Changes, Part 13

Continued from previous weeks…

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

A week later Mona and Gary are on Sunset Strip at night, standing in front of The Fifth Estate.  Amidst the glitz of its much-newer-and-better-maintained neighboring nightclubs, The Fifth Estate doesn’t even look like a nightclub.  It just looks like an oddly low, rambling Victorian house in much need of paint.

The sidewalks all along The Strip are overflowing with late-night revelers.  People glitter, strutting about in costumes so outrageous that even circus performers would be left in the dust.  Some are dressed in bright new pastels.  Others, especially those going in and out of The Fifth Estate, are dressed in the duller, tattered clothes of hardcore hippies.  All are in bell bottoms.

The street is almost at a standstill as only the most exotic and expensive cars cruise slowly down The Strip, so compulsively polished that the light bouncing off them in every direction from the streetlights is blinding.  The occupants of the cars call out to the revelers on the sidewalks, rewarding the most outrageously dressed with the most attention.

Mona stares into the hypnotic glare of slowly passing headlights, then turns to Gary.  “I’ve been up and down my half of The Strip, and I haven’t found anyone who’s seen or heard of our clothes-horse dope dealer.  Any luck with your half?”

Gary sighs.  “Nope.  You’d think somebody dressed like that would be noticed…even on Sunset Strip.”

Mona:  “Maybe the problem isn’t that he hasn’t been noticed.  Maybe nobody’s telling cuz they figure we’re narks.”

Gary looks down at their tattered hippie attire.  “Would even undercover cops dress like this?”

Mona grabs his arm.  “We’ve got to find him!  Beg him not to sell anymore of that ‘better than acid’ stuff we took!”

Gary shrugs her off.  “We may as well hitchhike back to Ritchie’s house on the beach.  This is useless.”

Mona puts a hand on his shoulder.  “Aw.  This is only the second night we’ve looked!”

Gary smirks.  “Everybody’s too stoned…and too California…to remember anything.”

Mona:  “Gary!”

Gary:  “Okay.  Okay.  I’m sorry.  But the last person I spoke to had dropped so many pills it took him a full minute to correctly identify the noise disrupting the cosmos as me asking him a question.”

Mona:  “I know the type…”  She straightens.  “But I’m going to keep looking, Gary!  What are you gonna do?”

Gary:  “Hope that dealer took some of his own ‘better than acid’ before going to see Space Odyssey and is on Jupiter by now.  Devote the rest of the summer to lying around the beach and soaking up the benefits of not thinking too much.”

Ritchie emerges from the crowd.

Mona:  “Ritchie!  What are you doing here?”

Ritchie puts his hand on Gary’s other shoulder.  “Got something for you, White Boy!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 12

Continued from previous weeks…

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

Cars whiz by on the highway.  Waves pound the beach.  Seagulls cry.

Ritchie catches up with the two blondes in string bikinis.  He puts his arms around them and sings, “Baby, everything is all right.  Uptight, clean out of sight.”  They shrug him off and start running in the surf.  Ritchie chases them.

The wino shakes his head.  “Blondes will be the death of you, Ritchie!”  Then he rushes up the stairs into Ritchie’s house.

Mona staggers and is barely able to talk.  “Infinity…”

That wipes the smile off Gary’s face.  “No, Mona.  Reality.  Just one.  This reality.  You saved us; you got us back.  But do not think about my intellectual bullshit again, at least until you’re no longer stoned on that ‘better than acid.’  If ever.  I’ve learned something:  Life is far better if it’s kept simple!”

Mona:  “Simple…”

Gary:  “That’s right, Mona.  Simple.  Let’s go help the wino raid Ritchie’s fridge.”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 11

Continued from previous weeks…

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

There are more footsteps in the forest, getting closer and closer.  Branches are snapping like twigs.

Everyone, except Mona, steps back.

Wino:  “I shouldn’t have screamed!”

Ritchie:  “No shit!”

Gary:  “Whatever that thing is, it’s huge.”

Mona smiles faintly.  “Huge…”

Gary grabs Mona’s arm and pulls her back with the others.

Puzzled, Mona struggles to regain her balance.  Then she smiles up at the sun, drawing a circle around it with her finger and laughing.

The rustling in the forest becomes visible, though its source is still hidden by the trees.  It’s heading straight toward them.

Wino:  “I think it’s…hungry.”

Mona:  “Hungry…”

The wino grabs Ritchie.  “But none of this is real, Ritchie!  You know that!  You have to believe that.  I believe that!  Why your house is right over…”  He trails off, staring at the beeline of bent tree branches coming at them.

Gary grabs Mona, turning them both away from whatever’s closing on them.  “Hey, baby…”  He’s struggling to sound casual.  “I want to apologize for all that infinity nonsense I was talking about before.”

Mona:  “Infinity…”

Gary:  “You know how I can be.”  He snorts.  “New York intellectual!  My old lady used to debate existentialism with whoever my ‘father’ was at the time.  That was before she lost the sandal shop and started shooting smack.”

The wino and Ritchie are both trying to climb up the same tree.

Gary kisses the tip of Mona’s nose.  “Don’t look.  No matter what.  Close your eyes.”

Mona does.

Gary:  “You didn’t really think I could think us somewhere else did you?  You didn’t really think we were in a forest, did you?  Just remember us on the porch of Ritchie’s house.”

Mona smiles.

The forest warbles, shutters.  There’s a crackle like lightning.

The surf crashes on the beach.

