The Courier Bandit and Other Tales (Part VII)
By Pete Moss
THE COURIER BANDIT (Part VII)
(Click here for Part VI )
Courier Bandit is in the liquor store long enough for Tyke to get fidgety.
But he does come out with a bulgy black plastic bag.
And another bag with a pint of Taaka Vodka and a couple cans of San Pelegrino Limonata.
Courier Bandit hands the bulgy bag to Tyke. He sits on the fold down bed and digs out plastic cups.
"Anybody want a drink?" he says, mixing himslef some Taaka and Limonata.
"Mix me one those," says Fluffy.
"Waita minute," says Tyke.
"Might as well have a drink, while I wait for you to count the money," says Courier Bandit.
"Fluffy, you get fucked up on the job one more time and I through with you," says Tyke.
"I ain't gonna get fucked up off a drink....or two," says Fluffy.
Courier Bandit hands Fluffy her drink. She has a sip. The Vodka is warm and expansive in her guts. Fluffy thinks it might be nice to sit and get drunk on delicious drinks with this courier bandit, who she is quite sure has an inexhaustible supply of amusing anecdotes and spellbinding stories.
"I want a drink," says Amanda.
"You are underage." says Courier Bandit.
"Give her a drink," says Fluffy.
Courier Bandit mixes a drink for Amanda Carolina.
"You want one?" says Courier Bandit to Tyke.
"Fuck no." says Tyke, counting money.
"You're friend always this grumpy?" asks Courier Bandit.
Fluffy rolls her eyes. Amanda laughs.
"So there's only a little over 8 grand," says Tyke.
"I cleaned out my account," shrugs Courier Bandit.
"Who was behind the counter?"
"Mo. You wanna go in the store and ask him?"
"C'mon Tyke, let's just take the money and run," says Fluffy. She hands her empty cup to Courier Bandit who mixes her another drink.
"These are really tasty," says Fluffy. "You ever been a bartender?"
"Nope. I wouldn't last a shift, the way I like to drink."
Serious storm clouds brew over Tyke's brow.
"Anyway, you need a ride back to your ride, right?" says Courier Bandit.
"Yeah, actually we do," says Fluffy.
Courier Bandit drains his drink and gets in the driver seat of his van. "You parked by 25th and Minnesota?"
"Yeah," says Fluffy.
Back at Fluffy house Tyke counts out Fluffy $500 and locks the rest of the loot in the safe.
"That's you idea of a fair split?" says Amanda.
"Whatever I give her she just blows it on dope."
Fluffy does not pay attention to Tyke. Fluffy been busy texting various dealers, setting up buys. Fluffy runs out and down to the street, hops in a cab and is gone.
"That's pathetic," says Amanda.
"I know. She wasn't always like that. I dunno what to do. I can't live with her and I can't live without her. BTW, I know about you and her, Baby Hooker."
Amanda picks up Tykes gun off the kitchen counter.
"Nothing personal Tyke," says Amanda.
Tyke does not answer, lost in a memory of how sweet it was in the beginning, with Fluffy.
"Hey Tyke, earth to Tyke, I always wanted a gun. Teach me how to shoot?"
"Huh? Oh....right....nothing to it. Just point and pull."
"Like this?" Amanda Carolina points the gun at Tykes head and pulls the trigger.
Half of Tyke's head is vaporized and Tyke falls down dead.
"I told you stop calling me Baby Hooker," says Amanda Carolina.
Amanda wipes the gun and drops it. She goes to the safe and punches in the code she saw Tyke use. She piles money into an oversize purse from Fluffy closet. AC slings the purse over her shoulder and leaves the house. Sirens are still far away.
Courier Bandit sits in his van, sipping Vodka and Lemonade and reading George Pelicanos.
Pretty soon he feels sleepy. A pint of cheap Vodka and Courier Bandit is out for 10 hours or more. It is a source of shame for Courier Bandit how he can't hold his liquor like his dad.
Courier Bandit isn't sure what time it is when he hears the noise outside the van. It takes him a minute to come awake.
"That you Amanda Carolina?"
Courier Bandit opens up.
"I shot Tyke. I need you get me outta Frisco. I'm sorry bout robbin' you earlier. I have some money."
"You have a little over 8 grand?"
"Sumpin’ like at."
"Left it behind."
"And the cops?"
"The cops? well....them, yeah...but I more worried bout Tyke's people."
"Good, so no real witness."
"But what about Fluffy."
"Fuck Fluffy. Her and Tyke were so over. Why you think Fluffy comin’ to me? Fluff'll find some other abusive relationship to submerge into. Trust me, there's no shortage of that in Frisco."
"I suppose not."
"So let's go! You all Mr OG Courier Bandit, know the ropes, get me the fuck outta here."
"Awright, awright. Whattya think of Palm Springs.?"
"I don't give shit! Let's just get the everlovin' fuck outta Frisco!!!"
"You know what? You gonna get snotty I can go somewhere else."
