It was a beautiful night as I drove North Ventura Avenue in my hired Neon. No air con and it was the hottest. Empty streets, but the sound of a party, way off. A scrawny dog jumped out of a car tried to beat me across Ventura and West Barnett but bounced off my fender. In my mirror, his thin, prone body rapidly diminished to a dot, at the point of the road’s V.
I didn’t listen to the radio much in those days. Couldn’t stand that martial music blaring out. But in a roadside stop, just outside Ford City I heard the lunchtime news. People had been travelling, from as far away as Fresno, Long Beach and LA, in cars, buses, and some on foot. They were desperate to see him.
A guy in a wheelchair was crossing the road, muscles like footballs in his arms as he pumped the wheels round and round. A red flag with a white snake on it, stood out like a used bandage wired to fly. He had a high black peaked cap on his head, tongue stuck out at the corner and an intense but vacant look.
I got level just as he landed on the sidewalk. “Hey buddy!” he looked at me out the corner of his left eye. but carried right on ahead. “Goin’ to the Field tonight pardner? Wanna lift?”
Looking at me full on, he shouted “Listen, cut the pardner crap. Where you from? East someplace? Where the hell else would I be going tonight? Sure, I could use a lift…awful hot.”
I slowed the Neon down, stopped and he wheeled up beside me panting. I helped him into the passenger seat and stowed his folded chair in the back. Sweat ran down my face and a cool breeze coming off the sea made me realise how hot it was.
Another sign of life on the road as an ice cream truck turned onto North Ventura just by the Figueroa Shopping Center, not even looking as he turned whirling in, just missing my front wing, all the lights flashing. And out of the speakers I could hear above the noise of the car, one of Adolphus’ tunes “Es war ein Edelweiss” (“It Was an Eidelweiss”) *.
The words rang out clear as a bell as we overtook.
“Forlorn and all abandoned
On a cliff face that loomed High
Reaching for the blue sky.
A tiny flower bloomed.
I just could not resist it,
I picked it where it grew,
And gave it to the dearest that my heart ever knew.
It was an edelweiss,
One little edelweiss,
Ho-la-hi- di- ho la la
Although there’d been a few red and white flags hanging from houses as we got closer, there was more at every high vantage point than I think I’d ever seen at any home game before. Some boys had been having so much fun they’d strung up a couple of negroes from a lamp post. Well, maybe they hadn’t been so black when it started out, but some birds, maybe vultures, out on a spree from Los Padres must have smelt them on the wind and moved in for dinner, big time. I thought that meat’d be pretty high by now.
My passenger smiled. “I guess they didn’t meet the strict rules for admittance to the party. Those boys’ve a habit of being anti-social.” He guffawed and then looked a bit sulky when I didn’t hoot along. Instead, I kept my eyes straight ahead, on point.
Soldiers were on the streets near Babe Ruth Field, searching party goers, but the only dangerous goods they’d find were streamers and kazoos. I hoped they didn’t search under the Neon and find the CZ700 wrapped up tight, oiled and ready to go. With a bit of luck Wheelchair Man might get me in close, and I’d worry about getting out later, hopefully, in the confusion.
For what seemed like the 100th time I told myself, what if me and Bobby Zimmerman hadn’t been down on the beach that day when that squirt Adolphus was hanging around, showing off his puny muscles in those stupid little shorts. If Bobby hadn’t kicked sand in his face, would Adolphus have joined that stupid party, risen to be leader from ground zero? Would he have turned his thugs on me and mine, burnt the state down, emptied everyone out of his cattle trucks into his work camps?
When I’d asked Adolphus “Why?” he’d sneered “Work makes ya free, Louis! Work makes ya free.” I was gonna knock that smile right off of his face tonight. That one thing was for sure.
© adewils 2010
* Watch a YouTube video of “Es war ein Edelweiss” here
If you enjoyed this why not try a quick piece of flash fiction Is there life?