Chris Till

Archive for the ‘Sean Hayes’ Category

1. To Burn or Not to Burn

In boulder colorado, cocaine, glen ellyn, glenbard west, marijuana, santa cruz, Sean Hayes, Stoner Noir on May 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm

            On May 13, 1985, newspapers reported that the US had sponsored a March car bombing in Lebanon.[i] In a failed attempt to assassinate a popular Lebanese civic and religious leader, the massive bomb devastated a crowded urban neighborhood, killing more than 80 people.

Isaiah

      “Let it burn,” Isaiah told himself, sitting on the bus watching a mansion in flames on the side of the road. “Rich bastards.”

      The Denver-to-Boulder bus had stopped on Highway 36 to let the red fire trucks pass. The mansion looked like it had been recently built and now its roof burned furiously. Isaiah had never seen the mansion before nor did he know the residents. All he needed to know was that it looked like some rich person’s mansion recently built over farmland.

      After a minute, the bus continued north. Looking back at the fire, Isaiah could see yellow-clad firemen begin to spray the fire with a water hose.

Boulder

      Isaiah stepped off the bus at the Boulder bus station in the early afternoon. 19 years old and thin as cardboard, the suspicion that something great had just ended gripped his empty stomach. What that something was, he did not know.

      With his long brown hair loosely tied back with a rubber band, he carried a small black backpack over his shoulder. Due to a prominent scar marking his left cheek, he presented two profiles to the world: fair on the right side and wounded on the left.

      Inhaling, the air smelled different than Illinois air: cleaner, but drier. As he walked towards the campus, a black and white magpie cavorted in the trees above him, seemingly following him. In the sun, its black tail feathers flashed iridescent green.

      “Brother bird, have you come to welcome me to Colorado?” Isaiah asked aloud.

Bobby

      “So when’s your friend getting to town?” Little Bobby asked Bobby, as they drank coffee in Little Bobby’s kitchen. On the table between them, two short lines of cocaine beckoned. Through the kitchen window, the white and grey tombstones of a cemetery contrasted with its green grass and trees.

      “Supposed to be this afternoon some time. Haven’t seen him since he was a kid,” Bobby replied.

      As a warm spring breeze blew in through the open kitchen window, both men sat shirtless at the table. Both clean cut and in their early 30s, Bobby had quick, intelligent eyes while Little Bobby cultivated a look of irreverent torpor.

      “Good for you,” said Little Bobby. “You know, I’m serious about being done driving empties back. It’s just not worth it for me.”

      “Me and his uncle used to be real good buddies back in high school.”

      “Real good buddies?” asked Little Bobby, looking at Bobby questioningly.

      “Not like that, but we tripped together a lot back then. Yeah… Three grand?” A vase of red tulips sat on the kitchen table between them.

      “God, I love tulips. Really, man, I just have a bad feeling about it.”

      “Four?”

      Little Bobby shook his head and sniffled. His nose was chronically runny.

      “So, does the kid know?”

      “Isaiah? No. Yeah, probably. Through his uncle, I guess. Maybe not. He’s a good kid. His mom died in some weird accident or something a couple years ago. His uncle, Zen, my old friend, used to be Ben, right? I told you about him, he’s like super spiritual, a guru-type… I mean, come on, man, what, five, six, seven, ten grand? What?”

      “Bobby, I’m just done. It don’t feel right. Not now. After the last time I got back from Florida, I threw the I Ching and it said ‘contract,’ as in ‘withdraw,’ ‘simplify’… like that.”

      “Maybe it meant ‘contract,’ like a business contract.”

      “Yeah, I knew you’d say that. I’m done driving: empties, full, anything, done. Find someone else. I’m just gonna work the bike shop and keep it simple.”

      “Bobby, you promised you wouldn’t flake out on me again,” said Bobby, exasperated. “I mean, how many times…”

      “Hey,” Little Bobby interrupted. “I gotta do what feels right, right? Last time I was in Florida, last month, it didn’t feel right. Like that one dick cop down there knows what’s going on and needs to make a bust just to make himself look good. You know?”

      Bobby quietly set his cup down, shaking his head and gazing across the cemetery. Out the window, a long-haired little girl wearing orange overalls and a bright green tank top wandered through the cemetery picking wild daisies.

Welcome to Boulder

      “Isaiah? Welcome to Boulder, man,” exclaimed Bobby, coming through the fence gate and striding across the back yard of his house.

      “Hey Bobby,” said Isaiah. “Thanks, man.”

      Both smiling widely, they shook hands and hugged awkwardly. Waiting for Bobby to get home, Isaiah had been fallen asleep on a cushioned lawn chair in Bobby’s backyard.

      “Haven’t seen you since, what, you were eight years old or something? How you doin’?”

      “Good. The Greyhound was all right. All night long though. Kinda tired but whatever.”

      “Well, come on inside. You got your own bedroom and…”  Bobby led Isaiah into his plain-looking ranch house. The interior resembled a new Holiday Inn hotel room.

      “Yeah, that room used to be the grow room for pot,” said Bobby, pointing to a simply furnished bedroom. “You can stay in there. And the garage, through there, used to be for growing mushrooms.”

      “Cool,” said Isaiah, dropping his backpack in the bedroom.

      “Yeah, that was a good time. It was like an indoor farm. So… you hungry? Tired? If you wanna take a nap…”
      “That’s cool, man. I’m alright. I’ll probably go to bed early, but… Actually, thirsty if…”

      “Tell you what, you just make yourself at home. There’s the kitchen. Help yourself. If you want, we can go for a drive up in the Mountains later on, maybe show you around town some.”

      Isaiah went to the kitchen and filled a water glass from the sink.  Bobby sat on a couch in the living room, dark because of the closed curtains.

      “Great. Yeah… I sure appreciate the hospitality,” said Isaiah, sitting in a living room easy chair. “My plan is to just get to California as quick as possible. I haven’t seen Uncle Zen in years and just totally am feeling the call to get out there.”

      “Yeah. Good for you. Family’s important. I got a letter from him a while back. He doesn’t use phones, right? Yeah. I guess he’s started his own church or something?”

      “Yeah, not a church, but like a spiritual group. He calls it the Inner Circle.”

      “Yeah right, I never really understood all that soul travel or Inner Circle stuff, but if he’s doing it, I respect it. He could have taken the easy way out, but he does it his way, even if it’s the hard way, right?”

      “Yeah,” replied Isaiah, shaking his head uncertainly.

      “He probably thinks I took the easy way out,” said Bobby, staring at the carpeted floor. “I guess our paths have kind of diverged, but maybe they’ll converge again.”

      Isaiah nodded and finished his water. The air conditioning kept the house quite cool and reinforced the hotel vibe.

The Rocky Mountains

Driving his black 1984 Jeep Wagoneer up Sunshine Canyon Road, Bobby pulled into a gravel turn-off with a panoramic view of the Great Plains.

“You can just about see Kansas from up here,” said Bobby, parking. “I like this spot. Gives me perspective.”

“Wow,” said Isaiah, looking all around as Bobby produced a thick already-rolled joint.

“Some indoor indica a buddy of mine grows,” said Bobby, handing the joint to Isaiah. “Three hundred bucks an ounce.”

“Damn, that’s expensive. It’s like a hundred or maybe ninety an ounce back in Glen Ellyn,” said Isaiah, smelling the joint and checking his pockets for a lighter.

“Yeah, well, it’s worth it. So, how’s old Glen Ellyn these days?”

“Same, probably. Land of wide lawns and narrow minds, like the old man said.”