"OK OK, I just got 1 thing take care of, then we be on the road."
Amanda Carolina breathes out noisily.
Fluffy is surprised how many people show at Pier 39 for the ash scattering ceremony.
Fluffy lays out for a wet bar, but nobody drinks.
Fluffy remembers how Tyke used to always try and get Fluffy to AA meetings when they first got together.
How Tyke was clean and sober.
'Thank god I don't have to put up with that crap anymore,' thinks Fluffy.
None of Tyke's clean and sober friends have much to say to Fluffy. Especially after Fluffy makes a serious run at the wet bar. Only one other person is drinking.
Fluffy is too fucked up to scatter the ashes over the rail.
A scrawny old sister takes over.
Fluffy sheds a tear, then pukes over the rail.
"Just a little seasick," she explains, but nobody pays any attention to her.
Fluffy pukes again just before the get back to the dock.
She feels better back on dry land. She knows she can keep drinking, maybe cop some ice. Except that little bitch Amanda Carolina took all the money.
Won't it be sweet though? Fluffy will never have to worry about Tyke's disapproval ever again. She just has to get her hands on some cash and let the party begin. The Highway to Hell is wide open. All the speed limits mowed over and buried.
Fluffy walks off the gangplank and a person falls in next to her.
"I already talked to the cops," says Fluffy. It barely takes a glance to size this person pacing her.
"I'm not with the cops anymore."
"I'm Jane Quiggmann. I want to help you recover something belongs to you."
"Don't know what you are talking about."
"OK," says Quiggmann and makes to peel off.
"Wait," says Fluffy.
Quiggmann resumes walking next Fluffy.
"Lemme think on it. How can I reach you?"
"You got a cell phone? here's my number."
Fluffy loads Quiggmann's number onto her list.
This completes "The Courier Bandit." The "Family" story will continue in upcoming issues.
FAMILY (Part VII)
I have to snip the ends off the boiled eggs and set them in egg cups. Elizabeth has a special spoon that she scoops egg out of the shell
with. She sprinkles salt from a salt cellar, using another special spoon. She takes a bite of egg, a bite of toast. Chews and swallows, then takes a sip of coffee. She drinks her coffee black.
After breakfast she wants me to brush and braid her hair.
"I can brush it, but I can't braid it. I don't have the foggiest idea how to braid anything."
"Oh dear. Why did Betsy have to pass away? I'm so lost without her."
Elizabeth does indeed have a full head of snow white hair that reaches halfway down her back. I can see that it takes some work to keep it from turning into a hopeless snarl. I never spent much time thinking about hair. Granny wore her hair in a bob and I go over my head with a pair of electric clippers about once a month.
"Truth is I really don't know much about hair at all," I say.
Elizabeth tells me start at the ends and work my way up, then she sits still, in a kind of trance as I work the brush.
"Can I ask you a question?" I say.
"How come I didn't know about you all these years?"
"You'd have to ask Anna."
"I plan to. But I want to get your side of the story."
"Anna and I were never close. We had different mothers. My mother died when I was 3. Father married Anna’s mother when I was 15. Then Anna was born the next year."
"I was the woman of the house. I could put on a successful dinner party for 20 people by the time I was 13. I managed the staff, I kept the budget, I kept father's calendar. It was my household and I ran it and I ran it well. Then father gets married, and suddenly I'm the stepchild. Who was this woman? Anastasia Litvak?! And then she has a baby?"
"I could see how it might be disruptive."
"OK. Then Anastasia dies when Anna is 5. Now I'm expected to take up running the house again, just like that. And raise a baby sister as well. Well, by then Betsy had come to work for us. Betsy and I hit it off immedietly."
"So how was Granny when she was little?"
"Oh she was no trouble really. She loved to draw and she loved her coloring books. She was always drawing or painting, or reading. She was self-contained, and I had help. And Father sent her days to a private girls school in Hancock Park. Anna didn't deserve it, but I did resent her. It cast a chill over our relationship."
"So then Granny went to Frisco to art school when she was 18?"
"18? Oh No. She told you that?
"More than once."
"Oh no. What happened was, when Anna was 15 she got in trouble over a boy. What was his name? Chatsworth, that was the family name."
"Wait...granny...got in trouble? How?"
"I don't know exactly. But anyway, Father paid her school a thousand dollars to let her graduate early, then he paid the Art Institute in San Francisco another thousand to let her enroll, even though she was barely 16. And the Chatsworth boy was shipped off to military school in, I think it was, Illinois."
"So Granny met Granpa when she was 16? And Granpa was what? 31?"
"I believe that's correct."
"And they got married and had Carmen...granny must have been barely 18?"
"I beleive your mother was born 4 months after they were married."
"Granny did mention mom was a premie."
"Carmen was a couple of weeks early, true."
"Wow! so Granny was a bit of a wild child."
"She had a Bohemian streak. If she hadn't met Joseph she would have fallen in with the beatniks when they came along."
"You ever meet Granpa?"
