Fred had been fooling with dimplechin homecoming king Pat Martin
since, he claimed, eighth grade, but he had never had done to him
what he let Levi Weaver do. He emerged from that bedroom
looking like a candle melted to stiff puddle, like a girl
on a Pregnant? Need Help? billboard, like a boy so long in love
with a girl so broken he’d given up on love or girl or both.
Levi Weaver looked like a stray tom who’d just sprayed every shrub.
We’d met him on the men’s side of a compounded gay bar: Keith’s
and Fat Lady’s, a stuccoed disco-throb stone’s-throw from the traintracks
sort of place set low in a copse of crowded sumac, and which
the somber Cuban bouncer (who would become a friend) informed us
was a cruise bar and did we know what a cruise bar was? We both
lied, kids jumping from a trestle as if their lives were a gauge
for reckoning the drop. Levi Weaver folded himself into the back seat
like a greased jackknife into its sheath. He’d followed us out of the bar
to sell us Quaaludes. He said he love-loved Fred’s dirty blond curls
and the bucket seats in my dead father’s Dodge Dart. Offered me
a hundred-twenty dollars for them. Each? I asked. No, for the both.
If I agreed he’d fetch a wrench from his Mustang right over there
and unbolt them quick as unlacing skates. But how, I asked,
would Fred and I make it home after? Why simple: he’d give me
a pair of milk crates and a one-by-six the width of the car. Yeah
and my mother, widowed with five, me the oldest, the only driver,
would give me a two-by-four to the side of the head, no both
sides. And how then would I make it home, guilt a drogue so great
it could drag any ship to the bottom? The thing about jumping
is you don’t know until you’ve hit how far you’ve fallen.
How far we’ve fallen Fred you know better than I do, standing
Here at the edge of your grave, measuring the width of the gape,
not I admit asking, Is there room, is there room for the both?
That car had a V-8 engine, four on the floor, brown graduation
tassel, and virtual immunity from speeding tickets because my father
had been a cop and the cops all knew the white Dodge, the deleterious
daughter. But somebody should have pulled me over; somebody
should have given me a good talking to: You stay away from
Levi Weaver and his ilk. Time you and your little friend here both
started learning words like ilk and drogue, like protean; started wondering
was Fred a damsel in distress, you not knight materiel not speeding
to the rescue in sixty bucks (street value) worth of bucket seat you knew
to save. Protean: Variable, from Proteus, Greek sea god, prophet
whose divination you’d win if you bound him and kept him bound
as his form flickered, like: tiger, boar; water, fire; me, Fred; me, fred, both.