Chapter 76

“Over, underestimate one’s
self and those around you,
best to take the points.”

“Sorry, just can’t help you at this point in time…”

“When then?” Was that a chartreuse leisure suit going by?

“Things have simply been a bit slow…I’ve nothing for…”

“But you’ve been telling me that for over a week now, Mrs. Hingman. What is it, the aptitude test—it’s the test, isn’t it?” With a pink shirt and tangerine tie yet…

We have no problem with your scores, Mr. Herbert, is it? Sad to say, the test doesn’t translate immediately into placement.”

Next mornings came and went, but nothing satisfactory had yet come of it. I may have been working out of a phone booth, but Superman, I wasn’t. As for the present, and immediate future, reality was staring me down in a side-window reflection, over the soggy, swivel-up directory that nobody could ever quite open. I could see it clearly enough while straining to straighten out one last Fruit of the Loom T-shirt that had not yet over-ripened around the pits, hoping this was the morning I could commence my corporate San Francisco climb, however shaky the ladder. I’d already MUNIed downtown to undergo a preliminary evaluation and everything, hence came these more vertiginous rungs while the temp agency double checked for viability, flexibility, proximity, chemistry, let alone rap sheets and writs—nobody really trusting anybody in these parts.

Not that I hadn’t cobbled together some sort of a system, routine in the process, beginning with my incarceration, Volvo-wise. Lessee, reveille, condensated windows: wriggle out of my feather-shedding sleeping bag, stuff the Frostline on the floor behind the driver’s seat, the tattered back of which often collapsed doing so. On the shotgun side went a clipboard and jacket; on the front floorboard, a Dopp kit, toolbox, change of shoes—bread, honey, peanut butter, juice, bananas and plastic utensils. A map tray below the dash held more wrenches, matches, screws and bolts, tissues, toiletries and bunwad, with washed out business cards there and in the sun visors. Rear seat: rolled up pants, underwear, shirts folded mercer neat, aside boxes of books and warping LPs, dirty rags on the floor—concealing anything left of value after the Volvo had been looted in the ’Loin. Fading in the package tray were road atlases, hi-litered sosh texts and water-stained paperbacks, along with rinsed out towels and Jockeys drying in the afternoon sun.

Everything else was crammed in the trunk, everything within reach, everything within reason: the car creaking and spring weary with the sum total of my belongings, its dashboard vinyl cracked, headliner dented courtesy of my more frustrated moments. How at once I felt so trapped in there, even while it became a security blanket, sole remaining escape valve to the open road, the only bumper guard between free onward mobility and downward degradation of some Hotel Y. To be sure, the softer and mushier my prospects, the harder and harder it was getting to give that freedom sucker up to where I could see why these jokers stayed out here, harboring their travails with a no-strings view.

“B-b-but I’ve a graduate degree,” I pressed my case nevertheless, personal funds draining as they were. “I should hope they’d be satisfactory…” That dude discoed by with a pocket radio grafted to his ear.

“I feel your pain, I really do,”she said, other phones ringing in the office’s background.“But we have so many degree types coming in lately, and you don’t exactly fit our current placement profile. Now, if only you could type eight-five words a minute…”

“You about done?”

“In a second, I…” And a wooden bead necklace with a voodoo doll hanger?

“Expectin’ a hot call here…”

“Please, anything, Mrs. Hingman, it’s tough out here…” The dude had bleached half his hair, tinted the rest. He was like Travolta, only spasmodic, swinging his arms to Chic’s ‘Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah’. And that drooping lid, christ, poor bastard only had one eye.

“It would be easier if you had a phone number where I might reach you when things pop up,”she counseled in passing, shuffling applications like casino Keno slips. “But check back in first of weekish. Thank you for considering Able Temps, where your future is but a phone call away.” CLICK.

