The company had a late call. It was Friday, and the sadistic and inhuman Hollywood weekend schedule would prevail: go to work late in the afternoon and shoot night-for-night till dawn so the company could catch up on their sleep on Saturday and Sunday. The IA contract didn’t specify WHICH sixteen hours in the day you had to work, only that you needed eight hours to “turn around” before the next day. If the next day was Sunday? Well, he’d known companies to shoot eighteen or twenty hours in a row, with the “turnaround” rule not applicable. On paper it seems sensible, of course, but in real-people terms, well, you just get wired and you’re crabby all night till you finally drive home at eight AM, fighting to stay awake.
Will had never been good at sleeping in anyway, so dawn found him grinding three tablespoons of flax seed with the granite mortar and pestle that had somehow survived shipment from Orvieto, Italy, and at least a dozen moves over the years. Like most recently-divorced men, his kitchen equipment was hit and miss: two sets of flatware, one without teaspoons; only two soup bowls; a hugely expensive not to mention complicated Cuisine Art that he never used and didn’t understand how he’d ended up with; an espresso maker that was a mess to clean and therefore never got used either.
He stirred the ground flax into a bowl of low-fat yogurt and fantasized, for a minute, about bacon, eggs, and hollandaise. Old age was cruel to the palate he reckoned, though it was only recently that he had thought of himself in terms of “old,” and that only at times when, for example, his yoga routine has been a little rocky, which it was this morning. Functionally he was still the slightly geeky autodidactic twelve-year-old from Upstate New York who’d been headed for the Lutheran ministry till he discovered girls and the theatre.
--And that, my friend, has made all the difference, he said to nobody.
Dog was with her, which was for the better, because it kept her calm but tended to shit on the carpet. Cat—THANK GOD!—was with her cause he was allergic and had suffered cats for thirty years. The three hundred dollar roller canary? With her, along with all the jazz records before 1970, which had belonged to her “first ex-husband” as she put it, even though she didn’t have a turntable (with him) and wouldn’t accept Will’s offer to transfer the warped and scratched vinyl to shiny CD’s (unfamiliar with the concept). He’d bought her an iPod which she refused to learn to use because she didn’t like computers. Such are the vagaries and peccadilloes of people who’ve lived together all their lives and now no longer do.
Regretfully, Michael also lived with her. Though they saw each other frequently, Will missed the easy give-and-take of mealtimes and the trips to Dodger Stadium, the backpacking they used to do, the movies they used to see together. They’d seen The Lord of the Rings no less than thirteen times because during Oscar season his academy membership got them in free. Mike was a freak for swordplay at eleven, no question about that, but he was a freshman football candidate now, and a certain amount of pulling away from his parents was to be expected.
Will poured lots of black coffee, a most-excellent vice, still, he figured, in the aluminum Starbucks travel cup with the leaky top that Michael had given him for Christmas a couple years back. It was a bit of a balancing act, drinking coffee in a car with a standard transmission and sub-par cup holders, but the Germans still weren’t much for amenities, and he’d bought the little stick-shift Mercedes because he wanted Mike to learn to drive right. It was the sort of little detail that he and Laura could argue about for days. The good thing about divorce was: now they didn’t have to.
Mike was waiting curbside for him, new school logo duffel casually over his shoulder. He was in the middle of “Hell Week,” which actually ran for more like a month, and one of the things most hellish—for a fourteen-year-old—was that practice started at six AM. Will popped the trunk and unlocked the doors.
--Hey he said. It was neutral enough, he figured, not to annoy his second-born.
Like his dad, Michael could be taciturn.
--You still sore?
Mike immediately switched the XM from Deep Tracks to the Mindless Puerile Pop channel. At least it wasn’t one of those skinny blondes with tits like bocce balls singing about…whatever they sing about. Doing it and getting it on and, oh, it was always and forever aggressively about sex and money and it had come to make Will, a longtime purveyor of pop culture, a little guilty and, yeah, a lot sad.
