Red got out of bed around 3 a.m., wrapped himself in his black silk kimono, and belted back a couple puckered vodka licks. Helps him sleep, wakes him up. A five year routine, more or less. Red's 30. On the day 30 bled over the horizon, Red says "Well, 'bout time I start scopin' out some gravestones, don't you think?" Red mucks up disaster, he's a real black ham. Today Red's driving to the ocean. The Drink nudges him here and there.

His collapsing thorax for one. At buddy Colin's wildflower apiary outside of Seattle Red got rum greased and performed a honey dance. Bees got under his netting and went to work. Lungs stopped, heart stopped, big laughs.

Bottle in mouth, Red steps over his two Siamese, curled up in an eight around a growing tummy. Sammy's tummy, Red's lover. She's always waking up to Red's wrecks. She sleeps beautifully, fucking cherub is what Red says on his way to the john. I'm not a bad man, just born sad, Red's thinking in the mirror. Can't look at that goddamned ache. The flush is plugged again. Do I have enough ice for the drive?

Preparations are critical. A boozy tea ceremony precedes any respectable rip to the ocean. The Oregon coast is two hours. Two quarts mango juice, a fifth of cap morgan's, crushed ice and the beloved two-liter steel thermos. A ruined trail of jobs, lovers, state lines, Red keeps a hold a that thermos. And Siamese cats.

Red is really brown. Dyed his inch-long hair rust red to blend years of drink and sun damage. Red's face is deep hearted, brimmed up with sadness that draws you in. Some mossy beauty under wraps. Makes you wanna go lookin' in 'em. Be careful.

Bloated as a buddha, Red still sucks up women. Sunny, his ex-wife, says of her first impression, "I liked his energy." Whatever. Always the naive California flakes he gets says mom. It's true though, he does spill out something sort of dank and tingling just in his eyes. Startle stranger on the street eyes. One's green, one's brown-gold, and that one wanders off 'cause of a muscle tear when he was six. The green one has extraordinary strength, all the doctors agree.

The silver Cirraca is beaded up with dew. Red's got the tapes, the mango-rum slushies. I think the Yo-Yo Ma to start. Spring peepers are goin' at it, there's Orion. Late May is the best time. Better put the top back on for now. Glad I gassed it up last night. Sammy don't wake up, Sammy don't wake up.

Coastal winds and a winding road sluice between Douglas firs and the bald scabs of earth and trunk splotching the valley's shoulders. Red is numbed, carefree touched with rage. His eyes are slightly blurred. I'm no father. In the rear-view, the sun is coming.

Rum says dying wouldn't matter, just another road to the fucking ocean.

The oblivion laugh has a lump in its throat. Engine roar, wind.

t.j.m. may 95

Copyright © 1998 Tobin Jon Manley. All rights reserved.