The sun was big on the shopping center. McMurtry had walked by my juice bar. If he had asked me about Christine couldn’t I have told him all about the dress she wore, couldn’t I have told him all that Drew told him, couldn’t I have reported the length of the grass that day, the swoop of the swallows off the streetlight come evening, the swing of her gait that last time she got off work at Party Poodle, the last time she tossed her head, flipping the hair out of her eyes, the last time she was seen alive around here? Couldn’t I? What is it about McMurtry, with his cowboy way of talkin’, that makes everyone think he’s more than just human, like he has stepped off the screen, snap his finger and all the clues are buzzing in his ears like mosquitoes? I’ve been peeling kiwis and squeezing grapefruits 8 months before Drew ever showed up around here with his harmonica and stories of smoking pot at Santa Monica Pier! And all McMurtry says to me is, “Seen any strangers around here?” and then he shot the shit with Drew, shining his belt buckle with his own spit, chewin’ on a corn dog he never paid for, bitching about the coarseness of the ice in the frostee freezes these days, and finally, when Drew said he had better get back to the pharmacy, he took out his pad and tugged at his mustache and looked up at the hole in the eaves and said Well, about this here Meredith thing.
Christine, I said, and he just gave me a dirty look – no, less, a dirty glance, like I wasn’t even there, grumbling, It’s a dog eat dog world out there, a pretty little thing like that, well, whatcha gonna do about it. Then he put a thumb in a belt loop and sighed, but making it sound less like a sigh than a grunt, like men can’t sigh or something, like that dick in my bio class in ninth grade wiping his eye when the lights came up after the movie about the coyote dying in the trap, and he had to throw us off the scent of his sadness, saying something about the shape of Jeff Parsons’ pecker. Ain’t nothing sadder than sadness ashamed to be. McTurdry’s not man enough to be sad, the son of a bitch: anyway when she was alive he only dared jerk off to her picture in his mind, hardly had a word to say to her beyond “Whoop-dee! Business good?” Crickets are howling down near 5:00 and moths are rising from the swamp where no one has thought to search yet and McSmurtry finally gets around to askin’ a few questions and I cut my finger trying to grate lemon peel and keep an eye on Drew’s face at the same time and I say Fuck and Drew’s uneasy, lighting a smoke saying he’s gotta go and McSpurtry sighs again in grunt camouflage and says Keep yer chin up we’ll get the son of a bitch, cut his fuckin’ head off, doin’ in a nice girl like that.
My finger’s bleeding into lemon peel, McDirtry’s shuffling off sighing like a cowboy, remembering Christine’s tossing hair that last time, too low now to do dirty things to her picture, I’m remembering sick puppy Drew asking where she’s off to, I’m remembering the way she twisted away from him not telling him, but not letting her smile be taken away either. And crickets scream, telling me where she’s hid. The last smoothy of the night and I run out of vanilla yogurt. I don’t get paid enough to put up with this nightmare.