“Hemingway, yeah,” said Bobby, handing Isaiah a lighter. “Yup, you know, back then, me and Benny were the only guys in the Glenbard West Class of ’71 to have pony tails? He was still Gentle Ben back then. Go ahead, take two hits, I don’t need much.”

“Yeah?”

“How often you hear from him?” As cars zipped by on Sunshine Canyon, the cloudless sky glowed a rich shade of blue. Isaiah pondered the word “azure” and passed the joint to Bobby.

“Just a couple times a year or something, but I still feel super-close to him. Even right now, like I’m digging being here, but I just wanna get out there to see him as soon as possible.”

From his car seat, Isaiah kept looking all around, up into the craggy red mountains and out into the absolute flatness of the Plains. A red-tailed hawk arced effortlessly far overhead.

“So, you got a girlfriend back home or a, uh…” asked Bobby, raising his eyebrows.

“Well, I just broke up with this girl Maureen a month ago but…”

“Me, I didn’t even know who I was until I was 25.”

“Yeah?”

A black Jaguar pulled into the turn-off and parked at a distance behind Bobby’s Jeep. Isaiah turned around and looked at the car.

“Don’t worry about that guy, he’s probably just cruising,” said Bobby, passing the joint to Isaiah.

“What?” replied Isaiah.

“Cops can’t afford Jaguars anyway. So, how you doin’ for money?”

“Uh, well, I got like almost two hundred bucks. I was working making like restaurant bun toasters for the last couple weeks.”

“Hmmm. Well, there’s easier ways to make money, you know?”

Bobby looked Isaiah in the face then down his chest. Not noticing, Isaiah took a second hit on the joint and passed it back.

“Yeah, people back home told me to mail acid and Ecstasy back from California ’cause it’s cheap out west.”

“Not bad. They front you the cash?”

“No.”

“Yeah, well… You got that lighter?” Isaiah handed Bobby’s lighter back. In the rear view mirror, Isaiah could see the black Jaguar still parked behind them.

“We used to bring weed in on speedboats to the Florida coast. The main ship would be out in the ocean and we’d meet it and offload the bales into the speedboat. That was fun.”

“Damn, sounds like something out of Hollywood.”

“There’s money to be made out of Florida. But shipping weed is a drag. It’s big. It smells. And the profit margin for the size is not great.”

“Yeah?” said Isaiah, as Bobby handed the joint back.

“The CC, on the other hand, is tiny. And it doesn’t smell. Know what I mean? Anyway, enough of that. You wanna see my retirement home?”

“Sure, man. Like an old folks’ home?” Bobby pulled the Jeep back onto Sunshine Canyon and they drove higher up the Mountains. The black Jaguar did not move.

“Not exactly. Cash can be a real problem, you know? It’s bulky. You end up with shoe boxes of it in your car trunk and that’s not good. And it’s noticeable when a guy tries to buy a car or something with, like, fifteen thousand cash. So… when you find a deal where the seller is cool and will take cash…”

“That is one problem that I do not have,” said Isaiah, exhaling. “Yeah, well. Maybe some day, right?” They drove in silence for a while. The road dramatically curved ever higher. Bobby pulled off onto a private driveway on the right and headed around more curves.

“I just rent it for now. It’s too flashy for me, but it’s not in my name, which is a big plus. Once you start getting assets, that’s when the cops wanna bust you. But this is where I’m gonna retire. Like maybe in a few years. The tenants might be home and I don’t want to hassle them, so I’ll just show you the outside real quick.”

The driveway ended in front of a strange glass house. Nestled into the mountains on three sides, it looked like two large flattened glass domes joined on the edges. It had a panoramic eastern view of the Plains.    

“Damn, dude. You own this?”

“100% paid in full. No mortgage. They pay the rent to me. I told them I’m just the property manager for the guy who owns the place. Not bad, huh?”

“I never seen a house like this. It’s like all glass. Or half glass.”

“I love it. Can’t move in here until I don’t have any more stones to throw, though, you know? Supposedly, some gay porn movie got shot here in the 70s, I don’t know. But that is my retirement home.”

Bobby looked at Isaiah intently then pulled around in the driveway and headed back to Sunshine Canyon. Isaiah, thoroughly stoned, still held a quarter of the joint in his hand.

“Go ahead and chuck it,” said Bobby. “Or keep the rest for later if you want. Whatever, I got more.”

As they drove past the turn-off where they had first parked, the black Jaguar had vanished. When they got back into Boulder, Bobby stopped at a parking lot payphone on 28th Street to make some phone calls. As Isaiah waited in the Jeep, he saw a black Jaguar pass on the street. It looked identical to the Jaguar that had pulled in behind them in the Mountains.

      “Always do your business on payphones and always change your payphone,” advised Bobby, getting back in Jeep. “It looks funny if a well-off guy is always using the same payphone. Hey look, you hungry? I usually go over to my buddy Little Bobby’s place for dinner around seven. He’s a great chef. Or if you’re tired…”

      “Yeah, man. Well, actually, I think I might just hit it early tonight and get rested up for tomorrow. I’m gonna check the University ride board in the morning to see if there’s any rides heading to Cali.”

Bobby and Little Bobby

      The two men lay in bed at Little Bobby’s house watching the ten o’clock Channel 9 news. A number of Americans had been captured in Lebanon in the previous year. Little Bobby shifted restlessly on the bed, sniffling.

      “By the way, I seen one of your tenants and told her that their rent was going up,” said Little Bobby, voice somewhat groggy. The news showed black and white images of five Americans held by unknown captors in Lebanon.
      “Those Lebanese dudes are pissed,” said Bobby. “Can’t blame ’em really. What, it was just like two years ago that the US was bombing the hell out of the place for some far-from-clear reason. What are you talking about?”

      “You don’t charge enough for that place.”

      “Look man, they got a one-year lease. They’re good tenants.”

      “Lease shmease, you should get more for that place.”

      “Dude…” said Bobby, crossly.

      “Hey, it’s money in your pocket. I told the girl to add a hundred bucks a month to the rent.” Eyes a bit glazed, Little Bobby grabbed a medicine bottle off the bed stand and shook out two pills.

      “Man, you should talk to me before you do stuff like that.”

      “Well, you should tighten up your business affairs. Take care of number one a little more. Like this kid, Isaiah or whatever, you’ve known him for, what, one day, and you’re offering him a job?” said Little Bobby, swallowing the pills with a glass of water. “That’s real cautious, man.”

      “Hey, why do we need a new empties driver? Huh? Yeah, so… And I’ve known him since he was a kid. And I’ve known his uncle since I was a kid. It’s all right. Plus he’d be cheap. He’d do it for a thousand bucks, I bet. Anyway, I haven’t asked him. Yet.”

      “You gonna set him up?”

      “What?”

      “You know what I mean.”

      “No. I’m not. Come on, dude. I know this kid’s family. I wouldn’t do that.”

      “You once told me you’d feed your grandmother to the wolves to stay out of jail.”

      “I was just messing with you, bro,” Bobby said, putting his arm around Little Bobby. “I’m not really like that.”

      Little Bobby looked at Bobby doubtfully. On the news, President Reagan vowed to punish those responsible for capturing the Americans.

      “Uh huh,” Little Bobby said, raising his eyebrows. “Right.”

      “Anyway, that whole thing was just a theory. One of the Columbians told a story, something about feeding a lamb to the wolves every once keeps the wolves happy. Maybe that’s true in Columbia, but… Up here it’s different.”

      “Cause the kid would just tell the cops who he worked for.”

      “Exactly. Down there, like the drivers and underlings are afraid of the bosses, but…”

      “Yeah, you nark the kid off to that one dick Florida cop and he’d just roll on you.”

