by Chuck Rosenthal
Of course her car wouldn’t start. She walked to the road and hitched a ride to town from a duck hunter in a pick-up truck, middle aged, red checked jacket, billed cap.
“Bird girl?” he said.
“You shoot them?” she said. “Love them?”
“Just ducks. Doves sometimes. Wild pigeons.”
“They have to be in flight. Can’t shoot’em in the water or out of a tree. Can you fly?”
She held out her arms.
“You look a little like a bird,” he said.
“You look a little like a bird,” said Diosa.
“Big Bird,” said the duck hunter, and laughed.
“So shoot me.”
“You ain’t flying,” the duck hunter said. He laughed again.
“Stop the truck,” said Diosa. And he did. She opened the door and stepped out, raised her arms. Went up on her toes.
“You ain’t flying,” said the duck hunter.
Diosa began to bounce on her toes, delicate, ballet-like, soft, graceful, it almost seemed as if she gained more air with each bounce. A breeze swept through the pines like a song. “A man once loved a woman so much,” sang Diosa to the tunefull wind, “that he killed her, so he could know for sure no other man could have her.”
“Let me get my gun in case you take off,” said the duck hunter.
But by the time he got in and out of the truck she was long gone.
At the auto repair shop, Raven crawled out from underneath an old Buick. She wore black pants, a black t-shirt, black sneakers, black longshoreman’s cap, tattoo of a raven on her left bicep. “You got past the duck guy,” she said.
“Flew,” said Diosa. “Away.”
“Nobody gets out unscathed,” said Raven. “Want me to go fix your car?”
“Flight is exhausting,” Diosa said.
“For now,” said Raven. “But orgasm will never be the same.”
They got in the tow truck. Nice big truck. Diosa put her feet on the dash.
“You got nice feet,” Raven said.
“I still got feet,” said Diosa.
“And a new beak,” said Raven.
Diosa checked the rear view mirror. Her nose seemed a little more hawk-like. “There’s always plastic surgery,” she said.
“You look more beautiful than ever,” said Raven. “I majored in engineering.”
“Engineering is poetry.”
“I’m a mechanic.”
“Mechanism is poetry,” said Diosa.
“My older sister was a poet,” said Raven. “She ran away to Santa Catalina and became a flying fish.”
“She’ll land in my boat one day,” said Diosa.
“Maybe she will,” Raven said.
“Or be eaten by a shark.”
“We’ve all already been eaten by sharks,” Raven said. She reached the turn-off for her mother’s cottage and drove through a junkyard of small cars, a flock of junk. Nothing more need be said, really. “Do you think there’s more than this?”
“Do you mean after this?” said Diosa.
“I mean everywhere.”
They reached Diosa’s white 2002. They got out of the truck. Raven opened the BMW’s hood, reattached the distributor cap. “The hills are alive,” said Raven. She kissed Diosa on the lips. It was a soft, experienced kiss. “Nice,” said Raven. “Want to make love?”
“We already have,” whispered Diosa. “A thousand times.”
“This time,” said Raven.
Diosa started her car. She stepped out and kissed Raven again.
“This time,” said Diosa, “I’m saving your life.”
“This time,” said Raven, “I’m saving your life.”
And so they did, there, in the woods, but not like birds, nor spirits, but bodies, in the way we save and destroy our lives each time we make love, falling deeper into our souls and closer to nothing; something a woman can do and survive and a man cannot, even if he thinks he does. They lay with each other till morning, dressed, and parted. Raven stepped back. When she raised her arms, black feathers fell. “Well caw-caw to that,” said Raven. “I’ll come back later for my truck.” She hopped twice, spread her wings, and took off, a black bird in the blue sky. Though in minutes it seemed the sky was full of stars, then clouds, and then the sky fell in sheets of rain.
