The Long Way Home

If you are the one person that has read all of my blogs, I should probably buy you a beer. Or invite to spend a week or two at our spacious and beautiful retirement home in the even more beautiful Lakeside area.

I probably won’t turn into Satan if you decide to vacation here, but you might want to limit the amount of LSD you take, just in cases. I can promise I won’t pull a gun on you. And you probably won’t contract the Philadelphia flu, though Montezuma’s Revenge is always a possibility in Mexico…  And I won’t tie you up and stab you with a really big needle, or shove a garden hose down your dick.

The only reason I mention these disparate items is because all of them were things I saw, or were things that happened to me while I was in Texas.

I’ve been writing about the vacation from hell my lovely supermodel wife, her sister and I experienced way back in 1995 when we drove down to the bottom of Texas to help their father clear his house of his dead wife’s possessions after her death.

Driving vacations are twofold in the way they unfold. There’s the joyous drive to arrive at your highly anticipated destination part when your vacation begins. And then there’s the dreaded now we have to drive all the way home part as your vacation ends.

There’s usually a whole lots of fun and frolicking somewhere in between anticipation and dread, and that’s one reason why the dread part is so dreaded. You’re usually so exhausted from having fun, the only thing you want to do is sleep for forty-eight hours, not drive.

Neither Lea nor I, or her sister for that matter, could say we had had that much fun during our vacation. The sisters had cried their way through every room and closet, every nook and cranny in their father’s house as they sorted out their mother’s stuff into piles of stuff to keep, and stuff to get rid of.

We had all been struck down by the Philadelphia flu, and Lea had ended up in the hospital just this side of hell in the process. And then there was Andy, Leslie’s goat killing, hostage taking, leg breaking horse, who had lost his head in more ways than one. His misadventures would reverberate through Bill and Leslie’s lives for years to come.

And let’s not forget Muffy’s pants.

Leslie’s sudden change of plans would spare her from the dreaded drive home, and that was probably the only good thing that would come out of our vacation for her.

I can’t say I was dreading the trip home, except for the whole driving a big moving truck thing, and the having to tow our car behind the big truck thing. I had never done that before, but I figured it couldn’t be that tough. Guys nowhere near as smart as me did it everyday, and if someone named Rubber Ducky could do it, so could I.

The days after Leslie flew back to Wisconsin went by quickly. Lea and I hung out with Dave. We rented a big yellow Ryder truck, and a towing dolly for our car. We loaded truck with Leslie’s Stuff. And Lea’s Stuff. And we got rid of the Stuff No One Wants.

Dave had a lots of experience with driving a big rig and towing another vehicle. He owned a motorhome, and he had towed his car behind the motorhome all across the country.

Dave gave me three valuable rules for our trip.

“Now this truck you’re driving is much bigger than anything you’ve ever driven, and you’re going to be towing your car behind it. So give yourself plenty of time and space if you have to stop. This thing is not going to stop on a dime.

“And it’s not going to turn on a dime, either. You have to make wide turns, you understand? Just like those eighteen wheelers do. Don’t try to cut any corners, or you’ll probably lose half of your car.

“And the last thing is the most important. You can’t back up when you’re towing your car. So when you stop to get gas, or sleep, or whatever, make sure you can drive straight out of any place you pull in to, you understand? If you don’t, you’re going to have to take your car off of the dolly, and then you’ll have to unhook the dolly from the truck before you can even think about turning the truck around. And then you have to hook everything back up again.

“So be careful! Because it’s a real bugger if you have to do it, and it always happens at the most inopportune moment, of course.”

I really liked that car. It was a 1994 Mitsubishi Galant four door sedan. Metallic Forest Green, and it had a spoiler. Of all the cars I owned after I lost my little red sportscar in the fire that burned down my parents’ house, I probably liked that car the most.

Dave had good advice, so I damn near took notes. But that ended up being the extent of what he had to say about driving. Give yourself plenty of space when you stop or turn. And don’t drive into anywhere that you can’t drive straight out of.

Piece of cake.

And then Dave said something that caught me by surprise.

“You know, Lea is Wanda’s baby girl, and Wanda used to worry about her baby girl because that’s what mothers do, and Lea was living alone in the Big City, you know.

“And then you came along. Now, I’ll be honest. I didn’t quite know what to think of you when I first met you, but I tend to reserve my judgement about people, and that’s just me. But Wanda loved you–she said you were her angel–and that, well, that was good enough for me.

“But I’ve known you for awhile now, and I’ve gotten to know you better. And there’s no doubt that you love Lea, and she clearly adores you. And you’ve been there for her through some tough times.

“You’re a good man, Mark. You were Wanda’s angel, and, well, you’ve become mine, too.”

I’m sure I had no response to that. When Wanda told me I was her angel, I had an immediate response. I might be a lots of things, but I’m pretty sure an angel isn’t one of them.

Wanda could care less what I thought. I was the answer to her prayers, and that was all that mattered to her. But now I had somehow become Dave’s angel, and I have to admit, that mattered to me.

One of the truths about married life is you are rarely good enough for your in-laws, like, they’re royalty or something, and you’re fucking Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. But I had somehow transcended that status. Not only had I hit an home run, I had scored a touchdown, and an hat trick!

“I kind of doubt I’ll ever be an angel, Dave. But I’m working on that being a good man part. You won’t have to worry about Lea. I’ll take good care of her.”

“That’s all I needed to hear.”

You know what? Dave wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

* * * *

I think we picked up our rental truck on Monday, and spent the day loading that sucker up. The truck was quite a bit larger than what we needed for the stuff we were going to take back to the top of the country. The only reason we opted for a truck that big was for towing our car.

Dave gave me an hands-on in-service about connecting the dolly to the truck and hooking up the electricals, and putting the front wheels of our car on the dolly to tow it. It seemed simple enough…

We said our good-byes to Dave, and hit the road on Tuesday morning. It would probably take us three days to get back to Minnesota, but that would give me three days to rest and recuperate before I returned to work the following Monday.

It was the last time Lea or I would ever travel to Dave’s house.  Leslie would make one more trek down to the bottom of Texas, just before Dave died in 2011, but she would fly down. And fly back.

I remember being a little nervous as I drove the truck towing our car out of the driveway. You always wonder if you hooked everything up correctly, and you hope you did. After you’ve been driving for about an hour and nothing goes wrong, you relax and almost forget you’ve never done this before.

After a few hours, you give yourself a trucker name.

Ten-four there, good buddy! You got the Yellow Ryder over here on the flip-flop. I’m carrying a load of precious momentos, and I got my best girl by my side. We’re heading for the Great White North, so I’m keeping the pedal on them double nickels, and I got my eyes peeled for Smokey!

My lovely supermodel wife was smiling. This was going to be okay. I told Lea that I had become Dave’s angel. She was quiet for a time, and tears welled her eyes.

“He told me how much he loved me before we left. I think my mother’s death has changed him. He wasn’t like that when I was little.”

The only thing that concerned me was where my wife was sitting. She had moved from her seat to the cooler I had placed between our seats in the cab of the truck. She said she was too far away from me.

That was kind of cute, but the cooler didn’t come equipped with seatbelts, so if I had to come to a sudden stop, I was pretty sure Lea would end up flying through the windshield. And I doubted Dave would consider that taking good care of Wanda’s baby girl on my part.

But I didn’t have to come to any sudden stops. The first leg of our journey home was uneventful, and the miles flew by. And by. And by. If you’ve never driven across Texas, it seemingly goes on forever.

Our plan was to drive from San Benito to Dallas, and spend the night with Gary and Mary. Gary was my buddy that flew up to Minneapolis after Lea’s second surgery to save my life. He was living in Ferris, TX, a suburb on the southern end of Dallas.

Gary and I go way back. He was one of my brother Tom’s friends in high school, and we started doing a lots of stupid stuff together after I got out of the Army.

I can’t remember how he ended up in Texas, but he did. And then he married Mary. And then they had a kid. Spoiler alert! They would have another one nine months later. Yep. Our visit to Dallas would be a fertile one.

I hadn’t seen Gary in awhile, and I was looking forward to seeing him again. You know, drink a few beers, tell some stories, and just relax.

Lea grew tired of sitting on the cooler, and wanted to drive. I filled her in out Dave’s Driving Tips, and she took over somewhere around Austin. So Lea was driving when we hit the outskirts of Dallas at rush hour, and the route we were supposed to take to get to Gary and Mary’s was under major construction.

By the time Lea had traversed the detour, and all the twists and turns we had to take to get to our destination, she was pretty much done with driving on this trip.

* * * *

The first leg of our journey was under our belts. We had made it to Dallas. We sat out on the yard and sipped some adult beverages. I think we even listened to an album by Supertramp. They were Mary’s favorite group back in the day.

We had a meal that couldn’t be beat, and quite a few more beverages. As a result, we probably got off to a later start than I would have liked the next day.

Wednesday, April 19, 1995.

We had driven through Dallas on our way down to San Benito. Leslie had been praying for death after succumbing to the Philadelphia flu. I know I had some random thoughts about my vacation with Shorty bouncing around inside my head as I drove, but most of my attention was focused on not hitting any of the cars flying by us on the freeway. Rush hour traffic in Dallas, is a real rush.

I think the amount of traffic started thinning out a bit once we reached Denton. It was around 9:00 AM, maybe. I asked Lea to find some appropriate traveling tunes on the radio. But there was no music that morning. There was nothing but news reports. Something had happened in Oklahoma City. There had been an explosion.

A very big one.

The initial reports were chaotic and confused. It might have been a gas leak. It might have been a meteorite. Whatever it was, it had destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were dead.

“Jesus. That’s crazy. A gas leak? That wouldn’t destroy a building that big. No way.” I said.

But you know what would? A yellow Ryder truck, the same size as the one I was driving, filled with explosives.

As we continued to listen to the reports, it occurred to me that our route back home went right through Oklahoma City, if anything was still moving through Oklahoma City.

“Get the map. Find another route.” I said. “We’re not going anywhere near Oklahoma City. I don’t care if we have to go through California. Find another way.”

I can’t remember the exact route Lea decided on, but she plotted a course around Oklahoma City that eventually brought us back to our original course just outside of Kansas City.

We were on the road for thirteen hours that day. We checked into an hotel at midnight, and we were back on the road at 4:00 AM Thursday morning.

* * * *

I can’t remember how many times I thought things couldn’t get any worse on this trip, but I know I was wrong every time.

It was a gray, cloudy day, and windier than hell on Thursday. I had to fight like two hells to keep the truck on the road. I was buffeted out of my lane more than once, and one of those times resulted in me careening rather close to a really big truck.

It wasn’t intentional on my part, but the truck driver’s response was. He decided to play a little trucker tag, and inched his rig toward mine. And he kept on inching.

Now I had a dilemma. This guy was clearly going to keep on inching closer to me because every time I slid to the right, so did he. So I decided to bail out and head for the shoulder of the road.

The shoulder of the road wasn’t in the best of shape, and we hit a lots of bumps and stuff. I was pretty sure we lost our car, and slowly came to a stop, then went to check on my car.

I was surprised to see it intact, but checked all the bindings and electricals, just to make sure they were still working, and those all checked out. I noticed were getting low on gas when I got back in the truck, lower than I thought we were, so I planned to stop at the very next gas station we saw.

We were in Southern Iowa by this time. The warm, shiny weather of Southern Texas had been replaced by a gray chill, and the clouds looked like rain was in the forecast.

I saw a gas station an heartbeat too late, but there was a Walmart or something like that, and all I had to do was drive around the back of the store and I could pull in right next to the pump.

“I don’t think this is going to work.” Lea said, as I headed for the back of the store.

And, she was right. I think I just about started crying.

There was no exit from the back of the store. I had broken Dave’s Third Driving Tip, and I was fucked. I was going to have to take the car off the dolly, then unhook the dolly from the truck, turn the truck around, reconnect the dolly, and put the car back on the dolly, and then find another gas station because there was no way to get to the one I missed.

“Oh, honey.” Lea said. “I’m sorry. At least it’s not raining!”

And then it started to rain.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife is really good at four things. No, five. Wait a minute, six. And, she’s really good at that, too. Okay. My wife is really good at a lots of stuffs. And one of those things is shopping.

The first thing she did after we got married was throw out most of my clothes, and she bought me a wardrobe. I’ve gotten a lots of compliments over the years about my style and taste in clothing.

That is not me. That’s Lea.

So when the rain started falling as I started the process to get us back on the road again, I was probably more fashionably equipped to handle the situation than I had been, ever.

I had a lightweight fleece jacket on, and more or less matching gloves. I had plenty of freedom of movement, and I stayed warm. Plus, I was so pissed off I think the rain evaporated the moment it hit me.

I’m sure it took me at least an hour to unhook everything, point the truck in right direction, and hook everything back up. I was able to find a different gas station before we ran out of gas, and that was pretty much the end of our adventures on what we would come to call our Vacation from Hell.

There are a couple of small details.

When we reached the Minnesota border, the rain turned to snow, and it snowed all the way back to Minneapolis.

About a month after our trip, we got a letter from the FBI. They noted that around April 19th, we had rented a big yellow Ryder truck, and we were driving it near the proximity of Oklahoma City, and the FBI wanted to know why.

I had hung onto that letter until we moved to Mexico, and then I figured it was time to let go of that, too.

I’ve let go of a lots of stuffs over the years. But I’ve hung on to a few things. Like being a Vikings fan. And wanting to be a prophet.

I should let God know that at least two of his masterpieces thought I was an angel.

It might make a difference. You never know…

Charades End

It’s 4:30 AM. I’ve been awake for about an hour. I screwed up my neck again, somehow, and the pain is considerable.

My neighbor is also awake. He’s a crazy guy from Iceland named Ludwig. I’m not sure he ever sleeps. He looks like he’s about eighty, and he listens to loud Icelandic rap music all day long.

Yeah, I didn’t know that existed either.

My wife has been reading my stories, so in about a week or so she’ll probably ask me to kill Ludwig, now that she knows I used to be a hitman…

I’ve decided I’m going to finish this story today, and then I’m retiring from writing.

Well, for awhile, anyway.

I need to get back to my life, and say goodbye to this chapter of my life. I’m not sure what inspired me to start writing this, but this thing has become like unto an infection inside me, and I have to get it out. I was reluctant to start this story. I knew it would be painful, but I had no idea how just much it would hurt.

To the Muse that has been compelling me, I say, Avaunt, and be gone. Leave me in peace. I have done your bidding. I can only hope there was a good reason for me to do this.

* * * *

One of the unique aspects of this story at the time was Shorty and I didn’t have the same experiences. I went to Oklahoma, he didn’t. Shorty didn’t miss any opportunities with Hillary, I evidently missed all of them. He ventured out into the thunderstorm from hell with Martha, and I didn’t. And I haven’t tried to cover what happened to him that night. That’s probably a whole story in and of itself.

But I’m finishing this today. I’ll be brief.

* * * *

Shorty and Martha left the party as the sky opened up and the rain poured down. They made a brief pitstop at Martha’s apartment, maybe she wanted him to see it–I can’t remember the reason–then Martha was going to show Shorty some of the wonders of the Dallas night scene.

Martha took Shorty to her favorite bar, and that’s where Shorty’s plan of being alone with Martha fell apart. Martha, it seemed, had a reputation. If you had’ludes, you could probably have Martha. And just about every guy in Dallas seemed to know that. Her favorite bar was filled with a dozen guys that had brought handfuls of her favorite drug, and they were lined up at the door waiting for her to arrive.

Most of them were polite enough to leave her alone when they saw her with Shorty, but there was this one guy, let’s call him Craig, and he did not.

Craig was more than just one of Martha’s Friday night guys. I think Shorty said they had had a serious relationship at one point in time, and most likely, he wanted that back.

Cutting to the chase, Craig more or less abducted Martha of Dallas. Neither Shorty nor I would play the role of Paris. She went willingly against her will. I think that’s how Shorty described it. The pretext for the abduction of Martha was the bar they were in was lame, and Craig knew of a place just down the road that was the new hotspot in town. Martha would ride with Craig, and Shorty would follow in Martha’s car.

It was still raining like hell outside. Craig took off like an Indy racer, and in his haste to catch up, Shorty misjudged a turn and hit the raised concrete median dividing the road. He blew a tire, and bent the hell out of one the rims on Martha’s car. I think she drove a little cream colored Volvo. And yes. It was darling.

Shorty might be a master mechanic, but he is not a pit crew. By the time he had gotten Martha’s car off of the median, over to the side of the road, and changed the tire in the pouring rain–Craig and Martha were long gone.

Any other guy probably would’ve called it a night and gone home. But Shorty started canvassing any place that looked like a bar. He’d buy a beer, ask if anyone had seen a hot little blonde accompanied by an asshole, and what’s the name of that new hotspot place?

And that’s how Shorty ended up being broke, again. When he ran out of cash, he went back to Martha’s apartment. After all, he had her car and keys, and he needed to be there to let her in when she returned. Martha’s fridge was well stocked with beer, so Shorty started drinking while he waited for Martha to return.

He would wait for a very, very long time. There wouldn’t be a drop of liquor left in Martha’s apartment by the time she returned. He drank everything, and that’s why he looked like hell when he finally stumbled through the door on Saturday afternoon.

And that’s what got happened to Shorty when he won the Martha Lottery and incurred the Wrath of God by being in the wrong place at the right time and beating me to get to Martha first.

Like I said, I ended up getting the better end of that deal by ending up with Randi. That might be the only time in history when the guy who came in second actually ended up winning, unless you count the Tour de France.