      “Unless…”

      “Unless what?”

      “Unless, theoretically that is, I had something on him,” said Bobby.

      “Bobby Machiavelli. That’s who you are.”

      “Shut up. You look cute tonight.”

      “Bobby Machiavelli changes the subject with flattery. Don’t stop, big boy.” As a Bill Cosby New Coke commercial came on, Little Bobby rolled on his side and snuggled up to Bobby, sleepily kissing his shoulder.

The Offer

      Late the next morning, after Isaiah checked the University ride board, he got two dollars worth of quarters and found a payphone on Broadway on University Hill. Filling the phone with seven quarters, he made the call that he’d been both dreading and looking forward to.

      “Hey Maureen, how you doin’?” he said in his best warm tone. A small raindrop landed squarely on the scar on his left cheek.

      “Isaiah? I thought you’d forgotten about me,” she replied. “I’m okay. Finally out of that boring mental hospital.”

      “Good. I’m glad. Look, I’m sorry I left like the day before you got out. I just… I didn’t know what to do.” A college girl who looked like a hippie Raquel Welch passed by on the sidewalk, smiling easily at Isaiah. He turned and watched her glide gracefully down the sidewalk.

      “Well, your actions speak loud and clear.” Isaiah didn’t respond for some time.

      “Maureen, please, I’m really sorry. I still care about you a lot. It’s just… I made plans to go visit my Uncle Zen and I’ve just felt really pulled to…”

      “Isaiah, you don’t have to make excuses to me. We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, remember?”

      “No, I guess not.”

      “You guess not? You broke up with me last month then never visited me in the hospital. That’s not how you treat someone you ‘really care about.'”

      “I did visit you in the hospital, on the first day.”

      “Maybe, but not Mercy Center.”

      “Look, you made me promise to stay in touch with you and I am.”

      “Yes, you’re Mr. Isaiah Honesty,” said Maureen, bitingly. “Mr. True-to-His-Word. You love to brag about that.”

      “I’m not bragging, Maureen, I’m just… Anyway, look… I’m just glad you’re out. I do hope you’re feeling better. It’s just… Look, I felt like I was the reason you were so depressed and seeing me wouldn’t help you get any better. Plus I’ve been super depressed lately too so…”

      Another college girl passed. This one looked like a hippie Bo Derek, complete with cornrows in her hair. When Isaiah smiled at her, she frowned at him and quickened her pace.

      “You’re a free man. Anyway, I met this guy in the hospital, one of the nurses. He’s really cool. We’re supposed to go to the Dead show at Alpine Valley next month.”

      “Cool. Well… I just wanted to make sure you were back home safe and sound and to let you know where I’m at. I’m in Colorado and hoping to get to California any day soon.”

      “You know a girl disappeared on the Prairie Path the day before you split? Mary Lou Thorsen. It’s big news here. Cops are all over the Prairie Path.”

      “Mary Lou Thorsen? Damn. I knew her. I went to grade school with her. She was super shy.”

      “Yeah, the day before you left town, Isaiah? Like three days ago. Where were you?”

      “What? Come on, Maureen, gimme a break. That sucks. Mary Lou was a good girl. A little weird but… Hey, if the phone stops, it’s just ’cause I’m out of quarters.”

      “Oh, okay. Well, I’ve got to get dressed anyway. I just got out of the shower and am sitting here in a towel. Have a fun trip.”

      Click. She hung up.    

      Isaiah stood on the sidewalk with the phone in his hand and looked up at the grey sky. A black car drove slowly past. Startled, Isaiah recognized it as the same black Jaguar from the day before. After it passed, he realized it was a Datsun 280Z and felt foolish for being so paranoid.

      When he got back to Bobby’s house, Bobby was in the backyard, pulling the cloth cushions from the yard furniture. A slight drizzle fell.

      “Hey Bobby.”

      “Isaiah! Everything good?”

      “Yeah great, no rides on the ride board though. I guess I’ll just Greyhound it the rest of the way.”

      “Look man, c’mon inside. I got a proposal for you.”

      Inside, Bobby settled on the living room couch and pointed to the easy chair for Isaiah. Again, the curtains were closed.

      “Isaiah, I want to hire you.”

      “What?”

      “I need a driver that I can trust. I take it you’ve got a driver’s license?”

      “Heck yeah, I love to drive. Got no car, but…”

      “Good. It’s a pretty easy job. And safe. I need somebody to drive empties back to Florida.” 

“What?”

“Empty cars. We get full cars in from Florida. That’s the dangerous part. But the other half is driving the empty cars back to Miami. It pays a thousand bucks a car. Plus you get a plane ticket out of Miami to wherever you wanna go. For you, San Francisco. Takes you three days, maybe four. And there’s nothing illegal in the car. Clean as a brand-new jumping bean.”

      “Wow, man. Geez… Thousand bucks, huh?”

      “Yup, you could leave today.”

      “Damn, Bobby, it’s just… I’m super-set on getting out to California and seeing Uncle Zen like as soon as possible. I wrote him that I’d be out there right around now. I even had this weird dream last night that he was getting chased by the cops. I don’t know.”

      “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do, but… Look, it’s about 2100 miles to Miami. Two, three days driving. I give you five hundred bucks for gas, hotels, food, whatever. You fly out of Miami to San Fran, you’ll be there, what’s today, Tuesday? You’ll be in California early next week at the very latest with a thousand bucks cash burning a hole in your pocket.”

      “I don’t know man,” said Isaiah, getting up and walking to the fireplace. A shiny brass statue of the Buddha sat on the mantel. He rubbed the Buddha’s belly and thought of how much he disliked cocaine. It made people noisy and thoughtless and, now, here he was, contemplating working on the periphery of the cocaine trade. Turning around, he looked Bobby square in the eye.

      “Screw it. Hell yeah, I’ll do it. Yes. Fifteen hundred bucks including expenses and a ticket to San Fran out of Miami? And the car is empty?”

      “Yup, street legal as a registered full-blood beagle. When you wanna leave?”

      “Hell, I’d leave today if I could.”

      “Yeah? I hate to hurry you out of Boulder, but… If that’s what you want, great. The car’s in a garage on the Hill. I’ll get Little Bobby, you haven’t met him yet, right? I’ll get him to book the flight and you’ll be good to go.”

      “Yeah?”

      “Yup,” Bobby said, standing up and shaking Isaiah’s hand. “It’s good to stick with family and close friends for stuff like this. You know, people you can trust.”

The Magpie

      A black and white magpie, perhaps the same one that had followed Isaiah when he first arrived in Boulder the day before, sat perched on the very top branch of a silver maple in Bobby’s backyard. Still drying off from the morning’s drizzle, he flapped his wings to air them out.

      Puffing the black feathers on his breast, he chattered loudly and gazed southwest. On the very west edge of Boulder, the Rocky Mountains exploded from the Great Plains.

      Eyeing the Flat Irons, rock outcroppings resembling huge stone hand irons, the magpie enjoyed the fresh smell of the air. The morning’s drizzle had finally washed the smell of the previous day’s house fire from the air.

The Car

      Bobby and Isaiah walked in the front door of Little Bobby’s house. Bobby called his name but didn’t receive an answer. Still calling his name, they went through the kitchen into the garage. Little Bobby had the trunk open of a blue 1984 Toyota Camry and was messing with the spare tire.

      “Hey man,” said Little Bobby, slamming the car trunk quickly. “You must be Isaiah.”

      “Isaiah, this is Little Bobby,” said Bobby. Isaiah and Little Bobby shook hands. Little Bobby had a very soft handshake.

      “Hey man,” said Isaiah, backpack over his shoulder.

