I was standing next to one of those portable, makeshift bars at a clubhouse out in the country or what I naively took to be the country. On the way out there we drove by several grandiose homes, and postcard property bordered by white fences, corrals, and horse pastures. A smell of fresh cut hay permeated the air and sprinklers swooshed and spitted high arches of sparkling water. The bartender was a college kid, but friendly, and not judgmental. Somebody's sister was getting married, I think. My date, Mary, had wandered off some where with the best man, a handsome guy by some accounts.
An impatient young woman wedged her body next to mine to get a piece of the makeshift bar to lean against. At first it was difficult to figure out whether she was simply careless or a reckless sort of person. Later I figured it was probably both. Her dress felt stiff and satiny against my arm. I hadn't noticed her before but she had an elaborate tattoo square in the upper middle part of her tanned back, which her pretty dress mostly covered. She had short blonde hair.
"Didn't I see you walk in earlier with a woman?" she asked.
"Yes you did," I said.
"Is she your girlfriend or something?" the woman asked.
"I hardly know her," I admitted. It was true. I had only agreed to be her date because I owed somebody a favor.
"Well that's probably for the best," the woman said. "I think I just saw her in the pantry giving the best man a blowjob."
Mary, I had heard, wasn't one to stand on ceremony and many of my friends claimed it was her most attractive quality. She seemed a pleasant enough woman, those times we had met in the bars, or so I thought, and she dressed rather nicely, and so I had agreed to be her escort to the wedding. I hadn't been exactly sure where she had gone off to but figured it couldn't have been far.
The woman in the satiny dress held out her hand. "Hello, I'm the woman the best man is willfully (and stupidly) scorning at the moment, but you can just call me Angie."
"Hello, Angie, I'm Alex. Glad to meet you."
I shook her hand. It was a strong hand but a little wet from perspiration. I called over the bartender. "Hey, barkeep my friend Angie needs a drink. Hell, I think I need another one as well." At these sorts of functions, all you need to do is tip extravagantly and you can have all drinks you'd ever want, and always the very best service. It was an easy enough lesson that for some reason or another most people never seemed to learn.
"Bride or groom?" I asked.
"Who do you know, bride or groom?"
"Both," Angie said.
"Was it a nice wedding?" I asked. I had decided to go directly to the bar and skip the actual ceremony. Weddings always depress me. The ceremony had taken place out back underneath a large cottonwood tree. It was said to be as tall as a skyscraper.
"Sure, why not," Angie said. "As far as weddings go, I suppose it was nice enough." She, too, seemed troubled by such events.
"What do you do for a living?" I asked.
"I'm a stripper. What do you do?"
"I'm sort of in between jobs at the moment," I said.
"That's what I sort of figured."
"How's that?" I asked. She didn't particularly look like a psychic.
"You've just got the look," she said.
"What look is that?"
"It's the way you're wearing your hair," she said.
From somewhere at the other end of the large room a polka band had already begun to play a number of popular 70's disco songs. Wedding guests began shoving back their folding chairs and moving toward the open space at the far end of the room.
"What advice can you give me?" I asked, after a moment of silence between us. "I mean, if I were a girl wanting to get into the business." I had once worked for a local non-commercial radio station as the host of a call-in show and, well, quite often I would talk to strangers in bars as if were interviewing them for the radio.
"I'd advise you to be pretty," she said. "You don't need to be beautiful, but you've got to be pretty. That's the bottom line."
"Okay," I said. "That's certainly a good thing to know."
"They won't be looking at your face, of course, or your legs, or really anything else (she pointed at her own breasts) but here's where the money is. It's here that you make all your money, and it's all in the knees, in how you bend them."
"How much do you usually make?" I asked. I thought it a practical enough question and of some use for an aspiring dancer.
"About 100 dollars an hour, that's the low average, and it's democratic work. You can be a good girl, even a church girl if you want, or a bad girl; white, black, Hispanic. Hell, you can be from fucking Mars. It doesn't matter. Everybody's equal when you're dancing."