There were thousands of Elvis impersonators, but this one really looked like Elvis, and not the old, fat one either who, in her poetic heart, Diosa really preferred, but the young one, thighs hard, shirt sleeves rolled up at his dancing biceps, belly muscles vibrating. This was Graceland before Disney got hold of it (before Morgan-Stanley could bring meaning to your money) – not that Disney doesn’t have its own ghosts – no Lisa Pressley headsets, no sixteen gift shops, each placed before and after a Graceland divided into eight separate exhibits; Graceland is here yet a mansion filled by Elvis, and one girl guide walks you through and talks: the gold and black leather paneled three TV basement – he could watch all three networks at once – the jungle room with its twisted wooden throne; you couldn’t go upstairs where he died on the toilet (just like Jack Kerouac) (and you still can’t); the memorabilia room had his picture where he’s totally fucked up getting his anti-drug sheriff badge from Nixon (now it’s gone), there was porno film theater (now it’s his karate workout gym); you didn’t have to pay extra to see his cars or get in his private jet (gift shops now on either side of both); there were horses, some that he owned, still alive in the pasture beyond. Diosa and Kevorkian were on the last tour of the day. The setting sun reddened. The group had moved on while Diosa lingered at Elvis’ grave, and it was the same, as when in Teotihuacán she stood impossibly atop El Templo de la Luna, her arms, her wrinkled hands, reached out to La Avenida del Muerte to the giant Templo del Sol; the setting sun emblazoned a red ruby on her finger; Roscoe bought it for her at the Anapurna Hotel in Kathmandu the night the Maoists bombed it and the hotel fell around them in ashes and he stripped her there in the hot gray snow and they made love like fallen angels in the ashes; now he’s dead and a hummingbird has flown to the base of Quetzalcoatl’s temple and alighted on the stone serpent’s head; the feathered serpent, a blue shadow, crawled up the steps, flew to El Templo del Sol, perched atop and turned; even he would have her and die, his skeletal tongue a bone licking her pelvis, the last thing of him to die; here she decides once again on her nothingness, deep nothingness, not nothingness holier than thou; deeper; Quetzalcoatl inhales and stops the sun, the earth ceases to roll and the hummingbird, Huitzilopochtli, sword laden, flies to her fingertips; she thinks, end, end, but it does not end.
The fringe on Elvis’ jacket, thrown over his shoulder, falls like down, then flutters in the wind. I met your friend there in 1957, he says. She knows the story. Kevorkian met him then, in San Antonio, when she was Miss Texas.
“Hubba hubba,” Diosa said.
“Love me tender,” said Elvis. “Here on my grave.”
Okay, fuck it, he was already dead. And it wouldn’t be the first time she’d done it on a grave or with a ghost. Ghosts were neither mortal nor immortal. Ghosts crossed time like bottles on the sea. They fell into families, into tribes, into loneliness. There could be as many Elvis ghosts as there were Elvis impersonators, and not the ghosts of impersonators, but ghosts who were impersonators, for who would come back as a ghost of herself?
“Perhaps,” said Diosa, “we’re trapped innately, gnat-like, in the middle of great vacant signs.”
“Maybe we ourselves are the vacant signs,” Elvis said. “Thank you very much.”
If that wasn’t enough to convince her that this wasn’t Elvis.
Back in the car, searching for a campground, Kevorkian said, “I fucked him in ’57. I was young. Impressionable.”
Diosa put on her headphones to listen to “Modern Love.” “Was he poetical?” she said.
“In a lithe, visceral sort of way,” said Kevorkian. She yawned.
They camped at Horr Lake, south of town. They had to pay for their campsite. They had to buy wood for their fire and then a license to burn it. Kevorkian gave the ranger another five.
“Where’s the license,” she said.
“I’ll remember you,” the ranger said.
“I’ll remember you,” said Kevorkian.
“I hope you do,” said the ranger.
Later, by the fire, they ate tinned smoked oysters and drank red wine.
Diosa kept the wine bottle in a brown bag. “Think this is a dry county?”
“We didn’t buy a drinking license,” said Kevorkian. “Why do I find all this so suspicious?”
“He’s going to show up here,” said Diosa.
