Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Painting Tacoma, Chapter Sixteen: Broken Glass

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Tacoma’s job, and her medical need for stable hours, had put an end to their excursions. Now, with Wendy in town, Shawn was able to start anew. They took the long 101 loop around the Olympic Mountains, stopping at the Hoh Rain Forest to check out the moss-covered trees. Further along the coast, they walked groves of spruce pregnant with burls, and watched curtains of steam ghosting the dirt-brown beaches. After that it was Cape Flattery, the meeting-point of Tacoma’s ill-fated parents. Walking a trail of logs to the observation deck, they found slate-gray cliffs, a cove with several shades of blue-green water, and rugged seastacks topped with evergreens. A bald eagle split the air with his gestureless flight, his head so white it left spots on the backs of their eyelids.
            “Jesus!” Wendy whispered. “It’s a fucking Spielberg film.”
            Wendy’s initial lap-dance turned out to be a blessing, illustrating for Shawn just how deeply he was damaged and freeing him up to enjoy Wendy’s born-again pagan splendor. It occurred to him that her former prickteasings had produced exactly the opposite of their intended effect. He was so obsessed about getting into her pants that he never got to know her as a person.
            Ivy began their next rehearsal with the news that they had finally gotten a gig at Cole’s. The club wasn’t much to look at – it was small and a little bit seedy – but Cole’s was where all the real blues bands played, so getting in was quite a score. Ivy also reported that her trombonist daddy knew a winner when he heard one, and was putting up the bucks for a demo CD.
            Getting home from all this great news, Shawn was much too wired to sleep. He put on a Count Basie record and prepared to do some weightlifting. And he thought about Angie.
            If LA were the City of Angels, Tacoma was the City of Angies: Jimmy Catarino’s girlfriend, Wendy’s coworker, the manager at Shakabrah – there were Angies everywhere. Shawn’s Angie lived in a basement apartment across from the laundry room. He was headed there with an armful of dirty clothes when he spotted her in the hall, complaining to the manager, Andrew, about fourth-floor Shawn and his bellowing friends.
            “Half the time, when he throws his keys down there, they land in the bushes, and then I’ve got these creeps digging around outside my window.”
            Shawn was glad to join in, motivated not a little by Angie’s long blonde hair and cutesy Sally Struthers appearance.
            Now, midway through his wrist curls, Shawn heard a loud crash on the street. He looked outside to see a wheel rolling down the middle of Sixth Avenue. Expecting some great NASCAR collision, he peered up the street but found nothing. It wasn’t until he tiptoed outside in bare feet that he found the cause: a blue sedan, chips of glass scattered around its rear end like autumn leaves.
            Shawn called the police, then stood watch at the window as a patrol car pulled up. A tall, balding officer got out to inspect the scene. Two minutes later, Shawn’s phone rang.
            “Hello, Mister Turk? This is the Tacoma Police calling back? Could you do us a favor? We have the resident manager listed in Apartment 108 – name of Angela? Could you pop down there and wake her? We didn’t want to alarm her with one of our officers – but we do need to find out who owns the car.”
            Shawn was happy to help out, but realized halfway down the elevator that Angie wasn’t the manager – Andrew was. He knocked anyway, figuring something would come out in the wash.
            “Hello? Who is it?”
            “Hi,” he said, uncertainly. “It’s Shawn – from 308? There’s a car that’s been broken into… and they asked me to wake you.”
            The door didn’t open, but the voice got grumpier. “At one-thirty in the morning? And I’m not the manager. Why did they… Oh God.” She cracked open the door. “It’s not a Honda, is it? I just got that car.”
            “I’m not sure,” said Shawn. “I thought it was a BMW. I’m sorry, they must have made a mistake. I’ll go check with the officer.”
            Angie grunted and closed the door.
            Excuse me for being a good citizen, thought Shawn. Still, heading upstairs, he thought how cute she looked in her flowered PJs. By the time he got close enough to see the “H” on her grille, Angie was walking down the front steps in bathrobe and slippers.
            “Oh God! Oh shit…”
            That was about the extent of her outburst. Shawn had to admire her composure. She sat in the patrol car, answering questions for the report as Shawn stood on the sidewalk, chatting with the tall, balding officer.
            “Are you the one who called?” he asked.
            “Yeah, that’s me.”
            “Thanks for doing that. Woulda been a shame to leave it out here like this.”
            “Were they trying to steal something?”
            “Nope. Strictly for funzies.”
            “They used a tire, right?”
            “Yep.” He pointed downhill to the Walker Apartments. “Came to a stop under those trees.”
            “Oh, good,” said Shawn. “For a second, I thought I was hallucinating.”
            “Pretty common trick. Old wheel makes a good smashing device. So, are you familiar with Shawn?”
            “God, yes! All his frickin-frackin friends, too.”
            “He’s up there right now, scoping us out.”
            Shawn turned to see a thing silhouette in the apartment above his.
            “Claims he used to work for the FBI,” said the cop. He spoke almost in admiration, for the way that eccentrics fashion their own realities. “Piece of work, that one.”
            “Hope he gets a goddamn intercom someday.”
            “I hear they’re taking care of it tomorrow.”
            “Shawn! Yo, Shawn!”
            “Oh,” said Shawn. “This one’s for me.”
            He hiked across the street, where Wendy was standing with a large figure who turned out to be Pancho. Shawn was impressed – he had only told him about Wendy that night.
            “Pancho! What’s it been? Four hours?”
            “Five, at most. Went to grab a post-rehearsal java, met your friend here.”
            “We were shooting pool across the street,” said Wendy. “Your friend here’s a real crack shot.”
            “I-i-i’m gonna walk away from that straight line,” said Shawn.
            “So what’s the excitement?” asked Pancho.
            “Cute blonde downstairs got her car window bashed in. I’m the lucky sap who got to wake her up.”
            “I know you’ve been lonely, pal. but that’s going just a little too far.” Pancho’s eyes cut past Shawn’s shoulder. Angie was crossing the street to join them.
            “Hi,” she said. “I did want to thank you for going to all the trouble. I’m sorry I was such a bitch.”
            “Understandable,” said Shawn. “Seems like you’ve had a traumatic week.”
            “It’s been… challenging.” She sighed and bit her lip in a way that made Shawn’s blood rise.
            “Hey,” said Pancho. “Seeing as no one here is getting any sleep tonight, why don’tch’all come to my house for spaghetti?”
            “Pancho’s quite a cook,” said Wendy. “Or so he tells me.”
            “I’d like to,” said Angie. “But I have to wait for the tow truck.”
            “I’ll wait with you,” said Shawn. “You guys go ahead. We’ll be there soon.”
            “I guess I’d better get out of these PJs,” said Angie.
            “I got no problem with your PJs,” said Shawn. Wow, he thought. I’m flirting with a woman-not-Tacoma.
            Angie smiled. “I’ll put on some jeans.”