"As long as you're pretty," I said.
"As long as you're pretty," she agreed.
My last job had lasted nearly four months. I was a telephone psychic. I had found out about the job in the newspaper. The interview took place in a duplex, which turned out to also be corporate headquarters. A big guy answered the door and he showed me to a back room with shag carpeting. He handed me a deck of large cards before sitting down at a desk. He told me to sit down across from him. "Now read the cards," he ordered.
"Should I shuffle them?" I asked.
"Should I shuffle them first? Isn't that the way you do it? I mean isn't that the usual method?"
"Yeah, I suppose so," he said, yawning.
I shuffled the cards, which were rather clumsy, being so large, and I laid out a fifteen-card spread, just like he told me to. I didn't have a clue as to what the face cards meant but I figured everybody needed to know about love so I invented a future filled mostly with unrequited love. Everybody, I figured, could identify with unrequited love. He looked surprised, then panic-stricken, then greatly relieved, as if some great weight had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders.
"You're hired," he said, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.
"I am?" I asked. It seemed way too easy.
"How'd you know?" he asked.
"I wasn't sure," he said. "I mean I've thought about it but I wasn't sure, that is until now, until the cards told me."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm gay! I didn't fully realize it but it all makes sense now." He was practically crying and a wealth of glossy, gratitude was in his eyes. He wanted to hug me.
My first night on the job I was told I needed to pick a name.
"How about Alex?" I said. In general I don't think things need to be any more complicated than necessary. "That won't do," the woman said. She wore lipstick and she kept crossing and uncrossing her legs. The woman's name was Miranda. She claimed to be a trained psychic and once even a princess, but that was in a former life. "You need something a bit more fancier," she said. "Something exotic and easy to remember.
I thought a moment. "What about Lucifer?" I asked.
"Too obvious," she said.
"How about the anti-Christ?"
"Already in use."
"How about somebody from Shakespeare?"
We both thought a moment but we couldn't remember a single name from Shakespeare.
I suddenly got an inspiration. "How about Waldo? Wouldn't that be a good name?"
She didn't seem particularly impressed but she didn't immediately veto it either. "Better than some, worse than others, but it'll do for now, I guess." She handed me a sheet of instructions as to what I should say and then she put back on her coat. "Well that about wraps it up," she said.
I was ready to get right to work. "When do I actually start?"
"Whenever you want to," she said.
"What about now?" I said, having driven all the way from across town. "That's fine," she said, moving toward the door. She stopped and waited for me.
"Where's the phone?" I asked.
She seemed puzzled at first, as to what I was saying, but finally it came to her.
"You go home, stupid shit, and you work from there. Haven't you ever heard of tele-commuting before?" She turned for the door but suddenly remembered something. She went back to the desk and she got out some form and she filled it in before handing it to me.
"What's this?" I asked.
"This says you've never been convicted of a sex crime," she said. "You haven't, have you?"
"Of course not," I said, indignantly.
"Don't get so bent out of shape," she said. "It's just to protect the company in case something happens."
"What would happen?" I asked.
She looked at me suspiciously. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
"Of course not," I said.
"Well let's keep it that way, you understand."
"When do I get paid?" I asked.
"Don't worry about all that; it's already been taken care of when we did a background check."
"You did a background check?" I asked, surprised.
"Of course. It's standard practice. One's got a right to protect oneself, right?"
"I suppose so," I said.
So here's how it works. A caller dials the main phone number and either they ask for a particular psychic or they'd be automatically assigned the next one in rotation. I had to log on from home by calling a toll free number and entering my personal extension number. I made 97 cents per minute each time I managed to keep somebody on the line for at least a full minute. Customers paid $4.99 per minute, whether they used up the entire first minute or not.
"Hi, you've reached the Psychic Assistance Network. My name is Waldo and my extension, for all future calls, is 8757. Can I have your name and date of birth, please?"
"Don't you think that's kind of personal?" my caller asked. "I mean I don't even know you."
