Bekka and Chip slept in Bekka's Falcon, with instructions to wake them when I was ready to be released. Boss had hung around for a few hours, laughing and shaking his head at the music and dancing, then passing the time with with Bekka. He and Dutch had talked motorcycles for a while.... In a slightly hostile manner at first, but then relaxing and being friendly. Like most hog-pilots, Boss had no use for leg-burners, but then Dutch, in a challenging manner told Boss he probably wouldn't give a shit about the '66 Sportster he was rebuilding.... "Too light, huh, just another leg-burner?" "Now hold on a minute, a classic like that? Are you serious?" They launched into tech talk, and ended up becoming friends, Dutch explaining he just just plain preferred fast flingable bikes, holding no allegiance to builder: "The Buell has a lot of appeal, if I could afford one." They left on friendly terms, Boss promising the use of the collective brain power available around his house. ("None 'a them dago machines, though, I just don't know 'em.")
Once again on a crutch and with Bekka at my side, I gimped out to the Falcon. They agreed it made the most sense to just crash at my place rather than making a four a.m. run up to North County. Besides, the ground felt like jello and all three of us were concerned about me taking a header if I got up to use the bathroom during the night. I was very unsteady, and braining myself on the toilet with no one around would be bad news.
Right after we got in the door Bekka fulfilled a promise and called Boss to let him know I was home, safe and sound.
"Thanks fer lettin' me know, lil' girl," he said. After a pause: "I'mma find that sonovabitch that tore him up again."
"Boss sweetie, don't get in any trouble," said Bekka
"No trouble, lil' girl, I just think me and the boys should talk to him fer a minute or two. Jest gotta figure out where he'd be, y'know? G'nite, girl."
"Was that the biker that showed up?" asked Chip. I was in the kitchen drinking as much ice water as my body would stand. "My God, Lenny, when he first got there I thought he was going to destroy the front desk!"
"Boss? Nah, he's good people."
"He's a teddy bear," said Bekka.
"He's just.... Protective of his friends."
Chip asked, "So how do you know him?"
Bekka and I looked at each other. "We, uh, used to work together, and still hang around together a bit. I think I'm sort of the nephew he hever had."
"He'd make one scary uncle! I thought he was gonna pull a gun!"
I resisted the urge to say, "No, carrying on a motorcycle is dangerous. It's too easy to lose while riding, not to mention having it come loose on rough stretches. If Boss wanted a gun with him, he'd just drive his Chevelle.... And even then if Bekka found out he had a gun with him, she'd "naughty-boy" him into taking it back home. She exerts strange powers over men, in many different ways. Particularly on Boss." I described their relationship as uncle-niece, but it was almost father-daughter, and a fairly indulgent father at that. Or something. All I knew was that Boss had a non-sexual crush on Bekka; if Boss had ever found out about a few of her ex-boyfriends he'd probably torn them apart for daring to hurt his "lil' girl." He knew her career and simply ignored it, since like most bikers he knew plenty of dancers and strippers, so it meant nothing to him.... Although I wondered what the reaction would be if he found someone watching one of her videos. He literally liked to pick her up and cuddle her (he was not a small man) and I had a hunch things would turn ugly, but fast.
I was up bright and early the next morning, but not from enthusiasm. I knew I'd be moving slow all day, and wanted to get a jump start on what tasks I needed to accomplish. My head was clear, but given my pain level, that would be changing depending on how how the Vicodin hit me (I'd got yet another prescription from UCSD:I didn't want to keep using the same pharmacy for all these refills, as that would have looked just the teensiest bit suspicious, the same guy getting load after load of Vicodin from all over the state.)
I was far enough ahead on my cash I could pick up from Boss and the the guys without getting fronts. $20,000 loans never made anyone happy, especially dealers, no matter how much they trusted you. I could pick up two pounds and still have $2100 cash to sit on, extra money in case the kids and Lucy were short on admission money to the Wild Animal Park. (Wild Animal Park wasn't that expensive. Close, but not quite.)
Next call was to Boss to let him know my gamble had paid off and I wanted two pounds, and to let me know when he re-upped on Ecstasy. "Damn, but yer movin' through stuff quick! Addin' more clients?"
"Nope. Same clients, they just want more product. The school year just started, so both my products are moving quick, and you've got about the best product around. Especially the 'E'. It's gonna move hard until the end of November. It'll die off during winter break some, pick back up in January, and flatten out when the students realize just how much they've been partying. Summer will get made up for by all the party gladiators. Which brings us back to 'doe'.
