By Pete Moss
Finally the van is all packed up and ready to go. We shake hands with Dragen. Shake hands with Jonathan.
"Where's Pedro?" says YoYo.
"Ah shit! Why's he have to pick now to disappear?" I say.
"We can't leave without him," says YoYo "He's my dog."
"Not according to him," I say.
"It don't matter what he thinks, he only a dog. He mine!" says YoYo. "We ain't leaving without him!"
"If he don't show up in about two minutes I'm leaving without any of you," I say.
But just then Pedro comes skittering around the corner at a flat out run. He runs right over and hops into the van. Followed by two other dogs.
"What the fuck?" I say. The other two dogs hop right into the van behind Pedro, all 3 dogs barking and hopping around.
"I think they ready to go," says YoYo.
"We can't take three dogs...." I start to argue. But then I hear what sounds an awful lot like a gunshot. What with my recent experiences, I know what to do. I run around and jump in the van, fire it up and peal out of there. In the rear view mirror I see a big guy lumbering around the corner Pedro just turned. The big guy is waving a pistol.
I speed down to the corner, make a turn, make another turn, make a third turn, find an on-ramp and get on the 580 south. YoYo is in the back talking to the dogs. I look in the rearview. One of the dogs is a pretty ugly pitbull stray. But he's not acting at all belligerent. As a matter of fact, he seems to adore YoYo.
'We'll sort this out once we get to Dago' I think to myself, and I settle in for the long drive.
Dawn is cracking when we pull off the 5 at Imperial. We're instantly surrounded by a sea of tents and shopping carts and broke down bicycles. There's also spanking new condo towers and an imposing baseball stadium.
YoYo wakes up and comes to sit in the passenger seat.
"Oh no, uh uh, I ain't even parking up around here, nope," says YoYo. For once I think YoYo is making sense.
The dogs are crowding around the window, sniffing greedily.
I'm tired. All I want to do is pullover and turn off the van and go to sleep for a few hours. I find a spot under a tree on 14th.
"You going to sleep?" says YoYo.
"Yeah," I say.
"I'm gonna take the dogs for a walk," says YoYo.
I wake up cause it's blazing hot in the van. I'm dying of thirst.
YoYo and the dogs are milling around outside, talking to some grungy characters. I come out of the van. "You got any water?" I say. One of the guys hands me a bottle of water. I take a slug.
"These gentlemen say the vandwellers live over on Pacific Highway, mostly," says YoYo. "They say the baseball games fuck up parking in this neighborhood."
"Where's that?" I say. I drink more water. I don't know if I'll be able to drink enough water. It's bloody hot and I'm sweating as fast as I can drink.
The street wizards offer a cacophony of advice. It takes at least 15 minutes to sort it all out before I have the directions down fairly pat. Then we load into the van and fire it up. A police car cruises by, giving us the stink eye.
We find Pacific Highway and I know we're good. We roll up behind a nice Winnebago. It's under the overpass so the sun is blocked. The dogs bound out of the van and start sniffing everything in sight.
I'm hungry. I noticed a Carls Jr nearby. I have enough money to buy me something but not enough for YoYo or the dogs. My stomach is rumbling. What am I gonna do?
I hear YoYo chatting with somebody outside the van. I get out of the van.
The person YoYo is chatting with is tiny, and dressed like a Guatemalan peasant, although her accent is NYC.
"I'm Ramona Darby," she says, holding out her hand as if she's a princess expecting a handkiss from a liege lord. I take her hand and give it an anemic shake. "Pleased to meet you," I say.
Ramona Darby stares at me expectantly. "I'm Ramona Darby," She repeats. I look at YoYo and YoYo rolls her eyes.
"I wrote 'The Golden Noose'" says Ramona Darby.
The phone rings. It's Spela. "I'm at the airport renting a car. Where did you park up?" she says.
"3765 Pacific Highway," I say.
"I'll be right there," says Spela, and she hangs up.
"Oooh, you have a phone, can I borrow your phone," says Ramona. "I'll give you $20 if you let me use it. What's your area code?"
"415," I say.
"Let's see the $20," says YoYo.
Ramona whips out a double sawbuck from the folds of her dirndl, or whatever it's called in Guatemala.
I hand over the phone. Ramona punches in a number. She holds the phone flat in front of her chin. The phone rings twice. It's picked up.
"Hersh and Lefkowitz, literary agents, how may I help you?" says the voice.
"This is Margret Atwood, I would like to talk to Myron Hersh," says Ramona. There's a longish pause. Ramona plows on, " I was talking to Myron at a cocktail party in the Hamptons last night, he suggested I call."
"Is that you Ramona?" says the voice on the phone. "You're not in New York City are you?"
"Well what's the area code on the number I'm calling from?" says Ramona.
"That doesn't mean anything these days. Are you in the City?" says the phone voice.
"Maybe," says Ramona.
"You are so lucky Mr. Hersh is such a gentleman. If it was up to me I would sue you into the next millenium for that hundred thousand dollars, and get a restraining order."
"I have no idea what you're talking about. Who is this Ramona person you think I am? I am Margret Atwood, the distinguished Canadian author. I wrote the Handmaids Tale..."
The phone voice interrupts: "Cut the crap Ramona. I happen to know Margret Atwood is in California right now on a promotional tour supporting her new book. I just checked pix on Facebook where she was at an instore booksigning in Berkeley. She wasn't anywhere near the Hamptons! Not to mention Mr. Hersh went home with a couple of manuscripts from the slush pile last night. I know for a fact he didn't go to any cocktail party in the Hamptons or anywhere else."
"Just put me through to Myron," says Ramona.
"Myron is not in the office at this time." Then the connection is broken.
Ramona looks at me. "Can I make one more call?" she says.
"For another $20," says YoYo. Ramona forks over another Jackson. But her call doesn't go through.
"Oh well," says Ramona.
Just then Spela pulls up in a rental car. The dogs greet Spela joyously.
"Are you guys hungry?" says Ramona.
"I sure am." I say.
"C'mon into my van," says Ramona.
Her van is spotless and neat. Whatever kind of crazy Ramona is, she's not a hoarder. She gets out cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers and cheese and mayonaise and thick loaves of brown bread and sets to work making sandwiches.
"You guys want to play Scrabble?" says Ramona. "I love to play Scrabble."