"It's the way it sort of works around her," I said. "I mean how can I tell your future if I don't first know your birth date?"
"Oh," she said, possibly thinking it over quickly before finding in my favor. "I guess you're right. I'm Vanessa and I was born on May 27th."
"So you're a Gemini," I said. "Are you looking for a general reading or answers to a particular question or something even a bit more specialized?"
"I guess I want a general reading? What's that?"
"Well, that's when I just sort of give you a general picture of what your future has in store for you. How does that sound?"
"What if I have a specific question after all?"
"Well that's okay, too."
"It's about my boyfriend, I think he's been cheating on me."
I flipped over a card. Death. Of course it was the card that often meant transformation or letting go.
"We got into a fight and he punched in the windshield to my car with his bare fist. Do you think he's got a violent nature?"
I flipped over another card and there was the dark warrior facing me. "That's highly possible," I said.
"Should I leave him?" Vanessa asked. I flipped over another card. It was the red Queen of Love.
"Okay now, Vanessa, what I see is you are about to embark on a long journey and at the end of a long and hard road, you are going to find love. And nothing is going to ever be the same for you again."
She sounded somewhat relieved. "But what about Danny?"
"He's my boyfriend. What's going to happen to him?"
"He's going to get what's coming to him," I assured her. It's the one wish we all have for others, and it never failed to bring my clients some solace.
"Do you really think so?" she asked, with a rising enthusiasm. "Do you think something horrible is going to happen to him? Like maybe a tree falling on him? Or his apartment blowing up? Or maybe he'll fall into a large crack in the ground after an earthquake or something and then it'll closed up on that son of a bitch."
I glanced down at the Death card. "Yes, I do, Vanessa. I think something very terrible is going to happen to him."
"Thank you, Waldo. I feel so much better."
I looked at my watch. "You're welcome, Vanessa."
"Hi, you've reached the Psychic Assistance Network. My name is Waldo and my extension is 8757. Can I have your name and birthday, please?"
"That's a idiotic sounding name, don't you think?" the man said. "I mean who are you trying to kid! Waldo! It's more like mister stupid-ass, if you want my opinion. Or mister dumb-fuck."
"I take it you're somewhat skeptical?" I said.
The point, of course, was to keep them on the line for at least a minute so I stalled for time.
"I can understand your hesitation," I said, "and believe me I, too, once thought---"
He interrupted me. "Oh, why don't you just can the crap! I bet you've got tiny blue balls, don't yah, and you can bet your ass I'm skeptical. What's my dog's name?"
"Excuse me?" I said.
"You heard me. What's my dog's name? You're supposed to be psychic, aren't you? Well, prove it."
I took a wild guess. "Is it Spot?"
I heard a mild gasp of surprise on the other end of the phone. "Okay, okay, that was just a lucky guess."
"And you're wife's name is Jane," I added.
He was clearly startled now. The first minute was up. "And your name is Dick," I said. I had meant it in the proverbial sense-but I guess I got that right as well. The phone line went CLICK.
Janice was a repeat caller. She told me she was fourteen. She had last called a week or two earlier, about a boy she had a terrible crush on. I told her he wasn't the one for her. "You were right," she now said, crying. She claimed she was all alone in the world and that nobody loved her. It was nearly three o'clock in the morning by this time.
"What about your parents?" I said, attempting to assuage her great disappointment in her young life. I wasn't about to tell her that one day she'll be looking fondly back at these days.
"They hate me," she said.
"Well what about your grandparents? They surely must love you." Grandparents always loved their grandchildren.
"They died in a car wreck," Janice told me.
"What about your sister? I betcha' she loves you."
"She stole my favorite sweater and she ruined it and now she won't pay for it."
Obviously, the boyfriend was just another in a long string of disappointments in her young life so far.
"I took some sleeping pills," she said, but it sounded like play-acting.
"No you didn't, Janice," I said.