      “That’s the car,” said Bobby. “It runs great. Gets tuned up before every run.”

      “Florida plates,” said Isaiah, walking around the car.

      “I booked your flight,” said Little Bobby, sniffling. “Sunday night out of Miami International.”

      “Thanks man.”

      “That’s five days from now, just to give you plenty of time,” said Bobby. “There’s a McDonalds next to a Holiday Inn a couple miles from the airport. Just leave the car in the back of the McDonalds parking lot. The address and directions are in the glove box. Leave the keys in the glove box. That’s it.”

      “That’s it. Piece of cake,” said Isaiah. “Better than making bun toasters for $4.25 an hour.”

      “Moving on up,” sang Little Bobby, leading them back into the house. Bobby sat at the kitchen table counting out cash. Through the kitchen window, he glanced up and saw the long-haired little girl wandering in the cemetery again, now wearing purple pants and a sky blue t-shirt.

      “There’s a fifteen hundred bucks right there,” said Bobby, pointing to a small stack of currency on the table. Isaiah sat down at the table, while Little Bobby disappeared into another room.

      “If the car breaks down, just get it towed, get it fixed. Whatever. The emergency number is Little Bobby’s bike shop. Area code 303 2 B OR NOT. Get it? That’s the number. 303 2 B OR NOT. It’s funny, right? Just call when you get there. Otherwise, only call if it’s a total emergency and just be cool on the phone and give your call back number.”

      “Damn, it’s like all secret agent and stuff, huh? Love it.” On the far side of the cemetery, Isaiah could see a black car passing, but couldn’t tell what brand. His heart began to race.

      “Hey, you gotta be safe,” said Bobby. “The drug war is real. But what you’re doing is easy. And legal. It’s just driving an empty car ‘cross country.”

On the Road Again

    Isaiah drove the blue Camry south down Highway 36 to Denver in the early evening. The morning rain had cleared and once again the sky glowed crystal blue. Yet, his heart still raced and he couldn’t stop checking the rear view mirror.

      With the windows up and the air conditioner on, Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” played on the FM radio: “you’re motoring.” In the rear view mirror, he could see a black car about an eighth of a mile behind him. It seemed to be gaining on him. On the steering wheel, a single bead of sweat formed on the middle knuckle of his left hand. He wiped it off on his jeans.

      Isaiah exited onto Interstate 70 east. The black car exited too. He slowed down so the black car would pass him, but it slowed down too. Feeling paranoid again, he pulled off to lose the black car or at least see if it was a black Jaguar. East of downtown Denver, he exited on Havana Street south, watching his rear view mirror.

      The black car didn’t pull off. Relieved and looking for a place to turn around, Isaiah drove on.

      As he pulled into a Shell station to turn around, a black car pulled out of the gas station. It was a black Jaguar, heading back towards I-70. Then a Denver Police car sped by, also heading towards the interstate. Several beads of sweat formed on his left knuckles. Again, he wiped the sweat off on his jeans.

      Checking the rear view mirror, he pulled back onto the street, away from the Interstate. Havana Street led by Denver’s Stapleton Airport. Trying to stay cool, but feeling his heart racing, Isaiah rechecked the rear view mirror again and again. When the exit to the airport came, he sharply turned in without a turn signal and accelerated. He couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like a black car was a block behind him. His forehead misted with sweat.

Little Bobby’s Barbecue

      Back in Boulder, Bobby and Little Bobby sat at a picnic table on Little Bobby’s back deck, barbecuing steaks on the gas grill. It was that hour before dusk when the world sometimes slows down.

      “I told you, man, I’m not gonna burn a family friend, or any friend, for that matter,” said Bobby proudly, drinking a bottle of O’Douls non-alcoholic beer.

      “What are you talking about?” asked Little Bobby, getting up and turning the steaks on the grill.

      “Isaiah. Last night you said you thought I was gonna nark him off to those jackass Florida cops. I’m really not like that.”

      “Hold on, Bobby. Last night, in bed, you told me you had something on him, and you’d feed him to the wolves if, like, he was afraid enough of you. Remember? Like the Columbians, you said.”

      “Yeah, sure. I mean, maybe, theoretically, probably not, but anyway, that’s not the point. The point is…”

      “Bobby,” Little Bobby interrupted, jiggling the spatula in his hand. “I know I was buzzing last night, but you told me you’d… You told me you had something on him and that you were gonna double-cross him or whatever.” The steaks began to smoke.

      “What? I did not say that. You started calling me Bobby Machiavelli or whatever, but I didn’t actually say I was gonna whatever.”

      Little Bobby sat down across from Bobby. He looked him in the eye.

      “Woops,” said Little Bobby sheepishly raising his eyebrows.

      “‘Woops’ what?” The steaks began to burn.

      “Remember when you came into the garage this afternoon with the kid? I had the trunk up?”

      “You did not!”

      “Yes, I did.”

      “How much?”
      “A fat eight ball under the spare tire.”

      Bobby shook his head and drained the bottle. He crossed his arms and looked at Little Bobby accusingly.

      “If he gets busted, there’s no reason he would not nark me, and you, off. I got nothing on him. Tell me you haven’t called that dick cop in Florida.”

      “I haven’t.” The steaks smoked, but Little Bobby didn’t get up.

      “You swear?” Little Bobby got up and took the steaks off in a desultory fashion.

      “Now, I have to swear oaths to you? These steaks are ruined.” Little Bobby took the plate of burnt steaks into the kitchen. Bobby watched Little Bobby walk away then gazed somberly across the cemetery. The colorfully-dressed little girl was not there.

The Decision

     Isaiah parked the Camry in the long-term lot of Stapleton Airport. For several minutes, he waited to see if the black Jaguar had followed him. It hadn’t, but his heart still raced. The knuckles on both hands now sweat. Trying to calm down, he wiped his hands off on his jeans and wiped his forehead with his forearm.

      He pulled a t-shirt from his backpack and wiped the steering wheel, the rear view mirror, and the gear shift for prints. Leaving the parking ticket and keys in the glove box, he locked the car without using his fingers and left the car with his backpack over his shoulder. A shuttle bus took him to the airport.

      Dissolving into the crowd inside the airport calmed him some. Finding a payphone, he dropped in a quarter and dialed 2 B OR NOT. The phone rang twice, but he hung up before anyone answered.

      Spotting the United Airlines counter, he got into line and tried to calm himself. Two young men in turbans stood in front of him speaking an unintelligible language.

      “Welcome to United Airlines, how may I help you?” asked the United ticket agent. Isaiah couldn’t stop staring at the man’s walrus mustache.

      “Can I change a Miami to San Francisco ticket to a Denver to San Francisco ticket?”

      “One way?” The man typed into his keyboard.

      “Uh yeah.”

      “Seventy-five dollars, sir.” Because it covered his mouth, his walrus mustache seemed to move instead of his lips.

      “When’s the next flight?”

      “The next flight is… Actually, there’s a direct flight in an hour that arrives in San Francisco at 1:10 am, but it is fully booked. No… Yes, there are two aisle seats available.”

      “Yeah?” A hard-looking man about 35 in a black suit stood in the back of the United Airlines line. When Isaiah looked at him, he stared right back with a sour expression.

      “Sorry, yeah, I’ll take it. Definitely. Ummm…” Isaiah pulled a wad of twenties from his front pocket. “Hey, is there like a bank or currency exchange here and a, uh, post office?”

      Isaiah followed the ticket agent’s directions to the World Wide Money Exchange. For half a minute, he stood in front of the shop hesitating. Finally, he walked in and impatiently waited in line, watching the clock.

