Stuck In A Rut

About four years ago, I wrote a song called “Stuck in a Rut.” A couple weeks ago, I decided to expand it into a short story. I wrote it and posted it in seven installments. Here’s the whole story of Josie Swenson and Tripp Fallaw, at least for a week.

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It was a Thursday, but she didn’t have a class until eleven, and then she had to go to Lake Murray to spend the weekend with the family, and next week was Spring Break, so Josie Swenson didn’t see any reason she couldn’t have a couple beers, which, by five o’clock, had blossomed into quite the conservative estimate. She had two sorority sisters with her, and they were on their third pitcher of Michelob Ultra. Josie laughed along with Darcy and Felicia, but she kept stealing glances at the boy sitting at the bar. He had that fashionably shabby, frat-boy look, but she hadn’t seen him in any classes. Navy blazer, khaki pants, striped tie loosened and unkempt … his cheeks were flushed and he was sweaty. He had short, light-brown hair, almost the kind people described as sandy blond, and his blue eyes were pale and piercing, if also bloodshot. He looked accustomed to money but not presently supplied.

Josie liked all that and was feeling a little frisky.

Tripp Fallaw noticed Josie, too. Her baby blues caught his, too. He noticed the absence of any darkened roots and surmised correctly that this blonde was natural. He handed yellow cards to the men, older, thirty maybe, sitting on either side. Then he walked around the dining area, passing out two or three more. He walked out a door that led to a fenced-in, open area where a volleyball court was located. It was March, and the weather was just thinking about getting warm. The court needed a little work. Josie figured he might be going out to have a cigarette. She wanted one, too. She excused herself, walked into the bathroom, washed her hands and, instead of returning to the bar, turned left and walked outside.

He was, in fact, having a smoke. Josie realized that, while she had a pack, they were in her purse, and it was resting on the bar.

“Hi, I’m Josie.”

“Tripp.” He put the cigarette between his lips so he could shake hands.

“Can I bum a smoke?”

“Sure.” He reached into his shirt pocket. Camel Lights. Gave her a light. “I’m guessing you’re at the college.”

“Graduating in May.” She already had her ring and held it up. “How’d you ever guess?”

“I used to be at dear, old Neville,” he said. “I guess you could say I played out about a year ago. You want a beer?”

“Sure. Great.”

Tripp dropped his cigarette and ground it into the sand with his docksider. He went inside. She finished her cigarette and sat at a table made from some sort of wooden, industrial roll. It had a canopy, though, green and white. Heineken. He came back with a couple St. Pauli Girls. Good choice. It showed he liked her.

Josie took a sip. “It’s good,” she said. “I like these.”

“How come I don’t know you already?”

“Oh, I didn’t come here till, like, last year. I mean, junior year. I transferred from Berry College.”

“That’s in Georgia, right?”

“Yeah. Look, let’s don’t get into one of those ‘what’s your major?’ conversations. What are those yellow cards?”

Tripp reached inside his blazer and pulled a small stack out. “These? A list of prices.”

“Of what?”

“The drugs I sell.”

Josie shivered just a little. In her neck.

“I’m kidding,” he said. “You ever heard of parlay cards?”

“No.”

“Really? You never heard of parlay cards. They’re for betting. They set odds on ballgames. Right now it’s mainly basketball, but there’s, you know, hockey and shit.

“Look, last year, you know, I guess it wasn’t one of my better ones.”

“Tell me about it.”

He offered another cigarette. She took it.

“Okay, I’ll try to skip the unnecessary details. I came to Neville on a partial golf scholarship. I actually pulled a three-oh first term of my freshman year, then, in the spring, that was two years ago, we traveled all over and I kind of got out of the habit of studying. Sophomore year, first term, I flunked Spanish and Western Civ. That made me ineligible in the spring, and, basically, I just stopped going to class. Uh, my dad got pissed, and then I fucked up in summer school, too, and he basically disowned me, said I’m on my own, so I just stayed up here and been making a living the best way I know how.”

“I’m sorry, Tripp,” she said and placed her hand on his. “You okay now? You making it?”

