by R V Branham
Geoff Emiliano Reid comes home from school for lunch, answers the phone. There is a pause. — …Hello?
— Geoff, her voice says, — Geoff. The rabbit fucking died.
— You must have a wrong number.
— Look, I’ve missed my period and the strip turned green.
She doesn’t have the wrong number, which is why he hangs up on her. God, he could kill the bitch! Kill her.
The phone rings again. He picks up the receiver and shouts: — And how do you know I’m the father!
— Geoff, the voice on the other end says; it is Phillip. Phillip, whose voice is unresonant. Gray, but not foggy. Dull. Phillip, who is dead below the neck and dying above. Who has got the most amazing collection of rockabilly and punk and jazz ceedees you would ever imagine…as well as the original 45’s from such labels as Sun and Stiff and Rough Trade. Phillip, who after all has a few credit cards. Who hasn’t so to speak killed any rabbits.
In the instant it takes to squeeze a tube of shampoo, Geoff Emiliano turns on the charm. If he talks to Phillip long enough, she’ll get busy signals, give up calling back. Also, he might need a ride to Trendy-Third. His Geo shimmies on the Banfield, on NE Sandy… hell, standing still, it shimmies.
— Phillip, m’man. How’s it going?
— Want to go to Buffalo Exchange this afternoon. It’s launder day…dry cleaner closeouts; they got a new shipment?
Phillip’s questions are always flat, uninflected, as if there is no question whatsoever. His statements, however, are always uncertain… His father is a corporate attorney and Geoff Emiliano wonders if Phillip got that vocal habit from him.
— Thanks. Geoff Emiliano makes a decision, perhaps unwise. — Nah. Too much to do. Got to go back for a semifinal this afternoon.
— S.A.T.’s next week.
— Still be able to hear the band tomorrow.
Phillip refers to a band his cousin started, which he wants Geoff Emiliano to hear, as Geoff Emiliano’s uncle writes for the alt weekly Journal of the Plague Years.
— You’d be a good…no, a great manager.
Geoff Emiliano knows that. His family might not have a tenth of the money Phillip’s has, but Geoff Emiliano has taste. And his taste buds tell him, a priori, that the band doesn’t even rate a garage.
— Maybe tomorrow.
Geoff Emiliano wants to leave his options open.
He cuts the conversation with Phillip short. He then unplugs the phone, in case she calls.
Good thing mom’s out in Hillsboro, her girl-friend’s realtor firm is doing major damage control on a dream subdivision where all the dream houses with their new Parable dream siding suddenly became shiitake farms.
Or has mom gone to Fake Oswego, a-hunting for a house?
Every one was surprised when his grandpa left close to ten million in stocks and bonds, annuities, crystal balls and crow’s entrails to his mom, every one except his rat’s-assignation uncle Geof. Every body knew grandpa had some money squirreled away, but not that much. His uncle Geof doesn’t need money any way… His uncle’s second wife inherited a couple of apartment buildings…buildings paid for before the neighborhood went all gentrified, and real estate became so fucking ridiculous. In a way, he’s glad his mom inherited the money…even though the money is all tied up and unliquid, the interest and dividends have enabled her to quit her peon job at social security before another coworker shot at her. But mom has not chilled out yet and is being more than a bit of an asshole. She even wants to be a realtor.
Later, taking a fast shower, he decides against the semifinal. Not today. There’s a T.A. in Attendance who’ll give him a class re-admit, for a case of microbrewski.
Geoff Emiliano will get his hair permed; his hair’s not like Phillip’s. Phillip’s is genetically permed…he had it done just last month. Yet Phillip has his hair styled like a porcupine’s.
An orange porcupine’s.
And Geoff Emiliano, whose hair is straight, wants his curly. Phillip’s cousin is right…he wrote a song Geoff Emiliano likes the title to, If You Meet Your Guru On A Cliff, Push Him Off!
Geoff Emiliano gets into his Geo, a battered handmedown from his uncle, from when his mom Gloria Reid and her brother were on speaking terms.
