We made San Clemente, when Bekka took an off-ramp and pulled into the parking lot of a Carrows or Denny's or something like that. I was a bit surprised, as we'd railed heavy before hitting the freeway: hell, I still had the drips; speed wasn't the appetite-killer for me that it is for many, but I couldn't imagine Bekka being hungry.
But no, it was simpler than that. She wanted to switch drivers. "I hate L.A. driving," she said. "Do you mind taking it at least as far as Malibu?"
I told her I'd take it as far as Ventura, if she didn't mind. She could spot neat stuff, and I'd hit the shoulder. (We weren't expecting any neat stuff until well past the Malibu turn-off: both of us were too familiar with Los Angeles to pretend we'd find anything exciting on the 405.) Other than the luxury of being able to use the HOV lane, the drive would be a drudge until we turned off on the Santa Monica Freeway, which in both of our minds, was the true marker of our road trip: I was used to heading north and over the grapevine, with Bekka accustomed to getting off in Van Nuys for work purposes.
I asked Bekka about Cliff. Had he been in contact since the ersatz kidnapping?
"We talked on the phone a few times, and it was always about the same. He felt what I did for a living was an affront against God. I would point out that it was Paul, not God, who seemed to be so affronted. He was horrified to hear that I honestly believe the Lord has no problem with me, or anyone else, making porn. I reiterated, over and over, that sexuality was God's greatest gift to mankind, so long as no one is getting hurt or violated.
"He didn't want to hear that at all. 'But God is opposed to wanton sexual activity,' he'd say. I'd point out that there's nothing wanton about making porn, it's all very scripted. And if it is spontaneous, so what? What's wrong with that? Who is being hurt? He told me it's a sin, and I told him I disagreed. If the Lord himself told me sex for the enjoyment of sex is wrong, I'd still disagree.
"You can imagine how well this went over with Cliff, especially when I pointed out that he wasn't exactly crying in misery all the times we fucked. He tried to tell me I had him 'bewitched', that I'd cast spells to make him want me. He hated the reminder that he was the one pursuing me. I basically got, 'I can't hear you, la la la la' as a response."
I'd grown tired of the chump in front of me who was blocking the HOV lane; we were being passed by traffic on the right. I waited for a merge lane, dropped to third, double-clutched, and shot past. Four other cars managed to get around the prick, too.
"You need to teach me how to do that," said Bekka.
"What, double-clutch? We'll do it in a rented car. No sense wrecking your clutch learning a street-racing trick."
"Fair enough. It's a neat trick.."
"Yeah.... Do you mind me quizzing you about Cliff? I can't figure out how his brain works."
"No, go ahead. We'll solve the mystery together."
"Well, like.... The whole intervention for Jesus thing. Whose idea was it? Did they really think it'd work?"
"Ugh. Lemme give you some background. See, these turkeys believe in confession, but not to a priest. They pair off and confess to each other. Also, there's not much sanctity. I can understand like if someone confesses to their priest that they murdered someone, the priest going to the cops. With these clowns, you report any random shit to the pastor. 'So-and-so hit his thumb with a hammer and he dropped a load of f-bombs', shit like that. I have a feeling Cliff's came out over time: 'I'm lusting after a woman.' 'I've been intimate with a woman.' 'I've been intimate with a woman who does porn.' Ding ding ding ding! We have a winner!
"There's no way Cliff is gonna tell the truth: 'I think she's hot and we've actually been fucking and sucking for a couple months now and I've made vague allusions to marriage.' No, I seduced him because I'm a woman with no morals, and I like nothing more than corrupting clean minded Christian dudes. So obviously I need to be brought to the light, or whatever it is they call it."
I didn't wait for a merge lane to pass the next idiot, simply making my move and coming back over. The pathetic dink honked ineffectively at me, as I made him go small in my rear-view. Bekka continued: "I think it was Cliff, his confession partner, and their pastor who came up with the idea. They'd probably scared the shit out of some fourteen year old who admitted to beating off twice in one day or something, and thought the same would work on me."
"But you're not a shit-scared fourteen year old, you're a grown woman, and one with her own mind."
"But I am a woman. When I first told you about this, you said something about how chauvinist Cliff's behavior was, and I got to thinking, and realized you were right. They assumed I was gonna be this fragile thing who had been led astray and just needed to be terrorized back to Jesus. I was supposed to start sobbing on the floor and begging for God's mercy."
"Or have your head start swiveling around like in 'The Exorcist'. What you did was worse: You calmly told them they were wrong, they were kidnappers, and you weren't putting up with their shit. They were prepared for the other two, but not being called a bunch of idiots."
"That probably scared them the most: getting called on their shit. No way was I going to put up with them keeping me trapped in a house while they read chunks of Bible to me, stuff I'd already read and dismissed. I'm their worst nightmare, someone who says, 'I'm a christian because I said so. Fuck you if you don't like it'. Nobody --- nobody --- gets to tell me my faith is wrong."
Bekka began fumbling with the cassette box. "Which one is that hardcore band I usually hide from? I feel like hearing it right now. Maybe it'll reach back down to Solana Beach and frighten the members of that church."
"You mean Discharge?"
"Yeah, that's it." She pulled the cassette out, replacing the Oingo Boingo tape we'd let play through three times.
I said, "Before you put it in, I think I figured out Cliff."
"He wants to lead a double life, and gets a kick out of it. He trips on the contradiction of being both a nice Christian boy and a dude who fucks and drinks and swears. That's why he wants you back.... To him, you're a bad girl. He got to fuck you, knowing other guys were fucking you too.... No matter it was just business, in his head it was a gang bang. Then on Sundays he goes to church and lies about his week. Is that when they do their confession routine?"