“Oh God,” said Kevorkian. “Have you ever got laid really good? I wouldn’t mind him showing up if I knew he could do it.”
“You can’t tell by looking?”
“Well not him,” said Diosa.
That’s when he showed up. He stopped his truck in front of their fire and got out. He was young, African-American, but this being Memphis, everybody in the campground was African-American. “Need help with that fire?” the ranger asked.
The two women looked at their blazing little fire and then looked back at him.
“Will it cost another five dollars?” Kevorkian said.
He pointed toward their tent. “You got a skunk in your groceries,” he said.
Sure enough, a black and white tail twitched at the top of their grocery bag wherein lay their hot dogs, buns, coffee and donuts.
“The old skunk in the bag routine,” said Kevorkian.
Diosa said, “Does this trick work in bars?”
“Do you want me to get that skunk out of your bag or not?” said the ranger.
That was a good question because it was hard to know what was being negotiated. The ranger stepped toward the bag, grabbed the skunk tail and flung the skunk into the air, skunk stink following like a putrid rainbow. The skunk hit the g round stinking and running.
“It still stinks,” said Kevorkian.
“Not as much as it would have,” said the ranger. He got back in his truck. “White chicks,” he said and drove off.
The next day they ate spaghetti in St. Louis. In Topeka every bar was a strip club, which is what Bill Burroughs told them in a café in Lawrence where they found him asleep at a corner table. “A hornets’ nest of pornography lunch fests,” drawled Burroughs. “Businests. Businessmen gone wild. Unfortunately it’s very conventional stuff.”
“I was Pheda Lamort’s roommate,” Diosa told him. Pheda had sent him a book of porno poems that Burroughs loved.
“That girl had talent. What happened to her?”
“She became a mountain.”
“I’m familiar with that fate,” said Burroughs. “It can happen when your back is turned.”
So for lunch they watched strippers in Topeka, girls dancing naked on the bar.
“Poor things,” said Kevorkian.
“All that love,” said Diosa. “This is why I’m not a Christian.”
They turned down dozens of free drinks, made it to west Kansas amidst spreading golden fields of sunflowers.
“Well there, Oz makes sense,” Kevorkian said. Looking for a motel, they stopped in Goodland, a town that had nothing in it, a dead traffic light swinging in the wind at the center of town. A cow stood in the street. Tall, silver grain silos towered around them, rusted train cars and train tracks. It was on of the new dead cities of the west. There are, in fact, many.
“An island of nothing floating on nothing,” said Kevorkian.
“Just like life itself,” said Diosa, thinking presciently or remembering the future, that feeling, knowing you knew something you weren’t ready to know.
“Milk a cow?” said Kevorkian.
“Rob a bank?” Diosa said.
Well they’d need to find a bank. They strolled down the vacant middle of the ghost streets.
“Is emptiness the gift of the dead?” said Diosa. “Brown owls in a blue evening. Blue pollens. Brown trees.”
Two poets in a ghost town. What better? What worse?
“Do you ever think about Neal Cassady?” Kevorkian said to the wind.
“Je pense a Dean Moriarty,” said Diosa. “No.”
He was born in Salt Lake City,” said Kevorkian. “Mormon Central. A tremendous irony, don’t you think?”
“Not half as much now as when we get there. He died on railroad tracks like Anna Karenina.”
“In Mexico,” said Kevorkian.
“A brakeman. A lover.”
“Fucked everybody,” said Diosa.
“Everything unfolds,” said Kevorkian.
“Everything unfolds and folds and unfolds.”
“Why am I feeling we shouldn’t go to Salt Lake?” said Kevorkian.
“Don’t have your second thoughts first,” said Diosa, rather uncharacteristically, but Kevorkian could bring that out in you. “First your first thoughts, then your second thoughts. That’s logic. Look, there’s a bank.”
A little brick building, a sign atop saying Bank of Goodland, and sure enough a man inside, a young man, though short and thick, a reddish-blond buzz-cut, black glasses, he stood in front of the bank counter, staring left as if waiting for a bus or a train. The women walked in, Diosa holding the door. “Holy smokes,” the young man said, “it’s my lucky day.”
