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Skye and Sigh take off first thing in the morning. By noon, they’ve got Peter’s VW at Spotless Auto, a garage with perfect white walls. They are greeted post-diagnostic by Piper, a mechanic with a vanilla jumpsuit and a schoolboy wave of frosted blond hair. He taps his clipboard like a doctor reading test results, and twitches his lips.
“Mmm. Not good at all. Your Beetle has blown its water pump.”
“Aiee,” says Skye. “So why wouldn’t the engine turn over?”
“Computer,” says Piper. “Shuts everything off so you don’t drive into the Rockies and fry your engine.”
“Ah. I drive an ’86 pickup. Not a high-tech vehicle.”
“I saw that! How is it running?”
“Better than you would ever dream,” says Skye.
“I tell you, eighties Japanese pickups…”
“I get regular offers from Mexican gardeners. They see that extra-long bed and start salivating. So, I hate to ask, but…”
“How much! That is the pivotal question. Give me a second here.” He scratches figures on the clipboard, humming the math, then twirls the pen and gives it a double tap. “Twenty three eighty.”
Sigh has been keeping quiet, chewing on a maple bar, but the number makes him gasp.
“How much if we want it by tomorrow?” Skye asks.
“Twenty five even,” says Piper.
“Cool. Let’s do it.”
“Okay. Sign here and… phone number there. We will have it for you by three tomorrow.”
Sigh follows him out the door, snickering. “Damn, dude! Will you adopt me?”
“No, but I will buy you off, if we tell Peter this was a four-hundred-dollar solenoid.”
“Soul annoyed,” he repeats. “Buy me off how?”
They arrive at the truck. Skye unlocks the door. “Where would you like to spend the evening? And night, and morning?”
Sigh flashes a grin. “I have just the place.”
Skye sits in the corner of the largest pool he has ever seen. On the far side stands a grand lodge constructed from rough-hewn blocks of sandstone, and it’s as if the street that might usually run past such an edifice has been scooped out and filled with water. From what his companion tells him, it’s the size of a football field plus a hundred feet. Past the lodge, a herd of cirrus clouds feathers a modest ridge of rocks and evergreens.
Sigh sighs. “Doc Holliday.”
“Annie Oakley,” says Skye.
Sigh proceeds unhindered. “Doc Holliday came to Glenwood Springs to take in these very waters. But these waters do not cure leukemia, so he died.”
“Do you know there are a million gallons in this friggin’ thing? They diverted the Colorado River so it would run right through this pool.”
Skye stretches his arms. “Not that I don’t appreciate the renowned Glenwood Hot Springs – it’s very relaxing – but who made you the chamber of commerce?”
“I deal with touring musicians. I like to tell them intriguing places they can go.”
“So where would you like to go for dinner?”
Sigh tugs at a snag in his ‘fro. “I think I know a place.”
“I suspected you might.”
Backtracking makes Skye feel itchy, and now he’s back in the first floor of the Hotel Denver, at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. The place is clean and airy, with a chatty, boisterous crowd. Skye indulges in an onion-glazed pork chop with garlic mashed potatoes. Sigh is ignoring a half-consumed New York steak in order that he may lean back in his chair and chat up a redhead at the next table. The girl is laughing and twirling her hair – both positive signs – but she stops when a large, gruff-looking man appears across the room. Sigh clears his throat and returns to his meal.
Skye picks up his cell and sends a text: Boyfriend?
Sigh reads his iPhone and punches back: Father!
They manage to land a family suite, which provides the much-desired feature of two separate bedrooms. After the long soak and three amber ales, Skye is ready for an evening of drowsy television. His roommate is feeling the opposite, pacing about like a caged tiger.
“Gotta be something to do in this town.”
“Get a massage,” says Skye. “They’ve got a full-service spa.”
“Oh I’ll get a massage all right.” He stops and sniffs the air, then heads for the balcony. Seconds later, he dashes through the room, holding a raised index finger, and reappears in his bathing suit. “I’ll be right back.”
Skye discovers the film “Office Space” on channel 32 and settles back against his pillows. He wakes to the sound of suppressed giggles and a tap on his shoulder.
“Get thee up, sleepyhead.”
He turns over to find a wide smile under a red planet.
“Greetings, Mister Pelter. I don’t know if Mister Chung informed you of this, but I have mad skills.”
“I can score women like nobody’s business. I don’t quite understand it myself. It’s either the afro or the ten-inch dick. The thing is, you’ve been so awesome to Peter, I thought you deserved a reward. Right now, she’s taking a shower.”
Skye rubs his face, trying to process Sigh’s meaning.