"No, it's pretty much whenever is good for the both of them. Tuesday night is out because one has bowling, but Wednesday is good, they're both free. Excluding today, the last time I talked to him, a few months ago, he alternated between trying to talk me into the sack and convince me I should be his partner in this confession thing.... Which I think were the same thing; we'd have something to confess to each other about. I felt like doing it once just to piss him off: 'I've had sex fourteen different times with five men, and you weren't one of them, you tiny-dicked chump'. Then he'd start planning how to get me into another of those damned interventions. Right after it happened, he called me up to tell me how I'd damaged his standing in the church, for not confessing in honesty or something. I asked how that was my problem, and he started in on how I was a temptress, my goal was to destroy men's lives through what I do, how I must be a sorceress...."
"And he loves every damn minute of it I wish I'd known all that when I was stuck alone with him in your apartment. I'd have given him some hocus-pocus gobbledeygook just to freak him out. Told him he'd turn into a chicken if he ever reads the Gospels again." I took a pull off my Mountain Dew. "I'd make a shitty warlock, though. I don't think original enough, so there'd be chickens running around everywhere."
After she stopped laughing, she said, "I could have fun as a witch. Instead of transmogrifying people, I'd mess with their heads: a constant vague sense of self-doubt, crippling feelings of sexual inadequacy, bipolar syndrome with extreme shifts every three minutes...."
"Oh, I know! I'd give guys penises that are three inches long, and three inches wide! What woman in the world would want that?"
Bekka's eyes grew wide. "Holy shit.... It'd be just one giant knob. Ewww...."
I said, "Ever notice our conversations always come around to sex eventually?"
"You speak as if it's a bad thing. Hey Lenny...."
"Yes?" I knew what was coming, since we'd done it before.
"Wanna make me come while we drive?"
I gave her a look, and said, "Drop em, girl."
I made her come five times between the Rampart exit and the I-10.
She was fairly well drained, not bothering to pull up her shorts until we were pulling onto Highway One. Humming along, I pointed out the parking lot where Jim Rockford's trailer had been parked. It was my opinion that there should be a plaque or marker commemorating the location.
"But.... It was just a cheesy crime drama," she said.
"Wrong! It was an excellent cheesy crime drama! I loved that show as a kid, much to the distress of of my parents."
"What bugged them about you liking a TV show?" asked Bekka.
"Jim Rockford was an ex-con who lived in a trailer, got beat up a lot, and pretty much made his living lying to people. Not the sort of person you wanted your kid to emulate. Tough shit on them, Jim Rockford ruled. Oh, and he drove a Firebird, too."
"You've told me their opinion of your current career. Which do you think they prefer?"
"A bit of a toss-up. Porn is safer, but greatly offends their sensibilities." I can't say. Hup, fuel. We need gas, and this will be the only non-sandy bathroom between here and Oxnard."
I topped off the tank at a fairly obscene price, and we headed north again, admiring the shoreline. About thirty minutes north I saw something interesting enough to stop for: A man was rolling a small boulder to the back of a station wagon. "I'm curious about this," I told Bekka, and she agreed.
I hit the wide shoulder and we got out. The man acted as if we were the police, to the point of putting his hands in the air. What the hell, I can play this game too.
"Very good sir, keep 'em where I can see 'em," I said in an authoritative voice.
"So. Moving rocks, huh?" said Bekka, unsmiling behind reflective sunglasses.
"Yeah...." the man replied in a despairing tone.
"You know you're not supposed to move rocks around here, and you're doing it anyway," continued Bekka.
"We don't appreciate rocks being moved along our stretch of highway."
"It makes us unhappy."
"Patrolman Lufchessi here cried the last time we caught rock-movers."
"I was a wreck for days."
"You wouldn't want to upset Patrolman Luchessi again, would you?"
"No! No, not at all. Here, I'll put it back...."
"Don't bother with that, sir. What we want you to do is get three more just like it and build a small pyramid."
Bekka --- excuse me, Patrolman Luchessi --- explained, "It's a warning to the professionals that they're being watched, and to the amateurs to not bother. We take our guardianship of these rocks dead serious. We're not even on duty right now, but we still keep our eyes peeled driving through here. Do you understand, sir?"
"Uff --- absolutely, officer," he said, putting the top rock on the pyramid. "May I go now?"
"Yeah, get out of here. We have to contact the sanctuary," I told him.
"S-sanctuary?" the man stuttered.
"I explained, "When rocks are moved from their natural habitat, their ability to nest and reproduce is disturbed. These look unchipped, so there's good hope for them. It's when unscrupulous or amateur collectors come in, their whole ecosystem can be be thrown out of whack, and their breeding cycle can sometimes be destroyed."
Patrolman Luchessi told the man, "If you want to lean nore, contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department and ask for information about rock poaching. These little fellows should be okay.... Won't you, babies?" She bent down and petted the rocks like they were kittens. She stood up and seethed, "You ran a strong chance of injuring them. Count yourself lucky you didn't. Do you understand me?"
"Absolutely, officer. You don't need to worry about me."
"If you do need rocks, use a commercial stone quarry, where they raise them for decorative and structural use, leaving these babies ---" officer Luchessi squatted down to to pet the rocks again "--- to grow wild and free. Now get going, sir. We've got to get in touch with the sanctuary."
The man waited for a break in traffic, then sped northward up the highway. Bekka and I got into the Falcon, sat quietly, then began screaming with laughter. It took Patrolmen Schneider and Luchessi about five minutes before they were capable of driving, much less speaking clearly.
One can't help but wonder how the rock sanctuary is doing.. And is it a state or federal program?