“Well, I got five hundred dollars in my pocket right now. Cash money.”

“Cool.”

“Uh, I don’t suppose you … get high?”

“You got some?”

“Let’s go to my apartment.”

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It was four in the morning. Josie Swenson found herself fixated with a full moon casting an eerie glow through the open window in a rundown home near campus. The front faced the soccer stadium where, as best Josie understood, her Patriots had once played football. She didn’t feel bad, only restless. Gently she extricated herself from Tripp Fallaw’s arms and crept into the spare den. She found her purse, which held her cigarettes, and the lighter was on the coffee table, next to a glass ashtray that had probably been lifted from a restaurant. The ashtray contained several ground-out cigarettes but also a little less than half a joint. She lit it and considered the fact that she had smoked about as much cannabis in the past twenty-four hours as the rest of her life leading up to it.

It still wasn’t a lot.

Josie slipped into her tennis shoes, baby blue with pink laces, and hit the roach a couple times. Then she leaned back on the shabby couch, savoring the high, and looked around the darkened room. There was a Bob Marley poster. Obviously. A couple golf trophies sitting atop stereo speakers that were, in turn, sitting atop red, plastic milk boxes, undoubtedly stolen, too. Leaning against the corner was a street sign that read “Fallaw Street.” Ah, and two orange traffic cones. Tripp probably sold weed, but he stole lots of things. He was just a little criminal, though, and Josie kind of liked that. For her, this was a walk on the wild side.

But I’m still a good person!

The good person wanted a cigarette, and the moonlight drew her like dragonflies to a fishpond. The hours being wee, she knew she could probably smoke pot on the back porch, which was screened in, but one never knew and she was afraid, though a bit irrationally. She already felt pleasant, so she put on her hoodie and walked, a little wobbly, in the dark, following a beacon of moonlight, with her lighter and cigarettes, out on the porch. There was a rocking chair, which felt wonderful when she sat down and let it drift to and fro as it was wont to do. She lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and then watched it leave her lungs, not angrily, but as it wished, in its time, mingling with the bluish, lunar glow. She faced a little creek, its course mainly blocked by bushes growing along its banks, and beyond were a line of nicer homes, the ones occupied mostly by professors, coaches, and moneychangers of the college. Josie felt wonderful, relaxed by the weed, the cigarette, and the lingering sensation of physical love. This was going to put her back to sleep comfortably, but she didn’t expect it to come so soon. She figured she’d just saunter back to bed, and while she considered it and thought of crawling back under the covers, and when the boy, and that’s really no more or no less than what Tripp Fallaw was, roused, she would kiss him, and their tongues would intertwine, and no telling what might happen, and … she never made it.

While she continued to rock gently, Josie dreamed of her new man, striding purposely down a fairway, fans pressing against ropes on either side as Trip Fallaw worked his way inexorably toward glorious victory. She was wearing a sun dress, tagging along tastefully nearby, and occasionally exchanging knowing glances with her man. No one knew the vital role she had played in nudging Tripp toward the fulfillment of his destiny. He had been a rascal, a hustler, bowing to the gospel of something for nothing, and then she had come along to smooth his rough edges and make him, solely by the force of her irresistible charm, the man he was meant to be. She awakened with the sun coming up, rays jutting sideways through the trees, and she thought of Tripp in the lingering context of the dreams. She shivered. It was cold. She got up and went back inside but not to the boy’s waiting arms. She found some coffee in the kitchen cabinet and put a pot on. She lit another cigarette and tried to remember what day it was.

Friday. She had a class at eleven. She had to drive home in the afternoon. She had to get her shit together.