He takes Sandy to East Burnside, playing hide and seek with the shimmer of green and red of the tower of Koin above hills and billboards and faded brick storefronts, crossing over the eponymous bridge, instead of taking the Banfield freeway and I-5 and that immense arch bridge into Northwest ambitious leapers embark off of…he always forgets the name.
The Geo shimmies any which way… Stud tires and police tanks have ripped half the roads in Portland to concrete and shit-pats of tar.
The perm will mean a third of his week’s wages from bussing tables and dish washing his grandmother’s restaurant, but what’s a cyberpisher to do?
He has a fifteen-minute wait at the salon.
The receptionist, with a barberpolestripedyed beehive, offers Geoff Emiliano wine… The premature graying of his temples renders fake I.D. unnecessary.
Geoff Emiliano enquires as to variety and vintage. A ’04 Cabernet. He accepts. Sits.
She brings him the wine. He looks at the glass and worries about red stains on white clothes.
Later, after the perm, while paying the receptionist, he decides to go to Buffalo Exchange any way.
There is a certain joy to be found among the detritus of a society. To rescue unloved and unwanted clothes from the racks, clothes that are art, have style. He had read the word detritus in a Village Voice online review of a German director’s first music video. Had looked it up in the dictionary; nice word, detritus.
He tips the hairdresser… He always fails to remember her name. She thanks him.
Out-side, some thing flashes past, a blur of silver. Every one turns.
There is a loud grinding of metal on metal and then, the crash. Geoff Emiliano rushes out, along with every one else in the shop. Along with every one else on the block.
Shit. His Geo.
A motorcycle has scraped into the side of his car, breaking off his rear-view mirror, and bending the front fender, badly.
The front left tire is flat.
The motorcycle rests, impacted into the driver’s seat of the car in front of his, an ancient scabrous Mazda.
— Where’s the god damn bike boy, yells the receptionist.
Every one peers under cars, across the street.
— Was he thrown —? — Did he run away —? — Shouldn’t we call nine-one-one —?
Two young men run up the side-walk, towards them. A police tank, coming past, does a U-turn and parks in the red zone. The two men, in their late 20’s, look like the gay guys who hang around Burnside… They wear earrings on each ear, and one has a nosering. Geoff Emiliano finds himself wondering where else they have rings. The taller one, the one without a mustache, speaks up:
— Any body seen a motorcycle?
Johnny points to the Mazda:
— You sideswiped my Geo, you FAGGOTS. — Jesus Christ, watch your language, kid! —Y ou watch your language, an on-looker shouts, and others murmer. — What’d he say, some body else asks. — He was talking religion, some body else says. — Man, they gotta take that shit in-side. — You know, there’s no proof of that Elohim virus. — There’s no proof it doesn’t. — Doesn’t what? — Go fuck yourself.
— …Look, we’re sorry about your car, the one with the mustache says, — but you better watch what you say…
— Bite me, faggot. Geoff Emiliano aims for his jaw, but the taller one grabs for his arm and pins it behind him. — You pisher… Geoff Emiliano resents the insult and breaks free, swinging around only to fall into the man’s arms like a long-lost lover. Each attempts use of his knees to groin the other, to kick the other, to trample the other’s feet. — Fuck you, asshole!
Geoff Emiliano and the man, sweating and flailing, wrestle each other to the concrete.
The man cuts his head, while bumping against a parking meter, and Geoff Emiliano hits his while falling against the man. Geoff Emiliano gets blood all over his white clothes. He is astonished at the speed with which the fight happened. He is in a daze when they drag him away.
As it later turns out, the two faggots are undercover cops as well as faggots.
On-duty faggot undercover cops.
Geoff Emiliano’s mother Gloria Reid switches the phone back on.
At the police station Geoff Emiliano is being permitted to make his two phone calls… The only time he has seen his uncle Geof in the last seven years is at his grandpa’s wake, and his uncle did after all say to call him if he needed any thing.
He calls his uncle’s house and gets the answering machine. He calls Journal of the Plague Years, where his uncle occasionally appears for freebie ceedees or promo books or videos.
