Downtown was closer than it looked; not usually the case, especially when you’re already having a bad day. I wanted someplace I could hang out more or less invisibly and listen to life for a while; maybe someone would say something somehow that would bring my memory back, or at least point me toward it.
The houses turned into shops. It felt more like a small town than LA. Passing a pub (that’s what my mind said; I knew most people would call it a bar, but ‘pub’ was the word that came to me) I thought it the natural place to be invisible for a while. I stepped into the little alcove between the front door and the barroom. I could almost smell the stale, salted peanuts and spilled beer. I realized I couldn’t pay for a drink even if I wanted one, which I didn’t, unless it was water.
It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going in.
Two large gentlemen (sort of) crushed me against the wall as they pushed their way into the sunlight. The second, turning to glare at me for walking in their personal space, froze, sputtered, then shouted “Hey, dope, here he is, right here! C’mon, pally, watcha hidin’ in the doorway for?” That last erudition to me; yes, he said ‘pally’, like he was in an old not-very-good movie. Unfortunately he was in a brand new, not-very-good life. And he was standing on parts of my feet; both of them.
Nothing familiar stirred in my head. Dope and Pally obviously knew who I was, but it seemed prudent not to advertise their monopoly on the info.
“You gave us the slip before, right enough. Too bad you can’t keep your nose outta the jar, ’cause now you’re going right back, and this time, you’ll go to Shannon if we hafta stitch you in a duffel and load you as cargo.”
Again, nothing familiar stirred. My brain-spoon wasn’t doing its job today. Now there were two people I didn’t know, me and Shannon. I hoped she was a cute redhead, but I suspected he was big and unfriendly like Dope and Pally. I had no hope of overpowering these two lugs, and frankly I was a little curious what I might learn from Shannon—as long as the lessons weren’t permanent, in an unpleasant sort of way.
Dope finally spoke. “Car’s round the corner; d’ya want ta bring him, or wait here?” His brogue was slight, but identifiable, clearing up the familiar puzzlement I felt about Pally’s lilt. They were Irish, maybe not Irish-born, but not too many generations from home.
“Ah, let’s just shove along with our pal between us, like. He ain’t goin’ nowhere. Right, Doc?”
I almost looked around to see who ‘Doc’ was. Then I almost squeaked when I realized it was me. Geez; if I could keep these two talking long enough, I might not need Shannon.
Doc. Was I really a doctor? A doctor of what? Or was Pally just slinging more film noir slang? Yet once more, no stirrings of anything at all in the cranium. I couldn’t be a doctor and be this dumb; just not possible.
The car was indeed just around the corner. It was also big enough to make Dope and Pally feel right at home: a deep green 1957 Buick Roadmaster. Must have been 20 feet long and half that wide. Three linebackers could sip tea in the back seat without joggling anyone’s cucumber sandwiches off their lap.
“It’s a sight, ain’t it? Should’ve seen it when the boss bought it: pink and white. Yah, pink, can you imagine? Kelly green really sets off all them acres of chromium, eh?” I was in the process of missing the chromium, being shoved into the back seat about as gently as the birth of a giraffe. Pally got in beside me, and contrary to his film noir style, did not pull a gun out of his pocket. Having taken a mental inventory of my own musculature, I figured he was still safe.
Dope got behind the wheel and started the old Buick. Key on, starter button under the gas pedal; how many of those have you seen? Something always feels wrong about a key starter in a behemoth like that. I remember myself the grinding crunch of starting a ’53 1/2 ton truck with a floor button next to the gas pedal. You know you’re starting two tons of metal, doing it like that.
The Buick was smooth; it’d had more than the paint job redone. Quiet as silk and a better ride than a Caddy (whose Cadillac had I been in? A 1965 Sedan DeVille, it was. When was that? Where was it? Gah; gone. Nothing but the memory of the memory.) I sat frustrated in the smell of leather, dangly pine tree and Irish Spring. Really? Irish guys smelling of Irish Spring?
“All the way down Van Nuys?”
“Nah, take Roscoe over t’ 405.”
Since everyone was feeling chatty, I thought I’d jump in. “So, where are we going, exactly?”
Dope pretended to be a post. Pally looked at me suspiciously like I was trying to trick him into telling me where we were going. Then he pretended to be a post, too.
I pretended to be a post. No sense making the natives restless.
The sunlight flickered on and off between the high clouds. We passed the Van Nuys airport and wound through the valley on the San Diego Freeway. Why is the 405 in LA the San Diego Freeway? When I lived in San Diego, only freeway was 5, north to LA.
When did I live in San Diego? Wasn’t only childhood; I remembered the freeway as a driver, not a kid.
Aaah; gone again.
We took Howard Hughes off the freeway and headed south on Sepulveda. That’ll take us right through the airport. Which means I’ve been there, maybe, or how else would I know South Sepulveda runs through the center of the airport?
I started racking my brain for what was south of the airport. Didn’t really matter; this car was made for traveling, and if we were going to Mexico it wouldn’t have mattered to Dope and Pally.
It also didn’t really matter, because we weren’t going through the airport, we were going to it. And I knew who Shannon was. Shannon was an international airport.
We were going to Ireland.