A switch, somewhere in Josie Swenson, flipped on. She changed and felt adventurous. She walked outside between classes and smoked a cigarette, which she had never done before. Her two o’clock class ended and officially began her Spring Break. On the way to the family cabin on Lake Murray, she drank a few beers and was half tight when she got there. Three beers. Hah! She had beer and tobacco on her breath when she kissed her mother. Had this occurred ever before, she would’ve at least been chewing gum furiously. She didn’t care. Her older sister, Patti, and her boyfriend, Chance or Chase or maybe even Chad, chatted amiably on the patio with Mom while Dad grilled steaks. Her mother smoked a cigarette, and Josie figured she would, too. When she lit a Camel Light – she had just adopted Tripp Fallaw’s brand – the look on her mother’s face would have dropped a grizzly bear, but she couldn’t very well say anything, could she? She was smoking, too. Josie enjoyed her predicament immensely.

Over dinner, Josie informed her parents that she was seeing a golf pro.

“An older man?” her father asked, wondering just how in the world his co-ed daughter had gotten acquainted with a golf pro.

“Tripp’s just a little bit older than I am, Dad,” she said. “I guess he’s not really a golf pro. He played on the NC golf team. Now he plays golf for money, so I guess that’s why I said he was a golf pro.”

And he sells pot, and he’s a bookie, but that’s not important.

Ray Swenson frowned and cut all the pieces of his ribeye in advance, which he never did. Vera devoted inordinate attention to her baked potato. The air got chilly. Josie left most of her steak and announced she was going for a walk. Instead, she just walked into the kitchen, grabbed the three remaining beers she had carried in from the car, and walked down to the boathouse.

She had a text message from Tripp.

When can u get loose, baby?

She was supposed to be there for a week.

Monday?

Cool. Wanna go to LA?

Hell yeeaahh!!!!

Meet u Cola airport. Let u know more when I do. Love u.

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Tripp told Josie to be standing out front of the Columbia airport – it was allegedly “international” though most of its planes flew to places like Atlanta – and that didn’t make sense to her. She’d had to park her Mazda. Why didn’t he just meet her at the gate, or check-in, or a bar on the concourse?

Sure enough, though, he pulled up in his beat-up Olds – they didn’t even make them anymore – punched the button that lowered the passenger window and told Josie, who was mildly surprised it worked, to get in.

“We got more than an hour,” Tripp said, pulling away.

“So, what? We’re going to eat lunch?”

“No, silly, we’re going to get high. Lunch is so much better if you blaze first.”

What have I got myself into? Josie thought. It was fun, though, she had to admit. They just rode around the two-lane roads that circled around the airport, outside the chain-link fences and the wind sleeves, passing a blunt back and forth and watching planes taxi. Tripp was even more buoyant than the weed made him, anyway. He provided just the right amount of scattershot details for Josie to have an idea what he was talking about. The trip had something to do with golf, and a friend of Tripp’s who was some kind of caddy to the stars, and them playing golf with celebrities, and somehow Tripp was going to make a bunch of money.

At the end of his diatribe, parking the faded Achieva, Tripp actually said, “Simple as that, baby.”

Josie was a little shaky in the airport. When the lady at the counter asked her if her luggage had been in the hands of someone “unknown” to her, she said, “Well, ma’am, like, if it was someone ‘unknown to me,’ well, then, how could I possibly know?” The woman requested assistance.

Tripp interceded and assured the humorless gentleman representing the airline that Josie’s bag was fine. In security, Josie managed somehow to kick her shoes off under the x-ray machine, which caused some confusion, but all the interaction was somewhat convivial as the lines were short and the TSA agents patient. All Josie was guilty of was laughter.

When they got to the gate, passengers were already queuing up to board.

“God, I could use a cigarette,” said Josie, who was up to about half a pack a day.

“No place here,” Tripp said. “They got smoking rooms in Atlanta. It’s just a 20-minute flight.”

She looked at the other passengers. “Look at all these suitcases,” she said. “We should’ve carried ours on.”

“Not really. The suitcases can’t be above a certain size. Neither of ours would make it.” Tripp lowered his voice. “Besides, it’s safer.”

“How so?”

“I’ve got a certain something hidden in my bag.”

“Couldn’t you get busted?”

“They never check for anything but, you know, guns, anything metal, things terrorists might use. I’ve got it hidden. Trust me. It’s cool.”

“How do you know all this shit?” Josie asked.

“Internet,” he replied.