“It’s your unlucky day,” said Diosa.
“Give us your cash,” Kevorkian said.
The young banker pulled out his wallet and emptied it onto the floor. A tangle of bills fell like moths, flittering, landing, fading away.
“Bank money?” Kevorkian said.
“We only got ghost dollars here,” said the young banker. “Let me buy you girls a beer.”
“Ghost beer?” Diosa said.
The banker put his wallet back in his pocket and headed out the door. They followed. The sign atop the bank now said Ghostland.
“That said Goodland,” said Kevorkian.
“Only to the uninitiated,” said the young banker. “I never understood the lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ either, but then I’m not a ghost.”
“Songwriters thinking ahead to their ghostliness,” Diosa said.
“Maybe I’m a ghost after all,” he said, “though really, how would I know? Do you think ghosts are like misty wisps in space?”
“The ones I’ve seen,” said Kevorkian.
“Those aren’t ghosts. Those are visages,” the young banker said. He rubbed his buzz cut with his hands as they followed him down the naked street. A train whistled, then they could hear its black rumble. “That’s it,” said the banker. “The train of the past. Quite visceral in its way, not a wisp.”
On the nearby train tracks, beneath the silos, the tracks hissed and the air rumbled, the click-click-click of the passing cars.
“Empty, of course,” said the banker.
“Or full of ghosts?” said Kevorkian. “Does it stop at graveyards?”
“Undoubtedly. But don’t go Cartesian or Tibetan with it,” said the banker, rubbing his head again. “I’ve done it. You just end up where you started. The question is: why is all this in front of your face?”
“Why what?” said Diosa.
“That’s the answer.”
“What’s the question?”
“Right,” said the banker, “Gertrude Stein. It’s the not there there and it ends there. Let’s get those beers.”
They came to an old, crumbling warehouse with corrugated metal walls and entered through a tiny door. Inside, a beer hall full of men, not businessmen like in Topeka, men in jeans and shirts and overalls, no naked dancing women; no women at all. All of them turned at once and said in unison, “Girls!” A juke box came alive playing “Hotel California.”
The young, stocky banker rubbed his head and looked at Diosa. “I’m not making this up, you are,” he said. “Are you a surrealist?”
“Not yet,” she said.
“That train is someone else’s memory,” he said. “Not yours.”
“Whose?” said Diosa.
They sat. The banker went to the bar and came back with three bottles of Budweiser.
“A couple came by here on motorcycles. The girl was really young. They spent the night in a sunflower field. Someone drove through the field in his pick-up and killed the girl.
“Messy?” said Kevorkian.
“Kansas,” said the banker. “I’m not from here. Minnesota.” He told them he’d moved there with his wife who got a job in a federal prison some seventy miles north. Ghostland was cheap. There were empty houses, sort of, you could just move into but for the ghostly recriminations. He waved toward the bar. “They shoot anything that moves. I think they all shot each other.”
“But not you,” said Kevorkian.
“How would I know anymore.”
“Hasn’t been home for awhile.”
“I can imagine,” Kevorkian said.
“Imagine away.” He double rubbed his head again. “Started hearing the train after the biker, the guy who lived, took off. Said the girl died everywhere they went. The girl follows him. The train follows him.”
“Stay away from the tracks,” said Diosa. “That’s my philosophy of life.”
“You have a philosophy of life?” said Kevorkian.
Every man in the room turned toward them and shouted in unison, “The train!”
“You wouldn’t want to take me with you,” said the young banker. “You can understand.”
“We’re stuffed to the gills,” Kevorkian said.
“I can make myself very tiny,” said the desperate young banker. He pulled out a blues harp. “And entertaining.”