--Who’s this? he asked, because he always asked. Mike and his big brother had been Will’s secret weapon in Hollywood for years. They were the reason actors and (God help us all) executives two thirds his age thought that maybe—just maybe—Will was NOT a dinosaur.
--Their NAME is Dope?
--Yeah, Dad. God, they’ve been around forever!
Mike quickly changed the station again.
--No hip hop, please, said Will. Not at this hour. Please.
--Really, they call themselves Dope, hunh?
--Yeah. It gets worse too.
--I don’t doubt that in the least.
--That song was called “Bitch.”
--Naw, that’ll be on the next album.
Mike could make Will laugh without even trying. He was a stealthy kid, for sure, not at all like his brother.
--Yeah, said Mike, warming to his role as pop culture maven. You’ve heard ‘em before.
--I dunno, kiddo. I think I’d remember a group called Dope singing a song called Bitch.
--They did that album “Life?”
--Nope. Missed it. Must have been busy making other plans.
--And “Felons and Revolutionaries?”
--Now there’s one I’m sorry I missed.
--Exactly. That was their first one. “Pig Society,” “Everything Sucks,” “Shit Life,” “Fuck the Police”—
--OK, OK, said Will. I get the picture. Man.
He drove on in silence a sec. Mike found a nice Bob Marley remix and sensibly stopped at it.
--So you been listening to this stuff? “Everything Sucks?” said Will. Playing it around the house?
--Nah. It was on Steve’s hard drive when I imported all of his Pearl Jam. I heard it a couple times. You don’t forget titles like that.
--Nope, said Will. Now Pearl Jam, he said, warming up for the kid’s sake. There’s a band, hunh?
--Eddie Vedder. Seattle. Grunge. Stephen’s babysitter had turned him on to Pearl Jam fifteen years ago. Jesus.
--They’re old said Mike.
--I know said Will.
--But they’re good. He nodded appreciatively, for his Dad’s sake. You know.
The Marley groove was infectious. They sat there in silence, listening. Watching. Will marveled at the morning light rippling across the San Gabriels, the way the scale of their valley home seemed so…people-sized at this hour, almost like a model train layout, a huge Translux backing.
--You know, Dad, said Mike finally, with the intention of really being informative.
--Dope is their name, right?
--Hunh? Yeah. OK. The band’s called Dope. Dope, like in, you know, Cool. Good. Far Out. Excellent. Dope. Not dope, like dope-drugs, you know, heroin, pot--
--No. I mean the guys who ARE the band. Their last name is Dope.
--Swear ta…the Easter Bunny. Yeah.
--Yep. Edsel Dope and Simon Dope. They named him after a car.
--Right. The Simon. Before my time.
--Edsel, Dad. Ford. Came out in ’58. See ya.
They’d reached the football field. Boys in shorts and tee-shirts were standing around looking sleepy. Mike was out of the car like Reggie Bush on third and long.
--OK Bud. Drink water.
Will popped the trunk, and in no time at all his little teddy bear of a baby boy, now five feet nine inches tall and a hundred and forty pounds, was off to Freshman football practice.
He accelerated and shifted smoothly away. Will had always loved Bob Marley.
I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i – I’m willing and able,
So I throw my cards on your table!
See: I wanna love ya, I wanna love and treat ya -
Love and treat ya right.
I wanna love you every day and every night:
Well be together, with a roof
right over our heads!
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed;
We’ll share the same room, yeah!
Jah provide the bread.
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed…
Did Bethany love Bob Marley too? he wondered.
It occurred to Will Stover that he knew nothing about Bethany Byrne except that she made him laugh long distance and she appeared to have a great body.
Next: Free to a God Home
Intruso, a dialectical postmodern love story:
- Her voice was shiny
- Timed Writing
- On Location
- In the Beginning was Rock n Roll
- Cell Phone Interruptus
- The Hooch
- Blackbirds at One O'Clock
- Probiotics and the Muse
- Email by Rodney Strong
- Dope and Flax Seed
- Free to a God Home
- Lemonade and Consequences
"Is This Love?" Kaya, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Tuff Gong, Island Records ©1978.