His uncle Geof, it turns out, is out, getting Roentgenograms.
They let him make another call. He calls home, and the line is busy. He hopes his mom switched it back on. They let him call again ten minutes later. His mom Gloria Reid shows up and posts bail.
Geoff Emiliano’s first reaction, on seeing his mom, is fear, is panic. He fights back a sob. He is seven years old again, being sent to his room, sent to the corner, time out, grounded, yelled at.
— You got a hell of a shiner, Tigger…
—I’m sorry, Mom.
— Don’t worry. She hugs him.
— You couldn’t’ve known they were cops.
Then: — Your car was towed. I just got enough to get you or the car out. ’S a good thing you’re 18, or you’d be in Juvenile Hall. And those two cops you picked a fight with, I happen to know them from the Cascade AIDS Project. Not nice what you said to them.
She laughs in spite of herself. — Not nice. But.
He knows she is furious.
— But, mom, they began talking religious shit.
— Those two?
— They almost caused a riot.
— That is different. People have to be really mindful about what they say in public.
— No shit.
His mom Gloria laughs, despite her anger: So that’s why they dropped the charges.
— They didn’t tell you?
— We’ll get your car tomorrow.
— We’ll have to tow it to the garage. Front wheel’s completely fucked up, as well as the door on the driver’s side, and the door’s rear view mirror…
— No worries, we can get you a rental… Insurance’ll cover it. And if the damage exceeds the blue book value we can use the insurance money to get you a better car.
His mom Gloria Reid takes the freeway; they get caught in the Banfield rush. Northward scudding clouds pass over them, bringing a brief light drizzle, more a mist.
— Kate called.
Geoff Emiliano looks at the parade of images on the billboards. Armed Forces. Be All You Can Be.
— She called twice.
Levi Nightcrawlers. Getting In To Your Jeans.
MicroPop. Tax Amnesty.
— She was upset.
Club Med. Hughes-GM. Tokyo-Joe’s Rice Wine Cooler. — We…we broke up yesterday…
The car ahead of them, a van, brakes to a sudden halt. Geoff Emiliano’s mom Gloria slams the brakes. Geoff Emiliano is jerked torward the windshield by their stop, then jerked away by his seat belt.
— Okay. Geoff Emiliano’s mom releases a sigh that sets the dust on the dash-board in flight.
— If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to talk about it. I’m not going to attach electrodes to your dick.
— But. If Katie is pregnant…
— Stop whining! Just hear me out. If she is pregnant, I am going to offer to pay her to have an abortion. I’ll get her to Seattle, every one here gossips too much… I’ll even buy her a car, used…
She turns to him, fiercely but quietly continuing: — You are not going to marry her… You are going to Antioch University in the fall…
— What about Reed?
— I went to Reed.
— You always talk about what a great Party School it was.
— Which is why you’re going to Antioch.
— What if I want to go to PSU? What if I don’t want to go to college at all?
— You won’t be an assistant manager in mom’s restaurant. She’ll outlive us all, any way, so you’d never inherit the restaurant. As for Kate…she’s a sweet girl…but she is a fucking stoopard cow!
He stares at his mother Gloria.
— I apologize for using that language, and for belittling the idiot cretin, but I will not have a fucking stoopard cow for a daughter-in-law!
— I told you we broke up.
— And you turned away when you said that to me.
Fly United Airbus. Mercedes Jeeps. Dune on Fox 49.
— We did.
— Fine. But I talked to her. I told her you would call tonight. Ball’s in your court.
Geoff Emiliano nods off.
He dreams. Of his windsurfboard.
Her. Kate. Of bashing her head in while they’re in the Gorge. Claiming the board hit her. That fiberglass fin just gashed her skull open.
They cremate her, in the car his mom bought. Used.
His mom Gloria shakes him awake.
— We’re home.
And they are. They enter through the service porch door. His uncle Geof is waiting for them. Weird, like his uncle Geof and his mom have not exactly been on speaking terms. Elated, his bipolar uncle Geof shakes them, hugs them.