It’s inevitable that if you’re to have two women driving cross-country then at some point there’ll be a man involved, the problem being that the banker, whose name was Glen, however convoluted and obscure, even potentially ghostly, he might be, was unassuming in every way, about as sexy as a sunflower seed. Maybe he was violent. We’ll see. But he was a good packer, having once worked in warehouse when on a trip to New York City he was fleeced of everything he owned by a wizened and infamous prostitute who convinced him in an hour that she was a wealthy widow and that she loved him and would give him everything she owned rather than die without his love. She couldn’t bring him right home to her house in New Rochelle because her ailing mother was staying with her there, but she took him to a hotel somewhere on Houston. Got him drunk, drugged him, and left him with nothing but his boxers. He didn’t even get laid. On the street like that, in lower Manhattan, he fit right in, but for being recognized by Roscoe’s younger brother, Roland, who not so many years previous had the same thing happen to him. Now Roland managed a furniture warehouse in Long Island City manned by a dozen other past victims of the White Widow, Roland having taken it upon himself to hire anybody he found down to their underpants on the streets of lower Manhattan. You can imagine the stories in that warehouse; it was like the Decameron. Anyway, that’s where Glen, the young banker, learned to pack so good. He rearranged the trunk and back seat of Diosa’s 1969 BMW 2002 until there was a tiny space behind the driver and slipped right in. They headed west, the shadows of ghost trains rumbling behind them, yet as Diosa drove through the flat and rolling plains of sunflowered west Kansas, she thought of the dead girl, the motorcycle rider who died under the wheels of a pick-up truck – where were the female ghosts of Ghostland? – behind her, Glen the banker said, “At the hair salon, but you can’t get a beer at the hair salon,” though she bet you could get a beer there, and a shot of tequila, too; she wondered if they shouted like a Greek chorus like the men or hissed in whispers in some language of women.
“We should go back,” she said.
“Let’s just get to Denver,” said Kevorkian.
“Would the girl be there?” said Diosa. “The motorcyclist?”
“No,” said Glen. “She’s not that kind of ghost.”
“The train,” she said.
“You’re babbling,” said Kevorkian.
Diosa thought of the fine line between the inevitable and the impossible; she felt the road beneath her weaving back and forth across that line. She remembered a future dream she would have in Salt Lake City. She awoke in a one bedroom apartment, a bathroom and a hot plate; she lived with three cats who sent her their dreams: a female tabby dreamed she was a wild horse; a male tuxedo cat dreamed of trains in the night, trains that stopped at graveyards like train stations, ghosts boarding and departing; a giant orange cat dreamed that it snowed and snowed, the night quieted, the air filled with silent white, and in the morning when it stopped a knock came on Diosa’s door and when she opened it, a man stood there, blond and blue eyed, the shadow of a beard – he was not the greatest living poet in America – and she took him in her arms and brought him inside and there, on the floor, made love to him.
“Let’s go to Vegas,” Glen said.
“A bit out of the way,” Kevorkian said.
“We’ll lose a day,” said Glen. “What’s a day?”
But a time would come, certainly it would come, when a day would mean everything; she thought of time, men’s time with its moments ticking inexorably forward, consecutive, abrupt, causal; and women’s time, like Woolf’s, years collapsing into seconds, seconds expanding into decades, a birth, a life, a death in a blink; she sees herself in thirty years, sitting across from her lover; they had a daughter who grew up and moved away to an invisible city; their own lives now parenthetical, she turns to him; I will grow old and die alone, she says and he says, I live as if I never happened at all; lives disappearing inside lives, the world crowded with unreachable memories, invisible memories, not dreams, memories of dreams, not Einstein, not time stretching on the back of space with its spontaneous certainty; Vishnu awakens and the cosmos disappears, reappears in his milky millennial blink, shivers, shimmers under his half-closed, half-open lids; she hung a left, bending the car south.
