Author : Joshua Willey

Every morning a giant Seller’s Jay lands on the railing and sings until given some caloric morsel. The fog shifts constantly, burying the trees. I choke my dirt bike, kick it, and we’re off, down empty trails, to an empty highway along the empty ocean.

A fungus, which traveled to these parts from Japan on Rhododendrons has attacked and killed most of the Tan Oaks between San Francisco and San Simeon, and while it is sad to see the giants fall, it makes work plentiful, so when we go on the weekends to Los Angeles our pockets are bulging, and we buy drugs and giant incomprehensible books and parts for the car Shell is building; the one and only, Galaxie 500. She spends the brightest hours of everyday beneath that metal machine, and comes to the dinner table with streaks of grease across her face singing “see the pyramids across the Nile.” I climb trees and tie ropes around high limbs and strap myself against the trunk and cut cut cut.

At night I light up all the kerosene lanterns and play with the words, or fight with them as the case may be. More and more it becomes difficult to tell the difference. Six people here in Pacific Valley have all read one copy of Tree of Smoke and now it rests in tatters atop Finnegan’s Wake, 1000 Plateaus, and The Master and Margarita. Hardest thing is, as we have no electricity we have little opportunity to take in recorded music, verily one of this American life’s greatest pleasures. Shell has a deep cycle marine battery which she charges on her weekly trips to Castro to see some human “who might be the one” (though this golden prospect doesn’t keep her from crawling into half the beds in Big Sur at her leisured whim), and we hook a short wave radio up to it and can get the BBC and, occasionally, music from Japan.

I remember all the nights of her professional life. How, in the mirror, she combed her hair with the radio on playing Sun Ra and the city lights all spread out around her. “There are cigarettes in the fridge” she said, as if this was some consolation. I could only stare at her, open-mouthed, shirtless and broke. “You don’t need this,” I’d say. “What does need have to do with anything, in this country” she’d respond, and walk out the door.

Those nights I always took a bath and sometimes I got high and cleaned her little place with a fine-toothed comb.

When she came back it was dawn and she would run her fingers through my hair and say, “his penis is twice the size of yours and he runs a very successful hedge fund downtown, and his eyes” she swoons, “his eyes don’t lie, like yours.” Then we would laugh, and smoke her cold cigarettes and I would tell her about some novel, and when the fog lifted off the bay and the first rays of light crossed the concrete and steel, we would sleep, my chest against her back and my hand on her hip.

At noon I got on my bicycle and went to work and she lay in bed, drinking Foldger’s, reading Proust, waiting for me to come back.



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