Yes. This all began with a song. I’m well beyond its boundaries now.
“Josie, I want you to look at these fuckin’ … vehicles,” Tripp Fallaw said as they arrived at the country club. “Shit.”
Josie was world-weary, cynical, burnt-out, and, of course, high.
They said, Uncle Jed, it’s the place you oughtta be, so they loaded up the truck, and they moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimming pools. Movie stars.
So these were the Hills of Beverly.
That’s about our fucking speed. Beverly Hillbillies.
Oh, why had she left the peace and tranquility of Lake Murray? Josie finally saw what everyone at the Study Club undoubtedly knew. Tripp Fallaw was a bullshit artist, and now, three thousand miles away, she had an awful foreboding. Nothing was going to work. Tripp was a charmer, all right, and damn good in bed, but he’d reached the depths of sorriness the night before when she’d had to buy him condoms. “Uh, I’m a little low on cash,” he’d said. Jesus. What had possessed her to run away with this two-bit hustler. She’d have been much better off with his weed-pushing friend, Wade Sanderson. At least he had a job, shady though it may be.
Wade had bought her candy. She had two packages of chocolaty and peanut-buttery goodness in her purse. Wade said be careful. He said don’t eat more than half, or maybe just a bite, and then wait and see how it hits you. Shit’s pretty strong, he’d said.
Ahead of them, a white Porsche Boxster was unloading, clubs removed, the owner an elderly, tanned gentleman who must have been seventy. What was an old man doing with a car like that? Wade’s Explorer might as well have been a covered wagon with a team of mules. That would have been acceptable. That would have been a novelty item. This occurred to Josie because she was high.
Though she had no intention of accompanying them on their golf adventure, she wandered down to the first tee to see what stars of stage, screen and Hollywood were unwittingly going to get her and Tripp back to South Carolina.
Josie did, in fact, recognize Hector Iglesias, the comic Tripp had mentioned on the plane. She’d seen him on some sitcom, probably one that wasn’t on the major networks. She vaguely remembered thinking he was okay. Josie knew nothing about his partner, but he made quite an impression. He was undoubtedly a rapper, did not look particularly healthy, had at least two gold teeth, and all she could see of his skin was covered with semi-coherent scrawling. He perked up when he laid eyes on her, like she was interested in his rich ass. He introduced himself as something silly she couldn’t possibly remember. Little Something, though, certainly, in print it was probably “Li’l.” He started showing her his tats, referred to his “ink” as “art.” She could barely keep a straight face. This bizarre apparition, who wasn’t as tall as she was, sort of brought her out of her malaise. She really needed to take some notes on her iPhone.
The foursome was up on the tee. Li’l Sumpin told Josie he’d see her later, and dey all was sho go pahtie when dis shit done. Josie told him to get on with his bad shit, then walked over and kissed Tripp smartly, just for show, and felt proud she was assimilating so well.
They were off, her pothead beau and his pothead friend, and the pothead comic and his pothead friend the rapper, and Josie walked up to the clubhouse, and then the pool outside, and it occurred to her that she needed some pot.
They played for five hundred dollars a hole, this despite the fact that Tripp Fallaw might possibly have five hundred cents, and for nine holes, it went well. Iglesias could play, and he and Wade were fairly evenly matched. The rapper had been taking lessons, but he didn’t have much skill. His drives were embarrassingly shy of Tripp’s. They halved four holes, Tripp and Wade won four, and Hector won the eighth when he hit his tee shot three feet from the hole, and Wade missed a twenty-foot birdie putt after Tripp hit his tee shot in the trap. Li’l Sumpin had a double bogey. They were fifteen hundred dollars ahead at the turn.
Li’l Sumpin and Tripp were smoking up a storm, and it was really strong kush the rapper was stuffing into his little pipe, but that wasn’t what did Tripp in. They had a cooler, and in addition to six beers, which they never got around to finishing, Li’l Sumpin had a waterproof container. In it was some aluminum foil folded around a few little mushrooms.
“Cahlahna boh, ah eat me sevvul err day,” he said, “You man up wit me? Thank you’n still hit im li’l balls straight ‘n’ shroomin?”