Martha would eventually come home, also looking like hell, which I still cannot believe. Craig wanted a little somethin’-somethin’ from Martha, and possibly for the first time in her life, Martha said no. Craig told Martha he’d take her home once he got what he wanted. According to Martha, he was still waiting when he finally decided to take her home. Then Martha gave Shorty a ride to Michael and Hillary’s place. You know what got happened after that.

* * * *

Well, I woke up Sunday mornin’ with no way to hold my soul that didn’t hurt…

I’m not sure I actually woke up that morning. I would had to have gone to sleep first, and there was just way too much crap bouncing around inside of my head to let me do that.  I know I offered up a lots of prayers that night. I was sorely in need of some guidance.

The thoughts in my head finally stopped moving at the speed of light, and I was able to get a little rest. I was brought out of my reverie by the sound of footsteps. I could make out Hillary’s form tiptoeing across the living room, into the kitchen, where she picked up her car keys and then tiptoed toward the door.

“Going somewhere?” I asked, putting on my glasses so I could see. The sound of my voice startled the hell out of her two times. Man, she screamed, and damn near jumped out of her clothes and her skin. That still makes me laugh, now that I think about it. That’s the last good memory I have of Hillary.

“Jesus Christ! You scared me! I-I was just going to the…store. I need to buy some… tampons. I’ll be right back.” I waved goodbye, and rolled over to look at my knife collection. Just about everything in the apartment with a sharp edge or a point was hidden under the couch.

Shorty came out of the bedroom, wearing a pair of jeans and an upper torso of muscles and scars. I’m not sure how many surgeries he’d had after his motorcycle accident. A lots.

“Hillary left.” I said.

“And you just let her go? What did you do? Pull her distributor cap?”

“How did you know that?”

“I figured you had to do something. You’ve been two steps ahead of everyone since this whole thing got started.” He yawned a big yawn, and stretched.

“What are you talking about? This was your idea!” I said. I got up off the floor and followed him into the kitchen. He started making a pot of coffee.

“Nope. All I said was we needed a plan. I knew you’d come up with the rest. Man, that flash thing, that was beautiful!” he laughed.

“No! I feel like I’ve been drowning in quicksand! You don’t know what I went through before you got here! Hillary had a gun!”

“And who had it when I got here?”

I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

“Look, I’m a smart guy, but you’re so far beyond me, I’d never catch you if I spent the rest of my life in college. That’s what you should do.”

“What?”

“Go back to college. Get a degree. Get a life. Find yourself!”

Do you see now why I love this guy! Sonuvabitch! I’m going to start to cry…

I was too stunned to do much of anything but stare at him at the time. It took me a moment, but that’s when I realized Shorty knew more about me than I did. I had no response to Shorty’s assertion, so I changed the subject.

“Well, what do we do next?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. It won’t be as good as anything you could come up with, but I have an idea.” And we wouldn’t have to wait long to find out if his idea would work. The door flew open and the malevolent spirit of Hillary confronted us from the doorway.

“What did you bastards do to my car! It won’t start!”

“Don’t look at me. Look at him.” Shorty said.

“That’s it? That’s your idea?”

“You fuckers didn’t kill George, did you?”

“Nope.” Shorty replied.

“Godfuckingdammit! I knew it! Jesus! Why did I ever invite you two losers down here!”

“Because, we’re your friends, Hillary. Now, calm down and let us help you.”

“Fuck you!” Hillary screamed. “I’ll kill both of you, and then I’ll go kill George myself!” She stormed past us, into the kitchen. “Where are my goddamn knives!”

“Two steps ahead.” Shorty said. We exchanged a high five.

“Get out of here! Get out of my house!” she screamed.

“No.” Shorty replied, calmly.

“Get out, or I’ll call the police!”

“That’s a great idea. Call the cops.” I said, but I was not calm. “I have a story I’m dying to tell them!”

It was almost sad to see the fire go out of Hillary’s eyes. But it was also an huge relief.

“You need help, Hillary.” Shorty said. He didn’t leave any loopholes.

“I know, but, I don’t…know…what to do.” She looked completely and utterly defeated.

“We’re your friends.” Shorty said, and he went to hug her. “That’s why we’re here. Let us take care of it.”

“What–what are you going to do?”

“First, I’m going to make breakfast. Then we’re going to clean this place up, and then, we’ll figure it out.”

“Okay…” Hillary said, taking comfort where she could find it. It was a good thing Shorty was there for her.

I still wanted to kill her.

* * * *

Well, that’s just about the end of the story about my vacation in Dallas with Shorty. I only have a couple few several loose ends to tie up.

Shorty threw a bunch of stuff together from the leftovers of our epic party, cracked open about six eggs, and heated the concoction up in a skillet. It wasn’t the tastiest meal I’ve ever eaten, but it was warm and filling.

Shorty and Hillary attacked the pile of dishes in the kitchen and cleaned out the refrigerator. I tried to stay as far away from Hillary as I could, and decided to clean up the spacious party room.

Believe it or not, there was still beer in the keg! I have known a lots of kegs in my lifetime, but that keg is the only one I ever gave a name. Old Faithful would go down in history. It supplied the fuel for two epic parties, and still had enough gas to get Shorty and I through our last night in Dallas.

I brought the keg up to the apartment after I finished cleaning the party room, and put it on the balcony. A little ice, and it would be waiting for us after we completed the Herculanean task of helping Hillary help herself.

We would finally finish that sucker off at around 3:00 AM on Monday morning. And when she gave up her last glass of beer, we put our hands over our hearts in a moment of silence, and drank a toast to Old Faithful, the best damn keg that ever lived.

I gave Hillary all of her knives back after Shorty made her promise to stop trying to kill anybody, particularly me. But he kept one of Michael’s knives, just in cases.

Hillary was a humble Bumble for the reminder of our time together in Dallas. She retired to the bedroom after the kitchen was reasonably clean, and she mostly stayed there. Shorty would check on her from time to time. Like he said, he was her friend.

* * * *

Shorty’s plan to help Hillary was simple. He pulled Jerry’s card out of his wallet and dialed Jerry’s home number. Even he had trouble getting his wallet out of his pocket. Jerry wasn’t overly surprised to hear that Hillary had gone off the deep end.

“See? What did I tell you!” he said. Shorty and I listened to Jerry simultaneously. Shorty held the phone at an angle between our ears, and thanks to the natural volume of his voice, it was almost like being on a speakerphone.

But surprised wouldn’t even come close to describing Jerry’s reaction when Shorty mentioned the gun.

“Gun?!? What gun!!!”

“It’s a snub nose.38.” I said. Shorty had no idea what kind of gun it was beyond one of those pistol looking things.

“WHAT! THAT’S MY GUN!! THAT FUCKING BITCH STOLE MY GUN!!! Do not go ANYWHERE! I’m on my way over there! Jesus FUCKING Christ!!”

“Now what?” I decided to ask. After all, this was Shorty’s plan. He shrugged.

“We wait.”

Shorty decided it was a good time to take a shower. I decided it was a good time to smoke a joint, but I had maybe just enough weed remaining for one last joint, if I was lucky. I’d save that for after later, when we finally killed off the keg.

I took one of Hillary’s cigarettes and walked down to the parking lot. Jerry would no doubt want his gun back, and I was the only one that knew where it was. I grabbed Hillary’s keys and headed for her car.

As I closed the trunk, a car came speeding into the parking lot. It wasn’t Jerry. It was Bernie. I handed Jerry’s gun and bullets to Bernie. He quickly threw everything in his trunk.

“Jerry kept his gun in his office.” Bernie said, clearly disgusted that one of Jerry’s employees would do something like this. “Now, tell me what the fuck has been going on here!”

Bernie smoked two cigarettes as he listened to my story. He listened intently, never interrupting, until I got to the part where Hillary pointed the gun at my head.

“You said that! Jesus! Are you nuts! Holy shit! Were we ever wrong about you guys! We thought you came down here to kill George, but you end up saving his fucking life! Jesus!!”

I started telling him what Shorty and I did next. I think the only word to describe the look on his face might be bewildered. Thankfully, Shorty appeared. He wondered where I had wandered off to, and he helped me finish the story. I think the only thing Bernie could do by the time we finished was shake his head.

“Why the fuck didn’t you call the cops?”

See? I told you.

“Holy Christ! Man! Jesus! Jerry and I owe you one for this!” And that made Shorty smile.

Bernie thanked us a couple hundred times. He was going to see Jerry and tell him our story.

“Tell Jerry to call me when you see him. I need to talk to him.”

“Yeah, sure…”

Shorty was looking pretty good. He was smiling. He had a spring in his step. He put his arm around my shoulders and we headed back to the apartment.

“You should take a shower. You look like shit.” he laughed. I laughed my first real laugh since… I was with Randi!

Wow! Has it been that long? I wondered. It seemed so long ago…

* * * *

We were waiting by the phone when Jerry called. I had showered, done my hair and given myself a pedicure while we waited. Shorty held the phone between us again. We had no problem hearing Jerry.

“I’m going to fire her! Do you hear me! Fire her!”

“You can’t do that.” Shorty said.

“The fuck I can’t! Watch me!!”

“You owe me.” Shorty said, and then I knew why Shorty had started smiling. He was going to call in all of his markers if it meant it would save his friend.

What a guy!

“You? I don’t owe you shit! If I owe anyone it’s your hippie buddy over there. He’s the fucking hero!”

Shorty nugged me in the ribs. He was calling in all of my markers, too.

“Hey, Jerry, this is Shorty’s hippie buddy. You owe me.”

“Yeah? And what do you want from me?”

“Whatever Shorty wants, so try to be, you know, fuckin’ gracious and shit.”

There was a long silence. I’m pretty sure Jerry and Bernie were consulting one another, and probably a team of lawyers. Jerry was The Man. He always got what he wanted.

“Okay, guys. I’m listening. Name your terms.”

* * * *

Shorty’s terms were simple. There would be no charges filed against Hillary for stealing Jerry’s gun so she could kill George. Despite the seriousness of her intent, no one actually got dead, and Hillary was in an unstable state of mind. She needed treatment, not incarceration.

And there would be no charges filed against us for breaking and entering into George’s apartment and pretending to kill him to death.

That wasn’t even an issue, Jerry assured us. He had talked to George already. He thought George wanted to marry us.

Hillary would keep her job, and Jerry would pay for any and all treatment she would need to recover from her illness. That was all Shorty wanted from Jerry.

“Well, shit. Isn’t this a damn mess! Now I really can’t wait for you guys to get the hell out of here. You’re starting to cost me money. I don’t think I can afford having friends like you! Okay. Tentatively, we have a deal. Just make sure Hillary agrees to this. And if she argues about anything we agreed to, or gives me any shit, the deal’s off the table. I press charges, and she goes to jail. Understand?”

You know what I think?

I think everyone needs a friend like Shorty.

* * * *

Monday morning finally rolled around. Our flight back to Minnesota didn’t depart until something like 5:00 PM. We had plenty of time to take care of the last few items on our To Do List.

Shorty replaced the distributor cap on Hillary’s car. It started right up.

Check.

Shorty had talked to Hillary after he had concluded his negotiations with Jerry. Hillary then called Jerry and agreed to all the terms and conditions of the negotiated agreement, without so much as one bit of sass or lip. It was a first for both of them. Jerry told her to take Monday off. He had a few details to work out at the office concerning her continued presence, especially since the guy she had wanted to kill to death worked there, too.

Well, that was Jerry’s problem, but we had no doubt he’d be able to figure it out. In Jerry’s world, he always got what he wanted.

Hillary gave Shorty a big hug when we left, and she thanked him for everything he had done on her behalf. Shorty gave Hillary the knife he had held on to, just in cases, and we left the apartment for good. I watched from the doorway, luggage in hand. I didn’t even say goodbye. I would never see Hillary again, but I didn’t count that as an huge loss.

We drove Michael’s van, dropped off the keg and tap, collected our deposit, then drove to the office. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing to greet us. They knew all about the events that had transpired over the weekend, and Shorty was hailed as the hero that he was. He had done the impossible. He made Jerry do something he didn’t want to do. And, somehow, he he had managed to save Hillary’s job in the process.

In spite of her insanity, it seemed a lot of people liked Hillary. I was seemingly the only person in the office that didn’t like her, besides George. But we had encountered her instability on a far more visceral level than the others. So, there was that.

George didn’t spend much time around the sales zombies, mostly because of Hillary. And even on that day, when Hillary wasn’t present, he still stood on the periphery. I joined him.

“Wow. I should hire you guys to be my agents.”

“No, you should hire Shorty.”

“He’s something else. He was the reason I decided to go along with you when you guys dropped in to visit the other night–his little speech.” George waved at Shorty when he looked in our direction. Shorty smiled, and waved back. “I wanted to fuckin’ kill you.” We both laughed at that.

“Yeah, there’s been a lot of that going around lately.”

“I still can’t believe you did that for me, especially when you didn’t have any reason to do it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, George. I had every reason to do it. According to Shorty, that’s what friends do.”

“So are we friends now?”

“I don’t know what else you could call it.”

We gave each other a big hug, and then, there she was. Randi started walking in our direction, and she only had eyes for me.

“I’ve gotta go.”

“You’d be a fool if you didn’t, my friend.”

That was a nice touch.

* * * *

“Hi, girls!” I said to Randi’s tits as she wrapped her arms around me. “Did you miss me?”

“Stop that!” she blushed, and playfully punched me in the ribs.

Good thing she was just playing around. I thought she’d broken a couple of my ribs. That fuckin’ hurt!

She took me to the Supply Room and we kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed.

“You’re not coming back, are you.” It wasn’t really a question. She already knew the answer. I shook my head, then held her close.

“I will never forget you.” I promised.

“You better not!” She had tears in her eyes, and fought them back.

And we kissed some more. She was a good kisser.

Her memories are safely filed away, and I know where to find them. I can still see her, if I try. Some parts of her are easier to see than others. I never told her that I loved her, but I probably did, and in a way, I love her still. Jerry was right about Randi.

She was a good girl.

* * * *

The only person we didn’t see at the office was Martha, she wasn’t feeling good, so she took the day off. Shorty got her number from one of the sales zombies, and called her. We jumped in the van, stopping to buy a case of beer on the way to replace all of the beer Shorty had consumed waiting for her to return Friday night, and drove to her apartment.

Man, Friday seemed like it had happened a lifetime ago, and in a way, it had been.

Martha was wearing a gray sweatsuit. She apologized for looking like such a mess. To be honest, she was pale, and looked about as tired as I felt, but she was as beautiful as ever to my eyes. She really was stunning. And yes, her apartment was totally darling.

She gave me a tour while Shorty stocked her fridge. We held hands as she guided me from room to room. It wasn’t a big apartment, so it was a short tour, ending in her darlingpreshadorbs bedroom.

It was the most enjoyable home tour I’ve ever had, and the only thing I could think was, Damn, why don’t you live in Jerry’s house? I wanted her to never let go of my hand. She turned to look at me, and we gazed into each other’s eyes for a time.

“I’m really sorry about the way everything turned out. I thought we’d get a chance to spend more…time.. together. I really wanted that.” That looked like true regret in Martha’s eyes to me, and if it wasn’t, she deserves an Oscar, too.

“Martha, my dear, you have no idea how much those words mean to me.” I gave her a kiss I hoped she would never forget, and she gave me one I have never forgotten.

“Hey,” Shorty said from the doorway. “You ready?” We broke off our embrace, but stood there holding hands for a moment.

I love you, Martha. I said, silently. A tear welled in her eye, then slowly trickled down her cheek.

* * * *

“Thanks for doing that.” I said to Shorty as he drove Martha’s car, looking for a salvage yard where we could get a rim for Martha’s car.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he said. “You know she’s in love with me, right?”

“We’re all in love with you, Shorty. We all are.”

That’s probably true, now that I think of it. I don’t know anyone who knows Shorty that doesn’t love him, including Hillary.

I gave Shorty every cent I had because he had none. He replaced the tire and bent rim. That was the real reason we went to see Martha. Shorty had damaged her car, and he had promised he would fix it before he left.

I never saw Martha again. I stayed outside when Shorty returned her car keys. I wanted to remember her with that tear running down her angelic face. That’s how I see her most of the time, when she drops in to visit. I tell her funny stories, and she smiles. But Shorty was probably right. She was in love with him.

After buying the beer, the new tire, and a replacement rim, we had eighty-eight cents left in our pockets when we left Dallas.

But we had checked off every item on our list. All we needed to do was catch our flight.

* * * *

We gave the keys to the van to Bernie. He shook our hands, and thanked us once again for everything we had done.

Jerry took us to lunch, his treat. It was the least he could do.

“So, are you staying? Are you leaving? You know what I think you should do?” Jerry talked rapid fire, like a machine gun.

“I’m not staying. I’m going home. I need a vacation.”

“Good. You don’t want to stay here. This place would eat you alive. So, did you enjoy your stay? Did you have a good time?”

I think all I could do was shrug in response. The last couple of days had cast a pretty dark pall over all the days of light and good cheer that had preceded them. I had been kicking around the idea of relocating to Dallas, and that would’ve changed the outcome of my life forever.

“You’re something else, hippie.” Jerry said. He was smiling. “I really gotta stop calling you that. How about, hero.”

“No. Call me hippie. I like that better.”

“That’s what you are, you know. A fuckin’ hero. Right, Girtz?” Shorty had half a sandwich in his mouth, so he simply nodded and kept on eating. I didn’t have as much of an appetite as Shorty. I think he ate half of my sandwich, too.

