I CLIMBED DOWN THE ALPINE-STEEP ROCKY PATH from the flat where a tiny cabin housed me for the winter. I said goodbye to the madrone trees. The road up to the tiny flat had caved in so I lived alone. I visited Nat and Meg as well as their six-year-old daughter in their spacious, for backcountry folks, cabin. Charm sat in the corner, knitting doilies. /> Nat rolled a G blunt and we passed it around, little Suze undoubtedly getting contact high from the thick aroma. She pulled up her granny dress, panty-less underneath.
“Don ‘t do that, sweetie,” Meg said, and inhaled the blunt I stole from a hippie scuba diver for placer gold. I also gifted them four ounces I swiped, hating to be mercenary, another reason I lived rent-free on the flat. I was no capitalist. Meg was a stout, short woman, playing with mood rings on her stubby fingers, each ring with a turquoise stone.
“It embarrasses Lowell.”
“Maybe she’s angry at you for kidnapping her from Roy,” I said. Roy, my brother, a shard in the side of Nat, perhaps a moat in Meg’s eye. Suze, my niece, smiled. We passed the blunt around.
“Nat saved little Suze from Roy’s bad habits.” Meg’s voice shook.
“Your sperm gun shoots blanks, Nat. At least Roy loved her.” Nausea bit my stomach. The blunt spoke. Love’s meaning, like definitions of God, so vague that it had no meaning. Same with Roy.
“I’m well aware of his kind of family love. No way,” Nat said, his even, soft-spoken words belied blood in his eyes.
“Your L.A. dad lets you pretend you’re a free spirit. He funds you.”
“He sends me the New York Sunday Times every week. I phone him sometimes and all we talk about is sports.” I leaned back, no longer on the edge of my seat, muscles looser than before. “I earn money reading natal charts and record them on cassettes.”
Another dead end, Nat. Astrology fit perfectly with Nat’s Masters degree in psychology. I gave up college after cutting up a psychology professor. I served my sentence and headed for the wilderness.
“Hey, Lowy, what you do there on the flat these days?” Meg said. Her cheeks flushed, her voice steadier, her heart beat to Alice Coltrane’s music we listened to. Coltrane’s inspiration was a Swami’s portrait which hung over Meg’s head.
“I listen to Barry Manilow’s ‘Somewhere Down the Road’ at lot on my radio.”
“I heard you tucked gold nuggets in the pocket of your wetsuit,” Nat said.
“He lies, pissed that I hitched here with Charm. She didn’t want to be his old lady.”
Charm said: “Lowy beat up Reggie. Bad.”
“You dirty shit, what a bad fuck you are,” Nat yelled and gave me the finger.
by Donald O'Donovan
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