This quite possibly might not be a life I’m having, thought Bethany, stepping WAAAY up and showing WAAAY too much leg to get into the Toyota MONSTER truck that Ben had insisted on buying her when all she really wanted was the brakes repaired on her old Jeep. It didn’t even have four wheel drive, and what good was that?
Oh, she was tired. She’d been doing too much for so long sometimes it didn’t even register as fatigue, just a kind of not-being-there-then. A far cry from her transcendent hippie-chick girlhood at the beach when you think about it.
You really had to crank the goddamned MONSTER to start it, and that wasn’t right. She’d already blown the left speaker, and she never did like the way the seat felt in any position she could figure out to put it. The only good thing about this thing she got in the divorce was the XM radio, which Ben hadn’t figured out he was still paying for. She punched up the Led Zeppelin station and she fucking far-out let it rock.
Bethany drove too fast, but she’d never had an accident and she’d never had a ticket and she’d put thirty thousand miles on this damn truck in the 14 months since the divorce alone. In a pinch it would pull the three-horse trailer, though the old GMC Blue Goose was the main man in that department. It wasn’t registered at the moment. Or maybe it was and it just didn’t have a license plate, she didn’t know. This was a treacherous drive, back home at night, especially when she was tired. And it was a good thing it wasn’t winter.
--I have officially been listening to Led Zeppelin for thirty-five years she said. That is far-out and totally fucking depressing.
Bethany was not a person to get herself into one of those “who knows where the time goes?” moods. She very-damn well knew where the time had gone—right into the alternative reality represented by two amazingly fucked-up marriages to two alarmingly wonderful and totally fucked-up men. A lesser woman might have doubted herself, but daddy didn’t raise no fool.
There was a persistent little sound buried under Going to California
Ride a white mare
in the footsteps of dawn
Tryin' to find a woman
who's never, never,
never been born…
It took her a sec to realize it was her phone. She dug deep into her bag and found it. The area code glowed like cool water on a summer day: 626. She turned down the music and:
--Well hey yourself, Mr. HCE.
God, it was good to hear his voice.
--This a good time?
--Well, I’m driving back from school—
--Oh. Wow. Right. Wednesdays, I forgot—
--No, it’s OK. I might lose you in these hills though. There’s a buncha bad spots. I think it might be this phone.
--You sound great.
--I’ve got a bit of a drive myself, said Will, and then some work when I get back, so I thought I’d take a shot.
--Well I’m glad you did. I should tell you though: I am totally out of control on the phone in the car.
--No, I mean I just zone out, you know? I can totally miss an off-ramp like that.
--Oh, I think that’s everybody, Bethany. Handsfree phone’s a good law.
--Plus I can’t HEAR with this little phone in my ear. The car’s pretty loud. Truck I mean, I guess.
--What is it?
--Oh this Toyota wreck veek he thought I was gonna love and I don’t.
Two cars, two people, two phones, silence on the line as the miles unwind. Pleasant.
--So how was your day? said Will.
--You mean My Usual Wednesday From Hell? It was OK. Good, actually. I think my Writing/Comm students are beginning to understand that we aren’t even TRYING to quote communicate yet, we’re just trying to…kinda clear the decks, you know? Get everybody a little RELAXED for fucksake.
--I got absolutely NOTHING done for school.
--And you’ve got a week, right? Till you head back up?
--Yeah. With TWO papers. Which I always wait till the last minute on anyway, so that’s no biggie. How ‘bout you? Did our Miranda get a spanking?
--Oh? said Will. How’d you know about that?
--Well she’s all you’ve been talking about since the first night.
--I think so! How you weren’t sure she was right and how she surprised you in the first day’s dailies—you love how I know about dailies, right?—and then your buddy Jack really likes her but secretly you think he wishes he could sleep with her.
--Geez, I said that?
--Yes you did. You were being very honest and cute and I like that in a man.
--Especially one I haven’t met.
--Wow. Well, for the record, I don’t think Jack would ever really get close to REALLY hitting on somebody he was working with. Or anybody, for that matter. I mean he really loves his wife.
--No, they’ve been married for thirty years. They went to Woodstock together for crying out loud!
--Yeah, and get this: they also worked as MIMES.
Heh. The idea of Jack as ANY sort of performer always cracked Will up.
--Oh, that’s great.
--They toured Europe for, like, six months. As mimes.
Bethany giggled. She had a very strong image of two hippies in love, traipsing hand in hand across the Place de la Concorde in black tights and Marcel Marceau blouses.
--Well, anyway, Will continued, we got little Mir-randy quieted down. She’s a very interesting kid. I don’t think the little screen is gonna hold her, which is always good.
--I met her once you know, said Bethany.
--Yeah, on the Four More Years Tour. Ben and I took a couple days off and went to Florence. She was doing a Fendi ad in the Uffizi courtyard. I am happy to report that all of her is real.
--Yeah. Amazing, eh?
--And she has that thing where you think you’re the only person in the world when she talks to you. Which Benjie did a lot of, I should say.
--Biological imperative, dear girl. It’s in our genes and it is our curse.
--Well, anyway, yeah. I’ve rubbed noses with Miranda McCoy. I say: Good Luck!
--Oh, I’m a lucky guy. No sweat the small stuff.
--So where are you right now?
--Driving home on PCH. The sun’s gone down but there’s still light in the sky.
--Yep They were setting up for our last shot and I said nobody needs you and split.
--Well somebody needs you. Your boys need you.
--Nah, not such much. They’re big now.
--So maybe I need you.
--So maybe you do.
--So maybe you should forget Sunday brunch and drive down here right now.
--You’re kidding, right? said Will.
--Heh. I wish I weren’t, but if you drove down here right now you’d find me fast asleep I’m sure.
--So maybe that’s not a bad thing?
--So maybe someday we’ll find out. In any account, you’re two hours away. And I’m a big believer in anticipation—
The phone went dead. A dead spot probably. He dialed again but got her voicemail:
--It’s me he said. The pest. Looks like we’re in phone cell interruptus. I think it’s best just say goodnight then. And maybe we can talk again sometime. Like when you get out of that hole immediately! Or tomorrow. Or Sunday for sure. Or tonight when you get home! Call me anytime you feel good. Or bad too. ‘Night. Signing off. Over and out. -30-. Ciao.
Bethany waited a couple of minutes for Will to call back, cell phone rules. Then she tried calling him, even without bars. Her phone never worked through here anyway, no reason for it to start now.
Stairway to Heaven was playing for—what?—maybe the fourth time in two days. She would never never never tire of Stairway to Heaven.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
Theres still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.
As her headlights raced the white lines down the road, Bethany rolled the sunroof back. She felt the August wind in her hair, smelt the sage, the mesquite, the heat itself. Cassiopeia rose in the northern sky, commencing her dance with Cepheus, her king, while Draco with his hundred eyes watched everything unfold the way it always and forever will.
Next: The Hooch
Intruso, an occasionally sonically-challenged postmodern love story
- Her voice was shiny
- Timed Writing
- On Location
- In the Beginning was Rock n Roll
- Cell Phone Interruptus
- The Hooch
- Blackbirds at One O'Clock
- Probiotics and the Muse
- Email by Rodney Strong
- Dope and Flax Seed
- Free to a God Home
- Lemonade and Consequences
Going to California, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin IV (ZOSO), Atlantic Records, 1971.
Stairway to Heaven, Jimmy Page & Robert Page, Led Zeppelin IV (ZOSO), Atlantic Records, 1971.