      “I need a money order for fifteen hundred, no, for fourteen hundred dollars,” he told the cashier, a plain girl his age.

      “Fourteen hundred dollars? Yes, sir,” she replied, eyeing his long hair suspiciously. Minutes later, Isaiah left, carrying the money order in his hand.

      At a convenience-type store, he bought a whole box of envelopes, stamps, and got two dollars worth of quarters. Sitting on a hard plastic chair in a gate area, he pulled his notebook from his backpack and composed a letter.

Bobby,

      Man, I’m really sorry. The car was giving me engine problems. I couldn’t find a mechanic so I just decided to leave it at the Denver airport. It’s parked in the long-term lot section 7A with the keys and parking ticket in the glove box. Here’s your money back and I’ll reimburse you for the ticket when I can.

Thanks for everything and sorry,

Isaiah

      He stared at the letter for a hard minute and almost gobbled it up. Finally, he stuffed it and the money order into an envelope. Addressing and stamping it, he dropped the letter in a dark blue mail box by the convenience store and threw out the rest of envelopes.

      At a payphone, he dropped seven quarters into the slot and dialed a number.

      “We’re not home so please leave a message,” said a girl’s voice on the answering machine.

      “Hey Maureen, it’s Isaiah. Um, that was a tough phone call this morning, but I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to hear your voice. I miss you. Okay? Okay.” He hung up and quickly walked to his gate.

      Out of the corner of his eye, Isaiah saw the hard-looking man in the black suit from the United Airlines ticket line waiting at a gate. The man ignored Isaiah. Isaiah avoided eye contact.

      When Isaiah found his gate, he found a chair facing away from the crowd and sat motionless and breathless waiting for his flight. Still nervous, he convinced himself that the man in the black suit from the United Airlines line was about to arrest him. Every time that a bead of sweat appeared on a knuckle, he wiped it off on his pants.

      Finally boarding the plane, a nun with a pretty face not much older than Isaiah sat in the window seat next to him on the airplane. He grinned at her and she returned an inscrutable look. Putting on his seat belt, his heart finally calmed down. Soon, the plane rolled down the runway and took off.

      “California, here I come,” he said to the nun. She didn’t reply. Isaiah put on his wire-frame mirror sunglasses and slouched back in his seat, relieved.


[i] “CIA Link to Fatal Car Bomb Reported,” Chicago Tribune, 5, May 13, 1985.

6. The Search

In Amy Carlson, blizzard of ozz, Corey Haim, glen ellyn, glenbard west, grateful dead, led zeppelin, marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, Sean Hayes, Stoner Noir, the clash on April 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm

On June 30, 1985, after a sixteen-day ordeal, the Lebanese hijackers released the remaining 39 Americans hostages from the TWA flight. Soon after, Israel released over 700 Lebanese and Palestinians captured during its occupation of Lebanon.  “Let me further make it plain to the assassins in Beirut and their accomplices, wherever they may be, that America will never make concessions to terrorists,” President Reagan said upon the hostages’ release.[i]   

The Anarchy Center

      “I bet she’s buried out along the railroad tracks somewhere,” Ox said to Weasel, crossing the railroad tracks at the downtown Glen Ellyn train station in the late afternoon. A giant ex-high school football star, Ox wore a cut-off denim vest and black Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Pointy-nosed with stringy long hair, Weasel wore a wrinkled black Black Sabbath t-shirt.

      “Who?” asked Weasel, putting a Tootsie Roll in his mouth and dropping the wrapper.

      “The girl who disappeared? What’s her name? Mary Lou Whatsername?” Ox played air guitar as they walked. Weasel kept his hands in his pockets, his head down, and kept bumping into Ox’s side. Ox punched him in the arm and pushed him away.

      “Watch where you’re going, dill wad,” Ox said.

      “I never seen that chick in my life,” said Weasel. “When I got busted that night at the Bahas, the cops kept asking me about her.”

      “We was in jail on that weed thing that day.”

      “Yup, that’s what I told those fools.” The two boys walked across the train station parking lot toward downtown.

      “I think I saw her around, but I didn’t know her,” said Ox. “Seems like she didn’t have any friends or something.”

      “Tough luck for her,” said Weasel, chewing the candy with his mouth open.

      “Hey man, let’s cruise over to the Anarchy Center.”  

      “Is it still a hang-out place? I thought Teddy was on tour with Slave Revolt.”

      “Yeah, Slave Revolt’s on tour but that weird old dude he was living with still runs a swing-door at the apartment.”

      “Cool.”

      “Hey, I got ten bucks, if you got like five, we can call Ernie and get an eighth. You got a fin?”

      “Guess.”

      “Right. Maybe he’ll sell me a short eighth then. Hey, maybe Angela’s there. I could use a little you-know-what, you know what I’m saying? Dude, check out that car. What is that?” A yellow jacket ’72 Chevelle Malibu rumbled by on Main Street.

      “It’s a Malibu 350, ’72,” said Weasel, squinting at the car. “The timing’s all screwed up. Some hot chick with big hair and a leather mini-skirt drives it.”

      They entered the apartment building just south of Soukup’s Hardware and walked to a door under the stairs. The hallway smelled of weed and dust. Ox knocked on the door of the apartment, known to the local kids as “the Anarchy Center.” Nobody answered, but they could hear music and voices within.

      Finally, an old man with a receding hairline answered the door. “Yes?”

      “Hey man, remember me?” said Ox. “I was here a couple weeks ago, friends with Teddy?”

      Owitz, in his early 40s, stood reluctantly aside and they walked in. The doorway opened into the main room. Amber, Maureen, Rose, and Tommy the Elf sat on the floor around the coffee table smoking and talking. A slightly rotten smell pierced the cigarette smoke.

      “Hey dudes. What’s up, Angela?” said Ox, not looking at Amber. Ox and Weasel plopped down on the old couch and pulled out cigarettes.

      “How long’s Slave Revolt on tour for?” Ox asked Owitz.

      “A month at least. They’re supposedly in Denver or something right now,” the old man replied grumpily, sitting on the sofa as Ox and Weasel moved aside.

      The apartment was two rooms long and narrow.  Really, it was like a hallway that had been split into two rooms. It was also windowless, ill lit, and messy. Graffiti covered the walls. Punk Rock Is Revolution. Smash Capitalism. Destroy the State. Just Say Yes.

      A tape deck played Iggy and the Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The old man, looking like a dissolute high school science teacher, sat talking about science with tiny red-haired punkish Tommy.

      “What about if three lasers were used?” asked Owitz, overly enunciating his words.

      “Three lasers would mess up the symmetry. Holograms can only use two lasers. It has to do with the refractions created when the…” explained Tommy, sneaking looks at Maureen.

      “So where’s your other half?” Ox asked Rose, borrowing Weasel’s lighter. Though Rose and her best friend Angela looked like twins, skinny shapeless girls with fried fluffy blonde hair, Rose was the dark quiet one and Angela was the sassy one.

      “Angela?” replied Rose quietly. “She’s out looking for you, I thought.”

      “Dude, gimee my lighter back,” said Weasel to Ox.    

      “Hey Rose, you wanna call up Ernie and see if he’ll sell me a short eighth?” asked Ox.

      “Yeah, seriously,” Tommy told Owitz. “Hey, you hear what Reagan said? Like he thinks he’s Rambo? He’s gonna do a Sylvester Stallone on the terrorists next time they capture Americans? What an idiot.”

      “He thinks he’s still making movies,” said Owitz disdainfully.

      “Unless anyone’s got five bucks to go in on an eighth?” Ox begged loudly.