— I sold the fucking Eisenstein book!
— But Daphne told me your agent got a book contract and big fat fuckyouverymuch advance and movie option on that Plague Journal driveby series.
— Yeah, that too.
They congratulate Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof.
Uncle Geof looks at his nephew: — That’s some shiner you got.
At least he isn’t hearing for the upteenth time about how his son Drew almost lost an eye.
— Should I put an extra quiche in the oven? Geoff Emiliano asks his mom Gloria.
— No-no-no-no, his uncle says:
— We’re going to dinner. To Dodeskaden. Sushi buffet tonight. Daphne’s joining us straight from work.
— What about the ex-? Geoff Emiliano’s mom asks.
— What about her?
— Bitter, aren’t we.
Then, to her son:
— Bette’s joining us, and your cousin. So try to be nice for a change. And put some thing decent on.
Geoff Emiliano rolls his eyes but his mom does not catch the gesture. Geoff Emiliano starts to leave the room:
— Better change, then.
— And take a shower; you’re riper than a rotten banana.
Then, remembering some thing:
— Oh, yeah! Phillip’s left you some thing, from Buffalo Exchange. Famous Blue Raincoat, he called it.
— Wasn’t that a Leonard Cohen song? Geoff Emiliano mom Gloria asks.
— Donovan, Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof says.
— I think. Tim Buckley?
— No. ’S Cohen. He’s a lugubrious bastard, give me good old Public Image any day… Even Public Enemy…
— You liked McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof says.
— So what if it’s one of my alltime favorite movies. Not because of that music. Same three chords.
Geoff Emiliano showers, lathering. He knows his uncle Geof doesn’t know about her. About Kate. Pink. White. Pink.
Lathering. Turning in to the shower jet. Washing the suds away. Lathering again. Kate. That’s it.
Wine and valium. Then, into a hot tub. He would leave. Her alone.
They would find her. Very pink. Geoff Emiliano’s uncle Geof pounds on the bathroom door:
— Hurry up.
— It started to drizzle. Dress warm.
He dresses. He reads a note from Phillip:
— I saw this coat just this very afternoon, and (honestly) the coat spoke to me, it had your name on it, like destiny.
Geoff Emiliano laughs at the note, at Phillip’s ridiculous sense of melodrama. And then he tries on the Famous Blue Raincoat. Nice. He puts his hand in one of the pockets. A pawn ticket.
Dinner turns out to go better than Geoff Emiliano had expected.
He manages to find a seat where he can ignore his cousin Drew without seeming rude. Bette has invited her martial arts instructor, a Japanimei in banker drag, who thinks he has a sense of humour.
After dinner, the martial arts instructor asks Geoff Emiliano how he got the black eye. Geoff Emiliano tells him.
The martial arts instructor listens intently, and then tells him it’s a good thing he had not been in Tokyo, that Tokyo police get free Kendo lessons from the Academies, and laughs as if delivering a killer punch line. Geoff Emiliano vaguely remembers that Kendo is a Martial Art; but what makes it different from Judo or Karate, he can not recall.
So he nods.
The instructor laughs.
Later, on Trendy-Third, in front of the restaurant, Geoff Emiliano and his mom and uncle and uncle’s wife are getting into his uncle Geof’s car…
Bette is giving the martial arts instructor a ride home, then will go on over to Geoff Emiliano’s mom’s.
A silver Volvo drives past. Geoff Emiliano recognizes it. The car belongs to a friend of Phillip’s. The car is full of people.
And she is in the back seat.
Later, at home, he calls. Her.
— Kate’s not home yet.
— Could you ask her to call me? This is Geoff Emiliano.
He nods off.
She is being driven out to the desert, over the Cascades and through the butt end of Oregon, and on into Nevada. She is trussed up, hog-tied. She is to star in a video. It will be the last video she ever appears in.
The phone is ringing.
Behind. Behind that tall cactus.