First cut the paycheck, then would come a phone number—yep, eye on the ball, natural progression: job to place to player—Tinker to Evers to last Chance… Able was the first agency up in the Yellow Pages. I had scarfed the idea from Kathy, who said she could type ninety WPM when need be, and played the temp shops even more adroitly than she did her jenny wheel. Lacking that magic touch, I wrestled with the corroded folding door, if only to flee the booth’s urinary tracks, fumes fanned by a 40 mph headwind out of the west. Still, there were all these…oddball persons to watch, orwatch out for, and how this abused car lotstood between me and the sagging solace of a 122S. Then the pay phone rang and I picked up on my way out the door—thinking, hoping Mrs. Hingman had second thoughts.



“Lou Kasten here,” coughed a low, gruff voice. “We still on for Bay Meadows? That new three year-old in the fifth—line feels right, Del…Del?”

“Uh, no, it’s…” I had watched this heavy duty fisherman approach from a long concrete seawall angling out into the bay, hovering outside the phone booth, untangling some hi-test line. “There’s no Del here…”

“This ain’t Del?”

“I’ll take that,” said the yellow bibbed fisherman, fully setting down his buckets and gear.

“Must be for you,” I handed him the receiver, struggling out the half-jammed door as he pushed his way in without saying a word. Damn rusty, sea-salt encrusted thing, nearly had to push through the booth’s riddled glass panels, although the fisherman slid effortlessly in and out the door, no problem for Del.

Nevertheless, I shuffled back to the Volvo, muttering nothing of positive consequence to myself. Delbert having vacated and moved on, that pay phone began ringing again, but I dared not answer the call, not sure whether it was just the rattle of boat tackle, or the noise between my ears. Instead, I beelined toward my car, staring out to the sailboat berths, and some Mylar-gybbed yachts tacking the bay beyond, just this side of a sleek ocean liner steaming out through the Golden Gate, likely bound for Fiji or Tierra Del Fuego. The parking lot’s shifty globetrotter rigs, this circus of over-the-rainbow buses, abandoned rust boxes and tar-covered wagons lent another worldly quality to the entire tableau, save for this scruffy, camo-smeared GMC truck parked nose to nose with a Falcon opposing us, halfway down the row.

“What’re you red ass’n about,” came a parade ground voice from behind the wheel, and a split windshield cauked with roofing tar and duct tape. “You think you got problems? You got nuthin’.”

“What? I’ve got no prob…” I took stock of the battered Jimmy stepvan, a palette of primer and Rustoleum, looked to be a one-time bread wagon.

“Bullshit, I been watching you, draggin’ to the phone booth and back.” Out from the sliding door came a cloud of cigarette smoke. “Gotta be women or work…”

“Got no idea what you’re talking about,” I groused and spun away to keep moving on down the line toward the refuge of my doorlocked sedan. “Gary, is it?”

“Damn straight, and I’m bettin’ it’s the skirts. Guy doesn’t get so crapped up over a five buck-an- hour job.”

“Sorry, not much on the betting front,” I took note of his buckshot peppered Nevada license plate.

“From what I can see, you already gambled and bellied up…”

Or more precisely, bellied under. What began as a simple balancing of the Volvo’s twin carbs had, over the course of the morning, degenerated into a manifold jets and filter bonnet mastectomy and oil pandrain. That, without actually having diagnosed the sedan’s false starts as a circulation problem, as opposed to, say, lube and gas depletion, or the spread of pitted distributor points. So there was that mess to mop up down the row, upon reflection making me not that anxious to re-engage the 122after all.

“Lot you know,” I mumbled. Further study revealed a step van loaded to the rotting roofline with Magic Markered liquor cartons and cases of unlabeled woe. I dogged myself for neglecting to put safer distance between my heap and Gary’s olive drab, two-stall fortification.

