Family (Part XV)
By Pete Moss
I'm sitting in the houseboat. The place never had much life and now it's strictly a shell. I'm sitting at the table where the Samoans played cribbage. I'm counting money. It's early morning. Preston has a busy schedule, the only time he could spare to come pick up the money was around 3AM.
There's a knock at the door.
"C'mon in Preston," I say.
Preston walks in.
He see the money on the table. His face changes. "That's not 20 grand," he says.
"No, it's not." I say. "You want to count it?" I stand up.
Preston sits where I was sitting.
"There's only ten grand here," He says.
"That's all you get. Take it or leave it."
"Of course you know this means Horatio and GiGi are gonna show up on TMZ."
"Get real Preston. GiGi has been out of the public eye for over twenty years. Nobody gives a shit about her. You said you're just a businessman. Cut your loss and move on."
Preston thinks about that. Maybe some football players are stupid, Preston isn't one of them.
"If that's the case why is she giving me any money at all?"
"Because I told her to."
"Hey, I need a smoke. You wanna move this conversation out onto the deck? There's a no smoking clause in the lease on this houseboat. If I smoke inside Germaine looses her deposit."
Preston looks at the money. Looks at me. I walk away like I don't give a shit what happens. I go out on the deck. Light up. Preston comes out.
"You want a smoke?" I say.
"Yeah, I do," says Preston. I offer him the pack. He shakes out a stick, sticks it his mouth. I hand him the lighter. We're standing by the rail. Preston gets the stick lit and inhales.
"Damn dude, the way you suck on that, I guess smoking was like totally verbotten in your playing days," I say.
"Yeah, it was," says Preston, getting kind of dreamy. "You ever play sports?"
"No," I say.
Preston turns and looks out at the Bay. You can't see the Golden Gate from Sausalito, but you get a pretty good view of that other bridge.
I turn and pick up the baseball bat I planted earlier. I've got one shot and I swing for the fence.
There's a crack and a pop. I connect perfectly, right at the base of the skull where the vertabrae connect. Preston's head snaps up like he suddenly got an uncontrollable urge to look at the Big Dipper. Then he topples over the rail and falls into the Bay.
With his low body fat ratio and empty lungs Preston sinks to the bottom quite efficiently.
I imagine him tumbling along, dragged by the tide, out into the bay. Then in day or so, when decomposition sets in and gasses build, rising to the surface and washing up in Berkeley. Or maybe floating out the Golden Gate to be eaten by sharks and Barracudas, never seen or heard from by humans ever again.
If there is a god.
I go back into the houseboat, get the money, shove it in my courier bag.
I walk over to Bridgeway and catch the bus back to the City.
I'm ringing Germaine's doorbell at dawn.
Germaine answers. She looks Ill.
"Where's whatshername?" I say.
"Day off," says Germaine.
I walk into the house. Plunk down the courier bag on a coffee table.
"Preston changed his mind."
"Good god....what did you say to him?"
"Am I gonna hear from him anymore?"
Germaine comes over to give me a hug. I don't really feel like a hug, unless it's from Dijay.
I want to ask Germaine about Carmen, and Granny, and where was I born. But it seems like the wrong time. It'll probably never be the right time.
It may have been over 2 decades since Germaine did any acting, but she retains that actor's instinct for being the center of everything at all times.
Germaine sits down on the couch. She looks at the money on the coffee table.
She looks at me. She counts out a thousand dollars and shoves it my way.
"Go on, take it."
"I don't know. I didn't do this for money," I say.
"I know you did it for family. I appreciate that. But the truth is we're not much of a family. Here take two thousand. Get yourself a place to stay."
"I know, you're living in the Packard. Did I mention San Francisco is a small place? There's not much I don't know."
"Well....I was thinking of moving in with Dijay. I mean since this thing with Horatio is over."
"Of course you know I don't approve of her. But I'm not going to make some ultimatum."
"So can I bring her over for Sunday Dinner?"
"I'd rather you didn't. But it would be great if we stayed in touch."
"Of course," I say. Stuffing the 20 c-notes into my courier bag.
I let myself out of the house and I hear glass clink as Germaine pours herself a drink.
I ride on over to the Streetgirls collective.
"Anyone home?" I don't enter the compound. I shout out again. There's some stirring from one of the trailers. Then Dijay appears.
"Hollister? You back in the City? You ready to work? I got a gig tonight at a car show in San Jose."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Is there anything you want to tell me?" I say.
"Has that cousin of yours been talking in your ear?"
"San Francisco is a small place you know."
Dijay looks at me, her eyes flat. "So?"
"Well for starters, I never see any other streetgirls round here. calling this a collective implies more than one person is involved."
Dijay laughs, "O that," she says. "There used to be half a dozen of us, but they all drifted off. One of them is a soccer mom married to a dentist in Mill Valley now. Another is working for Google in Mountain View. I lost track with the other two. I'm the last one left, just me and my laptop, Lucille."
"Why you named your laptop Lucille?"
"Like in the old blues song?"
I shrug. People are always dropping obscure references on me. I wish they'd cut it out.
Then Dijay comes over to me. Real close, not quite pressing her body to mine but close enough so I can feel her warm breath on my neck.
"So you working tonite or not?"
"Of course I am.""Welcome back."