(01-07) Centaur

Louis was singing, “Give me land lots of land beneath the starry sky above; don’t fence me in.” As he sang he waved a walking stick, which he carried for protection. There was no logic in the song because they were in the financial district, where the monoliths fenced them in completely. “I’m on a high horse,” he said, and when A-Bomb asked him what’s a high horse he said, “Willy Nelson’s horse.”

“Willie Nelson?”

“He’s the heart of Texas.”

A-Bomb picked up his pace when he turned onto Kerney and began walking toward North Beach. “He rides a high horse?”

“Never mind. You don’t get it.”

A-Bomb was sensitive, like a dog, to changes in the emotional climate, and it seemed to him that Louis and Paris were both prone to sudden mood swings. “Get what?”

“It was a joke; Willy smokes a lot of pot and the horse got a contact high. But by the time you explain something like that you’re off on a side road somewhere, which is a frustrating goddamned thing for an intelligent person.”

A-Bomb was thinking how the lord works in mysterious ways. He suddenly got a picture in his mind of a skinny red-haired man with a pony tail. “I see him now,” he said. “He’s got a pony tail, like mine. Except mine’s black.” He began to trot, then and felt Louis bouncing on his shoulders, grabbing his pony tail to keep his balance. It was the way A-Bomb distracted himself when he got the picture of him punting Louis like a football over a fence with a “bad dog” sign on it.

“Whoa,” Louis commanded. “I’ll use the hook.”

A-Bomb slowed down for an intersection. Louis had demonstrated that he could reach down with the cane and hook his balls. “What is it with you and balls?” A-Bomb had asked him. “Is it that you’re so little your only shot at winning a fight is causing maximum damage right up front?”

“That’s about the size of it,” Louis had admitted.

“If you was to do that to me, I’d kick you like a football,” he said. Now he couldn’t get the image to go away. He worried that he was losing his faith. Now he began to mozy along, letting Louis look into the shop windows. “I was thinking about what you said.”

“You irritate the shit out of me when you do that.”

“Do what?”

“Say something like that. How do I know what you’re talking about? You say you were thinking about what I said and then you just stop and I have to ask you, ‘What,’ or, ‘When.’ Just say what’s on your mind and don’t be a knucklehead.” He dug a knuckle into the big Indian’s scalp. He didn’t seem to notice.

“I was thinking about what you said about Paris, and how she made her parents the same height because you and her are cousins and you’re the same height. So, did she make herself her own mother?”

“In a way I guess she did. And I’ll tell you something else; you remember just fine. You just notice different things than most people notice. Mostly you notice Paris, which I have noticed." A-Bomb declined to respond. He walked with fluid ease, from his psoas muscles, his torso balanced perfectly over his hips, the little man seemingly weightless on his shoulders.

“I don’t think she’s writing about herself,” Louis said.

“It seems like she is, and what else can somebody write about?”

“Their unlived lives. It sounds like a contradiction, but everybody has them. You make choices, and every time you do something moves into the light, and something else moves into the darkness. If you’d made a different choice you’d be somebody different. Except the theory now is that it’s not like that. There’s a theory in physics that says when you make a choice you split in two. The life you live and know you live moves off in one direction, and another version of you moves off in another direction.

“So while you think you’re just going in one direction, you’re more likely splitting into a lot of different directions, like a tree growing, or like those fireworks that burst out into all those streams of light.”

“Where’d you learn about all this?”

“I was the prison librarian. They let you order pretty much anything you want. I had a lot of time to read. One of the books I ordered was by the firm that did the interior decorating at American Futures nursery. They even had pictures of the laboratory, where the DNA computers are installed in the sperm. And then I was able to get architectural drawings that showed the HVAC.

“I know what that is.” A-Bomb brightened. “It’s the ductwork. So, did Paris make herself her own mother or not? I didn’t get that part, about the unlived life.”

“It's another version of you. Maybe you meet somebody you know you’d be if you’d made different choices. Maybe they’re happy and successful, and you think you would be like that if you weren’t holding on to something else. Or maybe they're all fucked up and miserable, and you think you'd be like that if you hadn't decided to get your shit together."

“Like what?”

"You're doing it again, A-Bomb. I don't have the faintest fucking idea of what you're asking me."

"If you weren't holding on to something else you said. What would you be holding on to?"

“I don’t know. Like a dead body in transport. But the bottom line is you can’t get your mind off Paris, and I can’t blame you for that. She’s why we need security at the entrance to the club. Men tend to get obsessed with her. I don’t get jealous of her because that would take all my time. And besides, nobody else can mirror her back the way I can, and nobody can mirror me back like she can.

“You know what’s underneath it all? Vanity, A-Bomb; and we both know it.”

“Isn’t that wrong?”

“It’s easy to get wrong if you get too full of yourself I guess.”

They were on a residential street, then; workmen were repairing a water line. A crew stood around a truck watching a backhoe operator moving a steel plate over an hole in the street. The street was steep, leading up to an expanse of blue sky; as they topped the hill the bay came into view. The fog had lifted and the wharf sparkled in the late morning sunlight.

“Like I said, I’m not jealous,” Louis continued when they were beyond the noise of the repair crew. “But you thinking about Paris all the time is bad for you, because it distracts you. So when you aren’t actually dealing with Paris, you ought to forget about her, so that you don’t let her interfere with business. We’ve got a job to do and we need to focus on it.”

There was nobody in the downstairs when they got back to the club so they went upstairs to their apartment. Paris’ door was closed. “I guess I’ll listen to that book some more,” A-Bomb said. “And the more I’m around you the more I think like you. I learn things.”

“Yea,” Louis said. “I’m the brains and you’re the muscle. We make a hell of a centaur don’t we?”

Posted: Sat - February 23, 2008 at 01:58 PM