a love story...

Chapter One

Even the mare disliked him. Gabilan watched from across the arroyo as the kohl-colored Arabian warily set her hindquarters. The man parked his black Benz too close to the paddock again after throwing gravel all the way up the driveway like he always did. Sabaa disliked machinery, and was always wary around men. Gabilan considered it part of her charm. She took after her mistress.

Sabaa El Ludjin was equine royalty, a great-granddaughter of Bay El Bey, the most famous Arab in California, if not America. Bethany must’ve paid a caliph’s ransom for her, but be that as it may--breeding did not interest Gabilan especially; it was the playground of the wealthy, and he was certainly far from that. An animal’s behavior, though, or a woman’s--that fascinated him entirely. And as Bethany always said: Arabians—you either love em or hate em.

Oso came galumphing up, all snot and slime from the pond. He’d fished a plank the size of an aircraft carrier out of shallow water and was showing it off, somehow managing to balance the thing in his mouth. Keeping a Lab in the desert would be unfair, but Oso was a lucky dog—thanks to the wonders of topography and 19th century foresight he had an acre of water all to himself, even in the heat of October when less well-placed ponds around here would go dry.

--Buen muchacho said Gabilan. Bit off more than you can chew, eh?

Oso dropped the plank, sat happy and proud, young eyes glistening, tongue lolling goofy, sugar cookie-yellow coat drenched in algae and rotted leaves.

--Mom’ll kill us both, cabrito. Let’s hose you off.

The dog bounded ahead of him towards the garage, full of energy and delight. Gabilan watched the new guy out of the corner of his eye, some fifty yards to the south. The man fiddled in the back seat of his car, came up with a bottle in a paper bag and a bouquet of purple flowers. Tulips of course. Scarce this time of year. Things had progressed to that. Another Friday afternoon in the low desert. A couple of late nights and too much wine and maybe an empalme and then some lazy follando in the afternoon before the trip back home, wherever home was, on Sunday.

Gabilan uncoiled the hose while the man disappeared behind Bethany’s art project of a house. The dog leapt and pirouetted in excitement. Gabilan felt the cold water surging though the hose like a fat green cartoon serpiente as he turned the faucet. The dog, delighted, caught the first blast square in his mouth. His teeth snapped loudly open and shut again and again like castanets. Gabilan re-directed the torrent along the animal’s spine as Oso curved and crooked, trying to mouth the water some more. He backed off a bit, allowing the animal a chance to settle down. He sprayed a gentler stream against Oso’s broad strong chest, rubbing the algae off his legs and his paws and his tail with his hand.

As Oso shook himself into something that passed for dry, for fun Gabilan sent the water on a forty foot sweep into the garden, where the droplets fell like rain. Sunlight was caught dancing en el arco as the beans and tomatoes slaked their thirst. Gabilan was the kind of man who built rainbows wherever he went.

And in her paddock, Sabaa El Ludjin considered how men will come and go, and how some men will bring apples and apply the brush and say the soft sounds and feed the others last, and how some men will not.

--Fuck this fucking fucking traffic he said as the GPS bleeped at him pathetically. I KNOW I’m entering fucking slow fucking traffic, goddammit.

You could count on slow traffic on the 210 East on a Friday. Rush hours, noontimes, weekends and after school, the 210 was a bitch. Stover had a theory, and though it might make him unpopular in the Peoples’ Republic of Santa Monica, there was some pure common sense to it: Chinese. They can’t drive and they’re all over the 210 freeway, from Burbank to goddamn Rancho Cucamonga, which is to say from the middle of the city the Spaniards called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula to its eastern-most limit in the desert, where not even a dog would choose to live. Except people did, and Stover was beginning to wonder if they weren't the smart ones after all.

