(Willie Nelson, September Song)
By the time I heard Ginny and Elliot were dead, they had already been buried. I didn't know where and I didn't ask. Melanie and I kept doing the things people do. I got different jobs selling different computers that all did pretty much the same thingcommunications stuff. The computers I sold were precursors to the whole Internet boom. If I had stuck with it I would have been at least a billionaire by now, but I didn't stick with it.
Melanie kept working for the same insurance company. Wendy kept getting into more and more trouble, new trouble, different trouble. We got her out of as much of it as we could. I started playing golf. I sucked at golf, but that was what I liked about it. It was a challenge. I like a challenge. Every time I had a spare hour or so, I'd go to a driving range and hit golf balls or practice putting on the putting green. When I had time to play nine holes, I played nine holes; when I had time to play eighteen, I played eighteen.
I used to take Melanie and Wendy out to the driving range with me when they least expected it. They'd think we were going Serramonte, and I'd swing by the golf course over in Colma and hit a bucket of balls. The driving range was up against the west side of San Bruno Mountainnot far from the Chinese Cemetery where I took Norma Arce in my hot pink '53 Ford convertible before I went out with Ginny.
There were black and white sheet metal signs marking off the distances at increasingly elevated points up the side of the mountainyard markers, they're called. 100. 150. 200. 250. Like that. When you hit one of the signs there was a loud crack and another dent showed up in the sheet metal. I liked denting the signs. I was a shitty golfer, but I was good at making dents in the yard markers.
I also liked the whole idea of hitting golf balls into the side of San Bruno Mountain. It felt like I was trying to knock the god damn mountain down. It's hard to knock a mountain down by hitting golf balls into it. I barely budged the son of a bitch. I rarely got the balls past the 200-yard marker, but that didn't stop me from trying to knock the god damn mountain down. (Frank Sinatra, High Hopes) It was probably therapeutic, like playing golf every day for two-and-a-half years when I first came up to Ashland had probably been a little therapeutic, like writing this book has no doubt been therapeutic.
(Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain)
I remember this one day in particular. The three of us were at the driving range. Melanie stayed in the car and read one of her books. She never went anywhere without a book to read. Wendy went over behind the maintenance shed and tried to score a joint off of one of the scruffy grounds keepers. She had a knack for scoring dope off of scruffy guys. She was always on the lookout for scruffy guys off of whom to score a little dope when she had a minute or two to spare.
When I was through trying to knock down San Bruno Mountain by hitting golf balls into it, Melanie and Wendy and I stopped off at a fancy cemetery in Colma to feed the ducks. If you've never been to Colma, it's all cemeteries, wall-to-wall cemeteries. The one we went to was the biggest, the fanciest, the most exclusive. All sorts of famous San Francisco rich people were buried thereCrockers, Fleishackers, you name itthe place was so fancy it had its own private duck pond. Wendy and Melanie were over feeding the ducks. They were cute together. They're still cute together, only now it's all six of themMelanie and Wendy and Melissa and Amber and Caitlyn and...that other one, the other new one. Fuck. I forget her name. It'll come to me.
I ought to get them all up here at my mother's house one of these days, Melanie and Wendy and my four darling grandchildren. I could take them out to the golf course. They could feed the five families of Canadian Geese. I could introduce them to my golfing buddies. Johnny Pelosi would like thatFelix, Knapp, Bergeron, Wallace, Fordthey'd all like it. They all have families of their own.
Anyway, Melanie and Wendy were over feeding the ducks. I was tired. My neck was sore. I sat down in the grass and leaned against the side of one of the headstones. There were cherubs on the headstonecurly-headed, angelic-looking kids with their cheeks puffed out. Below the cherubs, the headstone said:
"In Loving Memory"
Leaning against the grainy gray granite felt good. It was cool and soothing against the back of my aching neck. The harder I leaned against it the better it felt. I closed my eyes and could feel wisps of fog coming from the ocean. The fog wasn't cold. It tasted like fish, some bony, bottom-dwelling scavenger fish, like the fish Elliot used to catch after his father shot himself. That was probably how Ginny and Elliot came into my mindfrom the taste of fish in the fog.
The way they came into my mind was like a dream, but better; like a fantasy, like a vision. They were both in new bodies. They had been reincarnated into fairy bodies; tiny little Tinkerbell bodies, with greenish-white lights inside them, like Ginny's body and my body had been down inside the cavern under that burnt out old tree stump in La Honda. But this time it was Ginny and Elliot. Naked. Cavorting. They weren't in a redwood forest, though. They were in a jungle, a warm, steamy rain forest somewhere.
They were swinging on vines, landing on shaky branches, losing their balance, catching it again, singing Yma Sumac songs to each other across the lush valleys, thin and white as newborn children among the dark branches. (Yma Sumac, Voice of the Xtabay) And they were beckoning to me, beckoning to me with their arms, like we were kids and they wanted me to come out and play. They were happy. Elliot was flat-out laughingthere wasn't anything twitchy about it. He couldn't talk he was laughing so hard. Ginny was laughing too, but she could still talk. She yelled at me, in fact. She called across the gulf between us with her hand cupped around her mouth and her cheeks puffed out like one of the cherubs on the headstone, like she was Little Boy Blue, like she was blowing her horn.
"Come on, dodo, don't be scared. You can fly! See! Watch!" She grabbed a long vine and swung like Tarzan from one tree to another, righted herself like a small gymnast on a balance beam, and called over to me again. "Did you see? It's easy. You can do it. You can!" (Yma Sumac, Voice of the Xtabay)
I felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipicelike that scene in King Lear where Edgar leads Gloucester to the extreme verge of one the cliffs of Dover. I got vertigo. I could feel myself falling. They weren't that far away. If I jumped, it would be okay. It would be like that ant jumping off my arm in La Honda. My arms felt like they would turn into wings if I jumped. I could glide down and land next to them on one of the branches andpoofI'd be in a little green and white Tinkerbell body of my own.
(Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain)
I told Melanie about it when she and Wendy came back from feeding the ducks. When I got to the part about Ginny telling me I should jump off the edge of the cliff, Melanie said, "I wouldn't try it if I were you."
"It was just sort of a fantasy."
"I wouldn't trust anything either of them ever said."
"They're dead," I said.
"They may be dead, but that doesn't mean they're not still nuts."
Melanie had a way of putting things into perspective. They probably are still nuts. They're probably a lot happier, thoughcavorting around in their new fairy bodies. They might even have met up with my dadI'm sure that wherever they all are, it's the same place. Ginny and Elliot would have introduced him around. My dad would have liked that. He wouldn't have cared whether they were nuts or not.
He might have tried to teach Ginny and Elliot how to play cribbage. I mean, he had the damn cribbage board, didn't he?
But, wait a minute.
I can't remember whether any of us thought to put a deck of cards into the casket with him.
Oh, man. I think we forgot.
What the hell good is a cribbage board without a deck of cards?
Yeah, well, I'm sure some other kid had brains enough to toss a deck of Bicycles into his or her dead father's coffin. I like the idea of them all playing cribbage together. Maybe dead people don't piss me off, after allmaybe they all sort of look out for one another, show each other the ropes. Hell, I might even like dead people. Hey, what's not to like? Ha!