I moved the skillet and let the other half drop the same way on mine.
“Butter is something I learned from my mother. I hear olive oil is healthier, but I save that for vegetables.”
“Tu Madre, eh? Did she die of a coronary?”
“Decent genes and you know about vegetables.” She dropped a sausage link on her plate, licked her fingertips. “And you can almost cook.” The cocked eyebrows and smile were for effect before she stepped outside in the morning shade of hundred-year-old cottonwoods and pecan trees that surrounded my patch of planet Earth. “How can it be that such a wonderful morning prefaces the heat of hell?”
Cav didn’t expect an answer, like most people who comment on predictable weather, and stood barefoot, one hip kicked out slightly to the side, on the pea gravel I’d liberated from a looked-abandoned Texas highway department earth, sand and gravel stash. She forked a small mouthful of omelet and looked out at my lake. I say mine. It wasn’t very big, but stock ponds are lakes in parts of Texas. And I was the only mostly full-time squatter on this one. My nearest neighbor was an ancient black man who grumbled but never spoke, lived off-site and drove up with his dog in about fifteen minutes when someone called from the phone hanging off the back of the gas pump at the marina. Which had happened three times in seven months. I think having a marina or an improved boat ramp makes it officially a lake, even though the marina was a pier, a shack and a gas pump and the back-your-boat-in ramp was a pair of muddy ruts next to the ‘marina.’ I stepped out to join her.
“That’s the one?” She nodded at the Cub Craft sitting half-in and half-out of the water, tied off to an old parking lot concrete bar. “She flies in 75 feet?”
“Good weather, medium load and the floats off.”
“I want to see.”
“Pendejo. I’m eating. Hey. You didn’t tell me you had Tabasco.” She tapped my nose with her fork. “Do you know of Kerrigan? It’s a town in this Texas of yours.”
“No. But Texas is big. There’re places west of here where it’s so far between trees dogs have exploded before they got to the next one to pee.”
“That’s a stupid joke.”
“There are other variations. My dad used to tell this one about a round barn on Route 66 in Oklahoma –”
“I’m sure he did. Save it for me, though, por favor? For a time in the very distant future when I would like you to be almost clever.” She stuck the fork in her mouth again.
So that was it. Goal equals Kerrigan, Texas. Yesterday afternoon, not long after I asked her to marry me for bringing spicy jumbo shrimp backed with Negra Modelo and we’d both smoked a small cigar, Cav asked about my living arrangements. I’d told her “On a lake not far from here I have an old, partially redone Airstream with a new air conditioner.” She said she’d follow me, that she had two steaks on ice in the cooler and we had unfinished business to discuss. After a twilight grill and chill accompanied by a chorus of bugs, frogs, waterfowl and the occasional shrill caw of a hawk in the distance the unfinished business turned out to be making love without being interrupted by gun-wielding, drug running head cases. In air conditioning. In a bed.
Making love was something she said she hadn’t done since our coitus interruptus in Columbia. She also claimed it was four months before she’d discovered I’d made it out alive. For reasons unknown the CIA people who had backed her play down there didn’t want us within half a continent of each other, until, again for reasons unknown, we were now the undead together, and I was a licensed pilot. Again.
Back on that making love, I wondered what was for sale in Kerrigan, Texas, that required a saleslady of her caliber. Impatience pushed hard on my curiosity while I watched her eat. I knew it would get worse when she’d finish, take my plate in with hers, get dressed while I waited outside in a faded cushion covered Adirondack chair that needed a paint job. I heard her scrunch on the pebbly gravel behind me. Somebody should tell women nothing they can throw money at smells better on them than soap and shampoo. In a surprisingly uncharacteristic move, she sat in the other Adirondack and set two fresh coffees on the cable-spool table between us rather than dragging me out of the chair to the plane.
“Paro, do you wish, sometimes, that you still smoked?”
“That’s a loaded question. Yes. And no. Smoking is a random vice for me.”
“Lucky you. Every day I fight the fight. I have these friends. A couple.” She seemed wistful, lost in her coffee steam and sunrise streaking the lake.
“And this couple?”
“Yes, sorry. They do not smoke. For months. Then one day, it’s a party or some friends together. Sports on television or something, drinks, and burnt food. They buy a package of cigarettes. They sit and together smoke them all up. In an afternoon.” She used her index and middle fingers, both hands, alternating to her lips like a double-fisted chain smoker. “Then? When they are drunk or sleepy they go to bed. Tomorrow, in the morning? They will run five miles together. And again, go for months not smoking.” She looked across the table at me. “I could never do such a thing.” It had tinges of both question and remorse.
“If you’re awake your foot is through the firewall.” I tested the coffee. Strong, hot, perfect. “You have reservoirs of zeal. And windmills to conquer. “ I wouldn’t expect you to do anything half-assed, or on a casual, occasional basis.” She wasn’t looking at me, but might as well have been.
“I have been told my expectations are too high. That I’m demanding.” She raised her eyes, her hands working. “That my causes are many, and often futile.”
“That you’re a cold, loveless, heartless bitch who should keep her nose out of things much bigger than your personal vision of their repair.”
“I have told you this before?”
“Maybe last night. After being demanding, with high expectations.” This time she did go a little crimson.
“Last night I wanted a cigarette.”
“There’s a joke waiting in that.”
“It has waited this long, allow it to age further. To find its perfection.”
“You’re saying my jokes are like good Scotch?”
“I was thinking more of terrible cheese.”
Like everything else Cav did I figured sex was also a pedal to the metal Holy Grail activity and not subject to diminishment by humor, so I let the smoking sex joke drop. The last thing Cavanaugh Moreno wanted anyone to know was that on rare occasions she might be a real person, not a constant pain in the ass Donna Quixote. I heard a windmill creaking in the morning breeze, so I waved away a pesky horsefly, stood, held out my hand. “Let’s go for a plane ride, Moreno. You can tell me about Kerrigan. Maybe do a late lunch in Galveston.”
“I love a man with expandable boundaries.” She hooked my arm. “But one who is openminded, I love him even more.”
“God knows I’m a born pleaser.”
“Fantastico!” She skipped toward the Cub, still hooked on my arm. “Corpus is an option.”
Anonymole has decided on a whiff of an idea from me that September is scene month. Not every day, but often, we should offer a short scene that stands alone and when you walk away you have a decent idea of what’s going on and might want to turn the page. This is number 3 of “Hukt awn seens werks fur mee!”
Special thanks to JTK in Canadian for small towns and smoking stories and JGM for the balls to the wall broad.