The Holy Land
I woke up in the dispensary with cold washcloth on my head and an fiery pain from my hand shooting up my arm like lightening. I whimpered and sat up and used my left hand to grasp my right forearm to lift a grotesquely swollen appendage into my lap. The washcloth slid off my forehead and fell onto my crushed knuckles, setting off a blast of thunder inside my head. I cried out. A lady doctor with a long face and kind eyes appeared and said, "Easy, sir; we'll get you something for the pain; then we'll do the X-ray."
"Like mush," was her assessment of the damage as she surveyed the picture of my crushed bones. "I've never seen anything quite like it."
I rode an ambulance to Las Vegas Medical Center General Hospital. They operated and put in, I'm told, six pins to hold the splintered bones in place. They wrapped me in a cast up to my elbow, drugged me anew and kept me overnight for observation, worried about blood clots. They discharged me the next day. I called a taxi to take me back to the apartment, but while I waited for it sitting in a wheelchair that a Tyn Girl had pushed me in at the hospital entrance Holly showed up in a tank top and shorts, her hair mussed into a silver bird's nest by the desert wind. She knelt beside me and took my good hand and kissed it and said, "Let's get the fuck out of here, Neil."
"I'm with you on that Holly."
I thought she meant away from the hospital; she meant from from Las Vegas and the Holy Land. We went, with just the bare essentials packed into the back of her electric SUV, and made the Mendocino Coast, way up in the northwest corner of California, before midnight.
California's northern coast it was a place we'd pillow-talked about, during our brief romance back in the beginnings of our careers at The Holy Land, during our uneasy adjustments to life in Las Vegas, that God-forsaken desert playground. I'd journeyed to Mendocino in my semi-employed pre-Vegas youth, pitched a tent on cliff-top bluff between green rolling coastal hills and a craggy two hundred foot cliff that dropped down to the raging surf. It was still is a pristine land of of clean air, cold nights and cool days, of cottony fogs that shrouded the landscape and increased the sense of benign isolation from a world going nuts. And we'd made plans we both thought would never come to pass, because of money. We needed our careers; we needed incomes. The prosaic need for survival trumped our pipe dreams, until Deborah "willfully and maliciously" crushed my hand.
Holly had the holo-recording of the event downloaded onto her pocket computer; and she had a lawyer. The Holy Land settled out of court, and we had enough cash to buy a small cafe on Highway 101 with living quarters above it. Holly redecorated, turning a run-down greasy spoon the prosaically-named Bob's Bar and Grill into a spanking-clean Sea Lion Cafe, with Italian tiles on the floor and pictures of Pacific sunsets and basking pinnipeds the walls. A pot-growing local preacher ponytail, overalls and lumberjack shirt married us on a small white crescent of beach as the crashing waves a thumped percussive wedding song, and my new wife and I grinned into a go at the happily ever after thing.
I slid a steaming plate of three over-easy eggs and home fries up on the service window and rang the counter bell. "Holly!" I shouted out, "Order up, come and get it before it catches cold!"
The place was half full not bad for a Tuesday morning. My waitress wife, coffee pot in hand, turned from her table-side conversation with Rudy Navarro, the organic farmer guy who sells us our herbs and hits on Holly every chance he gets. Rudy grinned at me across the dining room. Holly said something to him probably words to the effect that if I didn't clean up my act, she might just consider running off with him.
I rang the bell again, sharply, pointed to the plate. She refilled Rudy's coffee then walked my way, taking her time, putting a little roll in her motion. Rudy watched from behind. I took in her smooth legs beneath the mid-thigh skirt, the new roundness in her figure, the twinkle-eyed mock peevishness on her face. She stepped around the counter and put the coffee pot back on the warmer, then sidled up to the service window, picked up the counter bell and said, "How'd you like me to stick this bell up where the sun don't shine, cookie."
"I'm not sure," I said, as I buttered the toast for her order, "that it would fit."
"I'd make it fit." She clumped the shiny bell back down. It gave off a jangly ring.
"Well before you do, take this order out to Pete, over on table seven, love."
She lifted the plate. I reached out and grabbed the edge of it to stop her, so I could angle the two halves of toast around the pile of eggs. "And stay away from Rudy; he's bad news."
"He says," Holly informed me, for about the fifth time this month, "that I've got a nice ass."
I looked past her at Rudy, caught his eye and shook a fist at him. He chuckled, sipped his coffee. "Ask him," I told Holly and she turned to deliver her order, "if he goes home and tells his wife that she's got a nice ass."
She snorted a little laugh, then swerved over in Rudy's direction to deliver my question. His eyebrows shot up, and he called out to me, "I sure do, Neil, every day of my life," as Holly veered off to get Pete's eggs to him, and the front door pushed into the restaurant, followed by a puff of fog and four Tyn girls.
Published November 2007