Complete Custodial Care (part two)—Daniel Enderle

Complete Custodial Care (part two)

We got back in the car with Lee at the wheel, and had some sort of dithering conversation before one of us said, “OK, be cool. Let’s think about this.”

“We have to roll. Sit up straight.”

 “Where are we going.?”

 “Just head down the street.”

 “Then what?”

 ”Where is this place?”

 “What place?”

 “This punk rock club you’ve been wanting to go to.”

 “How’d you know about that?”

 “Never mind. Where is it?”

 “Out by European Crossroads. Can you get us there?”

 “Yeah, we’re gonna get on Central Expressway at Mockingbird and head north.”

 Lee sat up and peered through the windshield. “OK, so where do we go?”

 “Take a left. Your other left. Your other left! THAT WAY!”

 “Calm down. It’s cool.”

 We passed the SMU Football stadium and the blue-trim, deserted-looking bakery. After we cleared the ramp onto Central, Lee said take the wheel. He dropped his hands to his lap and I steered the car with my left hand from the passenger seat. We did this all the time. It began once when he needed to roll a joint. My thoughts stopped flitting about the sky and concentrated on the road ahead. The red tail lights smeared around just a bit, but tripping is more of a feeling, an intense feeling, than a picture show. Your eyes are busy, oh boy, and everything looks fresh and fleeting. But the main thing is being connected to everything and everybody and things constantly occur to you for the first or, even, third time. We talked non-stop. All the headlights seemed like stage lights and I kept seeing this black and white movie image in my head of the two of us in backlit silhouettes as if shot with a handheld from the backseat, with our hair flying around. I was steady on the turn onto Northwest Highway. Lee said nice.

Northwest Highway gives some relief from the unerring flatness of Dallas in all directions as the roadway undulates over some big easy ups and downs. It’s a nice stretch past streets full of brick one floor ranch houses and live oak trees. Then you come to Bachman Lake and you see jet planes with flashers and strobes coming in on Love Field. We were ourselves flying at tree top level in a large American car with the windows down. Talking, talking, talking. We came upon a section of strip malls and gas stations and stopped at a red light. Lee said my wheel and I said your wheel. There was lots of traffic. It made me feel funny.

For once, Lee drove right us into the parking lot of the very place he was looking for. It was called Club Seal. Two big placid brown eyes looked down from the sign on the roof. They made me feel funny. We went in.

It wasn’t a big place. The bar was by the door. I got us two vodka tonics. We each took a sip and clinked glasses. Lee said bubbly. He also said quit smiling so much.

“I can’t help it. I keep forgetting. My cheeks hurt. Besides, you’re grinning like an idiot.”

You mean, A Person Requiring Complete Custodial Care?” We laughed and laughed.

“Hey, you’re turning red.”

“So are you. Cut it out.”

There were no tables and chairs in the place except for the bar stools. The rest of the place was a rectangular room with three wide carpeted steps to sit on going down each wall. Guitars and a small drum kit jammed a small square stage just one foot high. There was a DJ booth on one wall. A guy with thick black glasses messed with records while a bass-heavy reggae song played. He wore a 7-11 smock with big orange circles on it. I thought that’s the perfect punk rock shirt.

Immediately, Lee was hailed by a couple sitting by the stage. He always knew people everywhere we went. This happened the first time we tripped way out in the country. Just as it was getting dark,after we’d been tripping for hours, an old white convertible with four people in it rambled down the dirt road to our campsite. Turns out, Lee knew both of the guys in the front seat and had met one of the girls in the back seat. They said they were going to get beer and did we want some? We gave them ten dollars and they drove off. I said so we just paid them ten bucks to go away? Pretty much Lee said.

I nodded to the couple Lee was talking to, got another drink, and sat on the steps watching the sparse crowd. The place was about half full. I heard people talking about how much they liked the first band, but the second band remained at large.