"He visited here a few times. Father would have fundraisers for one or another candidate. I'm rarely attracted to men, but I must say Joseph was a very sharp dresser, and immaculately groomed, and very self-confident. Most of the women in the room couldn't keep their eyes off him. If he hadn't died so young he could easily have been elected Senator."
I'm done brushing Elizabeth’s hair. I wait for her to keep talking, but she doesn't.
"There's more to it." I say.
"Why Granny never told me about you."
"You really want to know?"
"Yes, I do."
"I always felt she disapproved of Betsy and I...our....relationship."
"Granny's not like that...she's an artist!"
Elizabeth smiles sadly. "And that makes her immune to stupid prejudice?"
"Uh....well...I thought so."
A few days go by.
I explore the huge old house where Elizabeth has spent her life. It's a museum.
I cook for Elizabeth. She is rather particular. For breakfast she wants soft boiled eggs, Rye Toast and black coffee. For lunch she likes peanut butter and Jelly with mint tea.
At 4 every afternoon she wants a Whiskey Sour or two. She has an enormous old Philco TV, hooked up to a 1st generation VHS tape on which she likes to watch Robert Mitchum movies in the evening.
For dinner she likes take out, usually Tacos or Hot and Sour Soup while she watches her movie.
"You poor child, growing up in San Francisco. You have no idea what a proper taco is. You people up north put all manner of ridiculous things on tacos. A taco consists of a cheap cut of meat, Onions, Cilantro and Salsa, in a fold of doubled up corn tortillas. The meat should be fried on a sheet of metal over a gas fire. And the tacos are to be eaten immediately. The only acceptable side dish is sliced radish."
I have to admit she's right. I never liked Frisco tacos with their chopped cabbage and Romano cheese crumbles, or worse, tofu.
The Hot and Sour Soup is the same as it was in Frisco.
One morning after breakfast Elizabeth asks me to mow the lawn. This entails going into the garage. The garage is slightly larger than Grannies house in Frisco. The lawn mower looks like it could level a full size Kansas wheat field.
There's also a huge old Packard.
I'm entranced with the Packard. "Does it run?"
"Why yes, I believe it does. At least it did a year ago. Betsy and I drove to Venice for our anniversary."
"Can I start it up?"
"Well, why not. Do you know how to drive?"
"Of course." Actually, having grown up in Frisco, I don't know how to drive. My sum total of driving experience comes to piloting my best friend's Honda around the parking lot at SF State early one Sunday morning.
Elizabeth takes the key off a hook and hands it to me. "You should really open the garage door before you start it up."
So I open the garage door, then get behind the wheel of the Packard. I feel like the captain of battleship. All those little plastic jelly bean cars on the freeways of LA better wake up. There's a real steel tank about to come up on them.
I fit the key. Elizabeth gets in the car and tells me something about fluttering the gas pedal to get gas in the carb, after the cars been sitting. I do as she says and after some grinding the behemoth roars to life.
"Wow!!!" I say. "Wow!!! So this is what driving feels like!!"
"Settle down kid. We haven't actually driven anywhere yet. You wanna back it out of the garage first."
"Right, right. I was just coming to that."
"1st you adjust the seat so your feet are comfortable on the pedals and your arms are just right on the wheel," says Elizabeth. "Next you adjust the side mirrors so you can see what's beside you. You adjust the rearview mirror so you can see what's directly behind you."
I am impatient but I make the adjustments.
"Ok, now take ahold of the shifter and move it over to 'R' for reverse. Take your foot off the gas and keep it poised over the brake."
I do as I'm told. Two tons of metal go into motion. I hit the brake and the car stops. Elizabeth smiles.
Bit by bit I back the gigantic automobile out of the garage. Then slowly down the drive.
I get out and open the iron gate, get back in, and back the car onto the street.
It's Sunday morning and there isn't much traffic.
Out on the street I'm acutely aware of just how much space the Packard takes up. Every parked car we go by, I feel like we're gonna lock fenders.
"Just drive around the block a few times," says Elizabeth. "We'll get to the freeway next time."
And, after two circuits, I begin to get the hang of driving. Actually I like it. Actually I feel like a fucking Pharaoh in this monstrous heap of metal, with it's rumbling motor.
Elizabeth says nothing for 3 laps of the block. She seems to enjoy riding in the Packard as much as I do.
But then she speaks up. "So....you have a sweetheart?"
"What?" I say. I have the window down and I'm hanging my arm out, practicing driving with one hand while wearing sunglasses.
"You have a sweetheart?"
Elizabeth looks at me.
"You do. Where are they?"
"What do they do?"
"She works for the city, in Albany, New York."
"Oh my, that is far away. Well....would you like to have her visit?"
"Yes I would."
"And her name is?"
"Well then....that's enough driving for today."
"But we've only been out for 15 minutes!" I say.
"Take us home and call her immediately and tell her to come visit you in LA. Lord knows there's plenty of room at the house. I can afford the plane ticket."