If you’re just joining us, you may want to check out The Complete History of the Con saga thus far. When last we left me, I had just had my heart broken (metaphorically) by a Nazi impersonator, in re: watermelons. Let’s see what happens next…
It took me a few minutes to regain my composure. I sat on a park bench and fumbled absentmindedly with the piled-up cantaloupes. What was I going to do now? I had no train. No watermelon. No real Nazis. And a new arch-nemesis who would certainly try to kill me later (foreshadowing), despite my mother’s objections.
I picked up a cantaloupe with both hands, held it high above my head, and, with a primal scream, brought it smashing down upon my forehead. The melon (or, “loupe”) cracked open squishily. Its sweet nectar dribbled down my cheeks as I tore into the loupe-flesh with my teeth. It was a very powerful, symbolic, Lord-of-the-Flies-or-something-type of moment, trust me.
Plus, cantaloupe is yummy. I think I even prefer its soft and slightly fuzzy texture to that of the flavorly-superior watermelon. Maybe.
Anyway, I was just about barf-ready sick of Albuquerque. So I headed to the famous Old Town Pickle District (famous for “Albuquerque’s Famous Pickles” since 1862). I knew there would be a lot of trucks there, loading up to take pickles to the masses. Including the mass of California.
Sure enough, as the sun was setting, I came upon a trucker by the name of Laverne. I thought it was a bit cliché, but didn’t say anything because that would be rude. Plus, I needed a ride.
Laverne was not as ugly as you’d think. Although she was 44 years old (as I later learned from the truckers license above her sun visor) , she didn’t look a day over 35 years and 362 days old. Her skin was tanned and leathery, like tanned leather. But it was not unattractive. In fact, with her tattered blue jeans and her sun-bleached hair pulled back in a careless ponytail, she exuded a raw sensuality—an anthropomorphized passion that I, as a naive lad of however old I was at the time, had not seen outside of a Ken Burns documentary. Her mirrored sunglasses seemed to reflect my very soul.
I had to think quickly because I knew I could not be distracted from my journey. I didn’t remember what the point of my journey was, but I knew I couldn’t be distracted.
“Laverne,” I said timidly, climbing into the passenger seat. “I’m on an important journey. I’m afraid I must insist that you not fall in love with me.”
“Honey,” she purred around the cigarette between her lips (her voice was surprisingly un-raspy). “I can assure you”—the flame from her Zippo illuminated her face and danced in her eyes for a moment—”no one is ever going to love you.”
I was relieved. Laverne and I had an understanding, and I knew we would succeed in both our goals: Me, doing whatever I was doing. And she, delivering pickles.
We drove through the night, across Arizona, in silence. A few times I tried to start up conversation, but Laverne was terse in her responses and I soon realized she preferred the quietude. I respected that.
Rays of sun pierced the desert night behind us as we crossed the border and pulled into a truck stop in Needles, California.
“When was the last time you had a shower?” Laverne asked.
I thought for a moment. “Well, I suppose it was in Texas somewhere.”
“When was that?”
“I’m not exactly sure. You see, I was drugged with magic bananas and, plus, I wrote that part of the story, like, ten months ago. It’s hard to keep chronology straight without going back and re-reading everything and I’ll be damned if I have the time for that. OK, maybe I have the time, but I’m not going to, so if that’s a problem maybe you should just stop reading right now.”
“Yeah, well,” she said. “I think it’s been long enough.” She eased open her door and climbed down from her seat. “It’s been a while for me too. Let’s grab a motel room here, shower up, and take a nap until evening. The daytime heat in this desert can get up to 130 degrees.”
With that, she shut the door. I glanced out at the rising sun, that demented orb of life and death—of existence… and annihilation.
I watched Laverne enter the truck stop and take a seat at the counter.
In the distance, buzzards circled in the sky. Waiting.
Coming up: Roadkill! Sexual tension! Motel mini-soaps! Blurmstein returns! The theme song from The O.C.!
- The pickles had been pickled there since 1807, but only became famous in 1862 when a traveling salesman/political blogger/Confederate loyalist named Edgar Flickette threw one at President Lincoln’s head during a press conference. The president ducked just in time, but the incident proved a grim antecedent to Lincoln’s assassination three years later—but by then it wasn’t a pickle… it was a bullet. [↩]