Certain Native American groups have games that involve rolling a hoop along the ground. I’m guessing that they’d stop considering it a game if they had to roll a thirty-five-inch, steel-belted radial along a hypothetically paved road for several hours in the hot sun. As usual, during my long walk the other day from The Town back to The Stump with a spare tire, no one came along to give me a ride. I figured that once I got the tire firmly situated on the hub, a small parade of air-conditioned vehicles would cruise down the road, each driven by a gorgeous blonde with a cold bottle of vodka in her lap.
By the time I finally reached The Stump, a significant portion of the tread had flaked off the tire, but it was still in better shape than the dead one that flopped off the Island Car like a spent condom. I rolled the “new” tire alongside the old one and headed back to the trunk for the jack.
I knew before I took a single step that Reality was going to get a kick out of this little joke. Sure enough. No jack. I don’t know why I assumed there would be a jack when there wasn’t even a spare tire. I fished around in the trash that filled the trunk — most of it belonging to former owners of the Island Car, and hence not technically my responsibility — but none of the bottles, hamburger wrappers, broken light bulbs, shattered compacts, or half-empty packs of diuretics looked like it could take the place of an automobile jack. I stood up in the warm sun, shouted a few choice curses at the trees and mosquitoes — which received the brunt of my frustration stoically, given that the missing jack wasn’t actually their fault — and slammed the trunk lid closed.
It was time for another hike into town. Another trip to the Fang and Fender. I found some old hot dogs in a baggie under a blanket on the Stump’s floor, and I figured they would distract the bloodhounds long enough to get me all the way in and most of the way out.
Close enough. The day was beginning to suck anyway.
I hiked back up the road, which was now littered with a dusting of black rubber chunks and little chips of whitewall, and a few hours later, I approached Eddie’s fence. I had my baggie of withered hot dogs — which were shriveled and crusty and funky-smelling, reminding me a lot of Ben Bow on his porch — and I held it in front of me like a witch’s talisman. At the first hint of howling, I was going to hurl that baggie clear across Eddie’s junkyard and then repeat my daring daylight raid in search of a car jack.
But there was no howling. Eddie’s gate was wide open. Eddie himself sat in the shade of his little sales shack, reading the newspaper. The dogs were out of sight, and no ominous rustling came from behind the piles of rusting metal. Just as well. Eddie’s sportcoat was so loud I’m not sure I could hear the dogs anyway.
Eddie looked at me, over the newspaper. “Hey, Donovan,” he said unenthusiastically. “Everything I’ve got for sale costs more than a baggie full of old hot dogs.”
I tossed the baggie into some weeds, confident that no jury could agree on the definition of littering at Eddie’s place. I asked Eddie about a car jack, and he said he had the only one available on the island. A real beauty, he said, all shiny and lubricated and ready for action. We entered into some lively and tough negotiating, which was seriously hampered by Eddie’s accurate assumption that I was in desperate need of the jack. When the bargaining was done, I was in possession of a corroded, screeching, ancient jack, and Eddie was in possession of the entire contents of my wallet.
I even had to give him the wallet itself.
But Eddie managed to redeem himself a little bit. Even after putting the “dick” back into “dickering,” he proved himself a bit more human than huckster. I had turned to leave, to walk back the long and winding road to The Stump, when he called out to me.
“You’ll probably want a tire iron, too,” he said. “On the house.” He pulled a Model-T-era tire iron from behind a heap of scrap metal and tossed it on the ground at my feet. If he hadn’t said anything, I would have hiked all the way home only to discover I was still one key piece of equipment short.
“Thanks,” I said. I picked it up. “Give my best to your pets.”
I trudged back to The Stump, got the tire changed just as the sun was beginning to set, and then fired up the Island Car. Even though the entire day — and my previously cheery disposition — had been corroded by the hassles with the tire, I figured I might as well maintain my original plan. I backed out to the road, waited for three cars to go by — damn them all — and then headed for the Pop’n’Squeak.
Closed, of course. What were the odds? So I hit The Larboard for a quick couple of beers, and then I set a fateful course. I hadn’t seen Meg in a while, and I was in The Town anyway, so I walked down the porch to her house.
It was that magical time of night, with the air a deep blue and the owls hooting in the distance. The sea smells of toil and rest, and the dust on the road settles in for the night. The coolness of the evening breeze lets rocks and people’s faces release the heat of the day. It was a great time to visit Meg, maybe go for a walk, maybe enjoy a few more of her intense and dizzying kisses. With that kind of power behind those lips, I can’t imagine what kissing Eliza would be like.
The living room light was on, and I could see Meg sitting on the sofa, her back to the window. She looked great, even from that angle, and I looked forward to the night’s bit of fun.
She wasn’t alone. Dammit! She had a visitor, which means smiling and acting like I’m interested in the guest’s stories and jokes until they finally leave and I can enjoy Meg’s company more thoroughly. This day, which started out so brightly, was really beginning to stink.
But then it got worse. Her company slid over on the sofa, and I could see who it was. Floyd! The drug-dealing, lecherous, slimy toadkiller was sitting on a sofa with Meg! Somehow, all the other adjectives slipped into the background, leaving lecherous smirking by itself in my mind. A shadow passed by the door at the far end of the room. At least they didn’t have total privacy.
I watched through the window for a while more, trying to gauge how close they were sitting and how often she smiled. It drove me crazy. They seemed to be talking about something serious. Then he moved closer to her on the sofa, and he slipped his arm around her shoulders. I couldn’t stand any more. I walked back over to The Larboard, bought a bottle of cheap vodka from Cory, who handed it to me as though she already understood what was bugging me, and barreled back to The Stump. I lay on the pile of straw and blankets that form my bed, drank way too much of the vodka, and went to sleep.
It had been one crappy day.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — WomynFire982: she’s a grown womyn and can talk anybody she wants. so leave her alone.
Comment — Gemstone: You seem to have set your sights on Eliza. Do you expect Meg to wait forever in case you change your mind? Besides, you don’t know what they were talking about — or how that evening ended. Do you?
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.