What hit me?, Lime wonders as he sits at the end of the bed smoking amidst the gently floating cigarette spirits.
Oh, the last Wet Pussy.
He turns sluggishly to Laurie who lies sleeping in the bed. She looks just as cool and buttery and yet hardboiled asleep as she was wide-awake and wild last night. Her buttocks move soft and lazy under the bed sheets, like a white upside down heart beating bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump. He sees size and shape in her heart and, boy oh boy, those are two things, two other things, which he digs in a dame. His forefinger caresses the sole of a foot, and she smiles a smeared red lipstick smile in her serene sleep. And he wonders, whatever is she hiding?
But his wonder is interrupted by a woman’s scream, then a man’s laugh, and then another scream. It sounds like an orgy as wild as one of the Manson Family’s.
He puts on his Hawaiian shirt, leather jacket, black jeans and Beatles boots, his Aloha suit of armour, and then walks into the living room. A bunch of guys in blue and white sailor suits straddle a bouquet of freshly plucked go-go girls on the television screen. Where is Charlie Manson or all those hash-headed hippie women? There is, however, a boy.
Laurie’s son, Texas, sits all curled up in a ball on Lime’s maroon couch shaped after Mae West’s lips. Lime has ignored him until now and he can think of no reason to get up close and Oedipal all of a sudden. He walks past him and draws the Venetian blinds to shade his face. Striped sunlight shoots back at him through the blinds so that he looks as if he is trapped behind bars. He gives up on the go-go girls and the bothersome blinds and walks into the kitchen.
The refrigerator buzzes like modern radio as he opens it, dry retches, then pinches his nose. The electricity must have gone out during last night’s expressionistic thunderstorm, and the fridge is now redolent with rotten and mildewed food. He slams it shut so hard and fast that it actually shuts up. Then he rifles through the store cupboard and after a minute produces a can of Campbell’s chicken gumbo soup, like the Andy Warhol painting. The can looks rusted and is already half-open. A scraping sound emanates from within its black, chicken gumbo abyss.
Lime has The Jesus and Mary Chain song in his head,
How can something crawl within
my rubber holy baked bean tin?
It’s god to me, it’s god to me,
this is heart and soul.
God’s stuck, Lime thinks. God’s just as stuck as the rest of us.
Lime rips open the can, peers inside and jumps back before throwing the can across the kitchen like he is Joe Di Maggio hitting his first homerun. In bed. With Marilyn. The can hits the wall, then the floor, and then a rat crawls out. It’s as big as a small cat and soaking wet with chicken gumbo. It darts across the kitchen, under Lime’s legs, and down the gap between the store cupboard and the fridge.
And Lime laments, God’s a real rat bastard. It’s nothing but a rat, familiar of the underworld. It’s not God. It’s not even Jesus fucking Christ.
He sets a mousetrap in the gap and goes back into the living room. He looks at the Dali clock melting above Mae West’s lips. Its face sags like soft cheese and its hands drip and flow this way and that as if it were trying to tell Lime something, but in a language as foreign to him as ancient alien hieroglyphs. He had no way by which to comprehend the ooey-gooey consistency of time strung out beyond all recognition. He has an idea and pinches himself to check whether he is dreaming. He keeps pinching himself, working up a veritable red bruise before he remembers that the clock is a Dali clock. It never tells the right time; just keeps its own time, like Lime.
The lobster telephone rings almost as if it had been lying in wait for Lime to be standing right next to it before it did so. He picks up the receiver and holds it lowered somewhat so that Dick Doo Ron’s voice comes clearly from it.
“Hello?” Lime says and almost throws up. Oh, that last goddamned Wet Pussy.
“Haalloo baaaaby,” Dick Doo Ron says doing his best Big Bopper impersonation.
“Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speaking”, Dick says. “I’m parked out front. Come on down and let’s get Ritchie Rich.”
The other receiver clicks. Lime puts his receiver down, then walks towards the door, but stops in his tracks.
He turns to Texas. The go-go girls giggle. The sailors are still going at it. They have the endurance of—well, of sailors.
“Oye, amigo,” Lime says, “when your mother wakes up, tell her I had to run to work. But tell her she can make herself at home and I’ll be back soon.” This is Lime’s big score after all, finding his one true love and her finding him. He’s not just going to let her go and lose her all of a sudden, not the most murdered woman in the world, not just when he has her. Not till death do they part. You get it?
Texas gazes living dead-like at the television, ignoring Lime.
“Tell her,” Lime says.
The little screwball still doesn’t nod or say anything. Lime rolls his eyes, then makes for the door, but stops again when Texas speaks all of a sudden.
“If you leave us now it’s gonna turn out bad for you,” Texas says with a quality of fate in his voice. He sure as hell is looking at Lime now. His Bugs Bunny eyes wear a comic, cosmic expression which seems to say, at this moment something really extraordinary is about to happen.
Presently Lime shrugs his shoulders, opens the door and walks out.
And you know what? The kid was right. Something does happen.
A red retro Chevrolet Impala is parked next to the curb with the engine still running. Lime walks towards it.
“Off with her head.”
Lime positively pirouettes to the house next door. It has a clean, white picket fence before beautiful red roses which bop in this boiling morning’s faint breeze. The roses remind Lime of the bittersweet taste of Wet Pussys. An old man tends to the roses and the rich green grass with a watering can. The neighbourhood kids nicknamed him Grandpa Death because he smells and looks like it. None of them, including Lime, like Grandpa Death, not because he reminds them of their own mortal corporeality, but because he doesn’t. Because he looks like he already died and just kept on living anyway.