"Well I thought about it then," she said, pouting a bit. I tried to imagine what she might have looked like, whether she had a pretty face, a nice figure, whether she would grow into a kind young woman.
"Taking sleeping pills is not the solution," I said. "It's never the solution."
"Then what is the solution?" Janice asked, being as she was a practical person.
"I'm not sure," I said, "but it's not taking sleeping pills."
"My dog died today," she suddenly announced, and a great wave of her sudden grief washed over me. I just listened as she cried with a stamina that would have surprised even a psychoanalyst. Finally, as is true with all things, there came a lull in all that crying.
"I'm sorry, Janice." Her dog's name was Lady and she had been nearly nineteen years old. "It was just her time," I said.
"No it wasn't," Janice insisted.
"We all have our own time," I said. I didn't think I needed to hide that truth from a fourteen year old. "It was just her time to go. But be consoled by the fact that you have been allowed by fate to know her for so long. Nothing lasts, Janice, everything passes away sooner or later, including you and me."
"That's not what Father Soulard says," she insisted. "He's says that if we're good, we go to heaven."
"He's lying," I said.
"Where do we go then?" she asked.
"I don't know."
"Then how do you know it's not heaven then?" Apparently she had already acquired the faulty logic of the believers.
"Just because some of us don't know, doesn't automatically mean it is true. There are other factors to consider here," I said.
In the short time I had become a psychic I had begun to study Solar, Lunar, Celtic, Chinese, and Mayan mysticism, as well as several different flavors of Karmic Astrology. I spread out the fifteen cards on my kitchen table and the black King appeared in conjunction with the virgin card. Then the fool appeared. A card symbolic of innocent optimism. Then the dark card of Love turned up next. A terrible vision came suddenly to me.
"Janice," I said. "Where's your mother?"
"I don't know. I think she went out."
A faintness of heart seized me. "And your father?"
"I hate him," she said.
"Where is he?" I asked.
"He's outside my door," she said.
"Right now," I asked.
"No, but he was earlier. He finally went away because I wouldn't open the door. I lock my door at night."
"Where's you sister, Janice?"
"In her own room?" I asked.
"She's got the best room. Why does she get to have the best room and everything else she wants?"
"It's because she's older," I said.
"But it just isn't fair."
"No, probably it isn't fair, Janice, you're right about that, but I see a tall boy in your future, a kind boy, not like the other one."
Janice became excited. I could almost hear her heart beating with expectation. "What's he look like?"
"He's very handsome," I said.
"He's extremely handsome, Janice. All of your friends are going to be insanely jealous."
"How about my sister? Will she be jealous?"
"She will be the most jealous of them all," I said. "But you've got to do one thing for me, Janice," I said.
"I need to know your telephone number."
"It's just the rules," I said.
She became instantaneously suspicious. "How come you haven't asked for it before?"
"I just forgot, Janice."
"Well I can't give it to you."
"Why's that, Janice?"
"I'm not allowed to talk to strangers."
"I'm hardly a stranger, Janice," I said.
She hung up.
I immediately called the administrator who wasn't at all happy that I was calling at such a late hour, although he was supposed to have been on duty that evening.
"What's the big hairy deal?" he asked, "it's four o'clock in the fucking morning."
"We've got to track down a number," I said. "You keep records, don't you? We need to call the police."
"Excuse me, stupid-shit, but are you an idiot or something?" he wanted to know.
"It's an emergency," I insisted. "I think a young girl may be in trouble."
"What the hell do you want me to do about it?"
"Maybe you can call the police." I suggested.
"That's not our responsibility," the administrator said. Haven't you read the company policy manual. You were supposed to have read the manual before your first call. I could dock your ass for that," he threatened.
I tried to explain that I thought there was enough justification in calling the police, which believe me, wasn't what I would usually suggest, no matter what the circumstance. "I think she's really in some sort of big trouble."
"How the hell do you know that?" the administrator demanded to know. "Is that what she said? Is that what she told you? Was she screaming into the phone like somebody was cutting off her leg or something?"
