It's getting cold, even inside the car with the windows rolled up. Better dig that sweater outta the trunk. Jesus, I wish the tow truck would come.
Keep on wishin'. Pretty woman with the weird Oriental guy said it might take two hours. Don't they have Triple A garages up here in the boonies? Don't their cars ever break down? That old pickup of theirs looked like it was ready to.
Oriental guy sure acted spooky. Wonder if he saw what I was really doing in that clump of pampas grass. Nah, they were too far away, dragging that big cooler. Bet they had something illegal in there. Drugs off some boat outta Mexico? Nah, nobody'd make a drop while it's still light. Didn't the girl say something about Fish and Game? I read someplace there's a lot of abalone poaching going on up here. Bet that's what they were doing. Take more than the limit, sell it to some restaurant, make big bucks.
That's okay, though. None of my business. What matters is they said they'd make my calls. Meantime the evidence is gone till I can come back for it. And little Chryssie's just a dumb tourist with car trouble.
Dumb, anyway. Real dumb.
A pickup, and it's slowing down. Old man driving. Slowing down some more... yeah, to stare at my ass while I'm leaning into the trunk. I don't believe it! See anything you like, buddy? Now he's speeding up. Old fool doesn't know I'd be happy to give him a piece if he'd help me.
Wish I'd packed warmer clothes, but how could I know it'd be so fuckin' cold on the coast? Was even warm in San Francisco. Lucky I dragged this old sweater of Leo's along.
There, that's better. I love this sweater. Hangs all the way down to my knees. I'll crawl in the car, lock the door, wait.
Weird how the fog blows south, curls around the point, heads back north at me. Ugly, dirty-looking stuff. Makes me feel lonesome. Well, what's new about that, Chryssie? When haven't you felt lonesome?
At least I'm warm now, even though I'm scareder than ever. It's the dark coming on that's spooking me. The dark and the fog and every set of headlights that flashes round the bend. There's no radio reception and I forgot to bring any tapes along and I sure as hell don't want to think about the stuff I remembered in the canyon.
An unexamined life is not worth living, Chrystal.
Jude's voice. It's like she came along inside my head. She was always nagging at me with lines like that, but I never noticed her doing any deep thinking of her own. And besides the canyon, what is there to think about? Leo, long dead and all I've got of him is this ratty sweater? Jude, sick and needing me like I never needed her? Dave, who's into bondage, or John, who talks about killing his parents, or Timothy, who always cries? Sean, who seriously likes to hurt women? The other pathetic middle-of-the-night voices?
No, thanks. I'd rather count cars on the highway.
Camper, going north. SUV tailgating it. Sports car hugging the southbound curve and disappearing in the fog. Big white pickup, jacked up on oversized tires, a bar of lights on top of the cab. Got a lotta those here in redneck country. I've seen at least ten just like it. Another camper. Another. Got a lotta them too....
Fifty cars later, and I can't keep from thinking. About that last night in the canyon. About Jude and Leo, too. Him I miss in a weird way, but her--God, she's been a pain in the ass. Some people die graceful, but not Jude, oh no. Bitch, whine, erase the few good memories I had of her.
And that canyon... What was it Jude said? Oh yeah: "We all have a place that our minds return to long after it's been altered by time and its inhabitants are gone. The canyon is mine."
Copyright © by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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