More of ‘Land Run’ and my 20 somethings against the crazy world. There’s a lot of peripheral activity cut to see if these two gel inside the bigger story. I suppose it’s good sometimes to watch sub text like picture in picture.
Maddie reached for her phone on the towel by the tiled, built-in hot tub in the fleeing lawyer’s almost ex-wife’s back patio. More like a courtyard. The house was a big U around the xeriscaped back yard and patio, pool, hot tub set up. Nice grill, too. And a stainless steel baby fridge full of decent chardonnay. There were worse ways to be dumped.
Harli watched the city she grew up in go by, north to south. Riding in a stolen luxury SUV, with a guy she didn’t know. “How long have you been stealing cars?”
“Thirteen years old. Thirteen years and I would have been 10 when I started.” He checked her out the corner of his eye. She’d been talking to the window like she was afraid to look at him. “That was in Detroit, before we moved. I tried to quit a squad when I was fifteen, they didn’t like it, mom wanted me alive a little longer. Like Fresh Prince. Only the Oakland side of the Bay, not L.A., mom came along, and no rich relatives. What about you?”
“Dad. And mom…I was eighteen. Just graduated high school.” She let that hang a few beats. “Ka-Bloooey! Mom said she’d never been so happy. Turned out it wasn’t for me, but because she was tired of my dad’s ‘endless quest for stupid things to with his penis’, and with me out of the house she could finally do something about it. The next day mom called some guy with the biggest pickup I’ve ever seen to come get all dad’s stuff and take it to the drilling company’s pipe yard. She was his business partner, on paper, and she forced a sale on his drilling business. Told him how the money was going to go and he could take the deal or she’d make him out to be the biggest weenie waving hole driller in history and he’d lose everything. He took it. I went to college, Mom sold everything and went to Florida to be a snotty, country club divorcé and Dad went to Mexico to run a high end kink carnival and whore house .”
“And you fit into their reincarnated shituations how?”
“I don’t. If it wasn’t for school, I’d be homeless.” He watched her shoulders sigh with that. “Not broke…”
“But nowhere real to be? I get that.” He tipped the blinker, checked the lane camera and moved over for the airport exit.
She turned away from her window of denial, watched him drive in his state of relaxed vigilance for a few before she blurted, “Have you ever felt like someone launched all the pinballs in your game of life at once, and then walked away from the table?”
Flash drove around the airport parking lot one time, scanned each row as he went by, parked the Lexus in the middle. “Stuff your hair in the hat and pull it down.” He handed Harli a pair of big, seventies style sunglasses from the bag, watched her stuff her hair and helped her squash the hat. He pulled his cap down, flipped up the collar of his shirt. “When you get out, look at the ground and follow my feet.”
She stuck to him like velcro. He kept his head down, counted the rows as he walked. On the eighth one he turned right and stopped four cars in. He tapped the handle and the doors unlocked. He dropped into the driver’s seat, entered a four number code on the console. A woman’s robot voice said from somewhere behind the dash, “Entry Validated. Anti-theft disarmed.” He sat back into the seat and relaxed.
They left the top up and kept their sunglasses on because he’d joked that neither of them looked like foreign software engineers or plastic surgeons. A comment that cemented him as West Coaster for her, because where they were it was more likely oilies and crooked lawyers. Which they didn’t look like, either.
Flash was full of easy conversation, had let her talk out her parent’s messy divorce and her loss of a sense of place without placating commentary. He was comfortable with himself, and her, and was becoming addictively fun to be around. For a car thief. The drive-through cherry limeade and onion rings at Sonic that ended up in the shade of a struggling tree in the adjoining WalMart parking lot were an unexpected treat.
She set the limeade back in the cup holder on her side. “You’re still shitting me about your name.”
“No more than you. Harli with an I, Davidson. Hookers are more original.”
“Look.” She handed him her thin, front pocket driver’s license and credit card only wallet. “Harli. With an I, Davidson.”
“I know a guy who prints these. Why’d you go for California? It’s easier to not be you in Ohio or West Virginia, somewhere off the reality index.”
“I go to school in California. Leventhal, USC. Almost a Masters in Accounting. Global economies and all that.”
“Say hey, neighbor to the south. Berkley. Almost Modern Literary and Visual Culture Masters. More like film and lit cross contamination. Nobody knows what’s art and what’s not, so we argue and throw money at the university until the day they say we need to write a thesis and graduate.”
“A liberal arts car thief from Berkley with a crazy fake name. My lucky day.”
“You look, my Southern Cal global economist friend.” He handed her his identical to hers front pocket wallet. “See. Flash Lieght. It’s even on my debit card.”
“That’s Leet. Or Late, not –”
“The i-e is like ‘pie’. Lieght. When I was little they called me Lite. L I T E. Like Lite Lieght because I was skinny and…Never mind.”
She knew she was laughing too much and couldn’t help it. “You said you knew someone who could print these. My name’s on my American Express, Lite Lieght.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “So there.”
They handed back their respective front pocket card and license wallets, got in a finger tug of war over the onion rings. He laughed, she blushed and flipped the visor down and checked her teeth in the mirror to hide it.
“This place has always made me feel like I have dust on my teeth. Since I was a little girl. All gritty.”
“It’s the dust and wind combo. That airport parking lot was a sandbox.” He reached for the limeade, too late. “Where am I taking you when you finish the rings and the Route 44 by yourself?”
She pushed the nearly empty onion ring bag towards him and held out the Route 44. “My friend has been driving, but it’s the Marriott, on the north loop, I remember that. And it’s not far from the Chili’s where we stole…” She stumbled over the thought speed bump of car boosting. “I don’t remember the exit but there’s a Lowe’s across the street. With a Starbucks and a Wendy’s in the parking lot.”
“That corner repeats every five miles anywhere you go.”
“Well, I —”
“No prob. I’m in the Super 8 off the same exit.”
“Say hey, neighbor to the north.” She smiled, big. He grinned back before he looked over his shoulder and pulled out into traffic.
Shit. Her stupid, big, happy-girl smile had to jump out on its own. Maddie better not want to shoot this Flashlight guy. It would totally suck if she did.