"Not exactly," I said.
"What do you mean, not exactly? Either she said it or she didn't, now which is it?"
"It was in the way she didn't say it," I said.
"What? Are you some sort of fucking psychic? What the fuck are you talking about? The way she said it? What the fuck does that mean?"
"I just know these things," I said.
"But there's no actual proof, is there, is that what I'm hearing?" the administrator insisted.
"I saw it in the cards," I said.
"I saw it clear as day in the cards."
"You've gotta' be joking!" he said.
"I'm not joking," I insisted.
The administrator sort of got really upset at this point. "Is this your idea of a fucking practical joke or something? Do you know what fucking time it is?"
"This can't wait until morning," I insisted.
"Well I know something that also can't wait until morning, and I'm not joking either," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"What do you think I mean, lame-ass. Hit the road, Jack. Piss-off. What? Are you still there? You're fired, lame-ass. Figure it out!" He hung up.
Angie and I had several drinks and she explained that once she had jumped out of a window. "I was despondent," she explained.
"How big was the building?"
"Well you don't seem the worse for wear," I said.
"They were painting the fucking building. I didn't know they were painting the fucking building. There was a net. The net saved me. I walked away without a scratch and nobody saw a thing."
"Don't take this the wrong way," I said, "but how come you didn't try again?"
"I sort of lost heart," she said.
A secret door suddenly swung open in the wood paneling near where we were drinking and the bride ran out of it. Her long train dragged across the floor like the tail of some prehistoric beast. She ran across the banquet hall toward another hidden door, which had swung open suddenly, just as unexpectedly, on the far side of the room. Seconds later, a horde of women in all shapes and sizes piled out of the one door. They chased after the bride in fast pursuit. The bride disappeared through the second mysterious door, followed seconds later by the horde chasing after her.
"What the hell was that all about?" I asked Angie.
She just shrugged and flagged down the bartender. "What the hell was that all about?" she asked.
"You got me," he said.
"Who are you here with?" I asked Angie.
"I'm here with that fucking prick bastard of a best man. I met him last night at the bachelor party. I thought it was love at first sight and that he was my one true love but he's turned out to be an asshole right quick. I should have known better," she said.
By the time we both realized it, it was dark and the woods around the clubhouse were loud with the bickering of unseen insects. Well, it wasn't exactly all-the-way dark just yet but it would be soon. Angie and I were looking for my car.
"I think I parked it over there," I said.
"Well hurry up and find it," Angie insisted, "or I'm going to be sick. I need a place to rest for a few moments."
We had drunk more than perhaps is customary at respectable weddings, and had only stopped because the bar had run completely out of vodka. It was Angie's rule never to mix her alcohol. "It's the only rule that's never let me down yet," she insisted.
She had promised me she was going to teach me how to strip professionally. "It's easy if you don't take yourself too seriously. But most men," she claimed, "take themselves way too seriously. Take my word for it."
"You've got beautiful eyes," I said.
"Yeah, right. Whatever!" She rolled her eyes. "Boy, like I haven't ever heard that one before. Is that your shit-for-nothing car over there?"
There it was, all right.
We got in and the keys were right where I had left them, in the ignition, so started the car but nothing happened.
"Now that's strange," I said. "It always starts. I don't know what could possibly be wrong. It's never not started before." I tried several more times but nothing came of it. I got out and I lifted the hood and discovered my battery had been stolen. It was only then that I also noticed that my tires were missing, too, and that somehow my car was now up on cinder blocks. From everybody's account, the neighborhood had been considered safe and I hadn't even bothered to take the keys out of the ignition. Hell, you couldn't even see any neighbors and the few houses I had seen on the drive to the clubhouse were as large as art museums. And all around us now came the loud night sounds of woods in summer.
We started hitchhiking and I only then noticed Angie was walking sort of funny. "What's wrong with you?" I asked.
"It's my leg," she said.
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's fake," she said.
