Sunday, August 05, 2012
“Don’t get shot at,” Jimmy said. “Look, I can go on and bullshit you about Lisa. I don’t have the style to make up a story. Just let go of this. I gotta tell you -- there is no Lisa. No Lisa. Keith, nobody believes you.”
“They’re going to believe this bomb,” he said and stood up like Atlas rising. At arm’s length he held his backpack out from him with one hand. His off-hand reached in and he brought out the device with a digital readout and a small raft of wires.
People in the street crouched suddenly. Larry Yonally squared up. Fred Martin backed off a few feet. Barbara Cram put out her cigarette. Amy Hahn scrambled behind the bench and ducked. Hitch and Jellybean held hands and she said, “I wish for the roses.” Brian Healey squinted in front of the Pier Seven building and wished for violence. Lane Dexter stayed still, looking through the shrubbery at the Garden Club. It was an easy shot.
Jimmy got to his feet pretty slowly, trying to think, trying not to think, being a four-foot distance from his dangerous friend, feeling the gravel on the roof crunch under his sneakers.
Keith showed him the digital read out. “When I press this button, it goes into a five-minute countdown,” he said smiling, showing his brown-stained teeth and his squinting eyes.
“You don’t want to do this, brother,” Jimmy said with blue-eyed clarity. “All this beautiful town, man.”
“Lisa loved me. I had a 1962 Ford Fairlane, four door, pale yellow, I picked her up after work when we were in Tacoma. She talked to me. Nobody ever talked to me before. It was a fine thing we had going before they kidnapped her. I waited for years to hear from her. I wrote hundreds of letters to cops and prosecutors and Congressman. That’s when I discovered their plan about world domination. I began to read and make connections. You can see the signs everywhere if you know where to look.
“They were coming to kill me. That’s why I’ve been hiding out in Fishtown all this time. But I can hear Lisa screaming at night. It’s when they began to torture her. I found my instructions in the old Bible, in the book of Jeremiah. So I built this truth machine. It’s ticking for four minutes. You better tell the truth now or we’re all going to die,” Keith said, standing rigidly.
Jimmy sagged a bit and looked at his shoes, but he took a deep breath and thought to hell with it. “There is no Lisa.”
“You have three minutes now,” Keith said. “This ain’t a game show on TV. You know I’m going to do it.”
“Keith, you just need help, that’s all.”
Larry Yonnally un-holstered his weapon, but did not aim it. Lane Dexter, up at the Garden Club, drew a bead on Keith’s hand.
The sky, blue all the way through, crackled like a storm. A sea gull squawked out in the channel. The noise distracted Keith – he looked over to the water, away from the street.
That’s when Dirty Biter burst through the roof hatch and put on his fiercest growl. A five-year-old small brown dog with a twisted front tooth that gave him a reputation for mean-ness which he never had – just the gnarled tooth and a habit of hanging out downtown begging for restaurant scraps -- owned, more or less, by Suzy and Bobby Racanello, but truly a “town dog” in the old sense of it -- Dirty Biter was coming to make a difference in this drama. LaConner was his town, and damned if Keith Brown would blow it up. So he snarled.
“How the hell did he get up here?” Keith said. “Go on, git!”
Dirty Biter advanced, seizing Keith’s pant leg with ferocious growls. Keith began to lose his balance. Lane shot at him and hit his hand. Keith dropped the bomb, fell to his knees, screaming, “You will not win. The truth is here. I cannot die today.”
Jimmy stood there like an idiot for long seconds, but he realized what he must do. He picked up the device, found the digital display, and pulled out the wires. Then he walked over to the water side of the roof and swung the package wide and wider, letting it go – it sailed out forty feet into mid-channel, splashing, floating, Jimmy staring at it, not hearing the cry from down below “Jimmy get back, get back, come down the hatch.”
Dirty Biter kept growling at Keith, the blood flowed from his hand.
Then it was all a confusion. Keith was shortly disarmed and subdued, with some difficulty, getting him down the hatch, gone limp, to safety, handcuffed, into the police car, and Larry drove him off, at least to around the corner and a few blocks away to catch his breath and get a handle on things.
