If I am repaired, can we meet again for the first time, in all of the places I have feared to go, and then, again, in all of the places I will have forgotten, if I am repaired?



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oh Little Star of Bethlehem (Mag 105)

...this is long and loaded with profanity.

image: epic mahoney

“Pick up the phone Martin.”

          Saturday, September 21, 1991, Larry-Lee Reddick found himself standing twenty miles west of Vegas, his home, in a phone booth out front of Dale’s Tax-Free Tobacco Outlet.

          In his left hand, Larry-Lee held the telephone’s receiver, the cord to which was too short to reach his ear (roughly six foot two inches from the ground), forcing him to stoop and pissing him off even more. His right hand steadied a bicycle, a cheap off-the-rack mountain bike, which was also pissing him off. On the line, Larry-Lee had both the operator, and Martin’s answering machine. The call was collect.

          “I know you’re there Martin,” Larry-Lee said to the machine. “Pull that little prick of yours out for a minute and pick up the mother-fucking phone.”

          Martin had a new woman. Otherwise, he would have been with Larry-Lee last night, and Larry-Lee wouldn’t be in this goddamn phone booth. Or so Larry-Lee was thinking. The two had been riding together since they were kids, nearly twenty years. They co-owned Vegas Customs, built choppers and an occasional street rod. 

          “Watch your language sir, this is an open line,” the operator said.

          “Sorry Darlin’. Goddamn habit.”

          “I understand sir. My husband’s the same way.”

          “You from Texas Darlin’?”

          “Yes sir. Austin.”

          “I thought so.”

          Martin’s answering machine beeped, disconnecting Larry-Lee.


          “He didn’t answer Sir.”

          “Can you dial him back for me Darlin?”

           The sky was clear, the sun nearly set. Downtown Vegas lay in the dusk of the Copper Ridge Mountains, cool and blue. Lights were coming on in the city. Through the glass of the booth, the twenty-mile stretch of flat desert between Larry-Lee and home looked more like five. He could easily make out The Mirage, Caesar’s, Martin’s apartment. That’s what kills you, he thought, listening to the phone ring, the goddamn illusion. Larry-Lee was still pretty high.

          Martin’s answering machine picked up again.

          “Martin! That Navaho and a goddamn hippie stole my scooter,” Larry-Lee said.

          The Navaho was Andy Longwater, a Cherokee actually, from North Carolina, who Martin had met that summer at Little Sturgis. Larry-Lee hadn’t been able to ride—stomach virus. Andy was an artist, airbrush mostly, but some ink too.

          “I’m out here at Dale’s,” Larry-Lee went on, “with a goddamn bicycle I sure as fuck ain’t ridin’ across twenty miles of desert in the dark. Pick up the mother-fucking phone!”

          “Sir, I’ll have to disconnect you…”

          At first, Larry-Lee was pissed when Martin came back from Little Sturgis with Andy. The spray booth was his territory. But Larry-Lee couldn’t deny Andy had him beat. Besides, the motherfucker rode a ’69 Shovelhead, damn near the twin of his. He couldn’t be all bad.

          “Sorry Darlin’,” Larry-Lee told the operator.

           Martin finally answered, laughing. The operator asked if he would accept the charges.

          “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Martin replied, between gasps of hoarse laughter.

          Yesterday, about this same time, Andy had asked Larry-Lee if he wanted to take a put out to Chuck’s and shoot a little pool. He did. They did. But for reasons Larry-Lee couldn’t remember at present, the two left Chuck’s, and wound up in the parking lot of a whorehouse called Maggie’s Hole, shortly after midnight.

          “Shut the fuck up, mother-fucker!” Larry-Lee said to the still laughing Martin. “That son-of-a-bitch stole my goddamn clothes! I’m out here in an Eddie Bower button down, cargo shorts and fucking Birkenstocks. Come and pick me the fuck up!”

          Andy and Larry-Lee had been getting off their bikes at Maggie’s when the Hippie rolled up.

          Andy saw him first. “Jesus H. Christ,” he said. “Would you look at this shit?”

          The Hippie was tall, like Larry-Lee, lankier, with a slightly longer beard. He was riding the bicycle Larry-Lee was holding at the phone booth in front of Dale’s. He parked beside Andy and Larry-Lee, and dismounted. He was ripe with Sandalwood.

          Larry-Lee and Andy lit cigarettes and watched the Hippie unwind from a denim backpack.

          “First time?” the Hippie asked.

          Larry-Lee told him it was, Maggie’s anyway. Larry-Lee was no stranger to a whorehouse.