We had stopped to catch our breath. We were leaning on a white picket fence. You couldn't see the horses in the dark, groomed pastures beyond the fence but you could hear them. And you could smell the dried hay and alfalfa. The moon was just coming up now, above the trees, not exactly full but getting there-or possibly it had already been full and was now going the other way. I never could figure out which was which, I mean either waxing or waning.
Angie sat down in the dry grass by the side of the road and she unscrewed her leg and she showed it to me. "Get the picture now?" she said.
"I've never actually known somebody with a fake leg before," I said.
"Consider it your lucky night," she said. She screwed it back on-or whatever it was she did to re-connect it.
"You're lucky I'm not a Bible salesman," I said.
"You're lucky I'm not a Bible salesman. Don't you know that story about the Bible salesman and the girl with the fake leg?" I had taken only one college course, an American literature class, and I had remembered only that one story, that story of the angry, intelligent girl with the fake leg and a Bible salesman. "He tricks the poor girl in the end," I said.
"Oh brother," Angie said. "Can't you be upbeat for a change? Christ, you're the most pessimistic person I've ever known, I mean, besides myself of course." Headlights suddenly came into view and they caught us full on. Angie waved her chubby arms and nearly threw herself in front of the car before the driver stopped the large four-door, full-size luxury sedan. He powered down the window on the passenger side. "What the hell are you trying to prove, young lady?" he wanted to know. He was wearing a tux and the back seat looked occupied by a body or something. You couldn't exactly say what it was because of the blanket that was covering it but it looked like a body. Angie explained that she was a cripple and had been abandoned by the man she loved. The guy looked at me. "It that the bastard. Do you want me to rough him up for you?"
"He's not the one," she said. "He's my brother."
The man wasn't convinced. "He doesn't look like your brother."
"Different fathers," Angie insisted.
The guy hit a button on his side and the passenger side door popped opened and we both got in the front seat with Angie in the middle. "You live around here?" I asked.
"You might say that," the man said. He looked to be in his fifties and his clothes were impeccable.
"You didn't by chance happen to see anybody with a bunch a tires?" I asked.
"What's in the back?" Angie asked.
"It's probably in your best interest, young lady, if you and your brother just mind your own business," the man suggested. He wore solid gold cufflinks and his hair was slicked back in the television mobster's style.
"That's fair enough," I said. "We're not here to judge anyone."
"That's right," the man said.
Angie, for some reason, suddenly felt the need to explain to us how she had lost her leg. "I went to the hospital to get my tonsils taken out and when I woke up I still had my tonsils but my leg was missing, and the family doctor kept looking in all of the dresser drawers and underneath the bed of my hospital room, as if somebody was playing a practical joke on him or something."
"I would have cut his pecker and balls right off and stuffed them down his throat," the man said, "if he'd done that to my daughter."
"It wasn't exactly his fault," Angie tried it explain. "There was a mix-up and his partner was the one who actually made the mistake."
"I would have killed both of the fuckers, and their wives, too, and all the kids. I would have even done in the fucking grandmothers, and the family dog and family cat and I would have burned down the fuckers' houses as well. I would have burned them both right down to the fucking ground." The man was adamant in his outrage. "You do something that stupid, you pay the price. That's my philosophy."
He dropped us off near a major crossroads and an all-night diner, which was closed and deserted looking, but there was a phone booth so we called for a taxi.
We sat on the front steps of the deserted diner and waited for the cab to arrive. The road was empty and silent and strangely beautiful, and it wound its way off in one direction into a neck of woods. To the east, one could just make out the glow from town, which seemed much farther than it should have-given my reckoning. While we waited the moon slowly advanced across the sky and the night was warm and coated with moonlight. Treetops wavered in the breeze that kept trying to start up for good, but just couldn't, and something hooted or it sounded like a hoot to me, and for one second I was afraid that some creature of the night was watching us. Angie fell fast asleep with her head in my lap and I got a hard-on and before too long she began to mumble something incomprehensible in her sleep.