“Ain’t nothing stopped me before,” Tripp said. He reached for a beer, popped two mushrooms, chewed a little, eww, and washed them down. The final four holes were fun. When Tripp hit a drive, when he looked up, its path was etched in fluorescent orange tracks that gave him sunspots. On the seventeenth tee, when Tripp walked up to take his shot, he was walking through cumulus clouds, and the sky was the golf course. Then it flip-flopped back to normal, and Tripp nearly fell, and he shook his head and said, mysteriously, “Shit, man, that’s hard to do.”
Tripp was tripping.
Josie ordered a bottle of wine. When it arrived, she reached in her purse and got her faux Reese’s Cup. She took a bite. Not bad. She sipped the wine. Had a cigarette. Poured another glass of wine. So far, good. Took another bite. This one was better.
Then everything slowed down. She took out her iPhone and read her Twitter feed. She was on Facebook, but, then, so, too, was her Mom. Fuck that. She wished she had a book. Dr. Seuss might be nice. She didn’t have her iPod, but she could still listen to music on her phone. She didn’t have her ear buds, though. Where the fuck could they be? She searched her purse. The candy was getting gooey. Shit. It’s hot. I hadn’t noticed. She ate the rest of the first pack. The other one seemed solid enough. I know I’m not supposed to eat so much, but, shit, what’s the worst that could happen?
The rest of the afternoon might have been fact and might have been fiction. Most likely, it was a combination of the two. Some of it she dreamed. Some of it happened. She would be unsure later which was which.
A starlet came up. Sat down. Said her name was Jessica. Josie recognized her from somewhere but couldn’t name a movie, couldn’t name a show, couldn’t name a song. They shared the other candy bar. Jessica seemed like a really nice person.
She didn’t awaken until nearly noon and was pleased to realize she was back at Wade Sanderson’s place in Pomona. She tried to sleep longer. When she couldn’t, she got up, reluctantly, and walked into the den where, surprisingly, Wade was sitting on the couch, waiting.
“I thought, like, you and Tripp had another golf match?” Josie asked.
“Sit down, Josie.”
Jesus. Is Tripp, like, fucking dead?
“Tripp’s gone,” Wade said.
“Oh, my God.” As in, gone?
“He ran off. Yesterday he got fucked up and lost a bunch of money. You know what he did? He paid off by giving Li’l Sleazy his golf clubs. Then the two of them went off to party. You wudn’t in no better shape than he was. I let them go and brought you home.”
“Thank you so much, Wade.”
“That’s not all. Sometime last night, Tripp came back. Stole a bunch of weed from me. Stole a ’95 Mustang parked down the street. The cops are looking for him.”
“Where you think he went?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Vegas, maybe.”
Josie looked in her purse, which somehow she’d left on the coffee table. Her cash was gone. And her father’s credit card. She found her plane ticket, though. It was zipped up in a side pocket.
Wade took Josie to LAX. Her father reported the stolen credit card and wired her money. When he let her out, Wade told her, if she ever saw Tripp again, to tell him not to come see him again because he was either going to kill him or have him killed. Josie wished him good luck with that. She managed to arrange to go back home a day early. All the way home, Josie thought about how Tripp Fallaw was too cute and charming for his own good, and how he would come to a bad end because all he cared about was making the big hit, the big score. He wasn’t interested in honest money. He was just interested in the con, and that was the way he was always going to be.
On Saturday, Josie had a peaceful day at the lake. She, her sister and the boyfriend went skiing for a couple hours. Afterwards, as the sun descended into the trees at the other side of the lake, Josie sat alone on the patio and curled up a good book, the Bible. She was drawn to the Old Testament and read about forlorn pilgrims who came to bad ends by the fearsome justice of the Lord. The next morning Josie went with her mother to the Methodist church and decided that, the next night when she was back on campus, she was going to give in and go to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because, even though she wasn’t an athlete, Christ didn’t care. It was time, she knew, to grow up and make her way in life, the same way her parents had and her sister was.
It lasted for about two weeks.