          “Well…” The Hippie smiled, unzipped the backpack and drew out a Ziploc sandwich bag full of what appeared to be mushrooms.

          “…you might have a few of these before you go in.”

          The shrooms were marinated in peyote tea, the Hippie explained, filling both Andy and Larry-Lee’s palm, and guaranteed to enhance their Maggie’s experience.

          “Cheers!” the Hippie said, and tossed his handful into his mouth. Andy and Larry-Lee followed suit.

          The three went inside.

          In years to come, Larry-Lee Reddick would remember Maggie’s Hole as the second worst whorehouse he had ever set foot in. The five girls on rotation there, all in there late forties, were ugly in a way Larry-Lee had yet to encounter, and Larry-Lee had encountered some ugly in his life. There were only three rooms, one toilet and no public telephone. Not even for paying customers. Though that wouldn’t have done Larry-Lee much good at present, he had yet to pay Maggie.

          The peyote had kicked in as the three sorted out in Maggie’s foyer, who was going with whom. After that, the details became iffy for Larry-Lee. He had vague recollections of seeing the Hippie naked, his enormous penis swaying limp as he crossed the room—the bed—a woman removing her teeth, and Andy brandishing a bone handled Bowie knife.

          He woke alone, sun shining through the window. The room reeked of Sandalwood, sex and cigarettes. Larry-Lee rolled to the edge of the bed and looked where he would normally lay his clothes in a whorehouse. Nothing. He looked around the room. The Hippie’s cargo shorts and blue flannel shirt were folded neatly on a chair beside the door, his Birkenstocks on the floor, but there was no sign of his or Andy’s clothing.

          The room was on the second floor, facing the parking lot. Larry-Lee got up and looked out the window. From where the sun sat on the horizon, he guessed it late afternoon, about four-thirty or five. The lot was empty. Both bikes were gone. The Hippie’s mountain bike, however, still leaned against the porch.


         Larry-Lee knew from experience not to ask any question, stir the hive as they say, in situations like this. Just get the fuck out and pay the bill later, if there was a bill. He squeezed into the Hippie’s clothes and eased himself out the window on to the porch roof. From there, he jumped down to the parking lot, splitting the crotch of the Hippie's shorts.

          He had left Maggie’s with full intentions of riding the Hippie's bicycle the twenty miles back to Vegas, a decision probably brought on by the lingering peyote. Larry-Lee was not entirely out of shape, but his hangover and several mild hallucinations forced him to to stop at Dale’s, exhausted and in need of a cold beer.

          The sun sank below the Copper Ridge Mountains as he related all of this to Martin. In the glow that remained above the ridge, one star shone brightly.

          “Look at that,” Larry-Lee said to Martin.


          “Look out your goddamn window.”


          “Can you see that star?”


          “That’s Sirius man. The goddamn Dog Star. The star of fucking Bethlehem.”

          Larry-Lee knew next to nothing about stars.

          “Jesus, Larry-Lee, you are fucked the fuck up.”

          “Oh little town of Bethlehem," Larry-Lee began to sing, his voice a silky tenor, "how still we see thee lie…” The throaty roar of a Harley accelerating out of third cut Larry Lee short.

          “Hold on,” he told Martin, and went out to the road.

          The Hippie was riding Andy’s bike, wearing Larry-Lee’s clothes, and smiling through his wind-split beard. Andy was on Larry-Lee’s bike.

          Larry-Lee flagged them down.
          The two stopped, dropped their stands and let the bikes idle.

          Larry-Lee looked from Andy, to the Hippie, to his bike.

          The tank of his bike, once burgundy, had been been painted a dusky blue. One brilliant star shone near the gas cap. Beneath the star, the silhouettes of three men were walking. Wise men, Larry-Lee assumed, though one of them looked a whole lot like the goddamn Hippie.
          “It just came to me, man,” Andy said.

            Larry-Lee stared at the scene in silence. Andy looked to the Hippie. The Hippie shrugged, smiled. 
          Finally Larry-Lee looked up. “I ain't ridin' bitch Motherfucker,” he said, and waited for Andy to climb off his bike.


  1. holy s***... you just wrote a movie... smart people would be signing you right now!

  2. I'm never disappointed when I come here...ever! (I had an Uncle Larry Lee)

  3. Finally know someone who knows how to say "Jesus H. Christ" with the right intonation ... this is 'enormous!'

  4. Good, made-me-laugh-in-a-good-way piece. Thanks for posting this. =)

  5. Enjoyed the story and loved the picture that made the story come to life.


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