The Next(98)

By: Rafe Haze

The Princess pulled open her curtain. In her bed was another woman—tattooed and largish with cropped strawberry blond hair. I was slow on the uptake, but I realized as the Princess dressed herself in Levi’s and hooked that chain to her belt loop that Marzoli had known exactly what cropped hair and a long metal key chain signified. Was she biologically attracted to women, or had her experiences with men put her on any course that led to comfort? It probably made no difference in the end. We shared a similar story, and I could only hope that the Princess’s switch gave her the same relaxed bliss that I was feeling right now as Marzoli wrapped his arms around my chest and stomach in the sunlight.

The Beached Whale was awake and propped on her side as always, her pendulous breasts once again stretching down to the futon. Her eyes were fixed forward facing…

Fucking perfect!

She’d placed the Little Old Man’s painting in front of her television, so, once again, Marzoli and I could only see the back of it. Her eyes were alternately full of…of sadness…of wonder…of hope…of regret…of revelation. Her expression was similar to that of the Little Old Man’s last one. Marzoli and I were transfixed by this woman who was outwardly positioned as most of America on any given moment, but whose emotional journey was stratospheric. Where was she going? Where did she dream of going?

The sun gleamed on the gold frame and blinded us for a split second.

“Come here,” Marzoli said, pulling me back.

He walked to his pile of clothes and picked up his jeans.

I sighed. “I guess you’ve got to return home sometime.”

“You do too.”

What does that mean?

He pulled out of the pocket of his jeans an envelope and handed it to me. I opened it. In my hand was a printed United Airlines’ itinerary. He’d purchased two tickets to Sacramento, California.

“Sacramento’s an hour from Placerville,” he explained. “We’ve got to be at JFK at seven p.m. Tonight. Not a direct flight. Sorry. Unless you’ve got something better to do?”

I was stunned.

“Why?” I asked.

“A bag full of ashes. I’m ready to read my next book. And there’s an old man in a trailer who needs as much closure from you as you need from him,” he stated with that Marzoli definitiveness. “I think.”

“I can hardly make it to the stairs let alone to Placerville.”

Marzoli tossed my sweatpants into my arms and danced to the door. He opened it and tiptoed past Mrs. Abraham’s door to the head of the staircase.

“Come to me,” he mouthed in silence.

I looked at that beautiful Puerto Rican Sicilian in all his enthusiasm and encouragement and was flooded with a rush of realization. Yes, I want my brother’s ashes! Yes, I want our Valley of Adventure, our Castle of Adventure, and our Mountain of Adventure! Yes, I want Paul with me always! Yes, I want Palmer to know how much gratitude I have for his silent concern all these years! Yes, I want to listen to my Grandfather’s records and find wherever he rested to tell him I understand in the face of everything I knew he’d allowed to happen! Yes, I want our old red Swiss Army knives as well as all the secrets of our childhood with me, fully acknowledged and fully owned! And most of all, yes, I want to share all of this with this one phenomenal Puerto Rican Sicilian standing fifty feet away at the head of the stairs.

A few minutes later, I heard Minnie sounding the alarm with all her puppy perniciousness. For once I was absolutely elated to hear the sharp yelps of that little spitfire on paws, for this time Minnie was yapping for me.

There was a vast world out there. It was time to be part of it.

Yappity yap yap yap.


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