Geoff Emiliano wakes up. Goes to the hallway. His mom Gloria has answered the phone.
— It’s Kate. Take the other phone into your room.
He does. She keeps holding out for a new car.
But Geoff Emiliano persuades her to go for the used car. But she insists on a ceedee deck.
The next morning, after they have retrieved the car and had it towed to their repair shop and returned home in separate cars… She took him to get a rental, Geoff Emiliano waits for his mom Gloria to run errands.
He calls school and, using a deep voice, says that his nephew Geoff Emiliano Reid is very sick…
His mom had already written him a note for the first two periods, a note so vague that he can milk it for a whole day’s absence. He calls Directory Assistance and gets the number of the pawn shop. He calls, but the line’s busy.
He’ll have to use his car. Geoff Emiliano looks for his famous blue raincoat. Searches his room.
Mom. He ransacks the laundry room.
No raincoat. He finally finds the raincoat, in the garbage can of course, covered with eggshells and coffee grounds and rotten carrots.
Geoff Emiliano takes the raincoat from the garbage, and out the service porch door to shake all the coffee shells and egg grounds out of the coat. Then he rushes back upstairs, to his mom Gloria’s room, to her closet.
He finds a leather jacket of his mother’s, with a mink collar (don’t ask), that he takes downstairs and puts in a plastic bag.
Then he puts the bag in the garbage can, with a note:
If you do not fuck with my wardrobe, I will not fuck with yours.
He then finds disgusting leftovers inside the fridge, which he slops on to his mom’s leather jacket.
He hits the phone’s redial button but the line is still busy. A thought occurs to him and he eventually finds a phone book, looks into the gray pages, finds the pawn shop’s address listed.
Geoff Emiliano first stops at his Automatic Teller and withdraws a hundred. The shop is in Southeast, off Foster Road, towards Felony Flats, next to a religious supply store, which specializes in voodoo and Santeria shit.
The pawnbroker is a fat greaseball, who, even when standing, looks like he’s squatting on the crapper. Geoff Emiliano gives the man the stub. — I remember this one… You’re not the guy…
— I’m his brother.
— You’re the wrong colour.
The pawnbroker sneezes.
— And you’re a good thirty years too young.
The pawnbroker sneezes a second time.
— Don’t care. ’S no skin off my nose; you could’ve rolled ’m, left him for dead, all I care. Real creep, that one.
The pawnbroker goes to the back.
Geoff Emiliano looks around at the watches, typewriters, appliances, musical instruments, jewelry, weapons. A computer, a Thinkpad.
— Here we go. The pawnbroker returns with an instrument case.
— This is a real beaut…
Geoff Emiliano is surprised.
— You like music?
— My father worked with Prez; I saw ’Trane and Ornette and Dexter in clubs when your father was in pre-school…
— You saw Lester Young play?
— My dad played with him, but I grew up on his music. Sax is my favorite instrument, a cry from the heart… Punks today, they’re just technicians.
Geoff Emiliano doesn’t quite agree, but sidesteps the issue. — A friend of mine thinks Lester Young was the greatest saxophone man who ever lived.
— Your friend is not fucking wrong. The man regards Geoff Emiliano.
— You learning sax?
Geoff Emiliano pauses for an instant. — Yeah.
— Another day, and I’d’ve had to set it out.
Geoff Emiliano reaches for the case.
— Hundred thirty.
Geoff Emiliano takes the money out. Counts it out. Twenty. Forty. Sixty. Eighty. Hundred. Hundred-ten. Hundred-fifteen… Sixteen. Seventeen… Eighteen… I’m twelve bucks short, I could use my card.
The pawnbroker winces, then shrugs.
— What the hell. I’d rather have the cash…but I’m not giving you a receipt.
Geoff Emiliano opens the case. He is glad that it’s an alto sax. Cracked reed. A couple of hankerchiefs, which look bloodstained. He sees some thing wedged into the tattered lining of the case. An A.F. of M., A.F.L.-C.I.O. Local 47 card, or, rather, half of one. It reads:
— C.J. HA…
Half a picture of a black man, a black and white picture taken decades ago, playing the sax.