      “Why didn’t you go to the Dead show?” Amber asked Maureen, leaning back on her arms. Whereas Amber was a short and busty hottie, Maureen was a slender beauty. “I thought that guy bought you a ticket.”

      “The nurse dude?” replied Maureen, examining the ends of her hair. “Yeah, he did, but, you know, he just drove me crazy with his talking and, like, always asking me if I was okay.”

      “Yeah? Huh,” said Amber, looking at her watch. “Nick said he was going to be here like forty minutes ago. It’s so predictable. As soon as you give a guy what he wants, he doesn’t want you anymore.”

      “Yeah?” asked Maureen, inquisitively. “So you and Nicky did it, huh?”

      “Of course not,” Amber said, fidgeting. “Hey Owitz, are you going to the liquor store?”

      “Uh no. Why?” replied Owitz, not looking at her.

      “Me and Maureen want some vodka for tonight.” Amber, wearing a ripped jean mini-skirt and tight green t-shirt that read “I’m Up Here” with an arrow pointing to her face, got up from the floor and sat next to Owitz.

      “Please?” she asked, giving him a shy smile.

      “Yeah maybe,” Owitz replied, staring at her chest.

      “Hey everybody. Owitz is going on a run to Malloy’s if anybody wants anything,” Amber said. “I’m getting vodka for the Towers party tonight.”

      “Dude, get me cigarettes,” said Ox, still avoiding acknowledging Amber. “Marlboro Reds. Box. Can I owe you?”

      “Yeah, man,” said Tommy the Elf, reaching into his pocket for money. “How ’bout some Mickeys? I think they’re having a sale on 12-packs. I got five, no, seven bucks.”

      “All right,” said Owitz, collecting the money. “Marlboro Reds dude: no fronts. From each, according to his ability and to each, according to his need. But no credit. I gotta make something off this too if I’m the one walking down there, right?”
      “Yeah, you guys,” said Amber, sticking her chest out. “Don’t be dicks. Make it worth his while. He needs money to help smash the state. Right, Owitz?”

      Iggy and the Stooges “1969” played on the tape deck: “It was 1969, okay? War all over the USA.” Ox, Weasel, and Tommy talked conspiratorially to each other. Tommy looked up at Owitz appraisingly.

      “You ask him,” demanded Ox.

      “What was the date?” asked Tommy.

      “I don’t know,” replied Ox. “What the hell? I can’t even remember her name.”

      “Mary Lou Thorsen,” Tommy told Ox. “You ask him.”

      “He did it. I’m sure,” said Ox. “He’s got the body in his closet in the back room. That’s what that nasty smell is. The smell of death. When he leaves, we’ll check the back room.”

      As Owitz collected the money and left for the liquor store, Rose made a call from Owitz’s telephone.

      “Owitz makes his living off welfare and shaving money off kids’ liquor orders,” snickered Ox. “Hey, Amber, I think he likes you.”

      “Shut up, Oxford,” said Amber. “You know you’re the one he likes.”

      “Did you see the way he was looking at you?” Ox asked. “I think he actually slobbered on himself. He’s gonna ask if he can take your picture.”

      “Gross,” said Amber. “I hate perverts.”

      “Ernie’s not home,” Rose told Ox quietly, hanging up the phone.

      “Hey, let’s look in the back room,” said Ox loudly. “We’re pretty sure he’s got Mary Lou Thorsen’s body in there.”

      “What?” Amber asked, standing up.

      Ox, Weasel, Rose, and Amber poured into the back bedroom. Maureen stayed in the front room.

      “If there’s a body back there, I am seriously going to vomit,” Maureen said to nobody in particular.

      “I’ll stay up here with you, Maureen,” said Tommy in a kind voice.

      “So, you really got a scholarship out in California?” Maureen asked. “You always were like the smartest kid in class.”

      “It’s no big deal,” said Tommy, looking sheepish. “University of California at Berkeley. Berkeley’s supposed to be real cool, though, and, I don’t know, I just really like physics so…”

      “Lucky you. Seriously.”

      “Thanks, Maureen. Hey, I got you a present.” Tommy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jewelry box.

      “I love presents!” she said. “Why’d you get me a present?”

Taking the box from Tommy, she opened it and found a pair of silver earrings with feathers on the end.

      “I dunno. I saw them and thought they’d look good on you.” Maureen thanked him and went into the bathroom to try them on.

      Owitz’s bedroom was both messy and filthy. Mattress on floor. Bed unmade. Dirty clothes and dirty plates strewn about. Bookshelves with books on science and left wing politics. The kids stood in front of the closed closet door.

      “All right, you guys,” said Ox, smoking a cigarette. “On the count of three. One, two…”

      “Hold on, hold on,” interrupted Amber, arms wrapped tightly around her chest. “It’s his closet. It’s like private. Let’s just leave it alone.”

      “Scared?” asked Ox scornfully.

      “No. Yeah. Shut up,” said Amber. “I’m getting like goose bumps. Let’s just call the police.”

      Rose stood in the back room as far as possible from the closet. She shivered slightly.

      “Open it, dude,” Ox told Weasel, as Ox made a drum roll on his thigh. Weasel paused and looked closely at the closet door. It didn’t fit the jamb properly, standing about three inches above the floor. Nicks and chips laced the well-worn beige paint on the edges of the door as well.

      “Come on, dude,” commanded Ox. Weasel had his hand on the door knob. Rose shuddered and Amber backed up.

      “Hold on, hold on,” said Amber. Weasel paused.

      “What?” asked Ox, frowning at her.

      “Ummmm… Nothing. Just hold on for a sec,” Amber replied, backing up and standing next to Rose.

      “One two… THREE!” shouted Ox.

      In the bathroom, Maureen admired the feathered earrings that Tommy gave her. He stood in the doorway, watching her look in the mirror.

      “Thanks, Tommy,” she said. “That’s really sweet.”

      She kissed him quickly on his cheek and walked out of the bathroom. He watched her walk back into the living room and softly touched his cheek where she had kissed him.

      In the back bedroom, Weasel pulled the closet door open. As a baseball bat fell out with a thud, Rose screamed. A couple dress shirts and pants hung from hangers. On the floor of the closet sat a stack of pornographic magazines, some dirty socks, and an old Kentucky Fried Chicken box.

      “Shut up! God, that’s annoying,” Ox told Rose, who covered her mouth. “Look at the KFC box! It’s got maggots in it!”

      Indeed, the chicken bones in the KFC box crawled with countless pale maggots. With the closet door open, the reeking smell seeped into the room. Amber ran to the front room, over-dramatically gagging and holding her hands over her mouth.

      “Look, it’s the Witzer’s porn stash!” said Ox, grabbing a Penthouse from the floor. “Weas, get that KFC box out of here.”

      Ox took the Penthouse to the front room. It was the February 1985 issue. Grimacing, Weasel gingerly took the KFC box out the back door.

      “Check it out,” said Ox, settling into the front sofa next to Tommy. “It’s got an interview with Henry Lee Lucas in it and an article on serial killers.”

      “Sex and death,” said Tommy. “Jim Morrison would love it.”

      “What?” asked Ox, not understanding.

      “He must have already dumped the body somewhere,” said Weasel, returning to the front room and opening his eyes widely in mock terror.

      At the same time, Nick and Angela stood just outside the front door. As Angela raised her fist to knock, wiry and mohawked Nick squeezed her skinny bottom. Ever the sassy one, she smiled, stuck her rear out, and slapped his hand.

      “You love it,” he said.

      “You wish,” she said, knocking.

      “Come in!” hollered Ox. “Hey! It’s open!”

      “What’s up, my people,” said Nick, striding in and standing in the center of the room. Angela followed, grinning.