Angie was quiet all the way over – probably, thought Shawn, ruminating on her lousy luck. She seemed to perk up as they neared Pancho’s apartment, across the street from the baseball stadium. They entered to the smells of garlic and cooked meat. Pancho and Wendy sat among dirty dishes, playing some sort of card game.
            “Got any twos?” said Pancho.
            “Go fuck yourself,” said Wendy. “How about… jacks?”
            “Go fuck yourself,” said Pancho.
            Shawn peered over Pancho’s shoulder. “This can’t be what I think it is.”
            “Well, come on!” said Wendy. “What are you really saying when you say, ‘Go fish’?”
            “And when you win,” said Pancho, “you say ‘Hoosier Daddy!’ Which refers to Les Newport, a father of seven from Greenfield, Indiana. What about nines?”
            “Go fuck yourself,” said Wendy.
            “Damn!” Pancho scowled and took a card from the pile. “Plates and pasta in the kitchen, guys. And grab those last two garlic breads before I do.”
            “He really is a good cook,” said Wendy, flashing Shawn a secret smile.
            Shawn and Angie ate voraciously, then lit up cigarettes, though neither was a smoker. They tried out the new game, and Shawn was pleased at Angie’s fondness for the f-word. He didn’t trust women who didn’t cuss.
            He found pleasures, too, in the hubbub of their party, Pancho’s rumbling voice, Wendy’s occasional squeals, the click and smack of playing cards. Look at me, he thought. I’ve got a circle of friends.
            His meditation was interrupted by Angie, who smiled wickedly and slammed her cards to the table.
            “Hoosier Daddy!”
            Shawn laughed. “You are. By the way, if you’re still wired after this, I know a great all-night coffeehouse.”

Photo by MJV

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