The pressing in of the present; the closing in of the past. Lost underpinnings in Colorado, missed possibilities ever since. Late out of life’s starting gate, pulling up lame at the first curve thrown, and hobbling in place out here, with no trainer or cobbler in sight. Go for the doctorate, get a real job—the womb or grown-up world. Take more classes, take some big-boy chances, don’t just be normal, be somebody, find comfort in finding yourself, once and for all. I mean, who in the hell’s got a hold over whom here? Moon, no it was Sydney—maybe a duet dancing dagger-heeled over my carcass. Other times, no it was Syd doing a solo number all night long. When in truth it was simply one of my recurring inner-personal bitches kicking one another door to door around the car—the dark, foreboding flashes of impaired insight that seeped into my semi-conscious like wind through the weather stripping at 3 to 4 a.m. This damn Saturn fallout was ringing around my head like Cassini clockwork, a spin cycle of cosmic debris that had locked in tighter than the high-pressure dome currently wringing California drought dry.

“Listen up, I know how they can mortar your bunker, alright,” Gary coughed, tossing his butt. “I know how one’s fraggin’ mine. They’re lethal, all of ’em—I’m just tryin’ to grease your skid some, troop…”

“Read you, loud and clear, vet to vet,” I neared his open truck door, morbidly curious and clueless as I was. “Still and all, how come you stay so holed up in there?”

“Army, ain’t it? Well, ask her,” he snapped, popping an Oly, offering me one. “She can tell you all about it, her side, anyway.”

“Ask whom,” I nodded impatiently, declining the pop-top brew, turning away.

“Who d’ya think? Hey, what’s your rush, got someplace to go?” he smirked, turning down some George Jones’s ‘White Lightenin’ on his coat wire rigged radio. “Try that new ‘Deer Hunter’ flick, seen it three times already my own self…”

“Look, I’ve got to get my car together, so if you’ll excuse me I’ll be…” Suddenly mopping up oil and tuning my carburetors came to mind again: throttle arm to pivot shaft, needle valve to threaded joint—all stripped down and nowhere to go. Even Alcatraz, that mad, brooding mausoleum out there seemed more inviting than getting stuck right here, right now.

“Then go ask my ex, Lori Ann, that’s who. She’s the one chewed me up, spit me out,” Gary lit another filter-tip Tareyton. “Schemin’ whore’s why I’m out here blowin’ smoke. Vultures damn picked me apart.”

“So, who’s they, and where,” I asked, against whatever judgment I had left.

“Her and her homo lawyer, up top in Reno.”

“Married, in Reno? What are the chances of…”

“Moved there after I retired a hard striper E-6, 20 years RA,” he recalled, fingering some service medals he had pinned to his sun visor. “Met her in Circus-Circus, she was a barmaid, looker too. We got hitched in about five months, I took out a VA loan on a house near Sun Valley, even fostered her little Angela. Here, got snapshots…”

“Uh, you don’t need to go to all that…” I watched as Gary sifted through some shoeboxes on the floorboard, kept handy for his episodic stewovers and just such occasions as this. That’s when I recognized he was clasping the boxes like a bread man delivering the day’s pastries—between his left hand and what was left of his right.

“Three years, box for every one. I’ve preserved the full conspiracy, totally cataloged for the world to see. Got enough here to blow the lid off the whole damn town.”

Preserved? Try documented, chronicled, verified, duly notarized. Three Corfam shoe boxes chock with letters, newclippings, reprints, affidavits and registered mail receipts—stapled, clipped and rubber banded by date and degree of frustration. Official manila envelopes, genuine legal letterhead, cross fastened with enough jackeyed jailhouse briefs and ill-willed depositions to keep any self-disrespecting sulker occupied well into aneurism season.

“Looks like you really filed everything away—conspiracy?” From this close distance, I couldn’t tell if Gary had it all or not, but it was pretty clear he had it bad. I wanted to keep a head gasket or two between me and this slow burning fuse, thinking why the hell I wasn’t over re-threading the Volvo’s Solex choke cable.

“Here, this is where she got me barred from the house,” he pointed to a Xeroxed decree, flicking away a half-smoked cigarette. “My own goddamn house yet…”

“Christ, what did you do to deserve that,” I edged slightly closer, enough to see the screwdriver slashes through the plaintiff’s name, summoning balmy visions of Villa Manana’s Mister Wiggs.

“Nuthin’, that’s what,” Gary snarled, rifling through shoebox number two. “It’s enough to make me punch dents into this buggy when I think about it too much. Then I pound ’em out again.”