“Listen to me. Do something with your life! You’ve got too much talent to be a fuckin’ bum! Use it! Become a doctor. Become a lawyer. No, don’t do that, lawyers suck! Thanks to you guys, my lawyers are having a field day! I don’t even want to think about the bill they’re gonna send me! I should make you pay half of it, Girtz!”

“Fuck you.” Shorty laughed. And we all did.

“Listen, I know I’ve said this before, but I was wrong about you guys, and I’m never wrong! You guys–you guys are… I don’t know what you are. I want to thank you for everything you did. That, was incredible. I still can’t believe you did that.”

“You’re welcome, Jerry.” I said.

“There! You see how he does that! Beautiful! Listen to me, me and Girtz, we’re just working stiffs. You, you kid, you got a real chance to make a difference! You could change the world if you get your head out of your ass! You follow me?”

“I hear what you’re saying, Jerry. I heard something a lot like this the other day.” and looked at Shorty, then Jerry.

“We talked.” Jerry said.

“Okay, we’re good now? How’re you guys doing on cash? You need anything for your trip?” Shorty and I looked at each other for a moment.

“Nope, we’re good.”

“You both still have my card, right?” Jerry asked. We nodded. “Well, this is me being fuckin’gracious and shit, and I mean this. If either of you ever need anything, call me.” We thanked Jerry, and shook his hand. “You fucked up, Girtz, you should’ve asked me to make you my partner. I would’ve done it. I’d make you a rich man…”

“Yeah, I thought about it, but I’m not a big city kind of guy. There are some things money can’t buy.”

“You’re a smart man, Girtz. C’mon, I gotta get back to work. There are some things money can buy, and I gotta make sure I can pay the bill.”

Yeah, that was the last time I saw Jerry. I kept his card for many years, even though I knew I’d never use it to call in any additional markers. I probably bought a new wallet, and decided not to hang onto his card anymore. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Shorty still has his. And he probably has the same wallet he had back then, held together by duct tape…

* * * *

Jerry had his chauffeur drive us to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight. We walked past several restaurant/bars on the way to our gate.

“You know what I think?” Shorty said. “I think we should have hit up Jerry for enough cash to buy a couple beers!”

* * * *

And that, finally concludes my epic story of our trip to Dallas. I’ve been to Dallas several times since my vacation with Shorty, but I never tried to contact any of the people I met during that time. I was married when I returned, and I doubt my lovely wife would have appreciated me trying to hook up with Randi or Martha.

I have nothing but fond memories of Randi, and a whole lots of what ifs when it comes to Martha.

I hope they’re both happy.

Shorty would continue his telephone relationship with Hillary, I was at his station more than once when she called. He would ask if I wanted to talk to her.

“Tell Randi and Martha I said hi.” was my response.

Based on those conversations, I do know something about her life. Jerry kept his promise to Shorty. He paid for all of her treatment. She got more better gooder, and stopped trying to kill George. She married Michael, and they had a baby girl. And then Hillary stopped calling.

I finally decided to stop hating her when I decided to quit drinking. I hope she’s happy, too. And her family.

I don’t think I was ever the same after Dallas. I took the advice of Shorty and Jerry, and went back to school. I became a surgical technician, then a nurse, and though I didn’t change the world, I have helped a few people change the way they looked at their worlds, and I’m content with that.

I might have taken the same path without going to Dallas, but the feedback I received from Jerry and Shorty had more impact on me than it would have had if not for what I just had experienced.

Dallas would get me pointed in a direction that led down a path, and though I would stumble and stray from it, I would find my way back. I’m walking that path firmly, and I have no intention of losing my way again, ever.

I’m much older now, and hopefully, wiser. In retrospect, you can’t be found unless you’re lost. It took me awhile, but I found myself, and I mostly really like the person I’ve become.

There’s a saying in Mexico, poco y poco. Little by little, that’s how you do it. It might take longer, but the results are worth it. Be patient.

Thank you for that, Dallas. Y’all were pretty good to me, in that regard.

But there are times when the sky is cloudy, and a chill is in the air. And if the planets line up, just so, I can see inside the barrel of that .38 again. And I can hear George pleading for his life, and I can feel my soul screaming in pain and heartache, and those times are not so good.

There are other times I wonder if was real. How much of this story is true? Any of it? Or was it all just a dream?

I know I touched bases with some old friends, touched some other bases with new friends, lost at least one friend. I met a whole lots of great people. I wonder if any of them remember me, or am I the only one that remembers this time?

That thought… always makes me feel lonely, and alone.

I have not held a revolver since that trip. I’ve had several friends and relatives show me their handguns, and tried to hand them to me, but I can’t do it.

I cannot do it.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad. My lovely wife thinks it’s a good thing, but she has her own issues related to gun violence, and when I decide to write again, maybe I’ll write about that.

I love writing. I’m sure I’ll do it again someday. But not today. Of tomorrow. Nor the day after. I’m taking a vacation. I’m going on a Mexican road trip.

What’s the Spanish word for BUMP?

Kill the Wabbit

There’s one question that everyone that has heard even one-third of this story has always asked.

Why didn’t you guys call the cops?

I think Shorty and I actually looked at each other the first time anyone asked us that, and…we…had…no…answer…to that question.

In our defense, we were the guys that had been too stupid to ask Martha out, you know, on a date, so there’s that.

In my defense, I’m pretty sure it would’ve occurred to me to call the cops before we flew back to Minnesota. Probably.

I’m almost positive I would’ve called the police right after I had wrestled the gun away from Hillary, but then Shorty fell through the door and he decided we should kill George.

Once I bought into his plan…  Well, let’s just say I’m capable of a single-mindedness of purpose that is sort of spooky sometimes.

Shorty, it would turn out, had his own reasons for not wanting Hillary thrown in the slammer. He would eventually tell me he had been fucking Hillary’s brains out every chance he got, and he didn’t miss any opportunities.

I know, right!

Well, all I can say now is Hillary must’ve fucked like two minks. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been willing to commit murder for at least half of the women I slept with in my younger days.

Ah, Youth! You are so very brief, so fleeting!

And sooo incredibly stupid.

* * * *

Hillary drove Michael’s van to George’s apartment. Shorty rode shotgun. I sat on a roll of carpeting in the back of the van. George and Hillary didn’t live very far from each other, a mile or two at the most. The streets were virtually deserted. It seemed the weather was willing to be our ally. A light rain fell, necessitating the need to turn the wipers on to keep the windshield clear.

We parked across the street from George’s apartment. Actually, George’s apartment complex looked more like a bunch of brownstone flats than the complex Hillary lived in. A flight of stairs led to each front door. That actually played perfectly into our plan, too. The street was dark and deserted. Some of the entrances to the flats had the light over the front door on, but George’s stoop was dark.

Shorty and I were actually pretty calm. We had split a Quaalude that Hillary had given us before we left her apartment. She wanted us nice and relaxed when we killed George.

“What’s going on inside? Can you see anything?” I asked. I couldn’t see a thing. There were no windows in the back of the van. I tried squeezing into the front seat, but Shorty shoved me back.

“The lights are on in the living room.” Hillary said. “I don’t see anyone inside…  Wait! That’s George! He’s home! He’s home!!”

“Can you see anyone else? Is he alone?”

“I don’t see anyone else inside, do you?” Shorty asked Hillary.

“There’s no one else there. George doesn’t have any friends. No one likes that sonuvabitch!”

Shorty and I looked at each other. I’m pretty sure we were both having second thoughts about what we were doing. I know I was. My heart rate sped up a little, but not as much as it should have, considering what we were planning to do. Shorty would later say he also felt remarkably calm.

Maybe we should have been hitmen…

Hillary drove slowly to the end of the block, did a U turn, then parked the van in the parking lot. Shorty and I would walk to George’s apartment. When George answered the door, I would blind him with my flash, and we would force our way inside of his apartment, subdue him and kill him to death. Then we’d trash the place and make it look like a robbery gone wrong.

You can learn a lots about criminal behavior by watching cop shows on TV…  But the cops always get their man, unless he’s one of those spookysmart serial killer guys.

Have you ever spent, like, thirty nanoseconds planning the perfect scenario to seduce the woman of your dreams, and have it blow up in your face like an overinflated balloon? Then spend a couple of hours haphazardly throwing together the most ridiculous scheme you could concoct to murder someone and have it go off like clockwork?

Well, that’s what got happened. Hillary kept the van running. I left the panel door open when I got out. Shorty and I walked to George’s apartment. I hid to the left of the door. Shorty had his knife in his right hand, and knocked on the door with his left.

“What the fuck do you want?” George said when he saw Shorty standing outside his door. I stepped out from the shadows and *flash*

Bam! We were inside. Now all we had to do was get George to not call the police and go along with the rest of our incredibly ridiculous plan. It may not have occurred to us to call the police, but we had no reason to believe that George wouldn’t.

Yeah, go figure…

* * * *

To say that George was surprised by our flash attack would be an understatement. We just about scared the shit out of him. And when he saw the knife in Shorty’s hand, well, that’s all it took to subdue him.

“Don’t hurt me! Take whatever you want! Just don’t…hurt…me… please!”

George and Michael were similar in appearance. George had a slighter build, and straighter hair. It was probably George’s appearance, more than anything else, that made Shorty and I think we could pull our ridiculous plan off. But watching him beg for his life made me realize just how stupid our plan was. We almost came to our senses and walked out the door. But, we had come this far…

“We’re not here to hurt you. We’re trying to save your life.” I said.

“What? You could’ve fooled me! I thought you were here to kill me!”

“Listen, we don’t have a lot of time.” And I started to explain to George the series of events that had unfolded after Michael had been arrested. If George had been surprised before, there is no word to describe his state of mind by the time I finished. “We really don’t have much time. Hillary’s in the parking lot waiting for us. Sorry about being such a dick the other day…”

“You–you saved my life.” George said. He was starting to look a little better.

“Not yet.” Shorty said. “We still need Hillary to think you’re dead.”

“Well, fuck that!” George said. “I’m calling the cops!”

“No, you’re not. Then I probably will have to kill you.” Shorty said, knife in hand.

“Why are you guys doing this? Why are you trying to help her? That woman is a fucking bitch!”

“She’s my friend.” Shorty replied. Just. Like. That. There was something about the way he said those three words that made even George believe friendship was something Shorty took very seriously.

“George, Hillary doesn’t need to be in prison. She needs help. She needs to see, like, a really good doctor, or something. And she’s not going to get that in prison. Look, I know you hate Hillary now, but you must have loved her a lot at one time.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I did.” he finally agreed.

And let me say this. Crazy people have a way of contaminating the minds of the people that love them, and even though I was years away from becoming a psych nurse, I didn’t need a lots of training to know Hillary had totally fallen off of her rocker. And George’s mind probably wasn’t as pristine as it once had been pre-Hillary, much like the coffee table Hillary had marred after George had won his lawsuit.

“That’s what we need, George. We need your help to help the woman you once loved.”

George looked at us for the longest time, as if he had never seen anything like us in his life before. I knew Shorty’s threat to kill George was a bluff, but he probably didn’t. George took a deep breath.

“Okay. What do you need me to do?”

“This is probably gonna sound a little weird, but we need some of your blood.”

* * * *

George and Shorty went into the kitchen. George didn’t want to get blood all over his apartment. Well, it was a really nice place.

I turned off the lights in the living room, and joined Shorty and our murder victim in the kitchen.

“May I?” George asked, indicating he wanted Shorty’s knife. I shrugged, Your choice. Shorty handed the knife over. George stood over the sink as he tested the blade with his thumb, and accidentally cut himself.

“Ouch! Goddamn, that’s really sharp!”

George reflexively started to stick his thumb in his mouth, but Shorty stopped him. Taking the knife back from George, the two of them milked  George’s bleeding thumb, dripping blood on the blade of the knife and Shorty’s right hand. They really got caught up in the whole thing. George kept suggesting where the drops of his blood should go, and he thought there should be more. I was starting to like this guy.

I tried to pull Shorty’s wallet out of his back pocket. My plan was to pool our cash so I could show Hillary the money we had stolen from George, just in cases.

Yeah, I’m beginning to wonder which of us was crazier, too. Hillary, or me. Maybe that’s why I became such a good psych nurse…

“Hey! What’re you doing?” he asked. I quickly explained. Shorty’s wallet was crammed full of all kinds of stuff, and fat as a toad. It was essentially stuck in his pocket. “Don’t bother, I’m broke.”

I looked in my wallet. I had about one hundred twenty dollars.

“I was killed for a hundred and twenty bucks? That, is so sad.” George said. We all had a laugh about that. I was starting to love this guy.

Shorty’s hand was starting to look like an extra in a slasher movie. We hoped it would be enough to convince Hillary that not only was George really dead, he was really quite sincerely dead.

We thanked George for his blood and his cooperation. And we asked him once more not to call the police, or Jerry, and essentially play dead until Monday.  He shrugged, and agreed, sucking his thumb. I grabbed a handful of paper towels and used them to close the door behind me on the way out.

Our plan, it seemed, had worked perfectly.

* * * *

“I want to see the body.”

Well, there was that. Yeah, it’s always something, you know?

Shorty and I had run as fast as we could to the van. I had slid the panel door shut, but instead of driving off, Hillary wanted to see the evidence of our success. I suppose we’re lucky she didn’t ask us to bring back a body part…  She was impressed by the bloody knife and Shorty’s bloodied hand, but…  She got out of the van and headed for George’s apartment.

“Drive!” I said to Shorty. He jumped behind the wheel. I slid  open the panel door. We caught up with Hillary about halfway to George’s apartment. I reached out and grabbed her by her ponytail.

There’s a little known Law of Physics I like to call Mark’s Law of Hair. In essence, whichever direction your hair is pulled in, the rest of your body will follow. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.

All of Hillary came flying into the van. And she was pissed!

I started explaining our plan all over again, and how it was imperative that she not be at the scene of the crime, but she wasn’t having any of it.

“Hillary, I just killed a man for you.” Shorty said. “I just killed George for you. You can either believe me, or not. And if you don’t believe me…”

There was so much pain and heartbreak in Shorty’s voice, I almost started crying. If this had been a movie, Shorty would’ve won an Oscar for that line. It was so perfect!

Hillary actually stopped acting like a psychobitch from hell and climbed into the front seat so she could smother Shorty with kisses.

Ain’t love grand?

* * * *

We returned to the apartment. Shorty washed George’s blood off of his hand and Michael’s knife.

“We have to get rid of this. And this.” I said, referring to Michael’s knife and the jacket Shorty had worn. “I’ll toss them somewhere.”

I hid the knife in the glove compartment of the van. I stashed the jacket behind the roll of carpeting. I figured Michael would find them again, someday. The steering wheel was sticky. Shorty had gotten George’s blood on it when he had to drive after Hillary, that fucking bitch! The wad of paper towels from George’s apartment was still in the van. I found a puddle of water and cleaned off the steering wheel.

It wasn’t until that precise moment that I seriously started questioning what we had done. And it was also at that moment I decided to blame the Quaaludes for messing up my mind.

Dallas, would cure me of my pill addiction.

One down, two to go…

* * * *

Shorty’s cousin and his buddies started showing up about 7:00 PM, and we launched an all-out offensive on the remaining beer in the keg. If nothing else died that day, that goddamn keg was going down. I. Was. Determined.

If I had to guess, and believe me, that’s all I can do at this point in time, I’d say there were anywhere from ten to fifteen people that showed up. The Epic Party at the End of the World, Part II, was kicked off.

Hillary was bubbly and bouncey, and half the time she was draped all over Shorty like a cape. The look on his face showed he was enjoying the hell out of that. If I hadn’t started hating Hillary’s guts, I probably would’ve been jealous. As it was, I figured it’d make her that much easier to keep track of. I didn’t trust her any farther than I could throw her apartment complex.

Our guests for Epic Party, Round Two were a bunch of guys. I almost wished I had paid more attention to where the bikini babes by the pool lived. I would’ve knocked on their doors and invited them. I really wished I had asked Randi for her phone number. I totally would’ve called her and invited her over. I could’ve asked Hillary for Randi’s number, but I didn’t feel like asking her for any favors.

I think the only person at that party who didn’t have a great time, was me. I was tired. I was tired of Dallas. I just wanted to go home. And that’s when I knew I would not be staying in Dallas, not even if Martha got down on her knees and begged me to stay.

Well, that might have changed my mind…

“Don’t let Hillary out of your sight for any reason.” I told Shorty. We were both watching her dance with one of Leroy’s buddies. She was the only woman at the party, and was clearly enjoying the attention.  She was no longer dressed like a ninja. She was wearing a loose fitting multicolored top and tight jeans. And that’s when Shorty told me how he had been spending his time with Hillary when neither Michael or I were around.

I’m pretty sure that just made me feel more depressed.

“So, any thoughts on the day’s events?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah.” Shorty sighed. “I think George is probably the only decent person out of the whole bunch of us.” That made me feel worse, as if that were possible.

“We can’t let Hillary go anywhere alone.” I said. I was earnestly whispering into Shorty’s ear. “The first thing she’ll do is run over to George’s apartment and make sure we really killed him.”

“Mark, my friend, y’all have gotta lighten up!” Leroy had me wrapped up in a bear hug and was shaking me like a ragdoll. It’s a good thing Hillary hadn’t wanted us to kill Leroy. Neither Shorty nor I would’ve gotten out of Dallas alive. He was a big, muscular guy. If George had had Leroy’s physique, there’s no way we would have decided to take him on. “Y’all look so serious! What’re y’all doin’? Planning a murder?”