At Jackson-Hartsfield, the Atlanta airport, they landed at one concourse and took a tram to another where the Los Angeles connecting flight boarded. They had an hour to kill and began by visiting one of the glassed-in smoking areas. Josie felt a bit paranoid, gazing outside as travelers hustled by, wondering if one of them would recognize her. She wasn’t accustomed to smoking in front of people she didn’t know. Then they stopped for coffee and blueberry muffins and sat a while in a dining area near the escalators to the trams. It was only then that Tripp explained the purpose of the trip in terms Josie could fathom.

“I got this buddy, Wade,” he said. “He’s a caddy. Makes big money carrying the bags for big-time Hollywood celebrities. He’s got games lined up for Wednesday and Thursday. We got tomorrow to sightsee, then I’ll clean some cash and we’ll fly back Friday. I’m playing with some high rollers, and when I hustle their asses, we’ll fly back home with a couple grand, easy.”

“What happens if you don’t?”

“You mean, if I don’t win?”

“Yeah.”

“Ain’t happening,” Tripp said. “Everybody knows it ain’t happening. These guys got more money than they know what to do with. They throw it away on lessons, and play in pro-ams, and they just want to play a damn pro, Josie.”

“I take it you’ve done this before.”

“Several times.”

“Anybody I’d recognize?”

“You ever heard of Hector Iglesias?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Latino comic. He’s got his own show on cable. Funny as shit. Smokes weed like a fiend. Good shit, too. I played with him in October. Cleared about eight hundred dollars. This buddy of his, a rapper, played, too. He couldn’t play for shit. He just tagged along. I didn’t bet him. The main thing I remember is he had a gun in his bag.”

“What’d you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. What I said was ‘shit.’”

They laughed, Josie nervously.

“So, uh, what am I supposed to do?”

“Whatever you want to do, baby. Stay at the hotel, hang out at the pool, or you can come to the course, they’ll probably have a pool there. You can tag along on the course, if you want.”

“Will there be, like, carts?”

“I think so. See, Wade’s going to be my partner, so he won’t be caddying. He’s buddies with these guys. He’s a hell of a player. Almost good as me.”

On the flight to LAX, Josie noticed Tripp looking out the window. No, he was looking at the window: at himself, reflected. Josie was in the middle seat, which was fine because she could sit in it easier, but it would have been nice for Tripp to offer the window. He tumbled off to sleep, leaning against the window. Josie tried to read the airline magazine, but it just made her sleepy, too.

He thinks he’s so cute, she thought, and he kinda is.

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Josie learned shortly that Wade Sanderson was more than just Caddy to the Stars. He sold them weed. Sanderson drove a nice, burgundy SUV, a Ford Explorer for which he apologized and said he was aiming to trade up to a Lincoln Navigator. “You always have been a Ford man,” Tripp said as they embraced.

“Well, my daddy sells ‘em,” Wade said. “Who’s your friend here?”

“Josie Swenson, Wade Sanderson. My best gal and my best friend.”

“You done good, bruh.” He sized her up and was pleased with what he saw. Josie thought he looked “very California,” whatever that was. He kissed her cheek.

They took “the Ten” east after driving a few miles on one of the other Numbers to get to it. From the back seat, the pace was frightening. Hundreds, no, thousands, of cars were whizzing along at eighty miles an hour, just a few lengths apart. Disaster seemed inevitable, and it wasn’t until, inevitably, all the traffic ground to a halt that Tripp and Wade managed to get a joint lit. Josie was surprised at how they just took huge hits and exhaled clouds of sweet-smelling smoke out the windows. People who smoked pot in cars in the South, Josie having been one for the first time just that morning, took precautions by partaking on rural roads, or, at least, on the interstates only when traffic was sparse.

“Yo,” she said. “There’s a cop two lanes over, three or four cars back.”

Wade started laughing.

“It’s cool, Josie. He ain’t gonna stop up this traffic no more just to bust a couple stoners.”

“Make it three,” she said. “Little help.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sorry,” Tripp said. “How fucked up of me.”

