During his absence, John is generously allowing me to re-post my novel DINGO here at Kung Fu Monkey. I will be putting up a chapter a day until he returns. Enjoy.
- m a n
CHAPTER 2: LUNA
The drive up to Rick’s place in the hills always made me sick. Just after he bought the house with his ill gotten gains from his band’s over-hyped, over-marketed, and over-bought sophomore Disc, he drove me out to see it in his beautiful but nauseating ’70 Datsun 240 Z. All the smog combined with the pinball effects of winding up the hill at teeth-numbing speeds had me puking for an hour after we got there.
I took the last turn at the top of the hill and watched the rising sun crest over the black blocks of the city, her angel wings soiled and cheapened with the soot of 12 million get-away drivers. Rick’s house came into view out of the fog, its large glass panes sparkling like the last clean surface of an oversized ashtray.
I parked between a blue hatchback and Rick’s favorite toy: a 350 horsepower Impreza he had smuggled here from Japan. All his more expensive rides were in the garage, collecting dust and gaining vintage resale value.
I rang the bell. I waited and watched a couple of squirrels fight over a small treasure in the bushes. The door opened.
Her job as Rick’s assistant was to take care of his place while he was out being a rock star. She made sure all his bills were paid, his animals were fed, and that the subsequent fallout from any parties she might have in his absence didn’t leave any lasting damage.
She was pretty by most standards, gorgeous by others. Short with a tight schoolgirl body and raven hair that teased her avian shoulders. But by whatever standard, her beauty was like a rare and exotic bird she kept caged behind the bars of her perfect teeth. As soon as she opened her mouth it flew away.
“Want something to drink, Dingo? I just made a rutabaga and avocado smoothie with egg substitute. It’s great brain food.”
“No, thanks. My brain isn’t hungry.” I walked into the living room and cringed at the painting clinging to the wall above the grand piano. Rick simply had too much money and too little taste. He would buy “art” based on the gossip of some self-important intern fetching coffee at a museum who always knew of some Vincent van Gogh-ingNowhere destined to be the next big thing. Common sense should have told him that a life-sized acrylic of Winston Churchill giving birth to a Madonna figure beneath the Golden Arches would never be considered art in this or any other universe, but Rick was never one for exercising common sense. If he was, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Luna must have seen my reaction. “You need to relax, Dingo. It’s all that garbage you eat.”
“Yeah. Wanna tell me exactly what’s going on?”
“Sure. Here, taste this.” She held out a glass filled with a thick, mucous colored concoction. I took it from her and lifted it to my mouth. Anything to take my mind off the unsettling painting on the wall. After I took a swallow, I stared as hard as I could at mother Winston, bloated and suffering with labor pains. Anything to take my mind off the taste in my mouth.
“Well? How is it? How’s it taste?”
“Like a diaper.”
“There’s no need to be mean. Come on.”
She lead me to the den where a reality show was droning away on a larger-than-life plasma screen. “More ‘brain food?’” I asked nodding at the television.
“Just something I TeraTellied last night. Here. I think that’s what you’re looking for.” She pointed to a stack of papers on the coffee table. I sat down on the couch, the leather creaking and whining like Julie’s pants from the night before. I shook my head trying to get the pleasant-yet-horrifying memories out of my head. I took a long gulp of green goo. Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill.
“This the guy he sold it to?”
“Yep. Peter Waciejowski. He was in town with a couple of days to burn, so he decided to do a little car shopping. Rick didn’t really want to sell it, but he needed to make room for his Enzo.”
“Why didn’t he just build a new garage?”
“He’s thinking about moving.”
“What, this place not big enough for him?” I watched a couple argue on the screen in high definition. Nothing like HDTV to see the veins and spittle fly when two people go at it in earnest.
“I called Peter’s wife to get his cell phone number, but he’s turned it off. She thinks he’s planning on stopping in Vegas to do a little gambling and doesn’t want her checking up on him. She was a really sweet lady. A very old soul. She told me she knew the guy who--”
“You didn’t tell her what was in the box, did you?”
“Do I look stupid?”
I took a sip of sludge.
“Peter probably got to Vegas this morning. I’ll keep trying his cell, find out exactly where he is. Rick said you could take any of his cars you’d like. Except the Enzo. He’s still breaking that in.”
