by Alex Carnevale
The crook manned the watchtower, its lights. Our
reconnaissance says he takes women off a steamer, keeps them in a house in
Rancho Verdes, and ships them north. North? The trail narrows to Tierra del Mar.
The sky and sunlight, the air. I bunk with Fabini, who works Vice. He knows
what I hate more than anything, and that's a liar. He tells the truth about
his wife Jodie. Her hygiene lacks, and that's not her only problem.
"The things we do not have bothered her. She stayed in her house,
and that was that. She'd say, 'We can get a bite to eat if you want to.' I
said 'Want to? Do I?' Her estrangement was total."
Let's talk about this. We share sundaes, take the tram to the hotel.
Sipping on juice-boxes, hit the pool.
"You have a great tan," I say.
"I SAID YOU HAVE A GREAT TAN." Day's end, we caught the crook. It's possible I'll make captain
soon because of it. In the interest of disclosure it turned out the girls were,
in fact, trannies. The boys on recon caught the shit on that.
In the morning I'm working on a sketch of Fabini.
He comes by and appraises it. "My chin," he says, gesticulating. He
tells me of a scam he's put together, which involves fleecing a meteorologist
in Napa, Gene Monahan. "Doctor Gene Monahan is a rube," he cackles,
eating a piece of watermelon.
Dawn. The impossible, the derelict. Coffee. I yawn through the
sunrise, fuchsine, thistle, plan a vacation to the Alps. To pass the time I
recall the names of the mountains: Ligurian, Dauphiné, Graian, Bernese,
Lepontine, Glarus. To explore fauna that lie among the cliffs, the edge of
living. Clouds. I can name what I long for, but never to others. I walk
behind my house, into a neighborhood where urchins play stickball. Skells
watch the boys sweat. The field is surrounded by trash. Double off a tent,
and one of the boys powers the ball, wrapped in tinfoil, over the fence. He whips
his head, yells, and salutes.
At a safe house in Paso Robles, I keep my girl
Kailani. She's out at the supermarket giving me time to survey three
cornfields I am buying. Mexicans and Okies, the settlers dot the landscape.
Two twin migratorios beg me for change. The problem with owning this house
is, I can't just wring the scum up by the necks. I would have to drag them to
an outpost near Carmel and bleed them. That kind of heat. No. Instead I slink
back home and read this novel from the seventies called Son of the Morning.
Its biblical preface masks the sex. Like all books it concerns childhood.
Kailani returns from her trip. Ohhhhh, tomatoes.
Once we're in bed, there's nothing to confess.
"I love you," I say.
"Did you pay the cable?"
Late at night I go hunting for valley quail. The wings rise above and
touch the light from the window. 'If you can't piece it together by now the
bet is that you never will' that's what I will tell her, but when I come
back, my beard tinged with salmonella, she is gone.
There's a note in my office, scrawled on
loose-leaf paper. Whoever has written this note to me has arranged a few
haikus for my benefit, all involving the word 'flue.' The effort doesn't go
unappreciated. My boss Sternberg is asleep on a little couch I keep for
sleepovers. His dog, an Irish setter named Oregon, snoozes on the floor. He
"You know," I say. "Compulsive behavior, especially as
it relates to pets, is one of the five principal traits of a serial
"I have considered killing," my boss says. His thick, hairy
shoulders. "You going to be at that bust tomorrow?" I can't believe
there's a bust and I don't know about it. Collecting myself, I grip his lapels
and smell his musk.
"The biggest pipeline is in British Columbia," I stutter.
"Would you excuse me?" I
climb out of the basement and head to my car, where there are no cigarettes.
Kailani calls from Compton, begging me to come
get her. Down at the mission, a priest is meting out small doses of crack to
the reformed addicts. There's also an ample supply of methadone. The priest
is humming as he doles them out . Kai is propped up against a marble
fountain, her legs stretching from her neck to her mottled sneakers.