"Oh, and spring is when you want to distance yourself from nickel-and-dime dealers, especially anyone working campuses. You don't know 'em, you're outta business, whatever. But they're all busts waiting to happen, and they're gonna roll over on people rather than face that whole eighteen months up at Soledad. I've never understood why someone would want to create a lifelong enemy instead of just biting the bullet and doing their time."
"How come spring is so bad?"
"Because cops are lazy. It takes them that long to build a case against some nineteen year old who is moving an eight-ball of quarters twice a week. They call it diligence, and I call it wasting everyone's time."
"Right on, I'll keep it in mind. Damn if you don't think things through, Lenny."
"Keeps me healthy, keeps me free. See you in an hour?"
"Fine by me."
The smell of brewing coffee had woken both Chip and Bekka, who were wandering around in their underwear (Bekka: "Put your pants on, Chip, I feel like I'm at work") yawning and stretching. I offered them rails, which they gratefully accepted. I let Bekka know we had an errand to run, and she asked an obvious question: what about Chip? I gave it a minute's thought and offered Chip the use of my car to get home, just leave the keys under the floor mat. "I'd say to go ahead and relax here, but uh, I have business to take care of, and the people I'm going to see know who Bekka is already. They don't like strangers, do you get me?"
That was fine by him. He was expecting Dale to be home that morning and wanted to see him. (I always wondered how Ellen dealt with Chip and Dale's relationship. Probably like the rest of us: close to the cuff.)
While Chip was making his way towards Carlsbad, Bekka and I retrieved my two pounds, which was weighed into one ounce bags. I pulled two bags for myself --- partially as personal, partially as stuff to be broken down into small weights as favors for various friends, people I'd known for a while who never wanted more than an eighth at a time.... People I still owned one of those small Deering scales for. People who were friends first, customers second, and would pick up a half-gram from me if they were having a hard time scoring anywhere else. Amazing how many "friends" I'd developed over the last couple years. Some of them I'd trust with my car, others I wouldn't trust with a pet cottonmouth, but I knew they wouldn't roll over on me, and that was the important part. It would get back to me as to who finked and all it would take would me getting a hold of Boss, Chet, and Gary, and their lives would take a turn for the worse, very quickly.
I had a little kit set up. I had my cane, about ten muscle relaxants, a dozen Vicodin, and a half-gram of meth, in case the Vicodin began making me too drowsy. Also some absorbent wadding in case my stitches began to leak. I'd already let Bekka and Ellen know I'd probably be sitting out standing and walking tours, which there were several. We were headed north towards Carlsbad. It had been undecided who what taking which group of children where, the beach or Wild Animal Park, and despite my enfeebled state I wished to provide moral support to Ellen and Lucy once Chelsea arrived.
Chelsea was running late due to a bad case of homesickness on the part of one of her kids, cured with a lot of sniffling and and a ten minute phone call, which did the trick: the kid was doing fine now.
In fact, we beat Chelsea by about five minutes. Out of habit, Bekka was lead-footing it up I-5 when I realized we were passing a very familiar van.
"We just passed Chelsea," I said with my usual grasp of the obvious. "That girl drives slow, like 'good thing it's covered with crosses' slow."
"Cool, we can have some private time with Lucy and Ellen. I'll be able to hug Lucy without being accused of putting lesbian designs on her."
We arrived at Ellen's and learned that Chelsea was not happy that any of us would be tagging along.... Never mind that I was basically paying for the kids to go, or that Ellen had been leading children's groups since she was fourteen. "I taught a children's Bible study when I was seventeen. To hear her tell it, I was depicting the conception of Christ, not the birth." Lucy processed this joke, then allowed herself to laugh, long and loud.
Our argument --- not much of an argument, as Lucy was in charge, period --- was that only four kids wanted to hit the beach again, leaving ten to be supervised by two, officially. Bekka and I were a bonus who could keep them rounded up and out of the lion's paddocks.
Our presence was not greeted with enthusiasm. It was reminded that without my largesse, no kids would be going to Wild Animal Park at all. Bekka spent several summers as a lifeguard at the city pool. Okay, stretching it a bit, but still valid. And Ellen had spent her time leading children's groups. (I was never clear what Lucy's job title was, I just knew she was salaried, so she had responsibility and money, two things it's hard to get out of a church.
The phone rang. As Ellen walked towards it, Chelsea darted past her, exclaiming "It's for me" and grabbing the headset.
It was the Pastor.
The Pastor was returning her call..
"No, everything seems fine so far today.... The kids are fine, one was homesick this morning, but.... Well, I'm just worried..... these people, including Ellen .... Of course not.... They say they're believers, but.... But I.... Of course I want to finish the trip! It's just these whores and unbelievers and criminals, and Lucy is being an apologist for them all!. Just a feeling, really.... Okay.... Okay.... Hold on."
