book of days serial #16

The air through the open window got cooler across his face. The night was white cold and clear in its desert hoary winter moonlight. The highway narrowed. The cars were so few now that the darkness was almost pure and the intermittent headlights hurt his eyes. The grade rose against chalk walls and at the top a breeze, unbroken from the ocean, danced casually across the night.

He ate dinner at a place near Thousand Oaks. Bad but quick. It was like submission. He didn’t even stay for a second cup of coffee because his energy was lagging without the car. It was unclear how the place was so busy. One could have done better at home out of a can. They were restless like him. They talked like they were scared not to be out in their car headed somewhere. But he wasn’t human that night.

He drove into the moonlight at the Oxnard cut-off and turned back along the ocean. The luminous sixteen and eighteen wheelers were streaming north in orange clouds of iron tinged night. On the right the great fat solid Pacific trudging into shore like a scrubwoman going home from a Westwood manor. The moon barely caught a ripple, no fuss; there was hardly even the sound of the surf. No smell. None of the harsh wild smell of the maritime sea romance. A California ocean. California, Southern California, the department store state. “The most of everything, the best of nothing,” he said to the dash. “Here we go again. You’re not human tonight.”

In the diner. “Maybe I never was nor ever will be. Maybe I’m ectoplasm with a driver’s license. Maybe we all get like this in the cold half-lit world where always the wrong thing happens and never the right.” He spoke. Malibu lay beneath glass. More movie stars. More pink and blue bathtubs. More tufted beds that weren’t filled with cat litter. More wind blown hair and tawny attitudes and pseudo-refined voices and waterfront morals backed up by deeds to waterfront lawns.

“Now wait a minute. Lots of nice people work in pictures. You’ve got the wrong attitude.”

“Well, I’m not human tonight.”

Critical Response:

« | »