“I’ll stick with my Jeep, thanks.”
“Suit yourself. I MapQuested directions.” Luna displayed a couple of print-outs, then started tracing several lines on a foldout map, explaining the astrological implications of each one. Then she devolved into a rambling diatribe about the choices we all have to make in life and that I was somehow ‘chosen’ to make this journey. A journey through the desert in the middle of August. Yeah, I was chosen all right. Because God hates me.
“Yeah, thanks, Luna. I’m sure I can find Vegas, no problem.”
“You know what you need, Dingo?” she asked.
“A sane girlfriend? A life? Hope?”
“An animal spirit guide,” she said.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“No, come on. It’ll be fun!”
She muted the television then grabbed my hands and pulled me off the couch. Luna then sat me down on the floor in front of her, her legs crossed, knees touching mine. “All right. Now, each person has a different animal spirit guide. An animal unique to them. Some people have lions, dolphins, monkeys--”
“Hush. If you don’t learn to relax, you’ll be dead before you’re forty.”
“All right, fine. But if my spirit guide is a ferret, I’m going to kill you.”
“Never mind, let’s just go.”
“Okay, close your eyes.”
As I did, I became acutely aware of her hands, how soft they were and the way they were nearly engulfed inside mine. I could hear her breathing slow, then become steady and rhythmic. My own fell in time with hers and I could feel our combined exhales stirring the hair on my arms.
“Now, Dingo, I want you to think of a place. A place deep in the forest. The sun is shining overhead, the soft breeze rustling the leaves. You can smell flowers and honeysuckle. You are at peace.”
I was surprised when the image came to my mind rather quickly. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, though it usually involved bikini clad playmates stranded on a desert island and me with the only bottle of Evian. But never about forest breezes, rustling leaves, or honeysuckle for chrissakes. Must have been something in that damn drink.
The first thing that came was the sky. That soft, pale blue that you can only get with Photoshop. There were a few clouds, rather just the idea of clouds floating by. But the trees were the most vivid. Massive oaks towered over me like angry parents, their rustling leaves harping at me with serpentine curses.
“Across from you is a small stand of bushes. They begin to rustle as your animal spirit guide moves behind them. Relax, let your breathing summon your guide into the clearing. Call her forth.”
We sat there, holding each other’s hands for what seemed like half an hour while I watched a stand of bushes with my mind’s eye sway in some imaginary wind. But nothing came out. No monkey, no lion, not even a ferret. Nothing.
When she let go of my hands she asked, “So? Did you communicate with it? What kind of guide do you have?”
“None. Nothing came out, Luna. Is this your way of telling me that your Earth Goddess hates me too?”
“Nothing? That’s strange. Well, sometimes it takes a few times before your guide shows up.”
“Well, I’ve got GPS.”
“That’s not a spirit guide, Dingo. But don’t worry, yours will show up.”
“I’m sure it will.”
I stood up and let the blood flow back into my legs. The giant lithograph of Rick’s band’s logo hung over the plasma screen like some lackluster hieroglyph. A giant letter ‘P,’ yellow and blocked in black on a white background with an oversized period next to it. P·
“Why on earth would they name their band P-dot?” I asked myself.
“You know their label is having a contest to see who can figure out what it means.”
It was one of those mysterious things that fans argued over endlessly on blogs, in chatrooms, on fansites. They all seemed to know what it meant or where it came from. None of them did. Not even close. But all that mystery and speculation still didn’t change the fact that it was a stupid fucking name for a band.
“All right, Luna, I’m going to get on the road.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll call you as soon as I get a hold of him.”
I stared at the printout for a moment. “Are we sure this guy’s going to Vegas?”
“That’s what his wife thinks. Why?”
The longer this guy had the box, the greater the chance he’d open it. And if he didn’t go to Vegas, that meant I’d have to track him down cross country. There wouldn’t be time for any detours.
I pointed to the maps splayed out on the coffee table. “Well if he doesn’t stop in Vegas, he’ll probably head straight home. Which means he’ll most likely take this route instead.”
She watched as I ran my finger along a red line that wound across the map. And then stopped. “Oh. That sucks,” she said.
“Yeah. Little bit. Little bit.”
We both stared in silence at my finger as it rested where the red line stopped at the Indiana border. Fucking Indiana.
Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill.