busted. no registration, no insurance, no title, no drivers licence, a bed on the roof of jon dunathan's third car, borrowed, never to be returned, and two baby boys asleep in the back seat, sirens and flashing blue and red lights was the last thing s. wanted to hear or see that night. coffee and monotony had wired him to the road. his foot was heavy on the gas pedal.
it was three in the morning, summer in mobile louisiana. the radio was blaring "hot time, summer in the city", hot time, summer in the city." s. had that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "oh shit, shit." was all he could think. the rest was totally fear. adrenalin rushes like sparkling stars through the brain numbing thought. "step on it. run for your life." he thought. "but the kids and julie are in the car…" whispered his 'voice of caution', his guardian angel.
s. pulled over and awaited the disaster to unfold. imagining that dunathan had reported his car stolen, s. was sure this was going to be jail again. "damn!", dammit to hell."
the stopping car woke julie up who sleepily said, "why are we stopping?" then she noticed the flashing lights… "shit.", she said.
"license and registration", demanded the officer. s. fumbled in the glove compartment, muttered a few helpless excuses, looked sheepishly and, he thought, innocently, at the officer. quick to get the picture the cop goes, "alright, just stay where you are.", then goes back to the squad car.
his captain comes down, dragged out of bed and angry as mother bear, looks in the back seat, wiggles the rope holding down the bed, doesn't have word for s. or julie, turns to the arresting officer and says with a theatrical wave of his arm, "let 'em go.", and walks off.
needless to say s. is in a state of extreme relief. julie goes back to sleep right away and it's 'hammer down' out of louisiana, the sun rising red in the rearview mirror as the fugitive car barreled into texas.
the car sputtered to a stop about ten miles east of his father's house in houston.
bob had it towed and they moved the bed and stuff like julie's rocking chair and demian's crib into a brand new townhouse a few miles from dad's house. s. junked the dunathan car and bought a pink oldsmobile from the fifties for fifty dollars. it was enormous but ran real well.
bobby got s. a job as a trainee in inhalation therapy at hermann hospital in south houston. he learned from his brother all about catheters and 'birds' or byrds…. the apparatus which kept people alive in those days. it usually had a tube that went in the mouth unless the patient had a tracheotomy, then it entered the middle of the throat.
one night s. was attaching a catheter on the nose of ninety year old woman. she couldn't talk, but looked so sweet and frail. she was communicating with him with her eyes. then suddenly tears began to flow copiously from those warm blue-grey eyes. s. cried too. later, he told bobby "i don't think i am cut out for this job."
well, the money wasn't that great and julie was even more restless. the townhouse was nice but it was like living on an asteroid in space as far as she was concerned. so they said their goodbyes and loaded up the pink 'batmobile' s. had paid $50 for. and with the usual paucity of cash the little family headed out one morning for california. 'hammerdown' all the way down the straight highway and through the pass they pushed on without a rest until they arrived in los angeles.
julie introduced s. to her teacher in the 'work', mrs. f., an artist at her studio. she was teaching a class in wood sculpture. there were dozens of lame grape clusters mangled in wood strewn all around. nothing seemed to come of that.
s. cruised sunset strip a couple of nights in a row.
chris (stepbrother) had invited s. and family to visit his place in santa barbara. it was up the pretty coast a few hours drive on the winding roads with the pretty ranches and rolling green hills down to the blue blue pacific cliffs. it was all picture perfect with beauganvilla accenting spanish style haciendas with red tile roofs and well placed palms.
chris had married an heiress. they had a lovely hacienda with a formal pond, courtyard and rose garden. in the back of the sprawling house was an acre of fruit and nut trees. by the back door of the kitchen there was a vegetable garden and an infinite collection of herbs and pretty low flowers like the cobalt lobelia. tall daisies and sunflowers backed up to the kitchen wall with a kind of raucus celebration of gangly growth, sage and lavender.
chris was also hosting a tribe of hippies at his commune above the city. the los padres national forest was to s., as an east coaster, just a hot dry wasteland with sharp rocks and threatening cacti. there was no cutting through the wild around here. and the worst from his point of view was there was no water. no river. well, there was a hot spring cultured by the government an hour ride into the deeper hills then a two hour walk on foot.
they all went to the hot spring one afternoon. chris brought a couple of bottles of sake.
cynthia brought some sandwiches. s. put his toe in to test the temperature. it was hot. it was hard to get into. but gradually, one piece at a time, s. was all in except his head. they were all in and cooking. a hash pipe with a generous blob of blond lebanese hashish was cooking too and the scene acquired a surrealistic ambience. it was all very wonderful as the sun set orange and golden over a turquoise horizon. in and out of the hot bath as the stars gradually came out and the sky cleared and the universe appeared.
s. drove up in the oldsmobile alone with a sleeping bag and spent a quiet night (except for the coyotes which s. was sure was a pack of wolves going to eat him) so he slept on a ledge of the hill and if they came for him he planned to roll down the hill and take them on one at a time with his survival knife.
after a few acid trips at the commune, s. started itching to paint. the hacienda was empty down in the valley; empty except for a live in maid and a gardener. so he drove down alone and painted for a week. then, missing julie and the babies and all the fun at the commune he went back, got high, made love, laughed and told stories with the flower children and their hairy parents by the nightly bonfire. then back down the hill to paint until he felt the urge again to be with people. up in the mountains cynthia posed for him. she was very pretty, with a lovely totally tanned body. and cynthia was a very patient model because she was a painter too. one drawing became an etching years later.
and julie never came to the hacienda with him. she preferred the company of all the thirty or so people living in the dusty dry hills. the men built things and tended the garden with the women. they ate the food they cooked from the garden. they danced around the fire sometimes and drummed into the night. they seemed to be happy.