A nearly illegible and badly spelled list of clubs in El-lay and San Francisco and Portland and Seattle:
The Parishian Room
The Doude Ranch.
He thinks of bartenders who might know this social history.
Geoff Emiliano decides to visit The Lucky Labrador. He drives down to Hawthorne, near the bridge. Looking up at the bluegray sky, he sees a smooth glazed surface, like Noritake China. The bar is open for lunch. Two different tribes, the burger tribe and the granola tribe. (Geoff Emiliano belongs to neither tribe, as he prefers fajitas, or the occasional sushi.)
Geoff Emiliano asks a waitress if there’s any body who’d remember westcoast jazz or blues musicians from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. Or as far back as the 50’s. She tells him to try the India House, downtown, near or on Taylor. An ancient bartender called The Duke. He takes her advice.
Geoff Emiliano does. — …’Xcuse me, The Duke says. Geoff Emiliano’s eyes are still trying to adjust to the dim interior and it’s tourist poster vibe, his eyes are still outside, in the sun, watching barely clad flesh, freckled thighs and asses, and titties.
— I’m taking my break in a quarter hour. Meet me at the Starbucks by Pioneer Courthouse Square, The Duke suggests.
The Duke meets Johnny at the Starbucks by Pioneer Courthouse Square; they sit at an outside table, overlooking the fountain with its guardian skatepunk and skinhead angels.
— How’d you get his sax?
— In a pawn shop. I’m just… Curious.
— C.J. I forgot his last name: Hancock, Hackett, Haggerty, Harrison, maybe. A mean player…
— And a mean man.
He tells Geoff Emiliano how the ladies’d loved C.J., but he hadn’t loved them. How C.J. had been arrested. Cut a girl up bad. Waitress. Down in El-lay. At the Lighthouse, where he’d worked. The waitress was pregnant by him; she had really fallen for him and his famous blue raincoat.
— A famous blue raincoat. That’s what my friend called it. This C.J., he wore it all the time?
— Yeah. The Duke lights a cigarette.
— Blue raincoat. He came up to Portland, worked a club with LeRoy Vinegar. Trying to remember the name of the club. What was it. I just had it on the tip of my tongue. …Just vanished.
The man laughs.
— I can remember clubs he’d worked here back in the Fifties: Dude Ranch, McElroy’s Spanish Ballroom, Chicken Coup, Paul’s Paradise. But that’s all old, long-term memory. I can tell you everything I did the day Joltin’ Joe won the World Series, or the day Bird died, but I can’t tell you what I did last week. Getting old sucks.
Geoff Emiliano goes to his seventh period class, and takes the semifinal, make-up. The teacher, a woman with leathery skin from too many years under too many suns, makes him stay after school to make it up. Honors English. Heart Of Darkness.
He thinks of her, Kate, and, the teacher, in Africa, with Mr. Kurtz. Their heads on his poles. Geoff Emiliano feels dizzy. He finishes the exam as quickly as possible.
He goes home. Looks at the raincoat. On the left side, below the pocket, is a very neat bit of patchwork. The inside lining is stained. Blood? Geoff Emiliano laughs. Jesus fuck a pope.
He plays a Dead Kennedys concert bootleg cassette.
Her. Kate. In Dallas. In Dealy Plaza. Sitting next to J.F.K.
— The last good President this country ever saw, his other grandfather always said.
He recalls his other grandfather asking him where he was, what he was doing, when Kennedy died. How he had reminded his other grandfather he wasn’t born yet.
And how a few minutes later his other grandfather would ask him again. Look.
Up there. Bullets, a rifle. And she goes down in history…. Perhaps a miniseries?
The phone rings and he answers. It is Geoff Emiliano’s mom, calling to say she made an appointment at a clinic in Seattle. For Kate. And two round-trip Amtrak tickets to Seattle, and next day, the clinic.
She wants him to do the decent thing, the responsible thing. To take her there. To hold her hand. And Geoff Emiliano wants…
— Geoff Emiliano, hey Tigger! You okay…?
