Just playing around with the imagination. Posting Chapters 1 and 2 of a story with no idea of where it will land…
Looking for Jesus
“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” Picasso
“No, you’re not.”
I stood my ground, “Yes, I am.”
Retirement was a real, first class, bitch. I knew it was coming. I had tried to get prepared for it. I bought and diligently worked through books on designing the next stage of my life. I colored mandalas. I tried making a leather belt in hopes that it would lead to a wallet and perhaps, one day, to a pair of sandals. I took a painting class. I even tried reading the bible all the way through. I got as far as where God created the world…the first version. I stunk at golf and I thought fishing stunk. I created a Facebook page, but had nothing to post. I created a blog site, but I had nothing to blog. I tried to learn how to play the guitar, but I couldn’t play an F chord so I said, “F it.”
I was lost and I was bored and I was anxious and I was getting depressed. After years of fighting that condition, I did not want to find myself back with a therapist who makes you talk for fifty minutes and then charges you for sixty minutes of listening. Who in the hell said that was o.k.? My life seemed to be centered upon visits to the doctor’s, the dentist’s, and attending somebody’s ‘celebration of life’ service. The last time I went to the doctor he said that I wasn’t going to win the swimsuit contest. It is not a good thing when your primary care physician starts making fun of you.
So there we were. When I told my wife I was thinking about getting a private investigator’s license, she, at first, just stared at me. I had seen that look many times before. I saw it when I told her I was going to start a worm farm. I saw it when I told her I was going to start a tree farm. I saw it when I told her I wanted a farm farm.
“You’re fuckin’ me.”
Unfortunately the combination of blood pressure pills, pills for high cholesterol, and blood sugar controlling pills had made her statement a near physical impossibility. I was too cheap, or too embarrassed, to pay for the boner pills.
“No, I am not,” I said. “I completed all the paperwork and Randy said I could set up an office at his place.”
“Randy, the massage therapist, spiritual healer, and psychic? He is going to expand into private investigations too? Perfect. Are you out of your mind? You’re kidding right? You didn’t even talk to me about this? Randy,… your cousin,… is an … idiot.”
I had expected that the conversation would go this way which is one reason why I had kept my plans to myself.
“Ok, first of all Randy is culturally engaged and … granted he does have an entrepreneurial spirit.” I said looking directly into her angry eyes. To break eye contact would mean she had won this contest of wills.
“I get it. You’re bored. Why don’t you write a book? Go volunteer at the homeless shelter. Start playing the guitar again. Go get a goddamn girlfriend. What do you know about investigations? You need a hip replacement. We gotta a dog to take care of. And, shit, you might get yourself killed.” She was about as angry as I thought she would be. I would say on a ten point scale, hmm, maybe 8.5 or so. I’ve seen 10 maybe about 3 times during our holy union. This was close but nothing I couldn’t handle.
“Look, I’ve told you. I don’t want to just live my life out like that dumbass we talked to in the parking lot with his customized van telling us that it cost a lot of money, but this was his last go around. I want to live, get up excited in the morning. Homeless people smell bad. I am a gagger, you know I can’t handle odors, like puke and piss and shit. We got enough retirement income. I don’t have to take on anything dangerous. Just a little whom is fuckin’ whom and maybe some workmen’s compensation fraud stuff. I’ll be taking a lot pictures, might get some titty shots. It could spice up our love life.” It is better than being an Uber driver.”
“It could use it and who said anything about being an Uber driver?”
“I’ll even start working out.”
She got quiet. I knew she was worried. She has always been worried about me which is why our marriage had lasted so long.
“Ok, so tell me just one thing. How does being a retired religious studies professor make you qualified to be a private investigator?”
“I’m smart? I don’t know…but here is the state license to proof it.”
She took the papers from my hand and just stared at them. She was pissed off, but also slightly impressed. It took the two of us to create one interesting life. When she did her crazy things, I performed the role of the grown up. When I went crazy, she was the momma. It created some epic disagreements through the years, but it worked for us.
‘Mark Chambers, licensed private investigator, State of California’
“So, you say you’re thinking about it and then you pull out the fucking papers to show me you already did it?”
“You know, you curse a lot for a grandmother.”
“And, you’re the fuckin’ reason why,” she said with equal emphasis on each word.
There was a sudden lull in the storm. She shook her head and then said, “You sure you don’t want to give that worm farm another try? Maybe you were ahead of your time.”
“I usually am baby. I love you.”
“No guns. No weapons. You promise me?”