She called for Lucy. Before she arrived, Ellen snatched the phone away and said, "Hello, Pastor! Such interesting descriptives I'm hearing being used to describe my friends out here! Should I provide a rebuttal now, or would written form be better? Absolutely..... Well, here's Lucy."
Lucy gave Chelsea a look that wasn't angry, not infuriated.... Simply dead-eyed. "Good morning, Pastor, how are you? To be frank, I'm confused by the need for this call myself. Chelsea has developed a severe distrust for Ellen and anyone associated with her, while I've spent time around them and found them to be trustworthy, God-fearing, wonderful people, I can't speak highly enough of them. One of them is the reason we're going to the Wild Animal Park at all, it's not a cheap venture, and he's paying our way in, four hundred dollars just in admission, plus food.... He's um, a professional photographer.... Yes.... Yes, they are, which has nothing to do with our activities today. As I said, they are all good Christians, despite their source of income.... Please, I'm begging you, ignore that aspect of their lives, keep the positive aspects of their lives in mind, I promise you, nothing untoward will happen, I've spent enough time around them to say I trust them innately..... I take full responsibility for any incidents, but I can promise you there will be none.... Thank you Pastor, your trust will not be betrayed, and the kids will have a wonderful time today.... All but four, who are going to the beach, they can't get enough of it, heh heh.... I'll call you this evening and let you know how things went. Good morning and God bless."
Lucy looked at us with a smile and said, "We're going. The Pastor was under the impression the kids were being escorted by a large group of pornographers for some reason, and I dissuaded him of that.
"Only two, and we're off duty," I said.
Lucy sighed, smiled, and said, "I don't know if it's a good or a bad thing that I'm getting inured to jokes like that."
"It's horrible," said Chelsea.
"Maybe it means you're adjusting to us as... simply people," said Bekka. "I will never ask you to accept the nature of what we do, I know you find it reprehensible. But being accepted as normal people with strange jobs, who still laugh and love and pray and hold each other, that is all I personally ask. Acceptance as people, even if you cannot accept our actions as performers. Knowing that many of us accept and love Christ, that we have God in our lives, and our faith is honest and pure, that would mean a lot to me. We love the Lord as you do."
I shrugged and said, "What she said."
Chelsea glared and and said, "How do we know you're not just saying all that, that you're lying to us about your faith?"
"Chelsea!" said Lucy. Ellen rolled her eyes.
"To what gain?" I asked. "What would we achieve by lying about our faith, besides our own self-deception. Ultimately Chelsea, you're going to simply have to take our word for it, and know that such an action would be a low and despicable thing to do. Again, what would there be to gain?"
Chelsea made one of her chuffing noises and went downstairs to keep an eye on the kids. When she was oust, I whispered in Ellen's ear, "Do you want a rail?" She was enthusiastic, as she was rolling on not much sleep. I grabbed a CD case, went in the bathroom, and tapped out three. Fortunately, Chelsea and Lucy stayed downstairs while the three of us took turns railing up in the loo. The kids seemed fascinated by the sand trap, a grate over a hole where residents could wash off the sand from their feet and surfboards with a hose. Anything ocean-related was of high interest to this particular group of kids. I suggested they get some knock-off Tupperware and bring some back with them.
Before we left, Ellen left a note on the front door:
Chelsea and four of the kids are down at the
beach, and will probably be in and out all
day. Lenny, Bekka, Lucy, and myself are
at Wild Animal Park with a load of other
kids --- we'll probably be back around seven
or so. Welcome home Dale!!
Chelsea read this with her usual permanent contempt, and asked, "Who's Dale, another man you're fooling around with?"
Ellen silently counted to ten and said, "No, Dale is another friend and co-worker from Inana Productions. He's been up in Riverside visiting his mom. And yes, we have. It's part of the job, okay? And the names are a joke, they're good friends and the names stuck. Any questions about the apartment before we take off?"
"I think I can figure out an apartment."
"Good. Just please have the kids use the sand trap before they come inside. There's a Safeway a couple blocks down so you can get lunch and snacks, they have a delicatessen and anything else you need, maybe take them to the 7-11 for Slurpees. Here's the keys, we'll see you around seven or so."
"What should we do about dinner?"
"To be frank, I was hoping to talk you into eating at the local taco stand. I eat there all the time, and it's perfectly sanitary, trust me. There is nothing wrong with the place."
"You're probably immune to it by now."
"Then we'll take you to Taco Bell, and you can have fake Mexican food. Would you like that?"
"So long as it doesn't kill me. Goodbye."
From behind the wheel, I told Lucy, "I feel sorry for you."
"In what way?"
"Just you alone with fifteen kids." Hilarity ensued.