Without any irony Vegas dutifully disregarded time and even temperature. There was no sky. They got a room in the Oriental Palace for $18, just in case. Glen pulled out his harmonica. “I’m going to busk for a few bucks, then make a million,” he said. Kevorkian, already disenchanted, planned to window shop, kitty-corner, at Caesar’s Palace. Diosa, colored scarf wrapped around her head, red hair flowing out, walked the strip, felt a slot machine inside the Flamingo and danced in, not danced, it just looked like a dance to the manager who over-saw the help who scanned the gambling floor with cameras in the ceiling above; now, of course, inevitably, here in a casino, his chance desire an allegory of destiny. Diosa knew she’d be good at slots. How can you be good at slots? The surveillance manager, his heart like a swan, sent an arrow down as she approached a machine, fruits and bars, and felt an intimacy there, they both did, as she put a quarter in the machine and pulled the handle (that’s how it was done then); three cherries; eight quarters clanged down. Three more quarters, three bars; the machine rioted and she had a hundred bucks. Diosa filled two big plastic cups and sat. The manager was at her side.
He was handsome in his way, at forty. A dark, full head of hair falling slightly over his ears, brown eyes that reflected the despair sagging all around him, the aisles of people repetitiously pouring money into the machines; you could hear the cheery blinging and donging of falling coins everywhere, but you couldn’t see it anywhere. He had a Flamingo badge shaped like a flamingo on his suit jacket that said Ron Cotto.
“Even when they win,” he said to Diosa, “they’ve already lost more than they could ever win back, and so they’ll lose that too. Not an old, tired metaphor. Reality.”
It wasn’t as if she knew of all the deaths that followed her love, not yet, besides, love follows death and death follows love, this was enough to know. She met his stare. He fell into her eyes, even in this light bluer than a star. He’d left a wife and child in New Jersey. Failed as a stand-up comic in New York. Took a job as a personnel manager at the Big Apple Circus. He jumped the circus while it was wintering in South Carolina where he met a blonde motel lounge singer named Bonnie, fell into sex, not love, and traveled with her here because she wanted to perform in Vegas, but she didn’t make it; not at all; she left him for a gold mine foreman from Rock Springs, Wyoming. Just as well, so he came to Vegas himself. He could play the bass and got a job with a Bruce Springstien impersonator, and even if the band was pretty good, it was too early for that to catch on, though he did get laid a lot. Now this. He told her this as he walked with her to the bar.
He was, in his way, a charismatic. He emitted charisma, and it got him this far, a god of gambling, one of many, but one of them, and now, at forty, looking back and looking ahead, urged by desperation, at the edge or end of his banal success, insipidly and momentously unfulfilled.
Diosa, her hand now on his arm, stood on a cusp as well, but a woman lived on cusps, loved on them, something a man would never understand. And she knew what it meant to accept a drink. But what would it mean to accept a man, an ordinary man, this man, for a night, a night of affection, warmth, with luck some adoration, an orgasm, mythical whispers of love and plans, as real as anything else that had ever happened and now was gone, as real as anything that might happen but did not.
He cashed her quarters. As they reached the bar, her arm on his, his life was exploding like an asterisk. He wanted to ask her if she believed in love at first sight, but she was too savvy, he could see that; she ordered a gin martini, dry, twist, a drink she’d learned from Swift, a real drink, not a girly drink; his brow bent and she saw it. He drank scotch, neat.
“I’m wise for my years,” she said to him.
“I’m falling in love,” he said, but his tone was ambiguous enough; he might have said it a thousand times before, though even if he had, even if he’d said it a thousand times, half meaning it and half not, this time he meant it.
She said, “I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Maybe you won’t,” he said. “Maybe you’ll stay here. Maybe we’ll run away.”
She liked that. And seeing she could never love him opened the possibility for love, if only for a night. She thought now of how many men she had ever really loved, though now, looking back, it was impossible to tell; how did you gauge? by duration? intensity? She’d been married to Swift. Hadn’t she loved him at times? And Hoppie, her first. Was it her love that killed them or her consent? Weren’t we dead the moment we fell in love?
“I could make you rich,” Ron Cotto said.
“Without risking your job?”
“I’d risk anything.”
“Career is a dirty word,” he said.