“That was earlier today!” Shorty laughed. I found a smile, somewhere inside me, and the laugh I produced sounded almost genuine.

But I felt no joy. I was starting to feel incredibly shitty about what we had done, even if we hadn’t actually killed anyone. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have wrestled the gun away from Hillary.

I would’ve made her pull the trigger.

Nice Guys

In case you’re wondering, I am Ryan Gosling in that picture. Russell Crowe is Shorty. They would actually make pretty good choices to portray us in the movie about our trip to Dallas. But only if our vacation adventure had happened, you know, four weeks ago, not forty years ago. Believe it or not, Shorty and I were young once…

Back when I wanted to be a rich and famous author, and I attempted to write this story, my working title for it was Brothers and Cousins. In the novel, Shorty and I were real brothers. Shorty had a twin brother named Allen, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. And Shorty was responsible for him gotting dead. Allen’s ghost would drop in from time to time and visit me, and he accompanied us on our trip to Dallas.

At least we didn’t have to buy a plane ticket for him…

In real life, Shorty had almost been killed in a motorcycle accident. He had been broken into a hundred pieces, but refused to got dead. When the doctors decided Shorty was going to live, they  told him he’d probably be lucky if he ever walked again, but he would never use his left arm again.

He would walk again. And not only did he regain use of his left arm, he regained full use of it. He does walk with a slight limp, and he has scars on his scars, but he was simply a guy that refused to give up on his dream, no matter what anyone said.

I doubt I can put into words how much I admire him.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for also not thinking of asking Martha out, you know, on a date, because he could have done that, too. But for whatever reason, it didn’t occur to him either, and as a result, we both ended up winning a trophy for the stupidest plan, ever, to get into angelic Martha’s heavenly panties.

What are the chances of that? Maybe we really are brothers…

Time, circumstance and distance have altered our relationship. I probably haven’t talked to him in two or three years, and when we do get together, our vacation in Dallas is the one thing neither of us will discuss. We’ll laugh, and say something like, Yeah, that was a wild time, for sure! if anyone brings it up, and move on to the next subject.

I think we tried to tell the story a couple of times when we first got back to Minnesota, but we both gave up. No one could believe what happened to us during that last weekend in Dallas. I can understand that. If I hadn’t been there, I doubt I’d believe this story either.

Full Disclosure Statement: What follows is a very condensed version of the actual events that occurred that afternoon. The real, actual, true story is simply just too incredible. Even if Hollywood tried to make this into a movie, people would walk out of the theater shaking their heads saying, There’s no way that’s a true story! You’re gonna have to trust me on this one. Remember, I’ve tried to tell this story before, and you haven’t. But all of the essential details will be included, and the net result will be the same.

I haven’t been very specific about the time of any of the events that day occurred, and that’s because I honestly have no idea. But just so we can add a little perspective, when you start reading the next paragraph, it’ll be 3:00 PM, Saturday afternoon.

* * * *

I was staring down the barrel of a gun. It was the second time in my life I was in a situation like that. The first time is yet another story I might have to get around to telling someday. It’s probably pretty long and complicated, too.

Hillary had assumed a two handed stance on the other end of the gun, just like in the movies. I didn’t have much time to come up with a plan to extricate myself from the situation I’d gotten myself into.

Summoning all of the self-defense techniques I had learned in the military delivering supplies and taking x-rays, I moved forward and disarmed Hillary. I grabbed the gun and twisted it sharply to the left. One second I was staring at a gun in my face, the next second, I was holding it. Without a single shot being fired.

Beat that, Steven Seagal!

That actually happened. If I had to attempt it again, I’d probably got dead. The only explanation I have is I live a blessed life.

Now, if this had been a movie, my next move would’ve been to punch Hillary in the face, and knock her unconscious. But what happened next was something that surprised me so much I forgot I was supposed to do that.

My best friend and brother, Shorty Girtz, stumbled through the door. And that, I think, is best term to describe his entrance. He looked like hell.

“Shorty!” Hillary and I both shouted.

“Hey.” he replied, and he collapsed on the floor, like he had been shot. For a moment, I thought the gun had gone off, and he had been hit. Hillary might have hated George enough that she wanted to kill him, but she loved Shorty enough to postpone her mad intent and knelt down to tend to her friend.

“Shorty! Get up and tell this motherfucker to give me back my gun!”

“What?” he replied. He looked up at me from the floor and said, “Give Hillary back her gun.” Then he looked at Hillary and said, “What the hell are going to do with a gun?”

“She wants to kill George.” I said.

“He had Michael arrested! Michael’s in jail, and it’s all George’s fault! He needs to die!”

“Michael’s in jail?” Shorty asked. His expression said that he thought his head was going to explode. I nodded. “Why?”

“He violated his restraining order. On Friday. When we were walking out of the office–”

“That’s right!” Shorty said. He started looking better. “George! Jesus. Jail?”

“He’ll be arraigned on Monday.”

“Shorty! I need my gun back! Get it from him!”

“No. I’m not going to let you ruin your life by doing something stupid.” He sat up and started looking more better gooder.

Hillary stood up and glared at me. I held the gun in my left hand. She took a step toward me. I curled my right hand into a fist.

“If you come near me, I promise you I’ll knock all of your teeth into the back of your throat.”

Hillary made a wide berth around me and went into the kitchen. She returned two seconds later holding a knife the size of a small machete. A very sharp knife. I knew that because one of the things I had done the week before when I was bored was sharpen all of the knives in the kitchen.

Machete in hand, Hillary moved in to attack. That’s when I pointed the gun at her.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Shorty yelled. He got off the floor and jumped between us. “What the hell is wrong with you two? We’re friends!”

“Remember when Jerry was asking us about guns that first day in the office? He thought Hillary brought us down here to kill George.”

“Is that true?” Shorty asked Hillary.

“Yes! But you’re not killers! You’re sissies!” I would have to become a psych nurse before I would see anyone replicate that level of hatred and venom glaring in Hillary’s eyes.

“Well, if that’s what you wanted us to do, why didn’t you say something?”

“You mean, you’ll kill George for me?” Hillary asked. I don’t think she was expecting Shorty to say that. I know I wasn’t. She changed the position of the knife in hand, taking it out of Attack mode.

“Sure,” he said, then turned and gave me a wink. “Why not? But first, we have to come up with a plan.”

I lowered the gun, and decided to follow Shorty’s lead. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but he at least seemed to be capable of thought, so he had me beat.

“I think you’re both nuts, but if you’re serious about killing George, we need a plan, and a diagram of his apartment.”

“Why don’t you just shoot him when he answers the door?”

“Could be witnesses on the street, and then we’d have to kill them, too.” I explained. “Better to do it inside. We could use a pillow as a silencer, or we could slice him up. But we have to know what we’re walking into.”

You want to kill George now?” Hillary asked. Her tone said she wasn’t buying it.

“I promised Michael I wouldn’t let you do anything… foolish. That’s why he wanted to talk to me. He made me promise to take care of you, and I keep my promises. Shorty loves you, and you already know I love you. If Shorty wants to kill George for you, that changes everything for me. He’s my brother. But if we’re gonna do this, I want to maximize our chances of success, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. We need the layout of George’s apartment.”

That was either the most convincing lie I have ever told, or Hillary was so unbalanced that she would need years of medication and therapy to repair the damage to her brain. Maybe it was a little of both, with the scale tipped to the unbalanced part. But Hillary sat down at the table in the kitchen and started drawing the layout of George’s apartment while she explained everything to Shorty.

I turned on the radio, and as quietly as possible took the bullets out of the gun. When it was unloaded, I pulled the trigger. If Hillary had done that when she had the gun pointed at me, the back of my head would’ve resembled President Kennedy’s after his tour of downtown Dallas.

I was shaken. My hands were shaking. It was a good thing the gun was no longer loaded. I probably would’ve shot Hillary, if I could’ve hit her at that point in time. I was shaking so bad I probably would’ve missed the floor if I had tried to shoot it. I put the bullets in my pocket, and hid the gun under a pile of pillows.

* * * *

We sat down to discuss the best way to kill George. Hillary had drawn a detailed sketch of his apartment, and had thoroughly explained the layout to Shorty.

“Tell me about your gun.” I said to Hillary. “Is it registered to you?”

“Not… exactly.”

“What does that mean?”

“Jerry gave it to me. As a present. For protection. But–”

“It’s still registered to Jerry.” Shorty said.

“Yeah.”

That settled that. We would not tie Jerry to our dirty little secret in any way, shape or form.

“We’ll have to use knives.” I said.

“Damn! I wish I had brought mine.” Shorty said.

* * * *

Okay, class. After motorcycles, what do bikers like most?

Beer?

Okay. After motorcycles and beer, what do bikers like most?

Weed!

Okay. After motorcycles, beer and weed, what do bikers like most?

Chicks!

Okay! After all of that, what do bikers like?

Maybe you should just tell us.

Bikers love knives!

Michael and Shorty were bikers. And Michael had a knife collection. Hillary brought them into the kitchen. Shorty and I each selected a knife. The blades were in good shape, but I sharpened the edges to the point where you could’ve shaved with them.

Now all we needed was an edge. The sun wouldn’t be in George’s eyes. In fact, we wanted it to be dark as possible. And that’s when I remembered I had brought most of my camera equipment.

I not only had a camera, I had a detachable flash. All I had to do was turn it on, let it charge, and hit this little button, and…a blinding flash of light erupted in Hillary’s face.

“Jesus! I can’t see a fucking thing!”

Exactly.

“Okay, let’s go kill George!”

“You’re not part of this. You can’t be.” I said. Because Hillary really would kill George. Neither Shorty nor I had any doubts about that.

“Look, when the police find George’s body, who do you think the first person is they’ll want to question?”

“Probably me. Or Michael…”

“Michael’s in jail. He couldn’t kill George.”

“But I’m not going to rat you guys out to the police!”

“They’re gonna try to the pin the murder on you. But this is your story. We talked about killing George, right?” I looked at Shorty.

“Yeah, we did that all right.”

“You were upset, right?” We had no problem agreeing about that. “And, yeah, you said some stupid stuff, but only because your boyfriend was arrested…” Shorty said.

“But you were joking!” I added, and winked at Hillary.

“That’s right! I was joking!”  She actually laughed!

“If you’re at the scene of the crime, you’re not joking anymore. You’re an accomplice.”

“Right…  Well, what about you guys? What’s your story?”

“We didn’t kill George.”

“No way, we didn’t kill George. We don’t even know the guy!” Shorty added.

“We were having a big party.”

“We were?” Shorty asked.

“There’s a half a keg of beer downstairs.”

“What! How the hell did that happen?” Shorty didn’t believe me. We all went down to the party room.

“There’s a half a keg of beer in here!” he shouted. “How the fuck did that happen! Is it any good?”

I poured us all a glass. That was good beer. And it was ice cold.

“Now all we need is a bunch of people…” Hillary said.

“I could call my cousin…” Shorty suggested. And just like that, we had planned the perfect murder.

* * * *

While Shorty talked to Leroy on the phone, Hillary went into the bedroom to change. She insisted on coming with us, after all, she was the only one of us that knew where George lived, and she didn’t want us to kill an innocent person by mistake.

We would drive to George’s apartment in Michael’s van, and Hillary would wait outside as our getaway driver. She would keep the engine running, and the panel door would be open so Shorty and I could jump right in after we had killed George to death.

I grabbed Jerry’s gun and the bullets, and hid them in the trunk of Hillary’s car. I think it was around 5:00 PM. Dusk was approaching. Gray, ghostly clouds filled the sky. There was a threat of rain in the clouds. Maybe that would keep everyone in Dallas at home and off the streets. Shorty and I would need all of the planets to be in perfect alignment. And we needed all of the angels and saints to be in our back pockets.

For a reason I couldn’t explain, then or now, I disconnected the distributor cap on her engine. The engine would turn over, but it would never start. Shorty had explained that to me the day we did a tune up on her car. It just seemed to be the thing to do at the time.

* * * *

I’m not a biker guy. I have never been a biker guy, but I spent a lots of time hanging around them in my twenties because bikers really do love beer and weed. And chicks. Some of my best friends back then were bikers. So many of them got dead young.

One of the greatest things about bikers is they don’t need an actual reason to party. Shorty’s cousin was immediately on board when he heard there was an half a keg of beer left over from the party. And yeah, he had a few friends he knew that could rearrange their schedules to come over and help us kill off our keg.

Hillary had changed outfits. She was wearing all black, and had pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She sort of looked like a supermodel ninja. She gave Shorty and I a couple of Michael’s black T-shirts, and we put them on. We found some dark jackets, and put those on, too. And we were more or less ready to go kill George.

“Maybe we should call him. What if he’s not home…” I wasn’t planning on actually killing George, but this make-believe plan we had concocted was starting to feel just a little too real to me. I needed to stall for time, and I had already blown my chance to fuck Hillary’s brains out, so I couldn’t try that tactic again…  How the hell did I miss that?!? I wondered. I prayed no one would answer the phone. And I also hoped George wasn’t throwing a big, epic party.

Hillary dialed George’s number. A voice answered. She hung up immediately.

“That was George. He’s home! Let’s go do this!!”

I’m not sure if Shorty saw the look of…elation, perhaps, that lit up Hillary’s eyes as she said that. But I did.

It sends shivers down my spine even still.

Dallas, Part VI

I suppose it’s possible that someone reading this might not know that one of our Presidents was assassinated in Dallas. John F. Kennedy. Dealey Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald. Jack Ruby.

Ring any bells?

Well, all of those bells would toll for me that day.

Saturday, March 4, 1978.

* * * *

I asked the cops to wait, closed the door and left them outside the apartment, then knocked on the bedroom door where Michael and Hillary were resting.

“Yeah!” Michael’s voice responded.

“Michael, there’s a couple of guys here…” I didn’t know quite what to say. I opened the door. Michael and Hillary were laying on the bed.

“Are they cops?” he asked. I nodded. “Shit!” Michael and Hillary exchanged a glance that probably contained a thousand conversations. “Tell ’em I’ll be right out.” He got up and went to the bathroom.

“Michael, y’all need to come on out here!” Detective Riggs said from the doorway when I let them know what was going on. They had stepped inside once they knew they had their man.

“I have to take a piss!” Michael’s voice replied from the bathroom.

“Yeah, just don’t take too long now.” Detective Murtaugh replied. “If you shake it more than twice, yall’re playin’ with that thang.” His partner laughed. I might have even smiled. They seemed like nice guys, for cops.

Did I hide all my pot? I wondered. I hoped I had, or Michael might not be the only person in the apartment going to jail.

Hillary came out of the bedroom and started interrogating the cops, and they had to focus their attention on her. I know to God that I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. They answered her questions patiently and politely.

“I want to come along.” she said.

“Yes, ma’am. You can follow us if you want.”

“You motherfuckers wait for me!” Hillary shouted at the cops.

“Yes, ma’am.” they both replied.

Michael came out, and surrendered. Detective Riggs slapped a pair of cuff on Michael’s wrists, explaining his Miranda Rights as clicked the cuffs. Hillary grabbed her purse and we ran down the stairs.

Yeah, you read that correctly. We ran!

Hillary’s car tore out of the parking lot in hot pursuit of the police.

“I knew those fuckers wouldn’t wait!” she screamed, and gunned the engine. She flew through the intersections, regardless of red lights.

Little Known Fact About the Kennedy Assassination: When Kennedy’s body was being transported from Parkland Hospital to Love Field, the Secret Service didn’t stop at any red lights. They called them pink lights.

Hillary, it seemed, had become a Secret Service agent. She wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but she sure as hell wasn’t smiling.

I couldn’t tell you how many pink lights we encountered. A lots. The cops drove surface streets on their way to Dallas Police Headquarters. But thanks to Hillary’s complete and total disregard of traffic laws, we were right on the bumper of the unmarked police car carrying Michael.

Is that Dealey Plaza? I wondered. I think that’s the Texas School Book Depository! Holy shit! I thought. I could not believe it. I was traveling through Ground Zero, the place where President Kennedy had been assassinated. We continued tailing the cops until they turned into an underground parking garage at Dallas Police Headquarters.

Hillary stopped in the middle of the street, unsure about what to do.

“Can I park down there?”

“No sense in trying to play it safe now.” I said. “You didn’t let any red lights get in your way.”

“Good point.” she said, and roared into the garage. The cops were walking Michael into the building by the time we parked. Hillary shouted his name. He turned to look back toward us, but the cops kept him moving. We ran, trying to catch up.

Jesus! This is place Lee Harvey Oswald was jailed! And this is where Jack Ruby shot him! I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I had just stepped back in time.

For those of you that weren’t alive when Kennedy was killed, there’s no way to explain the significance of his assassination. It was the sentinel event of my generation, transcending all else, including 9-11.

And here I was. I had been given a backstage pass to an area I shouldn’t have had access to, all because Michael had decided to go where he had been forbidden to enter, and because George was big enough of a dick to make him pay for it.

Fuckin’ George!

“What are we doing here?” I decided to ask Hillary as we rode the elevator to the main floor. Oswald probably rode in this elevator! Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

“We’re going to get Michael out.”

“Is that possible?”

“I don’t know. I’ll call Jerry.”

* * * *

And she did, but there was nothing he could do. And even if he could’ve done something, he wouldn’t have done it.

“Michael broke the fucking law! He violated his restraining order!”

That’s how Jerry explained it to me when Hillary put me on the phone to reason with Jerry. After all, he adored me!