      “Hey Nick,” said Ox, smiling. “What’s up, Angela? We was just checking Owitz’s closet for the body of that chick who disappeared.”

      “Yeah?” said Nick, sitting on the couch. “That’s not where the body is.”

      “So where were you?” Amber asked Nick irritably.

      “Hither and yon, you know. I was there and now I’m here. Why?” Nick replied, acting oblivious.

      “You said you were gonna be here almost an hour ago,” accused Amber.

      “What is that nasty smell in here?” asked Angela, screwing up her face.

      Ox shrugged as Tommy kept sneaking glimpses at Maureen. Feeling constricted in the small smoky apartment, Weasel wanted to leave, but felt self-conscious and unable to stand up and excuse himself. Instead, he sat and tried to laugh when the others laughed.

      “Leave the back door open, it reeks in here. So you guys searched Witz’s closet?” asked Angela. “Where’s he at? I want some cigarettes.”

      “He’s on a run to Malloy’s,” said Rose. “Amber’s getting vodka for tonight.”

      “Right on, Amber,” said Angela. Amber looked at Nick darkly.

      “There was some rotten Kentucky Fried Chicken in the closet,” Ox finally told Angela. “Weas, open up that back door to air this place out, huh?”

      “If you wanna keep doing what we’ve been doing, you can’t be running around with other girls,” Amber tersely told Nick, while looking at Angela. Weasel got up and fanned the back door back and forth to air out the rotten smell.

      “I wasn’t hanging out with Angela, if that’s what you’re asking,” said Nick. “We just ran into each other in the hallway as I was just getting here.”

      “Yeah, right,” said Amber, frowning.

      “Look, I don’t have a telephone,” Nick said. “What am I supposed to do? Why you being so possessive all of a sudden?”

      “I am not being possessive,” Amber replied.

      “Hey Amber, check it out, this chick in the magazine looks like you. Christy Canyon,” Ox shoved the magazine in front of Amber to make her see the pictures. She pushed it away.

      “She says, hold on, she says here that she recommends that every woman make an X-rated movie. She says she loves making porno movies. Says every woman should make one. How ’bout that, Am? Check it out, Nick, don’t it look like Amber?” Nick took the magazine and looked.

      “The face is different, but the body is the same.”
      “You guys are both jerks,” said Amber, disgusted.

      “So why you so sure that girl who disappeared’s body ain’t in Owitz’s closet?” asked Ox, leafing through the Penthouse again. 

      “Sure seems like you’re being possessive,” Nick told Amber, ignoring Ox.

      “What are you doing after summer?” Tommy asked Maureen.

      “Maybe go to junior college,” she replied. “Maybe model for a girly magazine if my skin clears up.”

      “Yeah?” Tommy said. “You should come out to California with me.”

      Carrying a brown paper grocery bag, Owitz walked in the front door. Amber jumped up to greet him.

      “Thanks Owitz,” she said, sliding her vodka bottle out of the bag. “Hey, Maureen, let’s take off.”

      “Sure,” Maureen said, standing up.

      “Hey, can I come with you?” Tommy quietly asked Maureen.

      “I guess,” Maureen replied ambivalently, looking at Amber, who nodded her head in affirmation. Slipping the vodka bottle into her purse, Amber walked out the front door without saying goodbye to anyone. Maureen followed, looking back at the others and shrugging.

      “See you guys at the Towers later,” said Tommy, taking the bag with his beer and leaving. “Maybe.”

      “What’s up with Amber?” asked Owitz.

      “She’s all jealous that Nicky was talking to me,” said Angela, smirking. Ox tried to show Weasel some pictures from the Penthouse, but Weasel just scowled.

      “Come on, dude,” said Ox. “Check this chick out. Christy Canyon. ‘Queen of the X-Rated Cinema.’ Naked, she looks just like Amber.”

      “That guy is such a selfish jerk,” said Amber, as she, Maureen, and Tommy walked to Amber’s Mom’s car in the downtown parking lot across the street. “He’s even worse than Ox. Why do I attract such jerks?”

      “Most guys are at least partial jerks,” said Maureen. “Sorry Tommy.”

      Getting into Amber’s Mom’s Chevette, the trio drove towards the railroad tracks. With the bell ringing and red lights blinking, the railroad crossing guards came down.

      “So, has he been messing around with Angela the whole time he’s been supposedly going out with me?” Amber asked Tommy.

      “I really don’t know,” Tommy replied. “I mean, Nick’s probably been with a lot of girls, but not that I know of.”

      “So that means ‘yes’?”

      “No, Amber, I really don’t know,” said Tommy. A freight train passed, heading towards Chicago.

      “Gotcha,” Amber replied. “Hey, you two wanna go see a movie tonight?”

      “What about the party at the Towers?” Maureen asked.

      “I don’t wanna go to the stupid Towers. I’ll buy your ticket. You can come too, Tommy.”

      “Sure, I’ll go,” Tommy said, looking at Maureen hopefully. As the train passed loudly, they sat in silence.

      “Hey, Maureen, you wanna go be an extra in that movie they’re filming at Glenbard this week?” asked Tommy, over the sound of the train. “They need kids for a big crowd scene or something.”

      “Yeah? Maybe,” Maureen replied, rifling her purse for cigarettes.

      “I think it pays like twenty-five bucks or something,” Tommy said. “How ’bout I call you?”

      “Sure, whatever,” Maureen replied, lighting a Camel filter.

      “Hey, you guys wanna see my modeling portfolio? My mom’s boyfriend, I told you, is like a professional-quality photographer and he did it for free. They’re good.” Amber handed Maureen a manila envelope that had been sitting between the front seats.

      “Damn, Amber,” said Maureen, looking at the 8″ by 10″ photos of Amber posing in her black bikini. “These are pretty sexy. Your mom’s boyfriend took these? You said he wasn’t a perv.”

      “He’s not. He was totally professional. Like I said, he says he can get me some modeling jobs in Chicago. Once I turn 18, which is in like two months.”

      “You sure you wanna let Tommy see these? Tommy, you 18 yet?” Maureen laughed and handed the pictures to Tommy. He looked at them quickly and handed them back.

      “So what do you think? They’re good, right?”

      “I can’t believe you modeled in your underwear for your Mom’s boyfriend. Does she know?”

      “It’s not underwear. It’s a bikini. Anyway, my mom wouldn’t care. She was out of town. As usual. Don’t tell her though, okay?”

      “So, where’s her body, Mr. Know-it-all?” Angela asked Nick, back at the Anarchy Center. They sat next to each other on the floor, leaning against the wall.

      “Who?” Nick asked.

      “Nobody,” Angela said.

      “Oh, you mean the girl who disappeared?” Nick asked coolly. “Yeah, her body’s over off St. Charles Road.”

      “What? Are you serious?” Angela exclaimed. “What the hell?”

      “Hey! I didn’t have anything to do with it,” said Nick. “I swear.”

      “Who’s got weed?” pleaded Ox in a faux desperate voice. No one responded.

      Nick pulled a tape out of his pocket and put it in Owitz’s tape deck. JFA’s “Jodie Foster’s Army” blared: “he shot Reagan, he shot the pig, didn’t he?

Maureen and Isaiah

     Stoned and blue, as usual, Isaiah stood in front of a payphone in a Santa Cruz laundromat. Filling the slot with seven quarters, he dialed Maureen’s number.

      “Please leave a message and we’ll call you back as soon as we can,” sounded Maureen’s voice on the answering machine.

      “Hey Maureen,” he said glumly. “Just wanted to say hi. I hope everything’s good out…”

      “Hello Isaiah,” Maureen said sternly, picking up the phone.