Angie woke up at one point and stretched and claimed her neck felt as if she had been using a rock for a pillow and she wanted a drink of cool water so we went around back and found a water faucet and a hose. We both drank until we were full. The water tasted warm and rubbery and Angie complained, but she drank without caring whether the water dripped down her chin or not. "I almost got married once," she told me, as we went back around front to wait for the taxi. It was now very late and I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the cab driver had gotten lost or something. We didn't exactly know where we were and had only guessed at our location. Nevertheless, Angie was wide-awake by this time.
"I can only sleep on an average of four or five hours a night," she had claimed as we were hitchhiking earlier. She wrapped her long satiny dress about her and she leaned into me. We were sitting with our backs against the front door of the deserted all-night diner. "I left him standing at the altar," she said.
"That's not a very nice thing to do," I said.
"I guess I panicked," she said.
"Did you love him?"
"Yes, without question."
"But you didn't go through with it?"
"No, I didn't. When it finally came down to it I just couldn't go through with it. There were over two hundred people sitting there in that fucking church, fanning themselves and waiting for me to walk down that aisle, but I ran out the side door instead."
"What would have happened if there hadn't been a back way out?" I asked.
She paused and perhaps she hadn't ever asked herself such a question before. "I guess I probably would have gone through with it," she finally said. "I mean with all those people watching, what else could I have done?"
"What happened to him? That guy you left standing there holding the bag?"
"He fell in love with somebody else, I suppose. He was like that, and no doubt he got married. I lost touch with him, which was natural, considering what I did." She thought a moment and she looked up at the treetops. The stars were out but their brilliance seemed muted. "When did you first lose your virginity?" she asked.
"When I was twenty-two," I admitted with some embarrassment.
"That's sort of late, isn't it?" she said. "That is, these days and all."
"I was shy," I said.
"I wasn't," she said.
"Oh, come off it, will you! Don't look so shocked. What? You think a girl with a wooden leg can be popular in high school without having to take extreme measures. It was all I had to bargain with, I mean after the leg was gone; I mean, to get the boys' attention. It's the same with ugly girls in high school. You don't realize how desperate one can be in high school."
"I hated high school," I said.
"Very few humans do like it," Angie agreed.
"Does it interfere with your livelihood?" I asked at one point, possibly around four. I had lost my wristwatch and one shoe by this time. The cab hadn't yet shown up either and so we had climbed a fence and we lay on our backs in the tall, uneaten grass that grew near the edge of the fence. Angie confessed that she had always hated her name.
"Why's that?" I asked.
"I've always felt I should have been a Catherine."
"Why a Catherine?"
"I don't know. Maybe I was one in a former life or something." She scratched her forearm before continuing. "I've always thought I could have been that character in that long, gloomy novel about some stupid war they made us read."
"What novel are you talking about?" I asked.
"It was some boring novel they made us read in high school. I hated it, actually. It was all about some stupid and cold and boring war and it was wintertime, that's all I really remember about it. That it seemed to be wintertime all the time. I didn't even finish it but I've always thought I could have been that Catherine. I think she came to a bad end," Angie said.
That's when I had asked if her wooden leg interfered with her work.
"Not at all," she said. "They're not looking that far down," she said, and if they do, which most don't, I think it turns them on or something."
We both must have fallen asleep for I remember dreaming that Angie and I were in a lively whorehouse with beautiful women lounging all about us in various stages of undress and we were both naked sitting together on a bench at a table and it was perfectly natural that we were naked and we were not in the least bit interested in making love. At one point right before the dawn I woke up and the grass was shimmering with the wet morning dew and the sky was just about to turn to color and a horse was standing over Angie and me. He looked down at us with what I took to be near-blindness curiosity. From somewhere across a field, there came the sound of cowbells clanging softly. The horse reached his large head down beside my face and pulled out a chunk of grass with his powerful jaws and he chewed slowly and nosily and just for a second I thought I saw there in his gentle, large marble eyes the sweet acknowledgment of forgiveness.