“What’s that other form, Cease and Desist…” A lot this jarhead might know about bodywork, what with his meager G.I. flat-top and ragged 50s fenders.

“Bitch just all of a sudden wanted rid of me, keep me away from her and the kid. I wasn’t gonna give in to that without a fight…she’s the one who started up with the lawyers!”

“You didn’t hit her or anything,” I asked warily, yearning for those carburetors to be close enough to get my hands on, not anywhere near touching past images of physicality in the Boulder kitchen between Moon and me. My knees nearly buckled at the thought.

“Never, I sure as hell would remember if I did,” Gary bristled, left handing me the Xerox of what appeared to be a notarized affidavit. “Here’s the one from a hotel orderly that swears she was humpin’ the judge up in Bally’s.”

“What’s this,” I spotted another copy as Gary leaned back against his driver’s stool and fired up another Tareyton. He had an immobilized beer gut, yet was not without the upper body strength of a deputy BCT drill instructor.

“Testimony from Clay Felkey, my neighbor. He tracked her right to Bally’s several times, while I did late shift with the city parks department. He worked in that casino himself.”

“Met three times a week,” I gasped, speed reading what I could into the chili-smudged document. “For the entire summer?”

“Until Clay went on vacation to Vegas, then I took over, got pictures even.” Gary double inhaled, jammed the filtered tip into the corner of his mouth, then pulled a Fotomat envelope out of box number three. “Here, see for yourself…”

“She’s uh,” I bit my tongue while glancing at several overexposed color photos. Lori Ann appeared to be a floozed up, but relatively attractive housewife with Solexes out to here—more than enough for a grunt like Gary to take on singlehandedly. “Tooling right into the hotel, all right. The silver-haired guy trailing her is…”

“His damn honor! Crooked bastard was footin’ everything, even a sitter for Angela. Got copies of the receipts and everything. Where I come from, a man doesn’t go after another man’s ol’ lady no matter what she’s puttin’ out there. Not when it’s a guy’s one decent stab at doin’ things right—nossir, can’t go dishonorin’ that.”

“But how come hizzoner’s only in one picture? In the other shots, she’s going in alone.”

“It’s the only time we actually caught him, that’s why. He was always there, I know he was always there.

“Well, guess you had him, open and shut, huh?” I handed the time-tainted evidence back up to him.

“Except her fag lawyer got it all tossed, inadmissible or something like that. They were in cahoots, I got proof of that, too..”

“Sooo, what did your lawyer…”

“Smarten up, will ya? That shyster didn’t do mucha nuthin’. Felkey figured he got his, just the same. That’s Reno for you,” Gary drew up a yellowed clip from box two, his lengthy ash tumbling into the section marked, ‘Social Scum’. “Here, the paper even printed my letter to the editor where I laid it all out. Next day, the city canned me outright. Yah, I was a park gardener ever since I got out of the VA hospital after ’Nam, for a Claymore mine that went bang near Da Nang, leavin’ me with this…”

“Yeah, wow,” I cringed, suddenly faced with that over-grafted stub of a left hand—ring finger down to the bottom knuckle, the only digit extant. Godsakes, how could he wrap that wedding band around it, especially after all…

I returned the court order, looking away, as if drawing a fresh breath at first step out of that public convenience. Marina boat masts bobbed oh so freely in the afternoon breeze, the chiming of mast pulleys and turnbuckles, and caterwauling of the seagulls. Maximum ebb left the bay a chill lotion blue, churning slowly between them and Belvedere’s toasted brown hills. This conversation was going none so stunningly, but then at the moment, neither were my career or car.

“That’s about when I started campin’ down the street, watching her come and go—just like I been watching you, ka-pow,” he grinned, steely aiming his gun hand my way, pulling his trigger finger.

Pretty soon, she had some part-time cop she was probably screwin’ serve me this.”