"Get in the car," I say. A hobo chants "merciful, O
merciful!" Two streets kids touch each other's haircuts. The excess of
body odor liquefies my throat, and the chemical smell reminds me of basil. I
don't make anything and neither do these folks, their stillettos, blue lips.
Outside, above the sirens, a high school marching band passes by.
Back in Paso Robles she's climbing the walls. I
wash her in the tub, which used to house some nitrous cans, leaving a yellow tinge
to the tile. In a state like that, she's muttering everything she can't
"Thanksgiving. Cornucopia. Bitch said, 'I need weed.' So what?
Chomping ninnies. Levelheaded kind of cocksucking
whore," she says.
She needs cleaning. Some tawny lord has placed a
dozen baggies in her rectum. I dig out the source of her discomfort. She
gives me a bossy look, and begins flailing once more. That night, I keep my
wallet underneath my ballsack. That's the last place she will look.
the morning she's over-caffeinated and pouty. I can barely raise my head. She
wants to go to a waterpark. "But that's all the way in Torrance," I
say. She agrees to drive and I sleep the whole way. When I wake a white
pre-teen wearing a shirt that says "THAT'S A BARGAIN" has his
forehand pressed against the window of my car. Inside the park, Kailani is
wearing a motorcycle helmet and swimming goggles, chasing teenagers around a
miniature-sized racetrack. I sit down and watch her crash her cart into other
drivers, snarling like a wacked-out hyena. On one hand it's therapeutically
helpful. But there's something to be said for avoiding the mouse she gets
under her left eye from the racetrack operator. I'm the only one left to survey the damage on the drive home.
"I'm hunnnnnggggggry," she says. Her last meal is dandelion stew.
I'm spending the day with my son Paulo. We're
having a serious dinner in an Indian restaurant that smells like chamomile.
I'm correcting the boy's habits, his posture, his tendency to lisp when he is
nervous. The current cause of his nervousness is thunder.
"You must be fully in control of your mind," I tell him. The
waiter skulks over to the table, ashamed of his news.
"You've got a phone call, sir," he says. I put a hunk of
Paulo's plate and take him aside.
"Who did they ask for?"
"What do you mean?"
"Let me clue you in on something, numb nuts," I say,
"That's the freaking governor's son over
"Of course, it is," he says. I shake my head and grab the
phone. I mute my fury – there's always a worse place, a more terrible place
that one might be receiving a call from.
"Is that you?" Fabini's voice says. "You yelling at the
"What is it?" I say. It sounds as if Fabini hands the phone
off. A muffled voice, an exhortation. Obsolescence, silence, drums. Then a
man's huffing. A chill.
"That's Doctor Gene Monahan," Fabini says. We found him
spread out under a prize pony in his shed. He opened the damn safe
"Gene the Queen," someone chimed in.
"Our fence can't handle Gene's passage," Fabini said.
"He had an asthma attack when we hit Monterrey.
"I can't drive up there," I say.
"We need to use your safe house. Not for a few hours, but
"On one condition."
"Anything," Fabini says.
"Ask the bastard how long it's going to rain."
Around the end of the month, it's time for departmental
honors. The ceremony is at a restaurant in La Hoya. My hands hurt from
clapping, a pain alleviated, if only momentarily, by a moment of silence
commemorating the passing of Fabini's Jodie. I'm more upset than usually
about the smelly wife’s passing.
comes over to me and hands over a cigar. "Go get some air," he
says. As I'm walking to the door I hear somebody from Processing say to his
jowly buddy, "He always gets like this," and before I can gather
myself, I'm flailing at him. We’re on the ground and I’m trying to get him in
an armbar. The murmurs from the group that watches this, none of which I can
individuate. The world is underwater. A couple guys drag me off, and as my
skull opens the door, I see Fabini's regal chin, as I wish I had captured it
the previous Sunday.
Carnevale is a recent graduate from the MFA program at The New School. His
work has appeared in horseless press review, Sports Illustrated, and otoliths.
He is managing editor of CapGun, a literary journal based
in Brooklyn, and the creative force behind This Recording,
an arts and culture webzine.
Copyright respective authors
and Konundrum Engine