ON HE RODE — Chapter Thirteen
This is not a contest entry.
Ghosts. I absolutely believe in the One interconnected and
intraconnected Spirit animating the Universe, and I do call that
Spirit God and believe It to be sexually ambiguous and autonomous and
all-knowing and self-abnegating: humble yet proud; meek yet
all-powerful. Nothing to anybody. Something to everybody. Everything
to us all. Who wouldn’t believe in ghosts?
There are answers to all questions, of course, and questions to all
answers. Is King my ally, or my enemy? Don’t mistake his feigned
disinterest for neutrality. He’s either fur or agin. But which? Can we
be a cozy threesome, or will he rip my throat clean away when I make
my move? If I do? When I do?
It seems to me expedient that we take King out of the picture. Lock
him up either inside or outside the car. But how? And under what
Probably easiest to lock him in — lure him with food. But what if he
goes crazy and rips shit out of my car? And what would be my premise .
. . my reason? In case Sigrid wants to know? “Er, why I thought we
might, you know, go out here under the trees and take our clothes off.
You know, without the dog getting in the way?”
Not good enough? Then what if we build a campsite, drink some beer,
roast hot dogs?
“Was that a guitar I saw on your bed?” she asks.
“A guitar case.”
“Inside the guitar case?”
“A very cheap Stella guitar.”
“Didn’t Leadbelly play a Stella?”
“A 12-string, nothing like mine. Certainly not cheap. And I’m
definitely not Leadbelly.”
“But you’re a start.”
Will King follow me to my trunk, curious to explore this new vehicular
orifice? And will he climb inside and become my prisoner, willing or
not? Neither, of course. The closest he comes is a kind of wink,
half-grin, and a “can you believe this guy?” tongue loll as I reach
for Stella then slam the trunk lid down behind me. “Has Les Paul come
to entertain us?” Sigrid asks.
“Hope so. Hope he brought Mary.”
“Will I do?”
“Know any words?”
“Hold that tiger?”
“You’ll do. Play guitar?”
“Only zither, I’m afraid. Do you believe in ghosts.”
“Do you now?”
“Right now? Why not? Are you a ghost??"
“Of course. So are you.”
“No I’m not. I’m the toughest hombre west of the Alamo.”
“Yippee-yi-yay, really. East as well, likely.”
“Your axe be in tune when we get back?”
“Count on it. Where you headin’?”
“Down the beach.” She wrestles King for a stick, lobs it underhand in
the general direction of Mexico, and strides toward a hard-barking
King. “Oughtta be a market for dog spit,” she says, wiping her hand on
her pant leg. “I’d be a millionaire.”
I watch their zig-zag cavortings for a while then decide to prepare
for the evening. Fire pit, firewood, green alder roasting sticks, cold
beer, tuned Stella, mellow weed. Dang! Where’s weed when you need it?
Maybe she’s got some special bud tucked away for later — Tijuana Gold,
perhaps? Or Panama Red? And you gotta wonder if she’s wondering what
I’m packing — Maui Wowee? Kauai Electric? Puna Buds? Guess again. But
maybe between us, in some overlooked nook or cranny? Some pocket or
Like ghosts, I can believe in miracles. If there’s a word for it, why
couldn’t “it” exist? Ghosts. Miracles. Whatever. I’m open.
If things go well around the campfire, what do we do about King? Or is
King a big boy, trained to stand down under circumstances enforced by
the only law he knows besides the call of the wild — the beck of
Sigrid: “Sit King. Stay!” It’s easy enough to imagine on behalf of the
social fortunes of one smooth-pated eccentric questioner of
normality, whether charismatic leader or pathetic misfit yet to be
determined — perhaps by this evening’s outcome?
My Stella six-string is the cheapest student model ever made. I’d
begged, pleaded, and bargained with Whitey for this prophetic emblem
of my future as soulful singer, gunslinger, and protector of the poor
and downtrodden. I’d also cajoled my way into a pair of ACME riding
boots, a facsimile Stetson hat, and a pair of holstered cap guns with
revolving barrels. All of which I insisted on wearing to such formal
occasions as grandparents’ visits and first-day-at-a-new-school.
The Stella was the last survivor of what I guess were my halcyon days.
Even geniuses like Woody, Seeger, and Dylan would have a hard time
coaxing music from so ruefully pathetic an assembly-line travesty.
Leadbelly’s 12-string had to be not only good but extraordinary. But
how many Leadbellies are there in the world — how many talents huge
enough to support the expensive manufacture of elegant instruments,
works of art themselves?
And how many klutzes are there like me, somehow able to cadge $25 for
an instrument of aural torture, plus $1.25 per weekly lesson to
nurture a talent one might charitably label fugitive? And, er, uh,
just where does Stella make its guitars these days? Stella who?
Anyway, I tune the Stella as well as I can, play a few chords of
“Rising Sun”. Music might not be the evening’s main entertainment.
Just what the evening’s main entertainment might turn out to be seems
not to be revealing itself in a very forthcoming fashion. Time to
check out the beach in the general direction of Mexico. Oh-oh. Nobody
in either direction, Mexico or Canada. No dogs. No people. Not good.
The sun slides deeply red and ominous over dark horizons; look on my
lethal splendor and despair.
Sigrid? King? Where are you?
Easy enough to stare a bed of dying coals into sad reverie, but this
is tidal water, and by the time I get my stuff picked up, I do not
feel totally unimperilled. If you know what I mean. Like, what if my
car won’t start?