“TRO?” I flattened out yet another crumpled and recrumpled Xerox he’d in turn handed my way, avoiding at all costs messing it any further, for Gary seemed to be piquing out. “Says to stay away from her and the house…”

“Think that stopped me? Hell, no! Nobody was keepin’ me out my house, particularly a bitch who just needed to hook some sucker for a free ride. So I stormed the place one night. But they musta been layin’ for me, ’cause the cops were there pronto. Ended up in the brig, they impounded my truck and everythin’…”

Crammed and crazed as Gary’s files seemed, they were Library of Congress compared to the rest of his step van. For at least the shoe boxes full of dog-eared documentation and manic, mostly convoluted pleadings could be contained, rubber banded together, wedged neatly against the engine housing for further curation. His worldly goods appeared to have suffered the extraterrestrial wrath of a comet or meteorite spun wildly out of mission control.

“By the time I got sprung, they hit me with this,” Gary snarled, his brain stem issuing forth like ground fog through his flat-top and fenders. “Another restraining order, keeping me away from Angela too, without what they call court supervision. But I figure what they were really doin’ was set me up for child support. Hey, I got pretty fond of the kid over time, but not that much. Naw, I never once touched her, and they ain’t touchin’ my VA disability if I can help it. Hell with that shit, so I just went to the house to pick up a few things…”

“God, was she there,” I asked. That sounded about as convivial an engagement as meeting two former best friends at an apartment house door. “What did you say to her?”

“Aghh, the scag didn’t have the decency to show her face. She left it to the sheriff’s department, watching over me like I was that Travis Bickle my own house!”

“At gun point or…”

“Not aimed and cocked, but they was carryin’,” he said, gesturing toward the ratty metallic aqua Ford compact, the color equivalent of an abalone shell’s inner core, parked right across from him, grill to grill, again with the front bumper tow hitch. “D.A. bastards said they’d drop the charges if I blew Reno and never looked back. So I packed up my Futura there, and bailed out my truck—loaded up and made for the California line.”

From what I could catch in fast-framed glances, the guy had not exactly packed things in the traditional sense. There were no shelves nor labeled Bekins crates to signify smooth, deliberate transition ordeployment. This wasn’t his end of an era, mere midlife crisis—orthe fork in life’s road, fresh avenues pursued. Rather, the bulk of Gary’s step van appeared loaded by pitchfork, and only got messier over the miles. Strewn clothing, cardboard suitcases and B-4 duffled valises; heaped utensils and what once passed for furniture: the shards of a fractured home.

It was the truck’s violent shredding, the splintering, the piles of savage destroyment formed by mad ass acceleration and frantic braking. Even Gary’s two-door Falcon proved to be a compacted shambles, from its tow bar to a tied-down luggage rack on its trunklid. And where amid all this clutter and rubble could he possibly have rested his stubbled head…

“But I am lookin’ back? You can bet the house on that,” Gary reached into his field jacket for another Tareyton like he’d just slept with the devil. Maybe it was about the only Zs someone in his state could bag. “Yep, I tried it their way, single-space begging to the governor on down. Way I see it, they stole my home, my family life, everything. So alls I got left is in these two rigs—that’s why I watch ’em like a point man.”

“So what’re you going to do,” I instead blinked and looked away, toward the pier sheds, while he nursed his many grievances, having retreated here to his regimented ranks and UCMJ in the shadow of a Fort Mason that was no more.

“Just regroupin’, before long I’m goin’ up top again, get what’s mine. Lori Ann and the kid, they can keep—I just want back my house and gardener job.”

“Can’t argue with that,” I focused on the small, scattered dents in the step van’s side panels, all pushed and peppered from the inside out. “But you’ve got to keep the faith, right?”

“Faith? Who’s got faith in anybody or anything anymore,” he seethed, reaching down and patting a heavy metal ammo box behind his seat—the one with a chrome titanium padlock and buck sergeant Army stripes on top. “Railroadin’ bastards, I got their due process right here. So a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, ain’t it? You’d be amazed what I can do, even with my stump here…and it saves me half the sticky fingerprints by shavin’ the odds in half.”