Keith held a rag in his handcuffed wounded hand, bleeding slowly, moaning, “I’m very tired.”
Larry turned around to the back seat. “Keith, you’re going to jail for a long time now. Nobody made you do this. You can talk like you’re crazy all you want, but when you try to hurt people in this town, that’s it with me.”
“No one believes me. I only wanted to save her. She really is…she really is in a lot of danger. I’m not lying. Go out to Fishtown.”
“Keith, it’s over.”
“I mean it. Go out to Fishtown. There’s things you don’t know. Go out to the river.”
“Be quiet now.”
“I’m really tired. I just want it to be better.”
Jimmy stood on the roof scratching Dirty Biter’s head. “You’re the hero, You’re the champion dog now. Someday they’ll put up a statue of you” Hitch and Jellybean clambered up through the hatch. “I figured Dirty Biter was the trick to all this, so me and Jellybean coaxed him over, then I put his front paws on the hatch and he got up by himself. I guess that worked – me and Jellybean.”
“But Jimmy, you’re the hero, you stayed up there,” Jellybean said.
“I don’t know. At least we ain’t dead.”
Lane crept away from the bushes, around to the front and casually entered his parked car and drove off. Don Coyote stood up, revealed himself for first time in memory to the crowd below and gave a howl. They thought it was him that shot, but he would never tell anything yes or no.
“Well, Cindy, honey, what do you think about our life now?” Tom Robbins said, sitting on the bench on the Benton Street stairs, He squeezed her waist and she asked, “Why do you have a bomb in America? In Africa we kill someone and it’s done. No noise except for the screaming, unless we give him the necklace. Have you seen it? When we catch a thief we tie him up. Then we put an old tire over his head and pour him with gasoline and light the match -- the man burns to death and we all laugh at him. We kill him for stealing, but in America it gets to be trouble – you kill him for telling the truth. This man is very crazy, but you need to listen to him. Why don’t you listen? I will read your Tarot cards later tonight. Take me back to your house now.” She stood up and shook her hair, which were extensions, the kind the African women favor. It took her twelve hours of patience to have her hair so skillfully woven in tight braids, encircled with small sea shells and drilled turquoise stones. Tom paid for this gladly. “You are my umfazi wami.” Tom pulled off his sunglasses and smiled very happily. “And this is our town. Our town. It is time for a tuna fish sandwich. Cindy, what card of all the Tarot cards has my name on it.”
“You card is the Tower, because of all this craziness and energy,” she said. “But only for right now. Tonight you will be the Fool, in my bed.”
Roger Cayou and Chico Narkowitz, looking from a distance from their bench in front of the LaConner Tavern, may have seen the gunman as a quiet shadow in the bushes up there by the Garden Club. “I think he was up there, from where the shot sounded,” Roger said.
“You old Indian, you think you can see through walls and big trees, but the shot you heard was only the echo. I think I saw someone on the top of the pilothouse of that Dunlap tugboat out there in the channel. I think he had the rifle – shot Keith, good aim too,” Chico said.
“Nope,” Roger said, folding his arms. “It was up there,” pointing up at Don Coyote yelping.
“Well, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you,” Chico said.
“Let’s get a beer.”
“What was your favorite Abbot & Castello movie?”
“Oh yeah, that was really funny.”
Amy Hahn gave Barbara Cram a big hug. “I’m so glad you were here. This was the coolest thing. I’m experiencing something like a big flash of understanding, like the air is charged with ozone.”
“Don’t be such a hippie,” Barb said
“No, I mean it. It’s all about truth. Keith wasn’t lying. Don’t you see? We have to find Lisa.”
Brian Healey put his hands on his hips and decided it was over for now. He went back into the Pier Seven Building and got on the phone. “They shot him in the hand. They got him under arrest. He kept yelling about Lisa. I don’t think anyone believed him, but we have to cover our tracks. I need to get a message to Atclew – he’s out on the river someplace. Tell him it’s not over. Tell him that it’s getting hot around here. He’ll know what to do.”
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