“No guns, baby. Just a really cool Nikon camera.”
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Rooster,” he replied
“You have a girlfriend?”
“Ok, I’ll be your girlfriend.”
“No, You’re too old.” Rooster said.
“I look older than I am, but I am a good lover… if you’re a good boy. I haven’t seen you before. Where you …”
“No, No…You put that back you fucking sonuvabitch, you asshole!” the young man suddenly hollered to nobody while swinging his arms.
The woman paused, tilted her head a bit to her right, and ran her left hand through her stringy, dirty, blond hair. Although she had not met this particular one before, she knew him. She got off her bicycle, which was hooked up to a small cart full of aluminum cans, and she slapped him with her right hand across the left side of his face. Rooster just stared at her.
“You got your meds?” she asked.
“Ok, you stay with me now. We’ll get ‘em. My name’s Fat Shirley,” she said as she took Rooster’s hand and led him along the sidewalk. “We need to get your meds.”
Rooster obeyed. The sun obeyed too as it rose in the distance horizon, just beyond the slope of the eastern foothills. Fat Shirley yawned and then farted. It stunk.
I met Randy at the gun range.
One of the things my dear spouse did not know about Randy was that he had maintained his own private investigator license for many years. It wasn’t expensive to do. He said he liked to keep his options open and he had created a lot of options in his life. Yes, we are cousins, or better said, our mothers are first cousins.
Randy and I had been close for a lifetime. I was just two months older than him. I had spent my first two years of life living with him, our mothers, and Avo, our great-grandmother, in a Rancheria just outside of Yosemite National Park. Our white fathers did not marry our Indian mothers. With Avo’s deteriorating health and my eighteen year old mother’s long hours at piss poor jobs, I ended growing up with my father and his new family. Still, Randy and I stayed emotionally close through the years. My young mother? She got older and lived her life with new family. Our relationship had very few touch points.
Randy does have the ability to predict the future. I know this sounds weird, but I think he inherited this from Avo. And, just like Avo, he never told the future of our relatives.
I asked Avo once what her name meant. “It means the oldest and wisest of the tribe,” she solemnly told me. I believed her until one day, about thirty years later, Randy said Avo was full of shit and that it was just Portuguese for grandmother.
Although Randy and I went off to live quite different lives – me the life of the WASPs and Randy the life of a Miwok that included poverty, addiction, sisters marrying their sisters’ ex-husbands, and a longing for keeping the ancestors’ ways alive – I could not let go of that relationship with Randy. It was all that I had left of that part of my life. Randy with his long, slightly greying hair tied in a ponytail was the mirror I used to contemplate what my life might have been. I had chosen the life of the steady, stable, respectable college professor… with a state pension benefit adding up for each year I didn’t rock the boat.
Randy had a revenue stream from three sources of income. He was a licensed massage therapist, who had created a niche market for young women with firm breasts and slightly jiggly asses. He was very choosy about his clientele because often he would end up in an intimate relationship with them.
“I don’t rub men. I don’t rub old ladies. I don’t rub fat people.” he once told me.
His next income stream came from his fortune telling abilities. He concentrated on old, rich women as clients. They loved him and they were very generous with their tips. He told them just enough to leave them wanting more… an old show business trick.
His third source of income was as a spiritual…kind of guy. He would teach shamanism, charge for healings, and conduct workshops on medicinal uses of local plants. He occasionally would lead people out into the wilderness in search of their own visions. He did most of this work in the Silicon Valley, where the digital people, with an abundance of discretionary income, had created a yearning for something more mysterious, more analogous, something more infinite than just buying the next gadget or the next 900 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1 bath house for 1.2 million dollars.
Randy did have his rules. Alcohol had killed, in many different ways, the lives and spirits of his friends and our family members. Mushrooms and Peyote were a different story. He said they gave him a better erection. An odd thing about Randy, although usually his motives were not pure, mostly self-serving in fact, often he improved the life experiences of his clients. They loved him. It also kept him young looking. He was sixty years old, he looked forty. His massage clients were often in their mid-twenties. We, indeed, lived different lives, but I loved him.
With Randy’s lack of commitment to the white man’s version of truth, and with my above average IQ, it wasn’t hard proving to the state of California that I had enough “paid experience’ to sit for the two hour exam to be a licensed private investigator. The exam was like repeating the alphabet.
Randy insisted that I carry a weapon, a concealed one – for which he didn’t see any reason to get a concealed weapon permit for. But, I didn’t have one to conceal anyway, which is why were at the ‘Down Range’ gun range.