Josie understood the omission when she took a hit.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “You buy this shit in stores out here?”

“Not that particular shit,” Wade said. “I grew it.”

He told her it was easy to get a medical-marijuana card, but it was too high once the state taxes were tacked on. He said he had a card – “everybody does, mon” – but mostly as a precaution. Still backed up in traffic, he pulled out his wallet and showed his card to Tripp and Josie.

Wade reached in his shirt pocket. “Know what this is?”

“A pen?”

He smiled. “A vaporizer.”

Josie took it from him. “No shit?” She wasn’t completely sure what a vaporizer was and looked at it closely. She’d heard the name, though, and thought it was something like an e-cigarette.

“No shit,” Wade said. “We’ll hit it when we get to my place.”

Tripp just sat there, silent, all knowing, stoned.

Josie leaned back and tried to regain her bearings. She felt as if staring from inside a fishbowl. When traffic started moving again, she barely noticed. She just knew she’d come a long way from Lake Murray.

Josie spent Tuesday in a medicated fog, medicated being a popular cliché for using marijuana where it could be had for a prescription card and a song. Tripp and Wade said they had to “hone” their games, which meant they hit several buckets of balls at a driving range and took turns taking hits on essentially a ballpoint bong that enabled them to ingest cannabis without exhaling smoke that was pungent. “See? It’s vapor,” Wade kept saying.

She loved it. Vapor. It made her feel like a thief. It made her want to live in California. It made her want to make love to life. She had never been to Southern California. This was supposed to be the day she and Tripp went sightseeing. They had talked about nightlife, and the beach, and going to some fancy restaurant where late-night talk shows sent audience members to dinners for two. Tripp and Wade played something called a par-three course, which apparently meant it was short. Tripp and Wade “hit balls” at the driving range. Tripp and Wade made a few deliveries. Josie spent most of the day in the back seat of the SUV, thoroughly and blissfully stoned and talking about things she shortly couldn’t remember.

“You know, I want one of those …”

“Those what?”

“I don’t know.”

But it was the most benign haze. Josie didn’t want to fight. She didn’t want to quarrel. She wasn’t pleased that her man wanted to play golf, but she was vaguely aware that it was his ticket to stardom, or money, anyway. It was what he was good at. Josie couldn’t think of anything she was good at except she thought she was getting rapidly and enjoyably better at being high.

“Last week I wanted to get my degree,” she said while they were stopped in traffic.

“So?”

“Now all I want is a cigarette.”

Tripp and Wade laughed … a lot. “Girl’s a trip,” said Tripp.

“Know what else I want?”

“What?”

“I wanna get laid,” she said. “Again. And again.”

“Cool,” said Tripp. “Way cool,” said Wade. Or maybe they didn’t. It actually wasn’t clear.

“Now, tomorrow,” Wade said, “we gotta stay straight. Serious business.”

“Define straight,” Tripp said.

“Don’t get fucked up. Don’t get baked. Don’t get stoned. Don’t get fried.”

“What’s the fucking use of playing golf?” asked Josie, who had never played.

“Just get a buzz and keep it,” Wade said. “Just get high.”

“Yeah,” said Tripp. “Just the way I play my best.”

Josie mustered what for her was laudable coherence.

“You gotta do one thing for me. Wade. I need a big, big, pretty please, favor.”

“Name it, gorgeous.”

“I’ve smoked weed from a blunt,” she said. “I’ve sucked it from a bong. I’ve … v-vaporized the shit. Now I want to eat it.”

“You want an edible.”

“Shit, yeah,” Josie said. “I’m a great cook. Could we, like, bake brownies?”

“I don’t think so. It’s harder than you think. You like candy bars, Josie?”

“Who don’t?”

“I’ll stop by the dispensary and pick up a couple very special Reese’s Cups.”

“I’ll do bong hits at your wedding,” Josie said.

“That’s comforting,” Wade replied.

“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.

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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.

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Josie ordered a glass 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. Asked for 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 brother-in-law 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 with 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.

THE END

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  1. Pingback: One Thing Leads to Another | 'Well, pilgrim ..."

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