Ritchie, who’d gotten a lot higher in the tree than the wino, falls heavily onto the sand because all the trees have disappeared.  But he smiles broadly as two blondes in string bikinis walk past his house.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 10

Continued from previous weeks…

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

Ritchie continues to laugh.  “All that damn fool hysteria, and we’re just hallucinating.”

The wino jumps up, eyeing Ritchie like he’s the dinner the wino just caught in a trap.  “That’s right, Ritchie!  Who ever heard of trees on a beach?”  The wino takes solid hold of a tree to steady himself in his excitement.  Then he catches himself, looks at Ritchie, and quickly let’s go of the tree.

Ritchie’s looking the other way, at the smog.  “No trees on a damn beach, fool!”

Wino:  “That’s right!  But that smog’s real, and what’s always underneath smog, Ritchie?”

Ritchie:  “Cars?”

Wino:  “That’s it, Ritchie.  And what’s always underneath cars?”

Ritchie:  “Freeways.”

Gary, still rubbing his jaw after Ritchie’s previous punch, stops to look from the wino to Ritchie and back at the wino.

Mona repeats, “Freeways.”

Wino:  “And houses.”  The wino stalks Ritchie like a cat.  “What do the houses over there look like, Ritchie?”

The wino and Gary eye Ritchie expectantly.

Mona weaves a bit, before repeating “houses.”

Ritchie:  “Mah house is the last one on the right…”

The wino and Gary are hanging on every word.

Gary:  “Can you see it, Ritchie?”

Mona:  “See…”

Suddenly Ritchie stops looking at the smog and turns to look into Mona’s eyes.  Gary and the wino exchange a look and throw their hands up.

The wino screams.  “Concentrate on your house, Ritchie!  Concentrate!”

Ritchie:  “Mona, are you okay?”

Finally Gary looks at Mona, too.  “Her pupils are huge!  Infinite…”

Mona:  “Infinite…”

There’s the sound of heavy footfalls in the forest again, rushing closer.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 9

Continued from previous weeks…

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

Gary:  “I repeat:  The sky is orange.”

Mona is concentrating, staring at the blue sky while she repeats “orange” like a mantra.

Ritchie glares at Gary.  “White Boy?  How can you say the sky is orange when it’s so obviously…”

The wino cuts Ritchie off by clapping a hand over his mouth.  “Don’t you remember Peter Pan when Tinker Bell was dying?  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

Gary joins the wino and Mona, chanting “orange.”

The wino, still chanting, waves a cautionary finger at Ritchie before slowly removing his hand from Ritchie’s mouth.

Ritchie smirks, starts swaying from side to side, and chants, “Hare, Hare Krishna, Krishna Rama…”

Mona swats Ritchie hard.

Ritchie:  “Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

Mona turns to reward Ritchie with a warm smile while they all continue to chant “orange.”

Ritchie frowns.  “Mona, your eyes…”

Mona swats him again.

Ritchie:  “Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

They all chant “orange” for a very long time.

Finally Ritchie silences Gary with a right uppercut.

Mona swats Ritchie, but weakly.

Ritchie studies Mona’s eyes, frowning again.

Gary rubs his jaw.  “All right.  All right.  Point well taken.”  He sighs heavily.  “It’s not working.”

They all contemplate the blue sky.

Finally the wino gathers himself together, appearing to be fairly sober.  “You tried, Gary.  You tried hard.  Now it’s my turn.”

Mona:  “I feel funny.”

Wino:  “All of you look at that forest.”

They do.

Wino:  “Now I ask you:  Is that forest really there?”

Gary stops rubbing his jaw to rub the bark of a nearby tree instead before nodding yes.

Ritchie:  “Looks pretty solid to me, man.”

Wino:  “Aw, come on, Ritchie, that’s a lot of crap.  See that brown cloud of smog hanging over the forest?  Where’d it come from?”

Ritchie:  “Didn’t I hear you say something about…”

The wino cuts him off.  “You mean when I was drunk?  When I’m drunk I say all kinds of things.”

Ritchie:  “But Gary said he’d…”

The wino cuts him off again.  “Gary said?”  The wino scoffs, rolls his eyes, and tries to talk like Ritchie.  “You believe everything that cat has to say?  Thought I heard differently, but maybe that’s just surface tough. Like maybe deep down inside you think Gary blows real cool, makes out with all the blonde chicks…”  The wino trails off, looking at Ritchie intently.

Ritchie’s face hardens with rage.

The wino looks pleased.

Ritchie glares at Gary, then struts about in front of the wino.  “This here lame white boy? Only reason Mona here with Gary is because I didn’t try for her first.  Nuthin’ he has to say makes any sense.”

Wino:  “That’s it!  You’re not going to believe that white boy when he tells you you’re not even in 1968 any more, are you?”

Ritchie does a double-take on the wino.  “You white!”

The wino talks quickly.  “I don’t count.  I’m over 30.”  Then the wino looks at Ritchie carefully, emphasizing his next words by drawing them out.  “But do you really think a dumb white boy like Gary could just think L.A. away?”

Ritchie frowns.  “You’re a wino.  I was smoking the pot Gary brought me from New York.  Mona took the same shit Gary took.  At first I figured hers must not have been any good, but look at her eyes now.”  Ritchie’s pacing around, obviously thinking hard.  Then he freezes, smiles broadly, and starts to sing:  “Baby, everything is all right.  Uptight, clean out of sight.”  He stops singing and laughs.  “We’re just hallucinating!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3