The Laguna Bungle (Session 1)
Deep-seated dreams play in my head like an 8mm film. I can hear the monotonous whir of the projector. I can see the images flash across a square white screen tacked to the wall with screaming skull nails. Her heart spills out to me in black ink calligraphy a moment before I was running through that red brick schoolyard, my rubbered feet slapping that sliver of silver walk, deep green grass all around. The bombs let go like children being dropped from a burning building to save them. Then that thunderous burst, the roll of debris, the dust, and the smoke… Blood stains for Christmas.
I was hanging out down in Laguna Beach sipping a tropical drink from a cup made of broom straw. I was wearing my green OP t-shirt, the one with blue and white waves on it, and I was trying to be California cool. I was having stomach problems and money worries and then I looked back behind me, across the asphalt artery bloated with vehicles, and up to the house made of gold and glass perched precariously on a cliff there. With all those tall windows, I thought, they must have an amazing view of the ocean as it rolls and sleeps. Then I noticed there was some person sitting out on the high veranda in a pale pink bathrobe and she — for it seemed to be a woman — was eating something. I pulled out the pair of binoculars I kept in my fanny pack and aimed them toward the veranda of the gold and glass house.
She seemed to be enjoying her fat lifestyle up there as she munched away at her toast slathered with peanut butter and plum jam. These were very good binoculars, military-grade. They came in very handy when I was fighting over in Oman. Someone came out of the house through a glass doorway with curtains that fluttered like a spinning ball gown. The man sat a drink down on a round table beside her. They spoke for a moment and the man went back inside. He must have been some sort of butler. He was tall, thin, had a pointy nose and a balding head — the slick hairs grossly combed across his scalp like tiger stripes — and he wore fancy clothes of black and Christmas red. Like I said, the binoculars were great for detailed observation.
I put the binoculars away, finished my drink and went down to the sand. I stripped off my OP t-shirt so that everyone could see my muscles. I sat there in the sand wearing only my swim trunks and a pair of cool, dark sunglasses. Some unattended kids came by and wanted to know if they could bury me in the sand.
“Shouldn’t I be dead first?” I asked in all seriousness.
They looked at each other and then one of the boys with hippie hair said, “We’ll leave your head sticking out so you can breathe.”
I agreed. “Okay. Go ahead.”
The small troop circled me, plastic beach shovels in their hands, and they feverishly began covering me up with the sand. It wasn’t long before there was a great mound of it on top of me, and like the boy had said, they left my head sticking out so I could breathe that Southern California air – that unique blend of saltwater and pollution.
They looked down at me and laughed. There were two boys and three girls. Someone called for one of them from a distance. “Over here!” one of the girls yelled out, and I saw an arm wave through the air. “We got to go,” she said, and then she snatched the sunglasses off my face, and they all ran away giggling.
“Hey!” I yelled out. “Bring those back. Do you want my eyes to burn out!”
I wriggled in the sand and eventually extracted myself from the grainy mound. I stood up and tried to brush what remained away. I shielded my eyes with a hand and scanned the beach for the little heathen that ran off with my sunglasses. And that’s when I saw the woman, hauling the girl along behind her by the hand, approach me holding out my Oliver Peoples. She handed them to me. “Sorry about that,” she said with a glossy tanned smile. “She can be a little brat sometimes.” And she gave her a forceful tug.
I looked down at the girl struggling to pull away from her mother. “It’s okay, but yeah, these are pretty expensive. Thanks for returning them… I was about to call the cops.”
She twisted her face and gave me a funny look. “Really? You would have called the cops on a kid?”
“She broke the law. It’s called theft.”
She looked me up and down like I was the most horrible person in the world. “Asshole.” She turned and clumsily stomped off through the sand, the squirming girl in tow.
I went back up to the wicker bar because I wanted to get wasted. I don’t know why I wanted to get wasted, I just did. I took a small table off by itself with a good view and the waiter brought me a bunch of Long Island iced teas. I got out my binoculars and aimed up at the gold and glass house again. The woman in the pink bathrobe was now standing against the rail smoking a cigarette. She was dreamily looking out at the ocean. I just kept on watching her to see what mundane thing she would do next, and it was probably a good thing I did.
The next thing that happened was kind of crazy because some man, not the butler, came storming out of the house and he was clutching a striped necktie in two tightly clenched hands, and he came up behind the woman with little to no hesitation and put the necktie around her throat and started pulling on it. The woman dropped her cigarette and sort of stumbled back against him. I could tell she was really struggling because she was desperately trying to claw at his forceful grip and it looked like she was choking, and her mouth was open, and her tongue was hanging out like a dog’s would in the hot summer sun.
I suddenly stood up. I bumped the table and my drink spilled. One of the waiters rushed over with a white towel and began to mop up my mess. I handed him the binoculars. “Take a look at this,” I said.
He looked through the binoculars. “What am I supposed to be seeing?” he asked.
“That woman over there on the veranda. She’s being strangled,” I told him.
“I don’t see anything,” he said. “Are you just being creepy?”
I snatched them back from him and looked myself. There the woman was, still being strangled. Her arms were now desperately waving in the air and I’m sure she was trying to scream. Her eyes looked straight at me, and I saw her lips form the word help. Then she went down.
I kept watching. The man was panting and wiping at his face with his hand like he was worried and upset. I saw him frantically look around. He must have been checking to see if anyone had witnessed what he had just done. He paced around the veranda trying to calm himself. He combed at his wild Al Pacino hair with his fingertips and he seemed to be arguing with himself. He stopped moving and straightened his clothes as he stood over her. Then he took the tie that he had used to strangle the woman with and put it around his own neck. He carefully knotted it, pulled it, and straightened it as if he were looking in the mirror while getting dressed for work. He glanced around one more time. Then he reached down, grabbed the woman by the arms, and dragged her into the house.
“Damn man. Some guy just killed that woman,” I said to the waiter who was still standing there with me.
He just shook his head and handed me my bill. “You’ve had too much to drink, mister. I’d advise that you just get yourself on home.” Then he walked off mumbling something to himself.
“It’s nice to know you don’t care about people getting murdered around here!” I yelled out after him. Then I threw some money on the table, re-checked my pockets to make sure I had all my stuff, and went to the street where I had my car parked.
I got into my little midnight blue convertible and started it up. I revved the engine a bit because I wanted to be cool. I checked myself in the rear-view mirror and then I checked for traffic in my side mirror. I stomped on the gas pedal and pulled out in front of someone just for fun. They laid on their horn and I flipped them off.
The traffic was just too much. Why do we live like this? I wondered. I took the first left that went up into the hills. I searched for the gold and glass house, and it wasn’t too hard to find. I pulled to the curb on the other side of the street, shut down my ride, and just waited. I don’t know what I was waiting for, but that’s what I did.
TO BE CARRIED ON
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