“What can I do for ya?” asked the man behind the counter. His hair was in an old-style crew cut. He looked about fifty, fifty five, a little paunchy and was probably a retired cop or an active one milking the disability pension fund.
“My cousin needs shooting lessons,” answered Randy.
The clerk looked me up and down, tightened his lips, nodded his head and said, “OK,” as if I was going to be a major project.
“What do you want to shoot cousin?” asked the clerk.
“Well, uh,” I started to answer until Randy jumped in.
“Just self-defense kind of shooting. You know, home invasion kind of protection.”
“Alright, we get a lot that kind of concerns around here, especially with the slime balls in this town” he said looking me over gain and then followed with, “You ever shoot a gun before?”
“Well, …kind of,” I answered.
“Oh he’s shot a gun before. one time, a .44 magnum,” Randy offered.
“A .44 magnum? The first time he shot a gun was a .44 magnum?” the clerk asked.
Randy was more than happy to tell the story.
“Yeah, we were kids, into Clint Eastwood movies, and I thought it would be cool to shoot one. So I got into my mother’s boyfriend’s drawer and gave it to Mark to shoot.”
“How old were you guys?”
Randy looked at me, wrinkled his nose, cocked his head sideways a bit and said, “Ah, I don’t know. Maybe we about eleven or so.”
“So you say he fired it?”
“You betcha he did.” Randy said with a slight chuckle.
“And what happened?” asked the clerk who seemed to have suddenly found us interesting, if not intelligent.
“What do you think happened?” Randy countered.
“You killed someone?”
“No, not that time. The recoil hit Mark right in his chin and knocked him out… cold. Avo was one pissed off Indian when she came running out of her cabin, after the gunshot and found her little white Indian boy laid out next to the pile of acorn with a gun next to his hand. She hit her dark Indian boy hard across the side of my head. So I pretended that she knocked me out too. Now, she had two kids laying on the ground with their eyes shut. Oh man did she lose it, huh Mark?”
“To be honest with you, I don’t remember much of that moment,” I said.
The clerk kept looking back at the two of us and finally said, “I don’t even want to ask who Avo was. Let’s pick out a training weapon for you. We’ll stay away from Dirty Harry’s gun.”
“I appreciate that,” I said.
The gun Randy selected for me was a Ruger LCR. It had a concealed trigger which Randy said would help in not getting it caught on my belt and then shooting a .357 load into my ass. I am going to come clean now; I was scared shitless when I fired it the first time in the range. They said it had a “manageable” recoil. I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I soon found that weighing two hundred pounds more than I did the last time I shot a gun was a big help.
Knowing I couldn’t bring the gun home, Randy decided we’d just keep it secured in the unlocked top drawer of his office desk. As far as my wife goes, well this would not be the first lie I had told her.
“You sit right here. Don’t move and I’ll get you some more blankets from my friend. It’s going to be cold today. He’s down over by the creek, on the other side of the freeway,” Fat Shirley said to Rooster as he leaned up against the slope of the concrete that supported the freeway overpass.
Rooster did as he was told, but kept his eyes on the three men staring at him as they sat against the opposite side of the matching sloping, concrete recliner.
The man in the middle, kept looking at Rooster, sizing him up, and then said, “Hey Shirl, is this your new boy?”
“No, I am not,” Rooster blurted out.
“Yes, he is,” said Fat Shirley, “Or he will be after tonight.”
The man on the left elbowed the inquisitor while the man on the right snorted with snot flying out of his nose, wiping it on his sleeve. Rooster noticed that the snot thrower had recently wet his pants.
When Fat Shirley returned, after her thirty minute journey, with three raggedy blankets, Rooster was gone and so was the man in the middle.
“Where the fuck is my boyfriend?” she asked the one on the left and the one on the right.
The one on the right shrugged his shoulders and answered, “Beats me. He and Tommy just got up and walked away together.”
“Well fuck me,” said Fat Shirley. This goddamn world is full of nuthin but unthankful mentally sick, lack of gratitootin, pieces of shit.”
The man on the left and the man on the right both nodded… more out of fear of Fat Shirley than in agreement.
“Sequoya, this is a friend of mine. Mark, Sequoya is a client of mine. I think you two need to talk. She knows about your occupation.”
I rose from my seat while quickly checking out Sequoya. She looked about thirty, a very young thirty. She had a hard body and a rather hard look about her. I understood immediately why she was a massage client of Randy’s…..