Family (Part XXIII)
By Pete Moss
I'm walking down the street when I feel something glide up next to me.
It's one of these Teslas. I hate electric cars. They run all sneaky silent.
The Tesla is black and shiny, with black windows. The car stops. The driver door opens and a guy in a black suit gets out.
He opens the rear door and looks at me. He nods his head for me to get in. So I do.
There's a guy sitting in the back.
"I am Grigory Nakamura," says the guy. I shrug. The guy looks mildly annoyed.
"I am inventor and owner of 'FlyingPigs', also 'KarzyKube'."
"Are those websites?" I say.
"You Americans say what? Ah, yes, Cell Phones, iPhone, smart phones."
I get out my 10 year old flip phone and show it to Grigory. "My phone plays Tetris."
"Yes, is ancestor of KrazyKube."
"So what can I do for you, Mr. Nakamura?"
"I am offering you job."
"In computer programming? I think you have the wrong guy."
"Not computer programming. Guarding body."
"You want to offer me a job as a bodyguard?"
"Yes! Yes! Bodyguard! That is it."
"My niece, Lorelei San Carlos."
"Lolita! Ach! I hate that name she insists on using! My niece reads smutty books! Lorelei is also her mom, she is named after, unfortunately, dead, as is father, in car crash, in Bahamas. Lorelei is orphan."
"Who am I guarding her body from?"
"Why, of course....bull dykes."
"Yes they will want to use sex toys on her when she is living in Los Angeles."
"How did you pick me?"
"Lorelei is very insistent it must be you."
"What's this about living in Los Angeles?"
"Lorelei wants to move to Los Angeles. She is bored with San Francisco. I lease house for her at Venice Beach."
"Uh, geee, So I'll move to LA, and live, what?... full time with Lorelei? Bodyguarding her at Venice Beach?"
"Yes, that is plan."
"That is a bit of a disruption, I have a baby on the way..."
"Yes, yes, I know all about it."
"I'll have to think this over."
"I understand, how rude of me, I forget to mention compensation. You will be paid $1000 per week, also enrolled in Kaiser health plan. Also you get car. That will be part of your duties, to drive Lorelei where she wants to go."
"Actually....I already have a car."
"What kind of car?"
"A 1953 Packard Patrician."
"If I can't use the Packard that's a deal breaker right there."
Grigory drums his fingers on the leather armrest.
An eventful day for sure.
I walk into Dadís house on 38th Avenue. Seems like nobody is home.
I'm suddenly very hungry. I go in the kitchen and rummage around and come up with a can of sardines and some crackers, also a piece of pizza.
Lately it's hard to find anything to eat in the house Ďcause Dijay eats everything in sight.
I'm munching a sardine cracker and staring out the back window when Dad comes in. He has a sack of take out.
"Hi," he says.
"Hey, so uh, what about this deal you said? You wanna buy Dijay off me?"
"Well uh, yeah, about that."
"I'm just wondering about the kid? I want to keep the rights to the kid," I say.
"No, the kid is mine. I get the whole package, mom and kid."
"And I what? Just sort of fade out of the picture?"
"So what you tell the kid?"
"Nothing. The kid doesn't need to know. By the way its name is Hollister McElroy 3rd."
"Well there you go. What happens when the kid asks about Hollister McElroy 2nd?"
"That'll be me."
"So basically you plan on raising the kid as your son, instead of your grandson."
"I think that's best. I'm more settled, mature, financially stable."
"So what we talkiní, say 10K?"
Dijay walks in. I realize that her and Dad have been out somewhere, together. Then I recall, she had a ob/gyn appointment. Dad must have taken her in his Lincoln.
"Have you had lunch?" says Dad. He sets a bag of take out on the counter. Now he starts taking it apart. Getting out the little cartons and some plates. Setting the plates on the table. Putting out forks and spoons and glasses.
We all sit at the table. I realize Dijay and Dad are sitting next to each other across the table from me. I take a bite of Kung Pao Chicken. It's the good stuff from the expensive joint on Clement.
Dijay and Dad exchange glances. Some kind of covenant passes between them.
Then Dijay starts talking.
"Hollister, your father and I have fallen in love," she says.
I don't really believe that. Neither of them has shown much of a loving streak. They're both more cold, calculating types. More likely they've cut some kind of mutually beneficial deal.
"Congratulations." I'm not feeling all that bothered actually. The idea of spending the rest of my life getting henpecked by Dijay was becoming pretty depressing.
