Red is playing volleyball and he doesn't remember
just how he got here or where he is going next but you never know
where it starts and where it is going to end so he just gets into
the rhythm, playing bad like in the halcyon days long gone playing
ball on the black asphalt but isn't it all black? of the Good
Samaritan Church parking lot and that that was one of the many
things that Red has not become. And the ball is falling and Red is
down in the grass and the dirt on this dirty Stockton night with
stains on his jeans and mud smudged hands and he's showing off for a
girl and he's not even drunk yet.
Dirt town, mean town, great town Stockton. Rolling
in the dust and schmoozing with the guys who know him from that hack
journalist job over at Delta College, Delta College with the big
golden triangle and the riverboat and the stinking clicks and Red
doesn't care a bit because he's a writer whether he delivers pizza
or not because you've got to make money and you've got to buy dope
in little bricks and break it up and stick it in odd smoking
instruments bought from Modesto head shops and surreptitiously
packed into little brown bags like a wino with his bottle and driven
on home through that screen of narcoleptic cops out to catch
delivery guys in the dead of night and he'll drive like the wind or
really slow after the first few hits.
Dixon is on fire because he always smokes out before
coming out to the smallest of parties but he's all right all even
keel and the party is not really much and none of these kids even
know what weed means past the red eyes and Visine works fine for
that thanks though it's harder to hide than the other trappings or
perhaps on level with the wide Zig Zags with the exotic smoker
label, always the orange one.
Red gets to drinking and flirting with this little
Albanian thing and he doesn't care that she's from a bombed out ruin
or if her parents are dying because she's cute and Dixon is high,
too high to remember all the things that plague him when he's half
awake like how to dismiss one woman when he wants another one but
can't stand broken dreams even if he's not the first or the last to
contribute to the pile of hurt always burying away everyone.
By the time Dixon gets home he can't remember a
thing except that he's wrote this Lori's number down in one of his
little notebooks along with other junk like interviews with the
student body president and ideas for lecturing the halfwit and not
so halfwit junior college newspaper staff.
Dennis is home too, although Red has no idea who
drove and already is breaking up a eraser-sized chunk of valley dirt
on a tray in his lap while trying not to notice the thumb ring
Dennis is wearing the thumb ring he's been wearing about two weeks
less than Red has had his.
The phone rings and Dennis picks it up and Red is
smoking and staring at the grass stain near his knee and trying to
remember just how long that's been there and when was the last time
he took a shower because showers feel so tingly when drunk old
doe-eyed Dennis starts flirting with the handset and Red realizes
its one of his girls on the phone probably Michelle drunk again and
wanting him to come out because what time is it? Not even 11?
Dennis is cooing for a long time and Red is tired of
waiting so he relays a message: "Tell her she's a whiny little
And something gets lost in the translation because
Dennis tells her and then she wants to talk to him right away and
its not Michelle but Sarah and he's got a lot of explaining to do if
he's going to get back in her pants.
"Baby, baby, I didn't know it was you."
And then Red starts thinking that maybe he did know
it was her and hey while he's on a roll he might as well destroy
this one too, seeing as what he'd done to the only one who ever
loved him yet, that fine little Japanese flame Red had pitched when
he got tired of himself and fell in love with mushrooms and blotter
Red goes back to that crazy May day, Jonathan's
birthday when he'd bought a case of 20 whipped cream cartridges and
sucked down six before he even started mixing up the cake and his
head was there so there and everything made sense everything made
sense except that it all comes so fast so fast and the TV sounded
like a thousand tiny screaming voices for a few minutes every time
he drained the bopper balloon but it didn't matter because he wasn't
And Dixon hid the nitrous in the closet and begin to
prepare in earnest and Sarah came over and he was way too gone to
take her so they started drinking and really getting things ready
for Jon and all the other kids and Red went down with the black
Sentra hatchback and somehow managed to fit the keg of Red Dog into
the back and pull back into the Rose Garden Apartments across from
Delta without mishap.
How he carried that thing was another miracle but it
made him feel like a man.
No more than five were there when Sarah first bumped
into the wall but Red brushed it off even though it kind of
irritated him because he was going so fast so fast and he wanted to
talk about the meaning of god and whether he felt only darkness on
the acid because it was real or because it wasn't real and the
genuine party people are pulling in and plastic cups are going fast
and the keg drippings slick the floor and Jon arrives with Molly
girl Molly girl who Red in a 13-year-old frenzy loved more than any
of Jon's girlfriends and made a necklace of hundreds of soapstone
chips he'd filed down like one of those puka things people with tan
lines bring back from Hawaii.
When Red rubs his fingers together he can still feel
the calluses from those weeks of drilling sawing and sanding.
As the mood picks up at this day for Jon the alcohol
vibe is up same and Josh, good buddy, bad manic depressive Josh met
his Japanese flame here on this day but Red's girl is far away and
Sarah's bumping into walls.
Jason and Jason are skulking like strange dogs and
lucky for all pit bull Jason isn't with them or we'd all have a
little fun with those three except the thin walls might not hold it
Jon gets into the balloons and finally Red is having
so much fun because when they walk out to the car to pick up a
wrench to fix the cracker that old roommate Jason slipped him when
he started AA and before he drove Red out with his sudden fits of
anger and puritanical principles Jon is on and Red is on talking
about the size of size and the strange buzzing that won't go away
and how he knows what everybody, I mean everybody, is thinking.
Jon knows he doesn't love Molly and Red knows he
doesn't love Sarah.
Inside, Playboy-body Sarah is sucking on longnecks
and sits down between Red's legs and he knows every male in the room
wants her and he doesn't want rub their hackles the wrong way.
The Jasons in the corner have already driven out the
softball jock brought in by Laura the sexy-flabby Round Table shift
Cherry, the driver who couldn't handle her drugs and
was always crashing into fences is a perfect house mother and ushers
the guy out just when the Jasons start talking about tossing him off
the balcony so they can get Laura's attention and now they are
starting to eye Red's date.
Dixon takes them into the nitrous closet, turns on a
flashlight and sucks down a balloon before fixing them up and
himself again and now knows now it's cool because the big dogs in
the house can take their medicine and that's more important than
Red is back in that same apartment, the phone in his
hand and he's not sure why Sarah is whining so he tells her: "I
don't think this is working."
He's seeing Lori's Balkan eyes and thinking about
Trish down in beachside suburbia Ventura and that long ride down
just before he broke in Sarah and how he'd like to get back but he
has some strange 19-year-old's ethic about cheating on a steady and
he's angry that she thought he was too drugged out at Jon's party to
know what she was talking about when she tried to drop hints to
Michelle while resting her head on his inner thigh.
"I know what you were talking about with the letter
and I don't really think it matters because I don't care and I'm so
And somehow Red knew it was her on the phone even
though he swears he didn't.
"Yeah. I was at a party. No, I don't think we need to talk. I think
I need some sleep or something."
And so Red is sitting there with the phone in his
hand and mad at Sarah for questioning those letters, mad because he
slept with her and mad because he wanted her almost as much as he
loathed her. And Dennis is sitting there with his choking laugh and
he can't believe what has just happened. Dixon gets off Dennis' big,
blue, broken easy chair and he grabs another beer out of the fridge,
so he'll have something to keep his mouth wet while he rolls that
© Red Dixon