TOPANGA (Chapters 8 & 9)

Don Bajema Issue: Section:

8. Sissy

Dad nodded up ahead of us. In the distance was Junior with Grant at the wheel barreling the Rivera they drove close to
the scrub brush along the rotunda's lower curve, then cloud billowing sliding into the lane and coming at us. We looked for a narrow place in the side ditch to jump and a place that wasn't cactus or a mud pit to land. We clipped over an old wire fence and ran along a path that leaned down through thick grass into Abner's backyard.
The Rivera boiled past. We cut across the back of Abner's place heading to a portal the deer made between our hedge fence.
"Why don't you wait awhile and then go up and see if you can find her."
"Okay."
"Then come back and get me."
Abner leaned out his kitchen window not ten feet from us.
"She's not there."
"Who?"
"Debbie."
"Hell you talking about about, Abner?"
"That girl. Richard took her to his place."
We stood there with nothing to say. Then Abner sighed in a whisper,
"I made a call."
"You what..?"
He looked at us with 'what else could I do' plastered on his face, it was noble of him.
"Called some investigators..."
"What'd you say to them?"
"Said there's an underage girl around here high on drugs and getting passed around the houses."
"Richard’s house!"
"Well, I wasn't gonna point a finger at Junior was I?"
Then he looked a little self satisfied and about as stupid as anyone I've ever seen in that state of mind,
"Soon as she went to Richard’s I called. They'll be here in a few minutes."
Dad ducked through the portal and I hung back. Abner figured I was about to say something complimentary or
conspiratorial or gender relevant, but I said,
"Abner, Idiot, next time you call the police make sure to give us a head's up."
By the time I got to our front door, Gloria, Sally, Imogene and Wilma were waving at me out of the driveway in Dad's
Camaro.
I thumped up the old stairs and crossed the front porch past the guy seated at the piano. He rolled the deep keys and pointed down the hallway.
Dad was going room to room looking for anything that he wouldn't want the police to see. Straightened up here and there
putting shoes away mostly.
He stood in the hallway and shrugged.
"Hungry?"
"Yeah."
And we started making breakfast. Five minutes later, like hobos, the rest of the band that had been staying with Gloria and the girls wandered up the back porch, sniffing the air with hopeful looks on their faces. I took the rest of the eggs out of the fridge and began breaking them in a bowl. Dad tossed me the cheese and pushed bread down in the toaster.
Then Abner showed up. He stood in the kitchen door acknowledging the rock gods passing by him to the front room and then after glancing over his shoulder in a display of confidence said,
"Excuse me, but there is just such a window of time and it lasts only so long. I thought it was a huge break for her to get out of Juniors. And I'll be damned if I don't do something to prevent her from going back. You know...bad things..have..."
"You did the right thing." Dad said.
"And next time, just like this time. I'll make sure you know before any cops come around." He kind of glared at me.
I pretended to be properly put down.
"They're detectives, one's named Johnson, he's the lead guy I think and the other guy..well, you'll know what to call him soon as you see him."

9. Abner

Sissy was chopping tomatoes, dicing onions, and laughing at something the band’s drummer said that was funny but wasn't intended to be. I watched him pretending his observation delivered with utmost sincerity was really a quick wry summation. I don't think he knew why it was funny but he smiled a few beats too late to suggest he did. Sissy laughed again careful not to seem scornful. I liked her for that. This was a girl who seemed to always be a jump ahead.

Billy was crumbling bacon in his palms over a yellow soup of broken eggs in a frying pan.

I was sitting next to the band's front man, he didn't wear a scarf, but it seemed like he was always flipping something over his shoulder, he didn't quite suck his cheeks in but he was very aware of his profile. He demanded he be the center of attention as befits a rock star recently off the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, rich very high and getting richer by the moment with two songs on the charts. The band was cheerfully going along for the ride, each of them working hard to draw the front man into conversation. But, Lyle was pretty tight lipped like people are when they're on top, have a mystique around them and can only lose by dispelling the mystery with talk.There was an unacknowledged intense rivalry going on among them and it seemed they were being very careful to keep things light so as not to cast any light on their competition which would bring things to a head. The tension was hidden behind a collective cool. We were, that is Billy, Sissy and I, as they fucked their way through Billy's girls, including Gloria who finished last night and came over to my place and crept into my bed like a little girl after a bad dream, becoming less and less outsiders. You could tell they looked up to Billy..but he had that command. And Sissy was forbidden fruit so that they related to her as a peer and wound up being gently laughed at as she saw through their ruses and excused their clumsiness.

Sissy glanced at Billy, saw that the soup was hardening up and emptied the cutting board into the pan, then turned as the toaster popped and began buttering a couple slices of toast.

I was rolling a big fat joint over my breakfast plate talking to the rock god and trying to find movies we both liked which wasn't that hard as he was a fan of Steve McQueen and Sam Fuller movies.

Then car doors slammed outside in the lane and fenders bottomed out in the ruttted lane and ripped past the gate at a speed that was entirely inappropriate for a neighborhood. Lyle was too cool to care but the rest of us were looking out the front door at brown dust billowing over the fence and loud voices calling commands answered by confused protests.

Billy, shirtless and barefoot went out the door digging the front gate's key out of his pants. Sissy looked at me and shrugged, then disappeared down the hallway.

I turned the fire off under the frying pan.

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