Sigh taps the bed. “You’re welcome.” And leaves.
Skye sits up in bed and slaps his cheeks, fairly certain that he looks like hell. A minute later, he is greeted by an odd vision: a young girl, maybe four feet tall, equipped with the hips and breasts of someone much older. Wrapped in a bathrobe, she picks her way through the room, inspecting a magazine here, a painting there, until she arrives at Skye’s bedside and gives a shy smile. The elements of cuteness are overwhelming: a pug nose, smattering of freckles, dark doe eyes and straight, long, jet-black hair.
“Hi. I’m Mandy.”
“Hi Mandy. So you met my friend Sigh?”
She giggles. “Yeah. He’s funny.”
“So, um, he said you might like to…?”
She leaves the sentence unfinished, so he has to make assumptions. “Yes, I would. But aren’t you a little young?”
Her eyes flip upward. “I’m short. That’s all. Very short.”
She gives a furtive sideward glance, on the verge of crying. Skye’s not buying it.
“I’ll need to see some I.D.”
“Oh very funny.”
He gives her a flat look. “Not really kidding.”
The eyeflash-dropmouth combo is pretty convincing (she’s a fine actress). “But it’s all the way back in my room!”
She tightens the sash on her robe and stomps off. Skye considers the possibility that she won’t return. But after the Ringwald Incident, he understands his motives. Not only is this the smart thing to do, it’s kind of a buzz. Five minutes later, she stomps back in and serves up an Illinois driver’s license.
“Have a seat, Mandy.”
She plops into an easy chair, arms crossed, feet dangling. Skye puts on his reading glasses and gives the license a going-over. It appears to be legit.
“What’s your address?”
Mandy twitches her lips. “One-thirty-three Napier Drive.”
“Date of birth?”
“February 21, 1993.”
Skye smiles. “A full twenty years!” He leaves the bed and kneels on the floor in front of her. “I’m sorry, Mandy. You’re quite lovely. But I’m a cautious man. Now. How many times have you had sex?”
She flushes red, which multiplies the cuteness. “Three times. My… the dwarf thing scares them off.”
“Boys your age?”
“Was it good?”
She puts a hand over her eyes. “Um, I guess? But… but I…”
“Out with it, Mandy.”
“My friends tell me about this thing where you sort of… lose your head. Like a drug trip. Like the best thing ever.”
“Did your boys give you foreplay?”
She creases her forehead. “No. There were only three.”
Skye tries hard not to laugh. “Okay. I want you to pay close attention to what I’m about to do. And I want you to demand that your boyfriends do the same.”
He opens the flaps of Mandy’s bathrobe and works his way up.
Skye wakes at first light and finds Mandy grinding at his side.
“What’s up, lovely girl?”
“Again,” she murmurs.
“That thing you did last night. Again.”
“Wow. Okay.” He rubs his jaw and slides down the bed to get to work. Mandy seems more responsive this time – and aggressive. She grabs the back of his head and pulls him tighter. Her legs begin to twitch and flail and she lets out a muffled scream. Catching his breath, Skye notices a tattoo of Tinkerbell just above her bikini line. He rides her out, wipes his mouth on the bedsheet and slides back up to find her smiling wickedly, eyes on the ceiling as she savors the comedown.
“So who exactly are you?”
She extends a hand. “Hi. I’m Brandy.”
“Mandy’s twin sister.”
“No offense taken.”
“We had a little conference in the bathroom, and she had great things to say about your work.”
“We’re not completely alike, you know.”
She grabs his head and inserts her tongue in his ear.
“I’m much nastier.”
She kneels on the bed and works her way down.
The next time he wakes, it’s the red planet, sitting in the easy chair, smoking a joint.
“Sigh! You magnificent bastard.”
Sigh releases a cloud of smoke. “Using my talent for good.”
“That was quite a switcheroo.”
Sigh stops mid-toke. “Beg pardon?”
Skye barks out a laugh. “They switched.”
Sigh drops his arms, flabbergasted. “No!”
“One of them had a Tinkerbell tattoo.”
“Wow! I really have to pay more attention. Oh well – just makes for a better story.”
“You’re going to tell the story?”
Sigh smiles. “To every single person I’m not sleeping with.”
Skye gets up and slips on his jeans. “So where are the evil twins?”
“Having breakfast with their parents.”
“Don’t worry. They’re staying in separate rooms.”
“Oh well that’s reassuring.”
Sigh takes another drag. “Yaknow, come to think of it, there was something different about morning Sandy. Very touchy.”
Skye enters the bathroom, stops, and then leans back out.
“I’m sorry. Sandy?”
Photo: Glenwood Springs, Colorado