Monday, March 10, 2003

Fast-forward to a grubby room in Wyoming He woke up covered in Crisco from head to toe. The girl lying next to him looked familiar but he couldn't remember her name. She was cute, but she looked as though she'd been dipped in grease, which she had. "Man, what happened last night?" Miller wondered out loud. Laughter rippled through the open door from the other room, so Miller crawled off the grease-smeared sheets and staggered into the tiny main room of the apartment. The air was smokey because four guys were sitting on the floor toking ragweed from a bong. "Hey man, you look like you had a good time last night," said Mitchell, the one wearing sunglasses and a ZZ-Top t-shirt. Miller grunted and headed into the bathroom. He filled the tub with tepid water - that's all that was available - and looked at himself in the mirror. "Christ!" he muttered. He looked like he'd aged 50 years in the past 10 and truth was, he had. His hair stood nearly vertical, glued up by the Crisco he now vaguely recalled smearing on what's her name's breast the night before. "I guess I did have a good time," he thought, giggling. After he'd bathed the tub was unusable. A slick of grease coated the porcelein, so thick that one could lift a curl of white goo by touching it and withdrawing a finger. His skin was still coated with a slippery gloss, but it was the best he could manage for the moment.
By the time he'd bathed the sun was sinking below the horizon, throwing a red tint on the ice crystals clinging to the glass of the only window the room's wall held.
"So what's up guys," Miller asked the crew of druggies and thugs now sprawled on the moth-eaten couch, watching the black-and-white TV with a coat hanger for an antennae. "Well, we've got to make two deliveries, one to Brutus and one to Glenn, then we're going to a party at Willie's place," Oscar answered. Oscar. He was a strange and dangerous fellow who's history no one knew. He walked off Highway 40 into Casper, Wyoming, one day three years ago and immediately set up a network among the town's scruffies, bums and druggies. His look was intimidating and his temper was explosive. In short, Oscar was crazy, a psychopath, and no one dared challenge his right to appear at their door at any time day or night with a request for dope or a place to crash for a few hours. He dragged a man behind a pickup truck one night, tied to the bumper by a rope that looped around his hands and waist, for about two miles across the prairie. Thankfully, the guy lived but only just. His infraction? He'd bumped Oscar's arm accidentally and caused him to spill his beer in a crowded little bar, and that was that.
"Yea, OK," Miller said. "Whose car are we using?" Oscar laughed and nodded his head toward the bedroom. "Her's," he said. "It's the only one that's running."
"Oh right. Well, OK. When are we going and who's got a ping. My head is about to explode?" Chris, the short guy with the hooded jacket that he wore year-round, reached into his pocket and tossed a red balloon to Miller, who deftly caught it in his left hand. "I'll be ready to go in just a minute," Miller said.
After his wake-up fix, he felt much better. He felt like nothing at all was wrong in his world. Like all was right with the planet and he was flying toward a wondrous future where wealth and fame awaited him. Reality aside, Miller was always the optimist.
"By the way, who is the chick in the bedroom?" he asked the crew. "She's my sister," Chance answered. "You rotten-crotch douche bag." Everyone laughed at that. "Well, what's her name?" Miller asked. "Susan," Chance replied. "We'd better roll before she wakes up. I don't think she'll be too happy about last night and we need her wheels." With everyone stood, checked their pockets and headed for the door.
"Hey, shouldn't we leave her a note or something? What if she wakes up and calls the cops thinking we've ripped off her car?" Kevin asked.
"Already did it," Chance said. "It's cool. Besides, she'll probably sleep until tomorrow. She's so stoned she didn't know which galaxy she was in before she passed out."
When Kevin opened the door a blast of icy air pierced Miller's flimsy leather jacket and his shoulder muscles tightened from the cold. "Ouch!" he exclaimed. "Quick, get me to the car before I puke."
By the time the crew was rolling down Frontier Street in the '59 Chevy with the torn headliner the sun had slid away into the darkness, and the stars were glittering like a cheap sequined dress. The air was so cold that his breath turned to tiny crystal flakes when he exhaled, Miller noticed. "Christ, somebody put some glass in that hole," he said. "I'm freezing back here."


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