"We think you should move out. You said something about going to college in LA. If you still want to do that, I could provide some financial assistance," says Dad.
"What about my kid?"
"We'll be adopting Trip."
"Short for Triple, as in the third."
Dijay is peering at me. "You don't seem very broken up." There's a definite note of annoyance in her voice. Like a Sadist denied a chance to inflict pain.
"I'm falling apart on the inside," I say.
Like I said, one hell of a day.
"How about we let Loli....Lorelei, decide?" I say.
Grigory thinks for a minute. "Maybe could work, OK, we try." He gets out a tablet. Jabs the screen. He slots the tablet into a holder on the back of the front seat.
Presently we're video conferencing with Lorelei.
"Uncle GiGi!" she says. She appears to be in the kitchen of the mansion, cooking something. Maybe a cake, since she has a smudge of flour on her cheek. She's wearing an apron.
I smirk, "Uncle GiGi? She calls you Uncle GiGi?"
Grigory rolls his eyes.
"I have bodyguard with me. We have sticking point in negotiation. We have agreed you will settle issue. We will be at mansion soon."
"Hi Holly," says Lorelei to me.
"Ha! She calls you 'Holly'," says Grigory.
My turn to roll eyes.
"I'm baking a Kugel," says Lorelei. "It should be ready by the time you get here."
"Is good," says Grigory. He ends the call.
"So, we get this Packard and drive to mansion. Where is parked?"
I give the cross streets where the Packard is parked and start to give directions but Grigory waves his hand.
A female voice comes out of the dash of the car. "Turn right on Larkin Street," it says.
Half an hour later we're pulling up to the mansion on Santa Ynez.
The Tesla pulls into the driveway and around back the house. I park the Packard at the curb.
Lorelei comes bubbling out of the front door of the mansion, wearing a white tennis dress and tiny rhinestone covered flip flops.
She runs up to me and gives me a hug. At that moment Grigory comes out the front door of the mansion. He doesn't seem to have any problem with the sight of Lorelei hanging around my neck.
"So what's the problem, Uncle GiGi?"
"This car, he wants to use for job."
Lorelei turns and notices the Packard for the first time. "Oh my, it's a big one," she says. "Well, let's take it for a test drive, see how it rides." She flashes me an evil little grin and hops in the front seat.
"What kind of car is this?" she says.
"A '53 Packard."
"Oooh, we can name her Betty Page."
"We most certainly will not name it 'Betty Page', and itís not a her. It's an it and its name is The Packard." I go to twist the key and Lorelei, looking at me, puts her hand on the dash, and nothing happens. I twist the key some more, still nothing happens. Still looking right at me, Lorelei removes her hand from the dash. The Packard starts right up.
Then Lorelei puts her hand back on the dash and The Packard dies right out.
"So," says Lorelei, "Her name is Betty Page, right?"
Rolling through the Central Valley. Early morning. Tule fog. Cold.
Lorelei is asleep in the back seat, under a foot thick down comforter.
The Packard is rolling nice and smooth.
'Bettie Page' my ass.
It's annoying having to refer to the Packard as Bettie Page whenever Lorelei is around. But if I don't, she does that thing with her hand.
My trusty Packard has betrayed me. It's no longer MY trusty Packard. Just like that, it's deserted me for a 14 year old girl.
On the other hand, I did get the Packard from my Great Aunt Elizabeth. Before it came to me it was a womanís car.
Maybe it's not my car after all. Maybe I was only borrowing it.
I'm just thinking idly, I guess, as the long boring miles roll by under the tires. Who cares who The Packard belongs to, it's just a hunk of metal.
Then there's a loud pop, a blowout. The Packard fishtails. I counter steer. Get it under control.
It's scary for a minute, but I get it onto the shoulder, bring it to a stop.
Lorelei wakes up.
"What happen?" she says.
"Yeah...the tire. Flat," I say, taking a minute to get myself together. I stare at Lorelei.
"Well, fix it. Hurry up, I can't wait to get to LA," says Lorelei.
I stare at Lorelei.
"What?" she says.
"It's cold out there. And muddy."
"So? You're a big rough, tough man."
"Can't you just like, wave your hand and make it better, like say some magic word? Like you do when you make The Pack.....I mean Bettie, stop and start?"
"Ha, interrupting the electro-magnetic pulse of the ignition system is one thing, getting shredded rubber to knit itself back together is something else," Then Lorelei wraps herself back up into her down comforter and makes to go back to sleep.
There's nothing for it but to pop the trunk, wrestle out the jack and the spare tire, get down to business.