And Geoff Emiliano hangs up.
Geoff Emiliano is in Fake Oswego.
He is in Phillip’s backyard, overlooking the lake, and not far from Trader Joes or Natures Fresh. He is in Phillip’s backyard, overlooking the band’s set-up, downstairs, by the pool.
A whiff of mould is in the air. A whiff of mould is always in the air. In Fake Oswego.
A bottomless petit-bourgeois bog, a complete slough of postconsumer despond.
All the children of all the residents of Fake Oswego have at least three asthma guns, take at least two pills to decongest the lungs, the throat, the sinuses.
Geoff Emiliano can not see the embankment where he tossed the raincoat. Where he will toss the sax.
Earlier, after a brief game of tennis, Geoff Emiliano showed Phillip the sax, the card, the photo, the stained rags.
— C.J. Haley. Sax man, Phillip told him.
— He was the pickup reedman for any jazzbos on the westcoast. He played with Mingus, with Miles, Nina Simone. He even did rock gigs, even in Portland with LeRoy Vinegar, even in Eugene. Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry. And Los Lobos, The Blasters…
— Did he record with any of them, especially the later groups?
Never did any any recording dates I know of…
Phillip had paused a moment, and then, spraying Geoff Emiliano with his spittle, had laughed:
— Maybe C.J. was a vampire.
— Be real, ’kay…?
— Think about it, Geoff, maybe recording tape’s like a mirror, insofar as it won’t record things not of this world.
— You can be a real asshole, Phillip.
— Count Jazzbo the Vampire.
— Count Jazzbo was a whacked-out psychopath, Geoff Emiliano had informed Phillip.
— I talked to a bartender, used to work at The Lighthouse, down in El-lay.
— I know about The Lighthouse.
— He said C.J. was arrested for cutting up a woman, she was gonna have his…
— Sure that bartender wasn’t putting you on?
— You so sure that he was?
Geoff Emiliano is quite fucking relieved that Phillip either didn’t catch (or didn’t want to) the fact of C.J.’s waitress being with child. Now the sun is setting, to the west, behind a condo-covered hillock. The bass and synth players are warming up.
Phillip is helping the others set up their equipment.
Some of the gang arrives. Moe Hawk’s shown up, looking for a fledgling band to consign to Rock Stars Kill… But sign these postpathetic postbozos? Margie the mind fucker, and Toy-Boy or Boyo…notorious fagellahs whose names he can never get straight. She is with them. Geoff Emiliano wants to unstring the bass and throttle her with the strings, wants to slap the cow silly, wants to shove her off the balcony, to shoot her, to throw her out of a moving Geo, to love her, to honor, to cherish her, to marry the stoopard fucking cow who is having his baby.
She is talking to Phillip. The stoopard fucking cow who is having his baby. Or maybe Phillip’s? It doesn’t matter. Fuck Antioch; Ohio is too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer… Why can’t he go to Reed…? Okay, so what if Reed is more expensive…? And then there’s all those nosey aunts and uncles… But his namesake can not abide Reedies, so at least he’ll get away from uncle Geof, whom he hates.
He wants to coach the stoopard cow in natural childbirth, to be an assistant pizzeria manager, to take the cow for a Sunday drive and drive off the edge of road at Jantzen Beach that dips around and under I-5 and just a sharp turn from a dunk into the houseboaty Columbia drink.
He thought the band was tuning up, but they are actually playing, after a fashion. Two chords. Played badly.
And not fun-bad like exuberantly sloppy bands… Not brilliantly-bad fun like Patti Smith Group or genius-bad like the Ramones. If only that five-hundred-year-overdue earthquake finally came, not like all these cocktease baby grande false alarms, no, what was needed was another El Grande to slosh the water out of the lake and on to the twonote wonders, fry them and their poor tortured instruments, wash them into the lake of Fake Oswego.
Death to the Colostomies. Recommend these postgeeks to his cousin?!