She worried that he wasn’t rough enough around the edges. He believed, in that moment, that he really would do anything for her. She saw him falling into her, cocooning into her complexities; he might emerge depressed, ruined, or transformed; he might not emerge. That again.
“Midnight at Caesar’s. Cleopatra’s Barge,” he said. He kissed her forehead. Her lips.
She had to admit, it felt good.
She found Kevorkian in the Forum, staring at a window of shoes.
“I’m already too old to wear most of them,” Kevorkian said. “But not you. You have great legs.”
“Let’s get out of here before I kill somebody,” said Diosa.
In the room Glen was counting out a stack of bills. His busking was a disaster. He couldn’t really play the harmonica that well. But poking from the inside of his pocket it looked like a gun. “You just have to pick a winner,” he said. “No sense holding up a sad person.”
“It’s hard to believe,” said Kevorkian.
“Everything is hard to believe,” said Diosa.
Glen gathered his cash. “This is not ghost money!” he said.
“Why didn’t we pick up a handsome, romantic young drifter?” Kevorkian said.
“With a big dick?” said Glen.
“Maybe,” said Kevorkian.
“I have money now,” said Glen. “That’s almost as good.”
“Almost,” said Diosa.
They crossed the northwest corner of Arizona along the Virgin River Canyon, into Virgin, Utah where a thousand Mormons died of starvation when Brigham Young divided his territory into quadrants and sent his colonists into the barren wilds without even knowing what was where. Now there were only a few abandoned shacks. Talk about red cliffs and ghosts.
St. George was mobbed with women and girls in bonnets and pioneer dresses.
“This bodes ill,” Kevorkian said.
“Time for me to fess up,” said Glen. “I’m an outcast from a polygamist colony.”
And what was that. It took Glen a while to explain it. Now you can just go watch back episodes of Big Love.
“I wasn’t planning it, but now that I’m back I think I’m going to kill my uncles and fathers,” said Glen.
“It’s hard to keep it all straight,” he said. “That’s how I got thrown out.”
“Not straight enough,” said Diosa.
“And liberate the women?” said Kevorkian.
“And take over!” said Glen, rubbing his head. “Why liberate them? They’re pre-oppressed.”
“So we picked up a murderer after all,” said Kevorkian.
“He’s not sexy,” said Diosa.
“Not yet!” said Glen.
And that was that for Glen, a red herring of life.
Diosa and Kevorkian headed north, Cedar City, Richfield, Nephi, Heber City. Following the river, the gorge; not yet fall, the sun poured on the pine forests that spread on the mountains.
A car passed them with a bumper sticker: “Yup, urine Utah.”
“Salt Lake City,” said Kevorkian.
“Here we come,” said Diosa.
“And what about the wife?” Kevorkian finally said.
“I don’t want to be his wife.”
“Just his queen.”
“Of poetry,” Diosa said.
“Maybe this was all a little rash,” said Kevorkian.
“A big rash,” said Diosa.
“A 2,500 mile rash,” said Kevorkian.
They mowed into Salt Lake. They found Kevorkian’s rented house, across the street from a huge cemetery. Diosa had a room attached to the back, but she didn’t go in just yet. She walked across the street and scaled the graveyard wall, stared across the dead quiet, the obelisks of Mormon elders surrounded by the tiny markers of women that said only “Mother,” and the smaller still graves of dozens of children. Mother. Was that enough to live by? To die? Did the ghost train stop here? She felt a blue aura rise from her forehead. A song, Annette Funacello, singing “How will I know my love? How will I know my darling?” She felt like Snow White waking up from the dead. She went back to the house.
“I’ll never write a poem for anyone I love,” she said to Kevorkian.
“I’m going now,” Diosa said.
“Maybe I’ll just move to San Francisco,” Kevorkian said.
“Next stop, the future,” said Diosa. Anyway, who knew? Twenty-six years old, she though she might know. She found Stephen M_____’s home in the Avenues. Straightened her scarf. Checked her eye shadow. Walked to his door.