“So, what happens next?”

“Michael stays in jail until his arraignment on Monday. End of story. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of everything. Go home. There’s nothing you can do. Go. Home!”

“Jerry said we should go home.” I informed Hillary. “He said there’s nothing he can do.”

“That’s bullshit.” Hillary replied.

“We should leave.”

“No. I want to see Michael before we go.”

Michael had to be booked and processed before Hillary could see him. We could wait over there, one of the cops informed us, and waved in the general direction of some benches. Hillary lit up a cigarette. I wandered around. We were at police headquarters for at least an hour before Hillary was allowed to speak to Michael.

“He wants to talk to you.” Hillary told me when she returned.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either.

“How’s it going? Are you okay?” I asked when I saw Michael. We probably had to talk to each other via telephone, but I can’t remember for sure. I know we were separated by a thick plexiglass window, and the space was poorly lit.

“I’m good. I popped a couple ‘ludes while I was in the bathroom. I’ll probably sleep until tomorrow.” he laughed. “Listen, take care of Hillary while I’m in here. She’s a little…upset.”

“You got that right.” I agreed.

“I’ll get out of here Monday. I’ve already talked to Jerry. He’s gonna take care of everything. Don’t let her do anything… stupid. Okay?”

“I’ll take care of her. I promise.”

“Good luck.”

* * * *

I can’t remember if Hillary stopped for red lights on the way home or not. Probably not. I mean, why start now? The roads were mostly deserted anyway…  We drove past Dealey Plaza again. I imagined we were part of the motorcade on November 22, 1963. We drove under the triple underpass, and we were on the freeway. Parkland Hospital was… right there!

We didn’t say much on the way home. I did tell Hillary that Michael had talked to Jerry, and seemed sure that he’d be released on Monday. Hillary said nothing.

We returned to the apartment. I stopped off briefly at the party room, and added some ice to the keg. Other than that, the keg seemed to be doing fine, and the beer was still cold and carbonated.

I was more than a little surprised to find that Shorty still hadn’t returned when I reached the apartment. Where the fuck is he? I wondered, then totally forgot about Shorty when Hillary came out of the bedroom.

She had an handgun in her hands. In street slang, it was a Saturday Night Special. A snub nose .38 revolver.

“Where did you get that?” I asked, nonchalantly. I’m not sure how I sounded as calm as I did. “Can I see that?”

“No. I got it from Jerry. I borrowed it. He gave it to me. For protection. There’s a lot of crime around here.”

“I’m going to have a beer. Do you want anything?”

“Yes, a glass of white wine, please.”

I opened the refrigerator, pulled out a can of beer and a bottle of wine, then washed one of the wine glasses on the counter. I thought about spiking Hillary’s drink with a handful of Quaaludes, but I didn’t have any, and given the fact that Hillary popped them like peanuts, it’d probably take an entire bottle to knock her out. I handed her a wine glass that I had filled almost to the top. She popped a ‘lude in her mouth and chased it with wine. I prayed it would knock her out.

I walked over to the couch to sit down, but the coffee table was gone, and I had no place to set my beer. I sat down on the floor. Hillary joined me. She positioned herself between me and the door. I lit up a joint. There were actually a few left over from the party. Yeah, that was a nice surprise!

“What are you planning to do with that gun?” I decided to ask.

“I’m going to kill George.” Hillary replied, and smiled, taking a hit.

“Oh. Well, you’re going about this the right way. A little wine, a little weed, a Quaalude. You’ll be nice and relaxed when you go over to George’s place to shoot him.

“Good! I want to do this right.”

It was at that precise moment that all of Jerry’s warnings came flooding into my head. I finally understood what he had been trying to tell us. And this, this, was most definitely a minefield.

I have no idea what I said after that. I know Hillary explained her rationale for what she had decided to do, and I didn’t do anything to stop her from talking. I could only hope the holy trinity of wine, weed and methaqualone would kick in and knock her ass out before she could knock off George.

Hillary played with her gun while she talked. I hoped the safety was on, but I couldn’t tell–she flipped it around too quickly for me to tell for sure. I suppose I could’ve asked if she knew how to use it, but I didn’t really want to go there.

Please, be on! I prayed. And I knew one thing for sure. If it was on, I wasn’t going to tell her how to turn it off.

We sat on the floor, our drinks on the carpet nearby. I had the nicest conversation I would ever have with a homicidal maniac holding a loaded gun. We sipped our drinks, smoked more pot, and then it was time.

“Okay. I’m ready now. I’m going to go kill George.”

I tried to stall her. I said the first thing that popped into my mind.

“Hillary, I love you! I want to make love to you! I want to fuck your brains out!”

That actually stopped her in her tracks. She slowly turned around to look at me, and smiled.

“Of course you do. But, you had your chance.” She turned for the door.

“What? No, wait!” I was trying to figure out when my chance to fuck her brains out had actually happened because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity. But Hillary had made up her mind, and she would no longer be delayed. She was walking for the door, and she did not stop.

And that’s when I did perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life, and that covers a whole lots of stupid.

I ran past her, getting to the door before she did by a step. I may have lost my race to that door to Shorty, but I beat homicidal Hillary.

“If you’re really serious about killing George, you’re going to have to kill me first.” I said, blocking the door.

Hillary tilted her head fractionally. I could tell by the look in her her eyes that she was actually thinking about how she was going to get past me. And then she found a solution.

She raised the gun, in a very relaxed manner, and calmly pointed it at my head.

The Epic Party at the End of the World

I have previously mentioned that I had an older brother named Allen, who unfortunately died from SIDS. He would’ve been two years older than me, if he hadn’t gotten dead.

In a strange twist of fate, my best friend, Shorty, was two years older than me, and he had been born in November, the same month as Allen.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe I adopted Shorty as my older brother back then. Like Jerry, I had real brothers that I loved far less than I loved Shorty. Our relationship would be tested by this trip, but it would not be destroyed. And when we really needed each other, we would have one another’s back.

That’s what brothers do.

* * * *

The Big Epic Amazing Party continued despite the fact that one of its hosts and the central figure that inspired it were no longer in attendance. And it continued despite the Wrath of God thunderstorm raging outside that seemed intent on washing Dallas off the face of the earth.

It rained like a bastard. Rain came down in buckets. It rained cats and dogs. In buckets. But the epic party would not be denied. The only thing the rain did was keep everyone inside. No one in their right mind wanted to venture out in that downpour.

Why should they? It was warm and dry inside. There was food, and beer. Pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, and beer. Whiskey, and beer. Vodka, and beer. Red wine, white wine, and beer. Quaaludes, and beer. And there was music!

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Thank you, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That was very good advice, and I took it. I mostly forgot about Shorty and Martha, and focused my attention on Randi, and on having as much fun as I could before the flood waters reached the sixth floor.

It rained like hell for at least two hours, and then it just rained. When the rain lightened, some of our guests decided to hit the road. I have no clear memory of when Phase One of our epic party came to a close, but at the end only four people remained: Michael, Hillary, Randi and me.

We sort of cleaned up, you know, threw stuff in the refrigerator, picked up abandoned glasses and plates, random trash. I checked the keg. I was sure it would be empty.

I was wrong. There was a lots of beer left in that keg. I know, right! How the hell was that even possible? And yet, it was. I pumped the taper to keep the pressure up, I didn’t want the beer going flat, and threw a half ton of ice on the keg to keep it cold. Then I turned off the lights in the party room and locked the door. Randi and I helped each other make it up the stairs.

The door to Michael and Hillary’s bedroom was closed when we returned to the apartment, so we tried keep the noise down, like there’s such a thing as a quiet, stumbling drunk.

“Where do you guys sleep?” Randi whispered loudly. The pillows we used as mattresses were easy to find, but where the hell did the blankets go? Oh yeah! Hillary put them in the closet!

I have no doubt half the stuff stored in the small closet came falling out with a crash when I opened the door. Randi came over to help me, and we laughed, not quietly, and kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed. We eventually extracted the blankets from everything else and shoved it all back in the closet to get it out of the way.

“I gottagottagotta amember not to open that door again!” I burped loudly. Randi shrieked! Yeah, we were quiet, all right.

“Oh, this is so…open.” Randi said when she surveyed the landscape in the living room. She had a point. Luckily, there was no longer a coffee table cluttering the space, so I scooted the far end of the couch out away from the wall a few feet, creating a semi-secluded space. I tossed several pillows into the space, and just like that, I had created a love nest.

“That’ll work.” Randi announced.

Home run!

I might kiss and tell, but I do not write Letters to Penthouse. The most I’ll say about this was there was a point in time when I wished I had saved a few of the condoms Raoul had so thoughtfully provided for me in Fort Sill.

I never went past a certain point if birth control was an issue.

Never.

It was the only thing I’ve ever been totally committed to and responsible about in my life. Yep, the Mother’s Curse would modify my behavior far more than all of the sex education classes I took in high school ever would.

“It’s okay. I’m on the pill.” Randi whispered in my ear.

Green light!

“Here, try one of these.” Randi offered me a ‘lude. I declined. “Well, then take half!” I agreed to that.

It has been written that Quaaludes enhanced sexual intensity and performance. Yeah, I don’t know about that. It has also been written that lions copulate approximately one hundred times a day when they’re mating. I can honestly state that neither Randi nor myself were lions, but we did make excellent use of the impromptu love nest I had created in the living room. I was actually still a little sore from my erotic wrestling match with Shelly, but not that sore.

* * * *

I woke up looking at the back of the couch. I was laying on a pile of pillows on the floor, and I was naked. But I knew how all of those variables had occurred this time, and that made me smile. I rolled over and found myself

Alone.

There are times when the emptiness deep inside your soul cannot be filled, no matter what you do to satiate that cavernous void, and this, was one of those times for me.

I missed Randi. I missed Martha. I missed Shelly, but I especially missed Maureen. We had broken up in May of  1975. I hadn’t seen her almost three years, and I missed her more than I missed Randi, Martha and Shelly combined. At that time, I thought she was the reason my soul was so inconsolably miserable, but the depth of my emptiness would far surpass her absence. And even if she had been present, it would’ve surpassed her ability to fill.

I curled up in a ball of spiritual pain, and cried. I mourned my losses, grieved over my heartaches, until I cried myself to sleep.

* * * *

It’s a good thing I didn’t have to respond to any emergencies when I woke up, like, you know, an actual flood. It had stopped raining. It was gray, and cloudy–just like the inside of my head. Michael and Hillary were in no better shape than I was. We slowly took turns taking showers. We slowly cleaned the apartment some more. Even the conversations I had with Michael and Hillary were slow. I’m not sure I ever completed a sentence before I ran out of the necessary energy to finish what I was saying. And just about the only thing I could say was, “Man. Was that a great party, or what.”

We ate leftover whateverthisstuffis for breakfast. I can’t remember if any of us felt any better after eating or not.

Shorty had not returned. I was still pissed off at him, so even if I was concerned, I wasn’t about to admit it. He was a big boy, he could take care of himself, even if he was in the foreign country of Dallas.

Besides, all he had to do was open his damn mouth and half of Dallas would’ve welcomed him into their homes, and the other half of Dallas would fight to take him into theirs. Shorty was all right. I kept telling myself that.

I think we all took a vote and decided the apartment was clean enough…and quit cleaning. Michael and Hillary laid on the couch. I mustered enough energy to go check on the keg and make sure she was safe and the beer was cold. The keg was fine. I could relax. I returned to the apartment and laid down on a pile of pillows in the middle of the living room.

We watched a black and white movie from the 1930’s or 40’s. For all I know, it was the same movie I had kind of watched with Raoul my last night on Fort Sill.

One person could lay on the couch comfortably, but two people the size of Michael and Hillary could not. They tried changing positions, slowly, but they eventually gave up and retired to their bedroom because they could both lay down on the bed comfortably. And more than anything else in the world on that dreary day in Dallas, all three of us were sorely in need of comfort.

I had recovered from my attack of transient global heartbreak. There was a lingering sense of loneliness, or emptiness, somewhere deep inside my soul, but it was quiescent now. I was feeling more exhausted than anything, and it wasn’t long before I fell asleep. I was awakened by the sound of someone knocking on the door.

“Fuckin’ Shorty’s finally back.” I muttered to myself, and heaved myself off the floor. It seemed like it took me an hour to walk ten feet to the door. I opened the door to let Shorty in, and those two guys in suits… don’t… look… like… Shorty…

Actually, they looked like cops. I somehow mustered enough energy to be surprised.

“Hi, how’re y’all doin’? I’m Detective Murtaugh, and this is my partner, Detective Riggs. We’re here to serve a warrant on one Mr Michael Schrödinger. Is there any chance that Michael’s here today?”

“And if so, could y’all have him come to the door, please.” the other detective added. “We’re here to arrest him.”

A Dark and Stormy Night, Part II

I had a strange thought when I went to bed last night. Anyone reading my last few installments has to be thinking, Jaysus! Was this guy ever sober? I mean, the only thing he writes about is getting drunk!

Yeah, I did spend a fair amount of time drinking, but I did other stuff, too. Like, smoke pot. So, there!

And I remembered something I had failed to mention about Dallas. I brought my camera. I took a lots of pictures while we were on vacay in Big D. Hillary, Michael, Shorty. The sales zombies. Martha, Martha, Martha. Randi’s tits. Hillary even took a picture of me.

I lost them when I moved in with Cynthia ‘Fatass’ Jamieson. But Shorty has a set. If you want to see them, contact him. That picture of me with my afro looking like a dandelion that’s about to blow away, is so great. As much as I would I end up hating Hillary, I couldn’t fault her on that photo. It was quite possibly the best picture anyone has ever taken of me.

* * * *

The Big Epic Amazing Party that I had conceived on the spur of the moment while talking to the angelic Martha as a means to hook up with her was hitting its stride. It was about 9:00 PM. At least thirty people were present in either the apartment or the spacious party room four stories below.

Good old rock and roll was playing on stereos. Shorty had tuned in the same radio station he had found on the stereo in the party room to the boom box in the apartment. There was food galore, booze beyond galore, weed and cigarettes being smoked, Quaaludes being sectioned and popped openly. As far as all of those things went, they couldn’t be wenting any smoother.

Everyone was having a great time. I was having a blast. I had been having probably the best time I had ever had in my young life, and this party was just the icing on the cake. I was drinking a beer on the balcony of Hillary and Michael’s apartment. An extremely beautiful and talented young woman was at my side, and she only had eyes for me.

I’ll tell you what, life rarely gets much better than that. And in one tick of the clock, all that changed.

A choir of angels started singing. As the door of the apartment opened to admit the angelic being that had made all of this conceivable, an heavenly light radiated from the other side of door that slowly illuminated the entrance, blinding everyone with its brilliance.

And Martha stepped into the apartment.

Martha was always beautiful, even when she was a disheveled, crying sales zombie, but that night–OhmyGod! If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, Martha of Dallas could’ve launched two thousand.

And Helen could never have looked as good as Martha did wearing a cowboy hat. She was darlingpreshadorbs, squared.

Everyone in the room had turned their heads to watch Martha’s grand entrance. Everyone but Shorty. He was standing by the door, totally oblivious to what was happening behind him. He had somehow fucked up and was standing exactly where I was supposed to be standing.

This had been my idea! Spontaneously planned when I gazed into Martha’s wishing well eyes and my wish had been that on this night, she would be mine, and mine alone. I was supposed to be standing at the door, not Shorty!!

Even after all these years, and all things that transpired through the decades–after all this time, I still want to rip Shorty’s liver out of his body and eat it in front of him before he bled out.

My best friend stood where I should have been standing, grinning like two village idiots. He finally realized everyone was staring at the doorway. He turned to see what everyone else was looking at, and almost knocked my perfect little Martha off of her feet. He grabbed her reflexively, and pulled her into his uncouth arms, and then he gave her a big wet kiss on the cheek.

The room erupted in cheers, like Shorty had just won the fuckin’ Super Bowl or something.

Everyone cheered! Except me. And Randi. She didn’t cheer either. She hated Martha.

I have rarely felt that deflated in my life, and I have had plenty of reasons to feel deflated over the years. The world around me, which moments ago had been bright, shiny and euphoric, had become darkness, dust and ruin.

Just. Like. That.

There’s no way I could not have looked anything except devastated, but I found a bleak smile somewhere inside me, and feebly flashed it at Randi. I fashioned my arm as an escort, and extended it to her.

“Shall we?” I asked. She hooked her arm in mine, and smiled. I walked over to offer my congratulations to Shorty. To the victor go the spoils. The race had ended before I got out of the starting blocks, and Shorty had won.

* * * *

 For anyone reading this that feels sorry for me right now, all I can say is Thank you. For anyone that thinks I was a goddamn idiot, all I can say is, You are absolutely correct!

I mean, throwing a party that would end up lasting three days on the offhand chance that I’d end up with Martha was almost as stupid as Shorty buying drinks for everyone at the bar for exactly the same reason. And there was such a simple solution to this equation that it surprises me to this day that I didn’t think of it at the time.

Except I’ve never been very good at math…

What I should have done was ask Martha out, you know, on a date. Just the two of us. Yeah, we’ll get a bite to eat, take in a movie… Then we could go back to your place… I’ll bet it’s darling. Just as darling as you! And then, you know, you could fuck my brains out…  Well, that’s what Jerry says you want to do! Did I mention that I have a bionic dick?

I mean, what woman in her right mind could resist an offer like that?

* * * *

I wish I could say that I have total recall of everything that happened after I had lost what seemed to be at the time, the most important race of my life.