An attractive girl holding hands with a tall guy showed up out of nowhere to talk to people sitting next to me. I was blitzed on high grade blotter acid, but I’d swear they wore prom clothes and they were soaking wet and they had on white clown makeup which made them seem dead. I thought of them as high school sweetheart zombies. And you gotta remember that this was in the days before you saw people dressed as zombies everyday. I was entranced, but they made me feel funny. I wanted to get out of there.

I nodded to Lee and then to the door. He nodded back and put up one finger to indicate, “OK, give me a minute.” I could tell from where I sat that he was hitting on the girl. He slipped into this conversational tactic naturally and usually without premeditation. It was his default mode. The girl was caught in his tractor beam. Her companion was no longer smiling.

My thoughts followed an elliptical track that periodically passed right through my skull. Penny was on my mind. I remembered that she was out somewhere with her sisters drinking frozen margaritas.

Lee stood in front of me and said let’s go. The guy and the girl were both looking at us. The guy was standing and, BOOM, we were back in the Dallas night. I was aware of some commotion at the intersection before I heard or saw anything. It was something in the air. We passed the car and went around a corner to find people standing around two cars that were somehow fused together. There was glass twinkling on the pavement.

Evidently no one was hurt. One guy got back in one of the cars and shifted into reverse, but the bumper of the other car held him fast. He shifted back and forth trying to rock it loose. No one seemed mad. It was all quite matter of fact until a cop car pulled up with it’s lights going. Traffic backed up and a car horn sounded. Cars in other lanes were slowing down to check the action. A big cop spun Lee around and asked him what’s going on. Lee hadn’t noted the police presence until then and he started laughing. The cop didn’t like that.

I blurted out, “This is not us!”

The cop said, “What do you mean this isn’t you?”

I said, “We’re not in these cars.”

“I can see that you idiot.”

Lee watched me with wide eyes and a big open mouth grin. He shook his head as if to say don’t say it. He looked slightly crazed, but he had a good point. Meanwhile, some other bystanders, who’d been pushing down on the empty car, by some unstated mutual agreement, all turned around and hopped up on the front hood. The bumpers separated with a loud clack and the guy behind the wheel of the other car backed up few feet. The big cop gave up on us and began questioning the driver. We stood on the corner for a few minutes grocking on all the blinking lights and then headed for the car.

I started fiddling with the radio and when I looked up we were somewhere else. Someplace I didn’t recognize at all. I said God Damn It, what did you do?

Lee giggled. This was a conversation we’d had many times when he was at the wheel. It wasn’t the acid. He could get lost faster than anyone I’ve ever known.

“Where the hell are we?”

“I don’t know. I thought this was the way.”

“The way where? We don’t have a plan.”

“We don’t have clue.”

“OK, slow down. Let me read some street signs.”

The first intersection had no street signs. We were on some industrial thoroughfare. We passed two girls walking along wearing halter tops and hot pants. The had big dangling earrings.

“We must be on Harry Hines.”

“How do you know?”

“Those were hookers.”

At a red light I spotted a sign for Walnut Hill. I said take a right I wanna show you something. We drove a few blocks.

“You know where we are?”

“Yeah, the warehouse for Jones Santa Rosa used to be out this way. Pull in behind that building right there.”

Parked out back was a rusted out the WWII Duck I used to stop and look at when I was out here on the way to the warehouse.

“What’s this thing?”

“It’s an amphibious truck. They used ‘em at D-Day.”

“AM FIB BEE US. AM FIB BEE US. We’re using some mighty big words for somebody who’s so fucked up.”

“Hey, I least I know where the hell I am.”

We climbed up on it. The seats were just springs and all the equipment had been stripped off it except for the steering wheel and, behind the seats, the mount for a 50 caliber machine gun. Someone had welded bicycle handlebars to a length of big square tube and welded two side by side pipes to the front in an approximation of a machine gun. Lee swept it back and forth and made shooting noises like a little kid playing army. He was good shot. He cleared the beach in no time.