On his way home, he retrieves the famous blue raincoat. Puts it in the trunk of the family car. Along with the sax.
He watches a bit of video before going to bed. VH1 clips of Billy Idol. (His mom says she had had a platonic teendyke crush on Billy Idol, though mostly as a carryover from the Roentgenogram Spex days.) Odd. White Wedding. He wants to marry her. Kate. In an old church… Perhaps Episcopal. With black candles. All the guests must wear leather, must wear an ikon: swastika, hammer’n’sickle, star of david, dollar sign. Doesn’t matter. And chains, which they bang against the pews. And of course, none of this rice shit. Throw appliances, bricks, knives, ever-the-fuck.
He even calls her.
The line is busy.
The next day, Geoff Emiliano gets up. Has a hearty breakfast. Like a condemned man should. Takes the sax and the famous blue raincoat out to the family car and puts them in the trunk. He goes upstairs and gets tickets for the Amtrak and the money for the abortion and the check for the car, used, from his mom.
Geoff Emiliano smiles at the way his mom avoids his eyes, avoids the famous blue raincoat and her leather jacket, with its mink collar. At one point, his mom almost catches him smiling. Almost catches him.
He drives to her place. Picks her up. Why, Kate? Why? They go to Union Station, then board the train which chugchugs up to Seattle in a few hours. Then a taxi to the hotel, and the next day a becalmed taxi ride to the clinic. There are only a few picketers, and they are only slightly creepy, with pasty pimply glasses and tapedtogether cracked palates and cleft skin… Since Kate, too, has just turned eighteen, there are no consent problems, under Washington law.
Before the abortion, he holds her hand. And afterwards, after the abortion. But not during. Not that they would let him. Not that he’d want to if he could.
Later, in the hotel room he cries. But she doesn’t. The stoopard cow is tranked out on the next bed. He drinks every little bottle in the wetbar fridge.
The next summer Geoff Emiliano will have the raincoat drycleaned, even pays twenty extra to remove the blood stain. But some stains just do not come clean… At the end of this summer he packs up for Ohio. Off to Antioch. Geoff Emiliano takes the sax with him, packed away in the trunk. And neatly folded on the back seat is the famous blue raincoat.
R.V. Branham was born & raised on the California/Baja border, & as an adolescent wound up in El-lay. When not co-hosting a floating æther-den, R.V. attended U.S.C., El Camino College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, & Michigan State University. Day jobs have included: technical typist, photo-researcher, x-ray tech. intern, interpreter, social worker, & Treasury Dept. terrorist. His short fiction has been published in magazines such as 2 Gyrls Quarterly, Back Brain Recluse (UK), Téma (Croatia), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Midnight Graffiti, & Red Lemonade (online), & have been collected in such anthologies as Red Lemonade’s Hybrid beasts (available as an e-book), Full Spectrum 3, Drawn to Words, Mother Sun, & several Gardner Dozois anthologies; many of his short stories have been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, & Spanish; his plays, Bad Teeth, and Matt & Geof Go Flying, have been performed in staged readings in Los Angeles & Portland; he attended writing workshops run by Beyond Baroque, John Rechy, Sheila Finch, John Hill, & A.J. Budrys. He has translated Laura Esquivel into English & several of Croatian poet Tomica Bajsic’s poems into Spanish. Back in the day he co-hosted a floating æther-den (it was the 70’s). He is the founder & editor of Gobshite Quarterly—a Portland, Oregon-based multilingual en-face magazine of prose, poems, essays, reasoned rants, & etc.; & author of a 90-language dictionary of insult & invective, obscenity & blasphemy, Curse + Berate in 69+ Languages (published by Soft Skull); & edited & published a bilingual edition of Luisa Valenzuela’s Deathcats/El gato eficaz. Most recently he has co-designed, asst.-edited, & published a collection of poems, “A Bright Concrete Day: Poems, 1978—2013, Douglas Spangle”… The project’s editor was frequent IN OTHER WORDS: MERIDA contributor M.F. McAuliffe.
Artist Nannette Guinto Amorado