Alas, I have trouble remembering what happened last week, and I’ve been sober for almost ten years. Dallas Daze took place almost forty years ago, and I doubt I had ten consecutive days of sobriety back then.

Here goes nothing…

I like to think that Martha actually apologized to me for screwing up my grand design of screwing her silly by stupidly ending up with Shorty, not me.

And even if she didn’t come right out and say it, the look of almost sorrow in her eyes when I greeted her said as much. That actually did happen, and I would end up taking a ton of consolation from that.

Shorty couldn’t have been more elated. I’m surprised he didn’t jump on the railing of the balcony and crow like a rooster. He had won the Martha Lottery, and he wasn’t about to let anyone, specifically me, steal his winning ticket.

In a very short amount of time, he grabbed Martha by the arm and they vacated the premises. Yep, he left our epic party–abandoning me, leaving me all alone– with roughly thirty people, one of whom was head over heels in love with me–plus, there was a ton of food and more drugs and alcohol than all thirty of us could possibly handle.

I mean, seriously, what a jackass!

And at the precise moment he and Martha left, a huge flash of lightning lit up the night sky. A crack of thunder that sounded like a explosion ripped across the city. And it started raining like unto the time of Noah and the Great Flood.

That actually happened, too.

Shorty had clearly meddled with the primal forces of nature, and there was going to be hell to pay. And as ridiculous as that might sound, it would end up being the truth.

Every. Word.

Dallas, Part V

I have become somewhat obsessed with this story. I hadn’t thought about it much in the last couple of decades, but it’s pretty much consuming all of my waking moments of late.

I kind of need to get this sucker out of my system, though I couldn’t tell you why. My first attempt at being a rich and famous author was focused on telling this story. All of it. I’m not going into anywhere near that much detail with this telling, and it’s still taking forever.

I know I told my brother, Bruce, the whole story once. We drank an entire case of beer by the time I had finished. And Bruce probably slept through the last two hours of my narration. It has always been a long story, and I’m trying like hell to make this very long and convoluted story shorter. But the worst is yet to come…

* * * *

Michael and Hillary came home from work Monday afternoon. Shorty and I hailed them from the pool. They smiled and waved, and we decided that was as good a time as any to inform our hosts they were hosting our Big Epic Party on Friday, seeing how they were in a good mood.

Who were we inviting? Just the people from work. And maybe some of the bikini babes Shorty and I had met by the pool. And anyone they wanted to invite. I mean, it was their place…

Drinks? Um, we’re getting a keg of beer. Some sodas. Maybe a bottle of whiskey…  And we still had weed!

Food? Sure. We could get a party tray. Or something. Somewhere. Probably. And chips. We had to have chips, and dip, probably. And we still had weed!

And when Hillary was satisfied, everything was cool. 😎  We had Michael at party.

The apartment complex even had a spacious entertainment room more than ample enough to hold all the people were planning on inviting to our epic shindig. This just kept getting better and better, except the being broke part, and not having any idea how we were going to pay for it part.

Michael and Hillary were in better spirits than they had been when I returned from Fort Sill. But that didn’t mean all, or anything for that matter, had been forgiven.

George, evil George, mean and icky George had won custody of the glass topped coffee table with the black wrought iron frame, and Hillary’s improved mood vanished the moment she saw it.

That table became the object of her hatred for George. That table had to die. And if it couldn’t be killed, it had to be severely damaged at the very least. Hillary changed clothes. We smoked a joint, and gathered around the table with dark intent, armed with one instrument of mass destruction.

A ridiculously small hammer.

We all took turns trying to break the glass top, but that plane of glass was almost an half an inch thick, and it was able to withstand our initial half-hearted blows. Neither Shorty nor I held any animosity toward the table, and we felt more foolish than anything when we took our turns smacking the table top with the hammer. Even Michael’s attempts at breaking the table top were pretty lame, and he certainly didn’t like George.

We tried breaking the glass table for at least half an hour without success. We were all giggling like schoolgirls. Michael, Shorty and I were ready to call it quits. We had hit it with our best shots, but the table took them all and laughed at us. That, was an insult Hillary could not ignore.

We had all been sitting on the floor around the table as we enacted our dark ritual, but then Hillary rose to her feet. She uttered a string of curses that would’ve rivalled anything Rose could have come up with, and smote the the table with the hammer full force, and a small section of the corner of the glass top flew free.

We were all surprised, even Hillary. She might have been more than surprised, but whatever it was she started feeling, she converted it back into anger. And satisfaction.

George might be getting the table back, but it wasn’t going to be pristine.

* * * *

We all got up early on Tuesday. We were all going to work. Shorty and I had flipped a coin. He would go with Michael. I would go with Hillary. And we would trade off the next day. Neither of us really wanted to work with Michael, and not because we didn’t like him. We did. But Michael didn’t work with Martha, and Martha made the world go ’round.

Shorty and Michael went to Bernie’s House of Carpets. Hillary and I went to Jerry’s Emporium of Telemarketing and Stuff. We were making the big bucks in Big D.

My life as Jerry’s bitch was okay, I guess. I’ve certainly had worse jobs. The sales team didn’t drop everything to talk to me. They waved and said hi, and kept on working. I invited everyone to our party, and everyone said they would be there. But that’s about as far as our interactions went.

It clearly wasn’t me that disrupted productivity at the office, so it had to be Shorty. That was my take. I think it was the way he talked. That Minnesota accent was as foreign as a British accent in Texas, and people couldn’t get enough of it. And, he could spin a fairly funny tale. We both had a lots of funny stories about our lives and the characters we knew.

However, I did have one work related perk that Shorty wouldn’t have that day. I got to see 💕Martha. 💕 Angelic Martha. 😇 Beautiful Martha. 😍 I love you, Martha!❣And she looked marvelous!

We exchanged greetings, and I especially made sure she was still coming to our Big Epic Amazing Party. On Friday. At Michael and Hillary’s.

Yes! She was!!

However, we both had jobs to do, and that was just about the extent of our interactions. Martha had to sell stuff, and she had been in a slump. She was fueled up on caffeine and Quaaludes, and she was hitting it hard. She just needed some good leads.

I had been tasked with mastering the Supply Room. It was a big closet at the end of the hallway past Jerry’s office, ten by twenty, maybe. It was full of boxes, bags, stuff and junk. It looked like a bomb had gone off it in. A big bomb.

I took everything out of the room, and swept and mopped the floor. I found some pallets in the underground parking garage, and put them on the floor, then organized the hell out of everything I put back in supply room.

I was done by eleven o’clock. Jerry just about had an heart attack.

“What do you mean, you’re done already!” Jerry shouted as he walked over to the Supply Room to appraise my work. “I told you to–”

Jerry was speechless. I smiled a very satisfied smile.

“Je-sus Christ! I can’t believe this! This. Is. Beautiful!”

“Thanks. Anything else you want me to do?”

“Yeah…” Jerry’s voice trailed off. He looked at me in an entirely different way. He rattled off a list of things, then started pulling random people over to look at the Supply Room. “Do you see this? Do you see this! This, is a goddamn masterpiece, that’s what it is! I will fire the first person that fucks this up! Do you hear me! Fire!!”

I spent the rest of the day impressing the hell out of Jerry. And Jerry spent the rest of the day annoying the hell out of everyone by telling them how fucking awesome I was. By the time the day ended, I was sure no one was coming to our party. Not even me.

Shorty had a good day with Michael. There was a building boom in Dallas, and Bernie had a lots of carpeting that needed to be installed. Michael was happy to have the help, and the company. He usually worked alone.

Our first work day in Dallas had been a success. We had made forty bucks, and we didn’t spend it on beer. It couldn’t have gone much better.

“I think Jerry’s gonna ask you to marry him!” Hillary teased me when we were all together at the apartment. Except for that part. Her teasing was good-natured, thankfully. But Hillary’s good mood would vanish quickly. George was coming over to pick up his furniture.

* * * *

I have to confess, I was a complete dick to George when he showed up. I taunted him like I was one of the Brownies in Willow. I taunted him like I was a French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

To his credit, George kept his head down, and did not respond to me. He was a much better man than I. He picked up his stuff, he had gained custody of more than just the maimed coffee table, but I couldn’t tell you what. George said something about the broken glass top of the coffee table, but he was in enemy territory and he had no back up. He collected his stuff as quickly as he could, and got the hell out of Dodge.

* * * *

I called my mom on Wednesday on my lunch break. Michael and I had flown through our first job, then drove back to the office to meet Hillary, Randi and Shorty outside her office. I had laid carpet for a couple months during the summer when I was in high school, so I knew what Michael needed without being told. We made a good team.

I went inside the office while everyone else waited outside, and used Hillary’s phone to call Mom so I didn’t have to call her collect. I think that probably surprised her.

Apparently, a wire money transfer wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but Mom came through. She told me which bank to go. One hundred dollars was waiting there for me. Michael knew where the bank was, we went there after lunch. I gave fifty bucks to Shorty. We were in this together.

💖 Thanks, Mom. You were the best. 💖

The rest of the week was uneventful. Shorty and I were working stiffs. I think the only problem was I had been so efficient as Jerry’s bitch on Tuesday that Shorty didn’t have much of anything to do at the office on Wednesday. So Jerry spent half the day showing Shorty all the stuff I had done.

“Do you see that?” Jerry showed Shorty the Supply Room. “That, is a goddamn masterpiece! A masterpiece! I should have taken before and after pictures! No one fucks this up, and lives!”

Shorty spent the rest of the day disrupting the productivity of the sales zombies in the bullpen. They had a great day. They didn’t sell much, but they had the best day, ever. Hillary said her sides hurt from laughing so much.

The only person happy to see me in the office on Thursday was Jerry. I think I actually begged him to stop shouting my praises. Not even my parents loved me as loudly as Jerry did.

I didn’t ask if he had anything for me to do, I just did stuff. I cleaned the windows. Almost everyone in the office smoked, and there were no prohibitions against smoking indoors back then. When I finished, sunlight flooded the bullpen. Some of the sales zombies actually donned sunglasses.

Jerry simply nodded this time. I was sooo thankful.

I was able to spend some quality time with Martha on Thursday. Her sales slump had become a drought, and she was freaking out. She was crying and disheveled once more. Hillary and Randi tried to stop me as I headed for Martha’s desk, but I was immune to their black magicks that day.

I took Martha outside, and smoked a cigarette with her. I told her jokes and funny stories, and got her laughing. I gave her a little pep talk to get her focused. She even found the strength to flash a look of determination.

“You can do this. You’ve done it a thousand times. I believe in you. Now, get in there and make a sale!” And I gave her a little pat on the ass, for good luck.

I stood there alone in the underground garage, watching her cute little butt as she strode back inside. And I promised myself I would never wash that hand again.

Half an hour later, a shriek of exuberance reverberated out of the bullpen. Martha had made a sale! Her fellow sales zombies swarmed her to congratulate her. I stood just outside the bullpen, watching, and I made no movement to join them. Through the crowd of people that surrounded her, I could see Martha’s elated face. She had her eyes locked on me. Through the tears of joy that rolled down her angel face, she silently said, Thank you!

That memory is also filed in my Happy Box. I haven’t accessed that file in at least twenty years, probably longer. Good to know it’s still there.

* * * *

By Thursday afternoon, Shorty and I had almost two hundred seventy-fifty dollars between us. We could throw a big, epic, amazing party with that kind of coin. And we had almost an ounce of pot, too! We decided we’d work only half a day on Friday, if that was okay with our new employers and co-workers. We had a party to plan.

Yeah, that’s fine. We completely understand, our bosses said when we asked them on Friday morning. I invited Jerry and Bernie to the party. They said they’d think about it.

Michael and I were the A Team once more, and we finished the first job in record time. It was Friday. Shorty and I would be gone on Monday. Michael decided we deserved a treat. We went to a bar and had a couple of beers.

I didn’t spend as much time talking to Michael as Shorty did. They were both motorcycle guys, so they could talk for hours about bikes. I was not a bike guy. I knew they were the things with two wheels, right? And that was about the extent of my knowledge.

“Hey, it’s been surprisingly great having you and Shorty here. I wasn’t too wild about it at first, but you guys have been a real pleasure to have around.”

“I know what you mean. I had some serious doubts about this too, but hanging out with you and Hillary has been pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I’m not sure I want to go back to Minnesota.”

“No shit! Wow, it’d be cool if you stayed. Not with us…” Michael laughed. “No offense.”

“None taken.” We clinked beer bottles. I was going to miss this place, if I left. I had a pretty big decision to make, but first, I had an epic party to prepare.

Michael and I drove to Hillary’s office. We were meeting Shorty, Hillary and Randi for lunch. We walked to a nearby deli. I think we ate there frequently that week. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but when we returned to the office, Michael walked in with us.

Hillary’s office had the atmosphere of a carnival that day. Shorty had been in his glory, and no one did a fucking thing that morning. Not even Jerry, and he didn’t seem to care that no one in his office was doing what they were getting paid to do. He had been laughing his ass off. Shorty picked up where he left off when we returned.

Now, I’m a comedian. Okay, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian, much like I’ve almost always wanted to be a prophet. It was one of the things I wanted back in my Dallas Daze. And I’m sure I was more than a little jealous of Shorty, who was killing it at the office.

“Oh, God! Stop it, Girtz! You’re killing me, man!” Jerry said. He had rejoined the audience after lunch, and was laughing so hard he actually had tears running down his cheeks. “Oh, hey, Marco! Come with me. I want to talk to you.” He clapped me on the shoulder, pushing me toward his office, and closed the door once we were inside. He offered me a glass of bourbon. I actually declined.

Jerry couldn’t believe it either.

“Man, I am gonna be so glad when you guys leave. I can start making some money again!”

“I might stay in Dallas.”

“What?!?”

“I’m seriously considering staying here.” I repeated.

“No kidding? What are your plans?”

“There’s a lot of stuff up in the air. I need a job, and a place to live. I can’t stay with Michael and Hillary.”

“You–you’re serious! What happened? Did you fall in love or something?” Jerry chuckled at the thought, then he became serious. “Martha! You fell in love with Martha, didn’t you!”

Was it that obvious?

“No! Nonononono! Not Martha! You need a good girl, like Randi. Fall in love with Randi, she’s fucking crazy about you!”

“What?!?” It was my turn to be confused.

“What? You didn’t know that? What are you, blind?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea. Maybe I was so infatuated with Martha that I couldn’t see anything else. Plus, there was Shelly. I had been thinking about her a lots, even if it was because I was trying to put together the pieces of what really happened between us that night. Maybe she felt something similar to what I did, a sort of sacredness…  I like to think of Shelly as a virgin, and in a way, she was. Or maybe we actually had thrown water condoms at the Marines…

“I…don’t know what to say.” I finally said, for many reasons.

“Never mind. That’s not why I called you in here. I don’t care who you fall in love with. I called you in here because–because I wanted to thank you– to thank you for what you did, you cleaned up that closet, my supply…room…”

You know, I don’t think Jerry spent a lots of time thanking anyone for anything. This was the worst thank you speech I had ever heard, and Jerry looked so uncomfortable…

“Hey, Jerry. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not! Sheila tells me I’ve gotta work at this, goddammit! Can you believe this shit? I’m a grown man! I’m successful, right? And I can’t even tell someone thank you without fucking it up!”

If there was something I could’ve said then, I had no idea what it was. I said nothing, and even now, I think that was the best answer.

“Look, the work you did around here, it was great. You need a job, you got one. And that’s a promise! But that other thing you did, that thing you did with Martha the other day. That, was beautiful. I was wrong about you, hippie. I thought you were a killer when I met you. But you’re no killer. You’re a good man, and I…I just wanted you to know that.”

Years later, when I had become a legendary psych nurse, I would understand the therapeutic value of silence. Back then, standing in Jerry’s office, I had no idea what I was doing, but I sensed what I wasn’t saying was my best course of action. And then I knew what to say.

“Thank you.”

“There! You see that! How do you do that!” Jerry was practically screaming! “I should hire you to teach me how to be, you know, fuckin’ gracious and shit! You want to be my teacher, hippie? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t call you that! Whaddya think? You wanna work for me?” Jerry was on a roll. “Listen! The other reason I called you in here for was this.” Jerry reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. He flipped through them until he found a Benjamin. “I wanted you to have this, too. You earned it, and I know you could use it. Go ahead, take it. But don’t tell Girtz I did this! Hell, I should make him pay me for fucking up my office! Naw, I’m just kidding. But you listen to me. Find yourself a good girl. You’ll save yourself a fortune…”

I took the C-note and silently put it in my wallet. Jerry was quite a guy. I liked him a lot, and I can tell you this in all seriousness. That guy didn’t miss a trick. He saw everything, and everything he told me was true.

Every word.

* * * *

By the time I left Jerry’s office, I wasn’t sure my hearing would ever be the same, but I was positive of one thing. My powers of observation were nowhere near as acute as I thought they were.

I took a long, hard look at Randi, and my eyes locked onto her tits. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t noticed the whole her being head over heels in love with me thing. Well, at least that explanation made sense to me. I got Shorty away from his crowd of admirers so we could get moving on setting up Party Central. I think the sales zombies were actually cheering us onward. I made sure to make eye contact with Martha.

Promise me you’ll come. I said, silently

I promise! she replied

And Randi saw that. I know she did.

It would have to do. The only way I could insure that Martha would actually show up was to kidnap her…  I’m kidding. No, I’m not. I totally would have kidnapped her if that’s what I had to do.