In the middle of the Duck were two long, built-in benches facing each other. The fact that they reminded me of the bench/steps at Club Seal seemed really important to me for a couple of minutes. I bummed a smoke from Lee and we quietly sat smoking for a while. Still tripping.

The Duck sat parallel to the building on a patch of grass just beyond the parking lot. There was a driveway on each side of the building and from the left one came a broad beam of light. As it passed, the building had a halo, then the right driveway got dazzling bright. And then, it was dark again. Adrenaline.

We waited a bit and then got out of there. I drove. The conversation continued unabated. Endless reels of horseshit. Questions, rants, palindromes, do you remembers,non-sequiturs …color theory. Who, what, why, where, when and how? LOOK OUT! Yo Banana Boy. The time the latrine blew up. I feel funny. Orange and Blue.

“What do you want to do?”

“Let’s go somewhere.”

“OK, but I don’t wanna talk to anybody.”

“Me neither. Nobody.”

“Do you wanna talk to nobody?”

“Nope.”

“I just wanna go somewhere and relax.”

“There is no relaxing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Not ‘til tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Just breathe.”

“Let’s go to the park.”

“What park?”

“Let’s go to Lee Park, get it?”

So I took us back through Swamptown going south on Preston Road. By now, I was OK with driving, although I kept having what my philosophical friend, Otto, would call, “Concisousness of Reality Attacks.”

I said take the wheel and Lee said my wheel.

We were doing fine tandem driving, being very-very cool, when

the rear and the side view mirrors lit up real horrorshow. All blues and red. I put both hands on the wheel at ten and two.

We both said oh shit before the officer was at my window, but we kept it together pretty well. I got out my license and Lee pulled an envelope with all pertinent information from the glovebox. His dad was an organized man.

We sat fidgeting while the cop was back in his car checking us out. Reflections off of everything on the dashboard. From the mirrors. From the windshield. From the passing vehicles. The whole world was crystal and glass. Everything looked like a trinket.

The cop asked me lots of questions and told Lee twice to keep quiet and gave us a ticket for a burned out tail light and we were underway again. Now then, what were we discussing?

I parked us on a side street, Lee grabbed his frisbee,and we walked into the park along Turtle Creek. Everything looked excellent. Some of the trees around the little mansion, atop it’s sloping expanse of front lawn, had lights in them. The little mansion was covered in scaffolding. We were still talking.

The frisbee kept getting away from us so we moved into a sunken garden covered in ivy. We stood at each end of a little oval sidewalk. A nearby street light on the street above gave us just enough light to see what we were doing. It looked like an Edward Gorey drawing. It made me feel funny.

We got a good volley going; throwing the disc exactly the same way each time. Catching it the same way. Sometimes it was a glowing blur until I got it. Other times I clocked each revolution as it spun toward me. Then I tossed it again, but Lee turned away before it reached him. I got a bad feeling. We both both balled our fists and hunched our shoulders. A long screech and BANG. Glass breaking. Lee said we have to help those people and he took off running. I followed him out of the garden and through some trees to the corner where Lemmon Avenue crosses the boulevard and goes over Turtle Creek on a concrete bridge. Two cars were jammed together right front to left front. I thought how often does this happen?

The car heading across the bridge on Lemmon had smacked a car attempting to turn right from the boulevard and cross the bridge in the same lane. The driver of the Lemmon car was standing by his door with his hands on his hips. Lee was at the other drivers door. It was damaged and couldn’t open. The window had been up but was now blown into the car in thousands of glittery pieces all over the bewildered driver lying on his side with his fists balled beneath his chin. His throat was bleeding from three small cuts opened by glass shrapnel. He kept asking what happened and Lee kept telling him you were in an accident and you’re going to be OK.

“What kind of accident?”

“A car accident.”

“Was it my fault?”

“No. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“What happened?