      “Hey baby.”

      “I’m ‘baby’ again, huh?”

      “I don’t know. Sure. How you doin’?”

      “Great. It’s been a fun summer out here. Lots of parties. Me and that cute nurse guy I told you about saw the Dead at Alpine last week.” Three girls who looked like sorority girls walked into the laundromat with their baskets, all talking at once.

      “Yeah? Cool.”

      “I miss you.”

      “You miss me or you miss the sex?”

      “You. Both… I don’t know. So, is that nurse guy your new boyfriend or what?” One of the sorority girls eyed Isaiah. She had bleach blonde hair and overly tanned skin.

      “Well, he got a little too frisky after the concert, but it’s casual.”

      “Right. Well. I see. Yeah. Still haven’t seen Uncle Zen out here. It’s weird though. If I’d gotten out here two days earlier, I might have gotten busted with him.”

      “Uh huh.”

      “But I got a job at the Taco Bell so I’m not going broke.”

      “Ambitious of you. A glamour job. You probably look hot in the uniform,” she said sarcastically.

      “Yeah well. It’s money. So you’re okay?”

      “Why does everyone ask me that? I’m fine.” The sorority girls laughed at a private joke. The too-tanned one had stopped looking at Isaiah.

      “Oh, I moved too, so don’t send anything to the St. George. Me and that dude Rhion are subletting this little basement apartment while the guy’s in the county jail.”

      “Are you gonna send me a card with your new address?”

      “Sure.”

      “So, what you wearing?”

      “Up to your old tricks again, huh? I’m wearing super short cut off jeans and a red bandana top.”

      “A red bandana top?”

      “Yeah, you’d like it. Just a red bandana wrapped around like a bikini top.”

      “Wow,” said Isaiah, trying to catch the eye of the bleach blonde sorority girl again. She ignored him.

The Girl Who Disappeared

“I done told you,” said Nick, wearing black jeans and a black Travis Bickle t-shirt. “I didn’t have anything to do with it, but if you promise not tell, I’ll show you where her body is.”

“Nick, you ass,” Angela said. She wore her prized black WLUP FM 98 “The Loop” t-shirt. “You are freaking me out. Just tell us.”

Through the old suburban neighborhood, they walked down Riford Road towards St. Charles Road. As the sky faded into dusk, Rose lagged behind them a step or two.

“What’s up with you chicks, getting all possessive?” asked Nick.

“Dude, if you’re comparing me to Amber-ger…” said Angela.

“Just cause people have sex don’t mean they’re married,” interrupted Nick.

“What do you expect? Going out with cheerleaders, Nicky? I don’t know what’s up with you sometimes,” said Angela.

“Hey, she’s hot,” said Nick defensively.

“She got big boobs, that’s about it. I don’t know why you guys are so into that. Boobs are just fat.”

“If you had anything to do with it, I’m calling…” began Rose, wearing an oversized tie-dye.

“Look,” he interrupted. “I told you I didn’t have anything to do with it. Just shut up and I’ll show you where her body is. If you want. Or not.”

“Let’s just go to the Towers and party,” Rose quietly pleaded.

“Show us the body first,” said Angela grimly. “We can cut over to the Towers on the tracks on the other side of Ackerman Park afterwards.”

“Your wish is my command,” said Nick.
      “If she’s all nasty and decomposed, I’m going to…” said Angela.

“She’s buried,” interrupted Nick, with a bleak look on his face, stopping on the edge of Forest Hill Cemetery. “In here.”

“The cemetery? She has not been buried yet. Her body hasn’t even been found yet, dude. What the…” said Angela

“Quit tripping,” Nick interrupted. “You two are the ones that wanted to know where the body was and I’m showing you. Just relax, all right? Have a cigarette.”

Nick gave each of the girls a Marlboro Red, but didn’t take one for himself. Angela and Rose lit the smokes and the trio stood on the cut grass on the edge of the road, looking into the graveyard.

“I don’t like graveyards,” said Rose, standing apart from the others. “I’ll catch the breath of death, if I breathe in there.”

“Come on, Rose,” said Angela, shaking her head. “Graveyards are cool. It’s destiny, you know? Like some day that’s where we’ll all end up? And, just for the record, I know that you’re just messing with us, Nicholas. But I wanna see what the punch line is.”

“You’ll see. I’m gonna do just what I said,” Nick said.

A yellow-jacket 1972 Chevy Chevelle Malibu 350 with a loud engine drove slowly towards St. Charles Road. Run-D.M.C.’s “King of Rock” played on the car radio. “You can’t touch me with a ten foot pole, and I even made the devil sell me his soul.” The big-haired strawberry blonde driving eyed cooly Nick as she passed.

“Cool car,” said Nick aloud, staring back at her with a hard look. As Rose held her breath, he led the girls through the stone gateway into the cemetery.

“So, where we going, Mr. Scary?” asked Angela. Nick didn’t reply, but walked ahead of the girls, leading them into the middle of the cemetery. They walked in silence. Passing, Rose noticed the epitaph “Peace and Love” on one old gravestone.

“The girl who disappeared is right over there, behind those bushes…” Nick said, trailing off.

“If there is a dead body over there, I swear I am going to scream,” said Rose.

“You are walking on dead bodies right now, you freak,” said Nick. “So start screaming.”

“What’s that Morrison poem?” asked Angela. “Ernie has a book with it, about a cemetery. He can do a killer Morrison imitation. It’s about like tripping in a cemetery at night, it’s like “‘Cemetery cemetery, cool and quiet,’ or something.”

“Creepy,” said Rose, holding her own arms. “I know what we should do! Let’s leave, like right now. I hate doing stuff like this.”

Nick and Angela ignored her. They walked around some bushes. Nick pointed to a gravestone with its back to them.

“There she is,” he said somberly. “The girl who disappeared.”

“Dude, what are you talking about?” asked Angela, annoyed.

The gravestone stood low to the ground, less two feet tall. Its back was unfinished gray granite. Holding her cigarette close to her mouth and taking quick small drags, Rose stood back from the others and looked at her shoes. She wore puffy white sneakers.

As the other two walked around to the front of the gravestone, Rose looked up at the dusk sky. A single cloud floated motionlessly. To her, it looked like a hazy white face with one eye, a Cyclops cloud that stared right at her, judging her harshly. She froze.

Nick and Angela walked around to the front of the gravestone. Reflexively, Angela dropped her cigarette and grabbed his hand. The front of the gravestone was polished smooth. It read:   

Karen Sue Schuchardt

Birth: May 16, 1956

Death: May 13, 1974

Her light shines on.

“This girl died like 10 years ago, numb nuts,” Angela said to Nick. “But she was my age. That’s sad.”

“It’s the girl who disappeared,” said Nick. “In front of the drugstore downtown. You remember that?”

“Are you serious?” said Angela. “That’s freaky. I’m getting goose bumps. I didn’t even live here then…”

“I remember,” said Nick somberly. “Somebody snatched her off the streets of Glen Ellyn in the middle of the day. They found her body in the Fox River or something the next week. Some bad dude… Yeah, so her killer has never been found. Yet.”

“Let’s leave like right now or I am going to totally start screaming,” said Rose. Angela hugged her.

“You said you wanted to know where the body of the girl who disappeared was,” Nick said, smiling evilly. “You didn’t say which girl, though.”

“You are a dick, Nick. Nick the Dick. You better gimme another cigarette right now,” said Angela. As dusk faded away, they all turned and silently walked out of the graveyard. In the distance, the voices of neighborhood children playing summer games filled the air.


[i] Robert Parry, “Colin Powell Being Colin Powell,” New York Times, September 13, 2005.