Shorty and I headed for the garage and Hillary’s car. We were going shopping for the epic party! Michael was still in the office, and he disengaged himself from the crowd to join us. As we started walking down the hallway, I vaguely saw a human form walking up the hallway toward us. And then I saw who that someone was.

It was George.

* * * *

Shorty and I said goodbye to Michael in the garage. If he was bothered by the fact that he had just violated the restraining order George had filed against him, he hid it well.

He was a little bummed out that he wouldn’t have a partner for the afternoon, but other than that…

Neither Shorty nor I gave the seemingly innocuous event that had just happened so much as a second thought. I mean, George didn’t even acknowledge our existence. Nor did he even speak to Michael, so even if we had thought about it, we wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal.

We were focused on the party. Well, okay. I did have a few other random thoughts bouncing around in my head, but all I wanted them to do was stop!

A shopping we did go. First stop, a liquor store, for a keg. We had to have a whole bunch of beer. Everything else was optional. We got a thirty gallon keg. And a couple sleeves of plastic cups. And then some sodas. And a bottle of whiskey. Or vodka. Or something like unto that.

Then we stopped at a grocery store, probably, and bought chips and dips and snacks and stuff. And napkins. And whatever else struck our fancy as something we could afford. Money was no longer our overriding concern.

All I know for sure about our out of pocket expenses for the party was both Shorty and I still had money in our pockets when we were through. And I still had Benjamin safely tucked away in my wallet. Just in cases…

Hillary had procured the key to the entertainment suite at the apartment, and I had it in my pocket. The liquor store had given us an enormous plastic container to put the keg in. We set the keg up in the party room. There was an ice machine in the party room, so we wouldn’t need to buy any ice to keep the keg cold, or for drinks.

We tossed anything that needed to be refrigerated in the fridge in the party room, and we were pretty much set. We showered and changed clothes. All we had to do after that was wait for Martha, I mean, our guests to arrive.

Michael and Hillary came home. They were quieter than usual, maybe, but I only say this in retrospect. I’m sure I didn’t give much thought to how Michael and Hillary were acting at the time. Shorty and I spent the majority of our time tending to the keg, getting it to produce a stream of beer at the perfect rate of flow.

There was even a stereo system in the party room. Shorty dialed through the stations, looking for one that played good old rock and roll while I rolled a bunch of joints. Shorty was a gifted mechanic, but there were two things he couldn’t do with his hands. He couldn’t snap his fingers, and he couldn’t roll a joint to save his life. This was something only I could do.

* * * *

Our guests started arriving around 7:00 PM. The guys in the sales force were the first ones to show up. Free booze. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Shorty’s cousin, Leroy, came. I have purposely kept him out of this story up to this point, or I’d be on Part X right now. Leroy was also an interesting guy. He had been in Texas for so long his Minnesota accent had been replaced by a smooth Texas drawl. He was a true urban cowboy.

Leroy was married to a cute Texas blonde. She was six months pregnant or so, and she didn’t come to the party. I know Leroy and she had visited Hillary’s office at least once and everyone at the office knew them, and all of them had fallen in love with her.

A couple of the bikini babes we had met at the pool dropped in, but they weren’t wearing bikinis, which was disappointing.

The redheaded hippie chick and her hippie dude boyfriend came. They looked like the King and Queen of all the Hippies. They thought the party was groovy. They were totally grooving to the music. And they loved the fact that I had pre-rolled a bunch of joints.

Bernie actually came to the party, but he took Michael into the bedroom and they stayed there for a long time. They eventually rejoined the party, but Michael pulled Hillary into the bedroom and then they stayed there for a long time. I figured they were having sex, and left it at that.

Bernie was tense, a little too agitated, maybe. I’d be able to pick up on little things like that that once I became a psych nurse, but at that time I didn’t think much about it. Bernie relaxed after drinking a couple beers. He even told a couple jokes. I have them filed in my Joke Box, but that’s so cluttered it’d take me the rest of my life if I ever tried to reorganize it, so…

Bernie didn’t stay long. He left before the party really got started

A bunch of people I had never met walked in. They were Hillary’s friends from Detroit. She never told us she had invited anyone. But they were probably the people I enjoyed meeting the most at our epic party. I can’t remember any of their names, but they were a blast!

I lit up a few joints when they arrived and passed them around. This party was starting to become a party!

There were maybe thirty people at the party by this time. Almost everyone brought something to eat. Before long, we had a smorgasbord. And everyone brought more booze, and Quaaludes.

We wandered back and forth from the party room to the apartment and back to the party room. My memory of this isn’t completely clear, but I think the party room was on the second floor, so you had to be prepared to handle at least four flights of stairs.

That in and of itself limited the migration for most of our guests, but Shorty and I probably ran into ourselves coming and going. We were here, then there, shuttling pitchers of beer, snacks and ice from Point A to Point B.

This was our party, and we made sure there was plenty of everything available for our guests, no matter which room they were in. I probably needed to take another shower by 8:30, which happened to be when Randi arrived.

“Hi.” a voice whispered in my ear. My heart skipped a beat. Her voice sounded exactly like Shelly’s. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed that sooner. Maybe it was the whisper…  If Randi had been able to mimic Shelly’s cute little giggle, I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted. I turned to the sound of the voice and saw…tits.

Well, they were wearing a tight red blouse, but I knew those tits, and thanks to Jerry’s repeated warnings, I knew they were in love with me.

“Hi there! I replied, seeing Randi, maybe for the first time. She. Looked. Radiant!

Randi was seriously smoking hot that night. I poured her a beer. I asked if she needed anything. She said she wanted some fresh air, and asked if I would join her on the balcony. Why certainly! I’d love to! And I meant it. I asked her about her day, her son, her parents. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, and that is a testament to just how gorgeous she looked.

As busy as I had been busing beer and food and ice. As much as I had been enjoying meeting all of Hillary’s friends from Detroit, there was something always in the back of mind, something that made my head reflexively turn every time I heard someone enter the party room, or the apartment.

That something was a someone, and that someone was Martha. 

As keyed up as I was about this, as much as I had been anticipating this, and let me tell you something, I didn’t look forward to Santa with as much anticipation as I did to Martha’s arrival. I had even tried to position myself to be near the door at all times to give myself an edge over Shorty. I was not going to let him beat me to the finish line this time. Despite all that, I was totally caught off guard when I heard a chorus of angels burst into song, and that could mean only one thing.

💕Martha💕 had arrived!

And that’s when I realized where I was, and a crowd of about fifteen people were standing between me and the door where the angelic object of my desire was about to make her grand entrance.

And standing right there, mere feet from the doorway–just stupidly standing there like a goddamn idiot, was Shorty.

Dallas, Part IV

I’m the oldest son in my family. I had an older brother, Allen, but he got dead when he was very young.

Despite what you may have heard, there are only two causes of death. SIDS and GIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Gradual Infant Death Syndrome.

SIDS is the unexplained death of a child less than one year of age. It claims about 2500 lives in the United States each year. GIDS is the Number One cause of death of everyone else, every year.

My brother got dead from SIDS. I’m going to got dead from GIDS, someday. Hopefully, not today. I have stuff to do.

* * * *

I certainly had stuff to do when Shorty and I were vacationing in Dallas. We were as good as broke, and our flight home wasn’t for another week. We were fucked, so to speak. Two men in their early twenties could burn through eighty bucks in a New York minute, whatever that translates into in Dallas time. Hell, Shorty had burned through one hundred fifty bucks in about four hours.

On Monday morning, I did what any broke twenty-three year old man on vacation in a foreign land would do.

I called my mom. Collect.

I didn’t tell Mom I had smuggled an half pound of weed into Texas, nor that Shorty had sold most of it, then blew the profits buying drinks for everyone so he could get into Martha’s pants. I can’t remember what I told her exactly, but I’m sure I lied, a lots.

I’ve stated before that I am apparently a very convincing liar. Well, my mom had learned if my lips were moving, I was probably lying. And she wasn’t dramatically moved by my tale of woe. I needed one hundred dollars immediately, or I was probably going to got dead from starvation. She could wire the money to a bank in Dallas, it’d be easy!

“Let me think about it.” was her noncommittal response.

“What does that mean?”

“Call me in two days.” and she hung up the phone.

“What did she say?” Shorty asked. He had been standing next to me while I talked to Mom.

“Well, she didn’t say no.”

“Man, we’ve got to make some money, brother.”

There was a novel idea. Why don’t we get, you know, jobs! We jumped in the car and drove to Hillary’s office, and asked Jerry if we could talk to him. He waved us into his office.

“We’ve run into a cash flow problem.” I said.

“Welcome to the club.” he replied. “What do you want, a loan?”

“No. We want jobs.” Shorty answered.

“What?!?”

I don’t think Jerry was expecting that. I explained we didn’t want to be on the payroll, but we’d be willing to do odd jobs around the office. Or we could help Michael install carpeting. We had already done that! But now we needed to be paid for our services. We’d work cheap, for say, twenty bucks a day.

“You guys are serious!” Jerry said. I’m not sure I can describe the look on his face. We nodded. “Well, ain’t this a bitch.” We looked at each other, then nodded at Jerry again.

“Let me think about it.” he said. “Wait out there, but stay out of the bullpen. No one does a fucking thing around here once you two yahoos show up!”

“He didn’t say no…” Shorty whispered. No, he hadn’t, but he hadn’t said yes either. We just might find a way to survive in the Big City…  We tried to stay away from the bullpen, but someone spotted us, and pretty soon no one was doing a fucking thing. I had never noticed that before. I wanted to disappear because we really needed to stay on Jerry’s good side for one week, but I forgot all about that when Martha smiled at me, and I beat Shorty, getting to her before he did, for the first, and last, time.

Success! I was enthralled being in Martha’s angelic presence. I’m pretty sure heavenly light radiated from her. I would’ve crawled fifteen miles through broken glass, with two broken ankles, just to let her pee on my toothbrush. That’s how much I was in love with Martha.

I don’t remember much of our conversation, except the part where I invited her to the Big Party at Michael and Hillary’s apartment on Friday. Yeah, Shorty and I have had such a great time, and we’ve met so many wonderful people, like you, Martha. Oh, you’re just about the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Sure, you are! Anyway, big party. You have to be there. You will! That’s great!

Yep. I had totally lost my mind. And I couldn’t have cared less. I would’ve robbed a bank to pull this off, if I had to.

“Hey! I thought I told you two to stay out of the bullpen!” Jerry shouted over the chatter in his sales office. “Zombies! Back to work! You two, my office!”

Maybe Jerry knew more than I thought. Everyone jumped. Hillary and the rest of the sales force went back to work. Shorty and I followed Jerry.

“You see my dilemma, right?” Jerry said to me. “Seriously, I don’t think I can afford to have either one of you around here. All of my girls want to to fuck your brains out, which I can’t understand for the life of me.”

I missed the import of that statement at the time.

Shorty and I shrugged our shoulders. It wasn’t our fault we were irresistible to women.

“But I like you guys. I talked to Bernie. He’s okay with one of you guys working with Michael. You can lay padding and clean up, stuff like that, okay?” We nodded. “Twenty bucks a day, just like you asked, all right?”

“Yeah, that’s cool.” we agreed.

“And I can probably find something for the other one. I’ve got a few odd jobs around here I haven’t been able to get anyone to do, but I don’t think I have enough work to last the week..”

“Jerry, anything you can do for us will help a lot.” I said.

“Okay. Show up tomorrow morning. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”

Shorty and I went back to the apartment to enjoy the last day of our vacation. We were sipping beer poolside and soaking up the sun. I thought about telling Shorty about my trip to Fort Sill, and Shelly, and the booze cruise on the range roads, but all I said about it was it was good to see my Army buddies again, and left it at that.

And this might sound a little weird, but my time with Shelly had become almost…sacred…to me. I didn’t want to demean it. And the rest of it was too complicated to explain. Kind of like this story…

So I told Shorty about the Big Party we were having on Friday instead.

“What? Are you nuts? We don’t have any money! How the hell are we going to pay for it?”

I could’ve been a dick. We could’ve had a ton of money, if someone hadn’t blown it all! But I didn’t go there. It would all work out, I had no doubt. And it was going to be totally worth it. Martha was coming to the Big Party.

And I am totally spending the night with her, we both thought. It. Was. On. We clinked our beer cans together, and smiled.

The Big Party! Friday night!! Martha!!!

It was going to be epic!

Dallas, Part II

Shorty and I flew into Dallas on a Friday or Saturday, I think. I know it was the weekend. We spent a couple days getting to know our host and hostess. Michael liked to wear jeans and plain black T-shirts. He kind of reminded me of The Fonz. Hillary was a diva. She had enough clothes for twenty people. Michael actually took us into their bedroom to show us her closet. I don’t know how she managed to get that many outfits into that one small space.

Our first Monday morning in Dallas, Shorty and I went to Hillary’s office. She wanted to introduce us to her friends and co-workers. We rode in Hillary’s big green sedan. It was a Dodge or a Chrysler, I think. Michael drove a big white two seat panel van, much like the van I drove when I was a supply driver in the Army. The van belonged to Michael’s uncle, Bernie, who owned the carpet company Michael worked at.

Small World Factoid: Hillary’s boss and Michael’s boss were best friends.

There were about a dozen people that worked at Hillary’s office, but I remember only two. Randi and Martha. Almost everyone in Hillary’s office was a transplant from Detroit, including Hillary. So was Michael, for that matter. I think the only one who wasn’t was Martha.

Randi was a pretty, very well endowed brunette with short curly hair–it was so curly it was almost an afro. The only reason I mention her hair is because I had an afro, and a short, thick beard at that time. Randi and I would’ve made a very cute couple. I think Randi was a single mother, so the last thing she would be interested in was a casual hook up with me, no matter how darlingpreshadorbs we would’ve looked together.

I had asked my sister, Denise, to perm my hair a couple of months earlier. I had promised myself I wasn’t going to cut my hair for three years after I got out of the Army, but my hair was straight, fine and flyaway, and I wanted something with a little more body. I wanted hair like Randi’s, but ended up with hair like Julius Irving. I hated it, until my dad saw my new hairdo.

“Your hair looks like a goddamn dandelion that’s ready to blow away.” he said, in disgust. And then I loved my hair.

Martha was a stunning Texas blonde. She was easily one of the most beautiful women I’ve met in my life. She was petite and perfectly packaged; immaculately groomed, not one hair out of place. She looked like an angel, and I fell in love with her immediately.

Shorty and I couldn’t stop staring at her. Randi and Hillary hated her. Martha liked to party and have sex with random guys. She was essentially everything I was looking for in a woman at that time. I was totally hoping we’d become close friends while I was in town.

I remember Shorty and I were each drinking a beer as Hillary showed us around and introduced us to everyone, which is probably why I can’t remember most of them. And most of them were guys, so…  There was another gal that worked at Hillary’s office. She was a redheaded hippie chick, and she was in relationship with with some hippie dude. That’s probably why I can’t remember her name.

I seem to remember a sense of tension in the office. There were sales quotas to be met and commissions to be made by the salespeople. There was a lots of nervous chatter as the day began.

Then Hillary’s boss strolled in, like unto a king.

His name was Jerry. And he wanted to meet Shorty and I. He took us into his huge office, poured us a glass of bourbon from his bar, and sat down behind a desk about the size of Rhode Island. He then proceeded to interrogate us for an hour or more. Interview doesn’t seem appropriate to describe the gravity of our first meeting. He may have even taken notes, or he could’ve been doing paperwork, I can’t remember for sure.

Jerry kind of knew Shorty. They certainly knew of each other. They had talked on the phone a couple of times, and Hillary had told everyone about her trip to Minnesota to visit the crazy mechanic. Jerry seriously wanted Shorty to buy more stuff from him, and worked that into the conversation a lots. But what Jerry seemed to be most interested in was our experience with guns. Did we own any? Did we go hunting? Had we killed anything? Ever? Lately?

Neither Shorty nor I were sportsmen. We didn’t hunt animals, though we probably could have if we needed to. Neither of us owned a gun, but we had a lots of friends that did. And I had qualified as  a marksman, back when I was in the Army. The only shooting I did anymore was with my camera.

Oh, you were in the Army! Did you go to Nam? We’re you in combat? Did you ever have to kill anyone?

“Are you looking for a hitman?” I asked, in jest. A look of shock or surprise raced across Jerry’s face, and just as quickly disappeared.

“Me? No, I’m an honest businessman.” Jerry replied, and changed the subject. When he was sure he knew everything about us he needed to know, he invited us to his house for dinner. “You seem like a couple of nice guys, and you’re down here on vacation. Let me call my wife to let her know to set a couple extra plates at the table.” He gave each of us his business card, writing his home number on the back while he talked to his wife. “Call me if you need anything. Any time.” We put his cards in our wallets.

Hillary gave us the keys to her car, and we drove back to her apartment. Shorty and I spent the rest of the day hanging out by the pool drinking beer, chatting it up with the poolside bikini babes working on their tans, and playing Frisbee. I brought a couple discs to Dallas with me. I could throw a damn Frisbee back then. I think we even talked a couple bikini babes into playing Frisbee with us. I loved watching them run around and jump up and down.

At around 3:00 PM, we drove back to Hillary’s office. We had a dinner date with Jerry. The office was loud and chaotic. Most everyone was upbeat and cheerful, high on adrenaline. Shorty and I would discover they were all high on something else as well: Quaaludes. The sales force in Hillary’s office popped them like they were M&M’s.