“Uh, oh, sure. Yeah, know the feeling, under the circumstances, maybe I’d…” Whoa, step back, really? Crosshairs were emerging between those high-beam eyes, Gary staring right down the barrel.

“So let that be a lesson to you, troop.”

“You bet, sergeant…”

sr dingbats

“He went on and on about Reno and his ex,” I said, back with the crowd down row around our clustered wheels, after being momentarily mesmerized by how Angel Island appeared to merge with Tiburon’s glowing hills from this angle, gentle shoulders wrapping us around the bright blue bay to the Golden Gate. “Maybe he’s shellshocked or something from Vietnam…”

“Well, we’ve been scoping this place out,” Sherry said, having just helped Clifford arm wrestle their inflatable raft. “That’s Gary’s story, and he’s stuck with it. He’ll lay it on anybody who’ll listen…”

“Goin’ on about the minefield in ’Nam,” Eric added, from underneath the red Porsche’s rear transaxle this time, his voice muffled by several thousand pounds of immobilized sports car. “Total gross out—like when he waves his stump in your face.”

“Plus his rap always changes,” said Clifford, flattening the raft into the Econoline’s roof rack. “He told me it was a rocket launcher up Hue way. Probably did it on a church key.”

“He needs to get out for a walk once and a while in the light of day,” she reached into their van for a compensatory snack. “Instead of smoldering in that stupid truck, plotting to blow up half of Nevada.”

“But he does get out. Marches right over to his other driver’s seat in that Falcon—back and forth, like he’s on guard duty,” Eric rolled back out on the four steel wheels of a shop dolly, face splattered with 10w40, clutching a handful of Craftsman sockets and a U-jointed breaker bar. He smeared a blob of grease over his right brow, down his whiskered chin. “He’s a walkin’ hand grenade…”

“Just like General Ripcord when he flashes back, mistaking the masts there for bungi sticks. Last time, he ducked under one of the schoolbuses, screamed, ‘cover, cover’, aimed a crushed beer can at the sailboats, making like he was yanking the pin,” Clifford added, having secured the raft’s cinch line to the roof rack, snatching up the morning’s Clarion from his van’s front seat, headlining more Lafayette Park violence, suggesting there was traceable evidence. “Surprising he and Gary haven’t joined forces yet, must be pulling rank.”

“Well, there’s another nutcase Gary isn’t exactly chummy with,” said Sherry, all but kicking Eric’s greasy jeaned legs, still protruding from the ass end of a red Porsche in disarray.

“Which one’s that,” I asked, craning my neck over the Volvo’s rooftop, kicking away an empty Coke can that had rolled my way on the lot’s now desiccated drainage slope.

“Mister Goodwrench there…” She pointed down the row, over to a sidewalk bench planted between two shrubbery ice plants, looking out over the harbor, the bay all so brilliantly a-sail directly before us. “He’s the one who really should be fixing Eric’s bombs.”

There, a graying mechanic in crisp garage gray coveralls was setting up shop, and Sherry proceeded to divulge what she had heard about his routine. Every morning, 7 a.m.: he’d emerge from a green Chrysler station wagon permanently planted next to a dumpster over by the public johns. He dragged two red tool chests and a yellow Pennzoil fender mat from its tailgate, carrying them one by one over to the fourth wood and metal bench down, virtually across from us. Same bench every day—his tool bench, so to speak, whereupon he’d get to work on this particularly handy form of obsessive compulsion, transistor tuning in to sports radio, which was still gloating over a Giant Mike Ivie grand slam that sank the Dodgers before a record Candlestick Park crowd.

Namely, the mechanic smoothed out his mat on the brown pine slats, laying out his ratchets, breakers and various extensions in neat little rows. Then came his screwdrivers, Phillips and flatheads; then his sockets, metric and standard, and assorted universals, according to size. Snap-On, they were, professional as an Indy crew’s, displayed like a Road & Track magazine ad. Except the mechanic never had any jobs out here, and his own station wagon hadn’t started in months. He just kept grinning and polishing his tools until lunchtime, then packed up, only to return and spread it all out once again for more afternoon rub and buffing of his deep-wells until some whistle went off in his head and he packed it in back to his fatherly old Chrysler after another day well done.