“You were in a car accident. You’ll be OK.”

Lee reached in an took the guy’s left fist, unclenched it and held his hand. I stepped onto Lemmon behind the wreck and began directing traffic. That was so cool.

Other people were there now and attempting to help the first driver disengage his car. I told them to sit on the hood. I smelled booze in the air. The driver got in and backed up his car and started to pull away. Three guys got off but one rolled over on his belly and screamed at the driver face to face through the glass. The car kept going and the guy on the hood spread eagled and gripped the windshield wipers. The car sped across the bridge and up the hill on the other side with an outside passenger holding tight. Just then a cop car pulled up.

Three of us went to the cop behind the wheel and told him what happened. His partner got out and the cop car raced off. The cop started questioning me while Lee tended his patient. The short half of a Mutt and Jeff gay couple spoke up and said he’d seen everything. He had his shit together and gave concise adamant answers and the cop stopped talking to me.

An ambulance crew got the door open with some kind of intricate crow bar and loaded the injured man onto a gurney. Lee held the guy’s hand until they closed the doors and drove away. There were more cops and burning road flares.

I directed Lee to a waist high bridge wall and bummed a couple cigarettes off of Mutt. They were Dunhills. We sat there and watched the tow truck driver take the wreck away. The bystanders drifted. Soon it was just us and the road flares. Dunhills last a long time.

We eventually retrieved the frisbee and walked to the center of the lawn. We could see the big statue of Robert E.Lee astride Traveler.

“Man, what else can happen tonight?”

“I’m getting tired.”

“Me too, but let’s climb up that scaffolding and smoke a joint.”

“You have a joint?”

“Yup.”

“You clever bastard. I can’t believe it.”

“Believe it, baby.”

“Don’t call me baby, baby.”

“Baby. Baby. Baby.”

We climbed off the scaffold onto the roof and sat on either side of the little fake cupola. Each with an elbow resting on its copper cap. When the roach was burning down we heard sirens.

“Man, they’re coming back.”

“No those are fire trucks.”

“How do you know?”

“I know.”

Soon a fire chief’s car passed us and went across the creek. Then from another side came a pumper. A ladder truck crossed the bridge. We heard other sirens. Across the way in some trees I saw an orange-red light which steadily got bigger.

“Look over there.”

“Something’s on fire.”

The orange-red now illuminated apartment buildings and we could see a guy on top a ladder directing a stream of water at the flames. The sky was yellow with firelight and smoke. This really happened. I felt funny.

“OK, we should call it a night. I’ve seen enough.”

“Yeah, let’s call it a night.”

Lee drove us, without incident, back to his house, where I was to spend the night. His older brother was away at college and I had use of his room. It was late. His parents and younger brother had been asleep for hours. We went down the alley and in through the garage at the back of the house. This was an addition with a second floor where the two oldest boys each had a room. One of Lee’s two windows faced the separate roof of the main part of the house. At night, we’d often sat in the valley between the two roofs.

We were still talking, but very low. He kicked off his shoes and got on his bed. I sat at the desk chair. We talked a long time about what a weird night we’d had. His cat came in the open window from the roof and hopped up on the bed next to him. Lee rubbed behind the cat’s ears while she glowered at me from beneath her whiskered brow. Finally, as I drew spirals on scrap paper, I noticed the two of them were sleeping.

I took one of Lee’s cigarettes and climbed out the window. I leaned against house roof and planted my feet on the slope of the garage roof. As I lit up the cat hopped up on the window sill. She sat upright with her front legs like two pillars, her paws right together, and her tail wrapped around them. I strongly felt her mortal presence. I felt her approbation. Not contempt but disapproval.

She looked right into my eyes and we had a staring contest. It lasted a long while until some night creature called out and she lost it. She began delicately licking a paw. I looked up and exhaled a thin plume of smoke. I could see five stars.

THE END

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About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on June 6, 2013, in Fiction, Seattle, Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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