The only person in the office that wasn’t upbeat that afternoon was Martha, who looked like she had been standing in an hurricane for an hour, then dragged behind a truck down a gravel road for a few miles. She was crying into the phone, mascara running down her angel face à la Tammy Faye Baker. Her hair was disheveled and looked like a rat’s nest. Shorty and I couldn’t stop staring at her for completely different reasons this time. We started to walk over to her desk to, you know, offer some words of comfort and support, and ask if she wanted to go have sex in the backseat of her car. That’d probably make her feel better…

Randi and Hillary appeared out of nowhere, stopping us in our tracks. They gave us a look that froze the marrow of our bones, we backed away from Martha’s desk, slowly. Randi and Hillary secretly smiled at each other. They were enjoying this.

Jerry strolled into the Bullpen, that’s what he called the Sales Office. It was a huge room, filled with desks, chairs and telephones. No cubicles, nothing to separate the desks or provide even a hint of privacy. Satisfied with what he saw, he asked if we were ready to go.

I can’t remember what kind of car Jerry had, but I remember he didn’t drive. He had a chauffeur. We followed Jerry’s car through rush hour traffic in Dallas for maybe an hour, heading out to one of the suburbs. The houses started getting big, then bigger.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Shorty asked.

“Uh-huh. Jerry must be rich.”

We finally arrived at Jerry’s mansion in a neighborhood of other mansions. I had been to the homes of some of the dentists I worked with when I was in the Army. They lived in really nice houses. Jerry’s domicile made them all look like trailer houses. There were six or seven banana trees, twenty feet tall, growing in the living room. Real bananas were growing on them. The cathedral  ceiling soared probably another twenty feet above the tops of the trees.

“We were wrong. This guy is fucking rich!” I whispered to Shorty.

Jerry introduced us to his supermodel wife–I think her name was Sheila–and his two young sons, then took an immense amount of joy giving us a tour of his home. There were rare Italian marble countertops in the huge kitchen. Gold plated faucets and hardware in the bathroom. Jerry spared no expense when he built his castle. Even his garage was nicer than half the places I’d called home. He had an exotic custom built sportscar in the garage that he had driven exactly once.

“I got a goddamn speeding ticket! I can’t drive the fuckin’ thing, it goes too fast!” he laughed.

He led us upstairs. The master suite was the size of a bowling alley. The shower in his bathroom was large enough to accommodate five Planet Zablotnys. Shorty and I were totally impressed. I think both of our mouths were open in awe.

“Do you mind if I ask how much it cost to build this place?” I asked.

“Yes, I do.” Jerry replied. “Go ahead and guess.”

“A million dollars.” Shorty said.

“I think it’s closer to two…” I added. Jerry nodded, but he never actually told us how much he spent.

“Wow. You must sell a helluvalotta stuff.” Shorty and I both said.

“I’ve done all right.” Jerry replied. His face was beaming.

We had a bourbon at Jerry’s bar, he drank with us this time. I had been in bars that weren’t stocked with as much booze as Jerry had in his house. We ate a delicious meal with Jerry’s family while his wife quizzed us about our visit. She was also curious about how much we knew about guns.

Sheila was a raven haired goddess. Her hair was long and flowing, and framed her oval face like an avatar of midnight. She had dark eyes, and porcelain skin. I was mesmerized by her, and had to remind myself not to stare at her. I focused on the food on my plate, and then I had to remind myself to chew the food in my mouth before I loaded another shovelful.

Jerry interrupted her, telling his wife he had already gone over this subject with us.

“They’re good guys. They’re here on vacation. Leave ’em alone.”

“That’s all?” Sheila asked us.

“Yeah, that’s all.” I said, trying not to talk with my mouth full. The stew she had made was savory and delicious. “It’s still ten below zero in Minnesota. We’re pretty much in love with the weather here.” I was pretty much in love with Jerry’s wife. I think I was surprised she didn’t have a chef, then I wondered if she needed an assistant. I’d be willing to peel her potatoes…

I started quizzing Sheila about her life. I figured it was only fair. Sheila and Jerry were from Detroit, so they knew all about winter weather, and wanting to escape it. I was trying to figure out if Sheila was interested in having an affair with me while we were in town, but couldn’t figure out a way to tactfully ask her that in front of her husband.

Sheila didn’t have to work for a living, so she had other pursuits. She managed Jerry’s household, and did volunteer work in the community. She was working her way up the hierarchy of the high society housewives of Dallas. Sheila didn’t seem to be especially happy or fulfilled, but she had a lots of other perks and benefits in her world. I couldn’t feel bad for her, no matter how much I tried.

Jerry’s boys were another matter. I can’t remember their names either, but they were around eight and six years old, respectively. They giggled all through dinner. They loved listening to Shorty speak, and asked him a million questions. He sounded like the guys in the movie Fargo.

“How come you don’t talk like that?” they asked me.  I think they laughed at me because I was probably the first hippie dude that had ever been inside their house.

“Ya mean like this, then? Yah, you betcha!” I said, breaking out my rural Minnesota accent.  Easiest laugh I’ve gotten in my life.

After profusely thanking Sheila for a delicious meal, Jerry, Shorty and I retired to the bar for more bourbon and cigars. Cuban cigars, of course. I had a pretty good buzz going by that time. Shorty and I had been drinking beer all day, and Jerry was generous with his liquor. Shorty didn’t care for bourbon, so I probably drank his whiskey, too. He sipped on a beer.

“What’s the deal with all the questions about guns?” I asked. If I hadn’t been so lubricated, I probably would’ve been a bit less direct. I liked Jerry, and I didn’t want to do anything to offend him, especially once I met Sheila.

“You seem like good guys, so I’ll tell you, but you have to promise me you won’t say a word of this to Hillary. Or Michael.” Jerry said, after a moment. We promised. He paused for a short time before speaking, wondering if he could trust us. “You shouldn’t have come here.” he finally said.

“You invited us here!” Shorty said. I wasn’t the only one under the influence.

“Not here. Dallas!” Jerry said. “Jesus Christ! Are you guys going to be able to drive?”

“Yeah, we’re like this all the time. You were saying…”

“You shouldn’t have come here. And be careful with Hillary. She’s dangerous.”

“Hillary? She’s my friend!” Shorty replied, shaking his head.

“Listen to me. She’s not your friend. You guys are walking through a minefield.”

“What?” Shorty asked.

“We’re in trouble.” I translated for Shorty.

“Hillary and Michael are good people. I like them.” Shorty said. Dogs aren’t as loyal as Shorty. It’s one of the things I admire about him, but it’s a quality that many people have taken advantage of.

“Michael’s a putz. The only reason I put up with him is because he’s Bernie’s nephew, and Bernie and I go way back. We both started out with next to nothing in Detroit, and we’ve supported each other every step of the way. I love that guy like a brother, more than a brother! I have a brother, and I can’t stand that sonuvabitch!!”

“If Hillary’s so dangerous, why do you keep her?” I asked.

“What I do is my business, not yours,” Jerry snapped. I was momentarily afraid I had gone too far. “But the truth is, she’s the best salesman I’ve got. She got you to buy something, didn’t she?” Jerry said to Shorty, and he laughed. Shorty was hardly Jerry’s best customer.

I couldn’t get Jerry to explain exactly why he thought Hillary was so dangerous, or why he thought we were packing heat, but there was no doubt he didn’t trust Hillary, or Michael, any further than he could throw his house.

My head was spinning for a couple reasons when we decided it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and thanked Jerry and Sheila for their hospitality. And we then we thanked Sheila a couple of dozen more times for the meal. It was really good. Jerry walked us out to the car.

“Are you sure you guys are going to be okay?” he asked. “You’ve both been drinking since eight this morning.” It was around 8:00 PM.

Alcohol had a random effect on me back then. Sometimes I could drink all day and not feel overly impaired. Other times, two beers would have me reeling from lamppost to gutter like unto a skid row bum. On that day, I was feeling great, until the last two glasses of bourbon.

“Yah, sure,”Shorty replied. I think Jerry got a kick out of the way Shorty talked, too. He smiled and clapped Shorty on the back. “Just tell us how to get the hell outta here and back to the highway. We’ll be fine once we find that.” Jerry gave us directions that we immediately forgot, and we took off.

“What do you think about this?” I asked Shorty.

“I think I should’ve peed before we left Jerry’s.”

Shorty had entirely missed the intent of my question, yet somehow managed to come up with the correct answer. He wasn’t the only one with an uncomfortably full bladder.  We drove down the street, trying to remember Jerry’s directions, and ended up in a cul de sac. At the end of the cul de sac was the largest house I had ever seen in person.

If Jerry’s house was a mansion, this place was the Taj Mahal.

We were lost, and our bladders were beyond full. We drove out of the cul de sac and tried again, ending up in the same cul de sac a few minutes later. We tried again, taking the opposite turns out of the cul de sac we had taken the last time, and ended up in front of the Taj Mahal once more.

We tried again, taking random turns when an opportunity presented itself, and ended up in front of the Taj Mahal for the fourth time. By that time, our bladders were about to burst.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna piss my pants in about thirty seconds.” I said.

“I’m right behind you, brother.” Shorty said, and put the car in Park. “I hate to have to do this, but I’d hate to piss my pants even more.” We got out of the car and started pissing on the front yard of the Taj Mahal of Dallas.

The porch lights came on, the front door opened, and a little old guy came running towards us.

“Hey! What are you guys doing there!” the old guy asked, then he said, “Hey!! Stop pissing in my yard!!!” even louder when he saw what we were doing. “Stop! Or I’ll call the police!!”

“We are the police.” I said. There was no way I could’ve stopped peeing then without causing serious harm to myself, and it was the first response that popped into my head.

“What?” the old guy said. He had run the mile and half from his front door to the street, and stood about five feet from where Shorty and I were defiling his meticulous yard. The old guy clearly wasn’t expecting that answer. And we sure as hell didn’t look like cops.

“We’re not cops,” Shorty said. “Don’t listen to him, he’s drunk.”

“What??” The old guy’s voice had lost some of its anger.

“That’s right. We’re hitmen.” I said. Shorty and I continued to piss like racehorses.

“What!?!” the old guy said. He wasn’t angry anymore. He sounded more confused than anything else.

My flow of urine was starting to ebb, and then it stopped. I shook a couple drops of pee off of the tip of my penis, and zipped up my fly. I took a quick look and saw Shorty was still going strong. I needed to stall the old man a bit longer, so I extended my hand to the little old man, and smiled, real friendly-like.

“I’m really sorry about having to piss in your yard and all, but I don’t think I could’ve waited another ten seconds, man. By the way, you have a beautiful house. I can’t imagine a nicer place to toss a whiz, can you, Shorty?”

“Nope. It’s probably the prettiest place I’ve ever taken a leak in my whole life.”

“Thank you.” the old guy replied, then recoiled in disgust. “I’m not going to shake your hand! Get away from me!!”

Shorty finally finished, and zipped up his fly.

“Yah, thanks, man. I had to pee so bad I could’ve cut metal.” He also extended his hand. The old guy shook his head and took a step backwards. Now that we didn’t have our dicks in our hands, we might pull guns on him. After all, I did tell him we were hitmen…

“Well, now that you’re done, you can get off my property, or I really will call the police.”

“Yeah, really sorry about this,” I apologized again. Shorty also apologized, then he got a bright idea.

“Hey, can you tell us how to get back to the highway? We’ve been lost in here for about the last half hour…”

The little old guy mumbled to himself for a minute, then actually gave us directions. Armed with this knowledge, and feeling ten pounds lighter, we made it to the highway and laughed all the way back to the apartment, forgetting all about Jerry’s warning. We relived our relieving experience, and how beautiful Jerry’s house and wife were.

I would remember Jerry’s warning in the morning, but Shorty completely forgot about it. We never discussed it again, which is probably a real shame.

Then again, I don’t know if it would’ve made any difference in the long run…

Dallas, Part I

It was February of 1978. My good friend, Shorty Girtz, was flying down to Dallas, TX for two weeks. He was going to visit a friend of his named Hillary.

Hillary was a telephone salesperson, and she had coldcalled Shorty’s service station one day hoping to sell him something. The company she worked for sold all kinds of stuff. It was kind of the precursor of Amazon.com, maybe.

Shorty loved talking on the phone. He and Hillary hit it off and became friends. They talked to each other frequently, almost every day, I think. Shorty invited Hillary to come visit him, and Hillary accepted. She flew up to Minnesota in August or September of 1977, and in return, she invited Shorty to visit her in Texas.

I had met Hillary when she came up to Minnesota. She was attractive, taller than me or Shorty. Come to think of it, Shorty was taller than me. Hillary had long black hair, a decent body, and she liked to party. We hit it off. All of Shorty’s friends liked her, except Shorty’s girlfriend, Robin.

You know what? I think that’s why Robin went out with me when I started dating the Banana Split Girls in September later that year!

Shorty asked me if I wanted to go to Dallas with him. I asked him where we were going to stay. We would stay at Hillary’s apartment, so we wouldn’t have to pay for lodging. I thought about it for about five seconds and said, “Yeah, sure. I’m up for that.” I put in my two week notice at work and prepared for a trip to Dallas.

I was getting tired of being an orderly at the nursing home anyway…

I didn’t need to do a lots of preparing. I bought a half pound of weed, and called my buddy, Sergeant Raoul Sanchez, to let him know I was going to be in Texas. I got out of the Army in July of 1977.  Raoul was still in the Army, and was still stationed at Fort Sill. He would drive down to Dallas to meet me while I was in town.

I didn’t tell Shorty I was bringing a half pound of weed with me. I didn’t want him freaking out. But I had a perfect solution. I had a Mamiya Sekor 35mm camera and a metal Copal camera case. It looked like a metal briefcase–the kind spies and secret agents carried. I removed the big telephoto zoom lens, put the big baggie of weed in the big leather lens case, and locked it up. If airport security didn’t do a lots of snooping around in my camera case…

Robin drove us to the airport. She was very quiet during the trip. She was anything but happy about what her boyfriend was doing. She kissed us both goodbye, and charged me with taking care of Shorty while we were in Big D.

I was a little nervous at the airport, but just a little. I had learned a lots about transporting drugs when I was in the Army. And the first rule is Don’t panic. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the first rule of everything.

I was pretty sure the airport security guys wouldn’t be too attentive when they checked my camera case. I mean, who smuggles dope to Texas from Minnesota? If you’re going to smuggle dope, it’s the other way around. And I was right. The security guys barely noticed us. Once we were through Security I told Shorty what I had done. I was right to keep him in the dark because he totally freaked out.

“You did what?!?” he hissed. We were walking to our gate. I turned into one of the bars and ordered a couple shots of whiskey.

“Relax. If I was going to get busted, it would’ve happened back there. We have nothing to worry about now.” I had checked my suitcase, but my camera case was my carry-on bag. I wasn’t letting it out of my sight. Or grasp.

“I can understand you bringing a little weed, but a fuckin’ half a pound! We could go to prison for that!!” Shorty said. I hailed the bartender for a couple more shots.

“You afraid of flying?” the bartender asked.

“No, he is.” I replied, nodding toward Shorty. The bartender poured him a double. I gave him a nice tip.

Our flight was uneventful. We took off from Minneapolis, where the temperature was probably -10°. We landed in Dallas where the temperature was probably in the mid-fifties. Waiting for us at DFW airport was Hillary.

And her live-in boyfriend, Michael.

“You didn’t tell me she had a boyfriend!” I whispered to Shorty.

“She didn’t tell me she had a boyfriend!”

I was having second thoughts about this whole Dallas trip, but it was a little late now. Well, if this thing fell apart, I could always call Raoul. He would drop everything and come get me if I asked him to. We could go hang out with him in Oklahoma as Plan B if we needed to…

Michael and Hillary took us to a Friday’s® near their apartment. We ate, drank a few beers and played several games of pool. I’m a mediocre pool player at best. Shorty was probably less than mediocre. But we played pool and told jokes, it was a good ice breaker.

Michael was a carpet layer. The company he worked for was right next to Hillary’s office. That’s how they met. Michael was a tall, skinny guy with long curly black hair. He was a handsome guy. He had moved in with Hillary about one month earlier, after Hillary had broken up with her previous boyfriend, George.

I didn’t know anything about Hillary’s complicated lovelife, nor was I much interested in hearing about it. Shorty knew all about George from the almost daily telephone conversations he had with Hillary, and he knew all about their acrimonious break up. However, he didn’t know that Hillary had hooked up with Michael. Nor did he know the true depth of hatred that existed between Hillary and George.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the chatter. I wasn’t too wild about the live-in boyfriend thing. I mean, Michael seemed like a decent guy and all. Maybe this vacation thing was probably going to be okay. At least we weren’t freezing our asses off in Minnesota…

We eventually went to Hillary and Michael’s apartment. It was in a new-ish complex designed for young urban professionals. It was filled with hundreds of singles, and at least half of them were women. The apartment we would all call home for the next two weeks was on the sixth floor.

I really liked the whole lots of single women thing, but…  I still wasn’t sure about this situation.

Once in the apartment, I opened my camera case and produced a very large baggie of weed.

“Wanna get high?” I asked our hosts.

“I wasn’t too sure about this thing when Hillary told me about it, but I think this is gonna work out okay.” Michael said. He had a big ol’ Texas sized grin on his face.

I was glad to hear I wasn’t the only one that thought this was kind of a fucked up mess, but I didn’t say anything. I did breathe a sigh of relief, and smiled at Shorty and winked.

I had just hit a grand slam.

We had gotten through that mess.

There were so many more to follow.