“Off with her head. Ja git it?”, Death says as if he is moving his false teeth around in his mouth, jutting out his awfully gaunt chin in the process.
Ignoring him, Lime quickly turns back and walks toward the Chevrolet Impala. He hops in the back beside Jimmy Reb. Dick is in the driver’s seat with Johnny Rocko beside him. The gang exchange greetings and comradely invectives. Then Dick kicks the accelerator raw and the Chevrolet Impala screeches down the street and out into the orange baked boulevards of the burlesque town in the brutal summertime.
“Oh shoot,” the radio howls. “The killer sounds that fill your heart with so much joy never beat for as long as you would like. But hot damn this last killer sound was ‘He’s Not a Rebel’ by the dazzling Dolores ‘Lala’ Brooks and her consummate Crystals girl chain gang. What a way to jumpstart your day and doo run the bummer right out of another sun swept summer amidst the highways and byways of Orgone City. If that’s not hot enough for you, try the girls, boys. Tell ‘em I said howl-lo. Haw-haw-haw. What a buzz they’d get. That’s right, you’re turned on to your Radio of the Streets DJ, the one, the only, you know me, I’m yours, Buzz Rainbow Wolff. You’re back at the Buzz on the Fuzz hour and I’m playing all your favourite hits from the fifties and sixties.”
Buzz has a curl to his voice which sounds lewd and lascivious, even downright lecherous now as it clatters like a roller coaster of a thing. “But you can’t always get good news in a world this weird and wonderful. This Friday saw another death at the hands of the Sun God. That’s the twelfth death down for the count this summer. This next here number’s for all the dead and the dying, all the damned dear hearts who ain’t above going under on us. It’s ‘The End of the World’ by the country driftin’, hip twistin’ songstress of the south, Skeeter Davis. Oh no, dear hearts, you’re not alon—”
Dick fiddles with the radio dials and sweats feverishly, even as the air conditioner blows in his direction. He shudders all over and his face turns several shades whiter. For a minute Lime thinks that Dick is going to be one sick son of bitch. Then all at once the colour floods back into his face and he stops sweating and shuddering, draws a long, deep sigh, but still doesn’t say anything. He flips through several static channels and a free jazz station, before leaving it on a conspiracy theory talk show.
“Boy, am I thirsty. Can we stop at McDonalds and get milkshakes?” Jimmy asks Dick.
“I wouldn’t mind a lime milkshake,” Lime says.
“Well I am a social democrat,” Dick says, his voice calming but by no means calm. “I just compromise, compromise, compromise. We’ll stop at Wendy’s.”
“But McDonalds milkshakes are better,” Jimmy says.
“I’m not allowed to set within fifty feet of any of them fine McDonalds establishments,” Dick says. “Unless you want your goddamned milkshakes to cost me up to two years in the state penitentiary, we are going to Wendy’s. But first I want to show Lime something.”
“How’d you get a restraining order from McDonalds?” Lime asks.
“Now that’ s a story for another time,” Dick says, then looks at Lime through the rearview mirror. “You ever seen the Museum of Cinerama down on Providence Street?”
“You know the joint pretty well?”
“Like my hand knows my dick.”
“Well that’s just swell,” Dick says out of the corner of his mouth like a gangster in a b-grade movie. “So here’s the score. It’s a caper, and a cool one too. I’ve put the usual safeguards in place and then some so there’s no risk. I mean this caper is cop proof, stool pigeon proof, the works. And it’ll be quick and easy. Three minutes and we’re in and we’re out. No fuss, no muss and no bother. And yet what we’re getting away with will be sung about in all of the newspapers for all of the ages to come.”
“And just what are we getting away with?,” Lime asks.
“It’s a five man job,” Dick says, ignoring him. “The four of us and the fence. Rocko’s our boxman. He can open a safe like a dame who’s tight and teeming with secrets.”
“I can bust any lock in three minutes and any dame in two,” Rocko corrects him, his face illustrating the dictionary definition of confidence man.
“I’ll be our getaway driver in case something goes wrong,” Dick says, “which it won’t. But in case something does. Jimmy’s our hooligan. He’s like a circus geek. If nobody sticks their necks out like dumb chooks, he doesn’t bite them off.”
Lime looks at Jimmy looking at him and looking as sharp as six blades and a saw in his Charles Manson T-shirt. What scares Lime about Jimmy’s eyes isn’t that they glare at him as if they want to kill him, but that they don’t glare at him; just look straight through him like he isn’t even there, like he is already dead, a goddamned ghost.
“As for you,” Dick says to Lime. “You’re our cinephile. The Cinerama was constructed as a geographical chronology of Hollywood movie history. So you’ll be our tour guide taking us through time. And that just leaves our fence, a guy who goes by the name of El Rey. He’s the only trafficker in stolen goods and foreign fineries who can handle merchandise this hot.”
“What exactly is the merchandise?,” Lime asks again.
Dick smiles. Lime has never seen Dick smile before. Far from being domineering as he was up till now, he looks truly delightful. Mad even. Maybe it is because he is out of practice smiling. But he looks nowhere near as mad as he sounds when he says, almost titters, “we’re going to steal the head of Marilyn Monroe.” …