Stover had lived in L.A. for close to forty years, and in the beginning—when gas was sixty cents a gallon and you could buy a VW for two grand—a man could drive from Tarzana, where Edgar Rice Burroughs built his mansion, to Hollywood, where Tarzan himself lived and got laid, in half an hour. Hell, when he first got out of the army in ‘71 you could drive ANYWHERE in the L.A. Basin in forty minutes max. These days it takes half an hour to make a left turn at Colorado and De Lacy in Pasadena, right there in front of the Apple Store and Tiffany’s, and that’s no bullshit.

Somewhere along the line the city’d gone Third World, with traffic like Mexico City’s, like Beijing’s or Calcutta’s for all he knew, though he’d never been to India and wouldn’t even consider China. Not since Nam.

As he pondered why Mexican and Chinese and female drivers refuse to enter the 110 North from the 105 East when the sign clearly reads “THREE cars per green,” and while his present freeway of choice had ground to a halt, Stover’s phone rang. Hands-free, thank you Bluetooth. It was Lovejoy.

--What? he said. Stover hated telephones.

--Sorry. You in traffic?

--No, Rich, I’m getting a massage and a happy ending in Koreatown.

--Sorry. On your way already then, hunh?

--What is it, man?

--I just wanted to let you know, the network’s got a problem with the second brothel scene.

--So? I got a problem with the second brothel scene and I wrote the goddamn thing.

--I know.

--Lay down with whores, you wake up with crabs.

--Un hunh.

--So they ASKED for it and now they don’t like it, right? They read it, they saw dailies, they saw the rough cut, sat in on the dub—to which they were NOT invited--and now they want to lose it, right?

--You said this would happen.

--Yes. And I’m wondering why you called me too.

Stover popped an Altoid. He hated these conversations. He’d been having them for thirty years, and thirty years’ a long time to do a thing you hate. A slate-gray Ferrari pulled up on his right, going nowhere fast like everybody. Good looking car, and at least it wasn’t red.

--Will?

--Listen, said Stover. Call Ron and tell him the deal, will ya? I’ll recut it but we can’t drop it, OK? The show’s short as it is and they won’t give us a variance. See if he can talk some sense into…what’s his name.

Jesus, he hated the way he was forgetting names.

--Lean?

--Lean, Loon, Long—the Standards and Practices guy.

--Lean.

--Yeah, the pissant. Have Ron run with it, OK? Make my day, will ya, Rich? I’m trying to clear my head.

--OK. Sorry. Can I call you?

--Yes Richard, said Stover, suddenly even more tired than usual. You may call me any hour of the day or night. I am only trying to have a life.

--OK, Bud. Have fun.

--Right.

That pain he got on the lower left side, the one that wasn’t an ulcer and according to the doc wasn’t his spleen, hit him again the way it did. He moved around in the seat, in a way wishing he could just pull over and have a little snooze, trying to get comfortable. The GPS said it all: average speed twelve miles an hour. It’d take him an hour and a half just to get to Claremont and he had another hundred miles after that. In his youth he could’ve run the distance faster. In his youth he’d always wanted a job like this and he’d always wanted to drive a Mercedes and he always liked Rolex watches, sailboats, airplanes, motorcycles, and beautiful women.

In his youth, Will Stover had thought he’d live forever, or at least until something better came along. It was beginning to look like that wasn’t going to happen. He was wondering how Bethany would work her magic tonight, the way she always did, IF he got there, when the Ferrari swung quick and neat in front of him, like a jock cutting in front of the fat kid in the lunch line. Its Nevada license plate read WNRTKAL.



Next: Contentment




Intruso, an extremely postmodern love story

  1. Intruso
  2. Contentment
  3. Her voice was shiny
  4. Timed Writing
  5. On Location
  6. In the Beginning was Rock n Roll
  7. Cell Phone Interruptus
  8. The Hooch
  9. Blackbirds at One O'Clock
  10. Probiotics and the Muse
  11. Email by Rodney Strong
  12. Nightsong
  13. Dope and Flax Seed
  14. Free to a God Home
  15. Lemonade and Consequences

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