“Claims he got bumped from the Smothers racing team at Sears Point,” Sherry added, between munches of macademia nuts. “They left him in the pits with his tool chests and two tabs of acid cut with Permatex, or something. About then his eyes rolled up like window shades…”

“How do you know all this,” I asked, watching the mechanic toothbrush his torque wrench, nettled at the mere notion that this crowd was becoming my relative measure of madness, if not psychological control.

“Crabber told us,” she replied, next motioning toward a noodley figure crawling up from the rocky East Harbor basin through tangles of beach ruse and Eichium Pride of Madera. Basket in hand, he emerged like an extra from a reshoot of the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. “Far as I can believe him. That is, when he manages to sober up.”

“Yet we think he’s even weirder than that,” Clifford said, glancing at a below-the-fold, page one article on how Jonestown was shaken by new accusations that the CIA was backing Peoples Temple detractors and making hi-rez overflights of the compound—that there were rumors of a hit-flick expose in the works. “And not up to a whole lot of good, if you ask me…”

“That’s for damn sure,” Sherry looked over his shoulder, as if monitoring his news sense and topical intake like a GRE test proctor. “No telling where he goes in the middle of the night.”

“Middle of the night,” I asked, averting my stare out toward the bobbing small sailing and power craft moored in the harbor’s nearest berths, the monsignor floating by to bless the fleet. What would they know about the middle of the night? Right, so tell me something I don’t already know about that…

Between the crabber and Mr. Goodwrench, an entirely different Marina Greenie had sprung from behind a cabover fiberglass camper van. More of a hybrid juba-habanera, actually, the mummer being dizened in full ceremonial colors. Along the sidewalk he danced, this tribal figure of the warrior caste, long feathers aflutter on his peacock headdress, red/blue scalloped breastplate and loincloth saltant in synch, deerskin arm and calf shields flapping over Zulu battle tattoos. A little chanting, sporadic bursts of hoots and whoops, the barefoot spearman rattled his seashell anklets past us with a savage scowl, occasionally blowing his tusk horn, apparently to the tune of some aboriginal rain offering, his daily ritual down here under unending dry skies. I couldn’t even get past his lavender and lemon chest hair, let alone the pavonine nose ring and hoodoo lobes.

“Comes over from Folsom Street,” Eric said, chin still dripping multigrade into a half full oil pan. “He pumps gas night shift, up on Van Ness. He’s lookin’ after my Porsche—real normal like. Told me he practices his act for this Polk Street Halloween. He also said get ready for some serious gas lines and price jumps all over town because of Iran…”

“Make a habit of cruising Folsum Street after dark, do you?” Sherry sneered at him, then handed Clifford a small white tablet and Dixie cup of cider.

“Naw, but I hear you do—you and your little lapdog,” Eric shot a glance at Clifford, then shushed Bruno, now pouncing off the white 912’s sunroof growling and barking at several noisome ravens cross squawking in clump of large, red needled green trees at row’s west end.

“Hey, I resemble that,” Clifford half scoffed, swallowing hard. He then rolled up his newspaper, tapping it like a like a bill of particulars, job well done.

“Heads up—here comes Crabber Don,” Sherry pivoted, having watched that basket case yammer at the Mechanic and Zulu warrior out both sides of his mouth, before turning toward our cars. “He knows everything about this parking lot, day or night. But Gary doesn’t cotton to him much either.”

“Anybody he does,” I asked, retreating to the Volvo, crazed enough already, looking inside my stalled sedan for an out, any way out, seeking asylum from this sociopathic lot. “Need me for anything, I’ll be in my office, sorting through some things.”

“Just stay put tonight, roameo…and keep your hands above the dashboard, if you know what I mean…”

Care for more?

Chapter 77. Into the nuts and bolts
of some nuts and dolts, sailing
into gender/territorial waters…