Sometimes the sky goes on forever, up here on the roof of the Compound. That weird sudden calm that can swoop down on a hot SoCal afternoon And. Just. Stops. The sky changes colors, the wind drops down for a few minutes, and the big bats start to come out from the palm trees. Just the big ones though: the little bats live up in the eaves now, ever since the rats chased them out of the tree roosts. It’s been an uneasy balance for several decades. After all, the palm trees aren’t really native to LA, but people assume they belong here because they are so used to seeing them. It’s part of the landscape now. Everyone expects to see the palms towering along the avenues. And they can take it: palm trees can handle our droughts and our high winds better than any of the other transplanted trees that litter the LA Basin and San Fernando Valley. I prefer the natural stuff though, I guess I’m a traditionalist: low scrub speaks to me.
But it’s easy to forget all about that when you step out onto the institutional-blue indoor/outdoor carpet on your Compound roof, and your bare feet almpst plunk down in the mangled remains of a baby fruit bat. Jesus. It’s just horrible, all greyish-green and raw. “Has the boy been playing on the roof again?” I shout down to my wife while looking around for the flare gun I keep up here. It’s an old nautical piece from around the 2nd World War, a breech-loading monstrosity in a ridiculously large gauge: capable of firing huge parachute flares hundreds of feet into the air. I want to take it up to the Hollywood Bowl and scare the Hill-People: ever since Griffith Park was set aflame by underage yahoos from a distant land, the Hill-People have been filled with fear and anger at the common man and his matches. “Keep those goddamned illegal Mexicans out of my Canyon road!” snarled one well-established member of the landed gentry as his lit a Cuban cigar with a huge plastic Safee-T Lighte. “And stop staring at this cigar, it was a personal gift and is completely legal, if you go through Canada.”
He was right, after all. And he was wrong. Whoremongers rarely understand the niceties of international intrigue, especially when it involves illegal Mexicans, who had nothing to do with the burning of Griffith Park. No, it was a couple of fat young white boys, peckerwoods from out of town, who started the fire. Groundsworkers who first tried to contain the fire were of Latino ethnicity, and who can say whether their papers were in order or not? Not the LAFD, no sir. They had better things to do when the smoke started boiling up over the hill from the Valley side of the Park and towards Los Feliz. “I really thought the city was doomed,” said an LAPD rookie. “We have standing orders for when the fires head into the Basin. We weren’t too worried about the Valley, though. It’s just there as a buffer between the San Gabriel Mountain range and the Filthy Rich, anyways. It could stand to burn a little.”
And he is right, after all. But also very wrong. A lot of fine pornographers would be out of work if the Valley burned, and many of those they employ would have no choice but to relocate to the East Coast… oh, but who are we kidding here? Everyone knows 90% of the porn on the internet is shot in either the Former Soviet Union, or in Florida. Who the hell needs to go the store to buy their stroke flicks when the internet is full of them for free, pulsating, lubricated downloading?
Who the hell indeed?
All of this, and more, was on my mind as I stomped inside from the roof, having used a spare lightning rod to flick the young bat carcass at the porch of the Mormons across the street. “I think the boy has started killing animals, he’s bound to grow up to be a serial killer” I said to my Wife. “Nonsense, you are talking like a fool again,” she laughed at me, cruelly. “I killed that fucking rodent. It was swooping around my head while I was suntanning. The goddamned thing must have had rabies, to be out in the daylight like that.”
I nodded sagely, understanding now. “Yes, or perhaps the rats chased it out of a Palm Tree.”
My Wife shrieked and threw an empty wine bottle at me. “Why are you babbling about Palm Trees NOW?” she started weeping. “Don’t you know our Managers want us to write a very High Profile and potentially dangerous script on spec? We can’t afford to keep writing for free! We can’t even afford alcohol.”
Now I was weeping. Hell, you would have been too, Vern. We embraced on the leather couch, our tears springing off it’s waterproofed hide like bbs off armored plating. “I thought we had plenty of booze, there are bottles everywhere” I snarled at my wife, giving her a taste of the five-knuckles. She stared back at me with blood on her teeth like a Russian fuck-actress trying to put on lipstick after her fourth margaritta. Her long silver-painted fingernails dug into the big muscle at the top of my thigh and twisted. “You evil bastard, I need to keep a record of what we’ve consumed so I can write about it on my BLOG. Important People Need To Know These Things!”
I suddenly held her close to me, stroking her hair. I stared around The Compound. “Yes, yes” I murmured softly. “I understand now. But where is the Boy?” My wife twisted the muscle again and I screamed.
“You are a fool,” she reminded me. “The Korean Mafia has him. You need to find The Colonel and get him back.”
Ye Gods, I kept thinking to myself. The Colonel! he’s a deadly little Korean ex-pat who stands sentry outside of the California Market in olive drab with a heavy revolver on his belt all day and night. “He might help me! I look almost Asian in some lights!”
My wife laughed at me again. “You are confusing a sun-ravaged face with epithantical folds, you retarded ass. Besides, he’d probably think you were a Jap and shoot off your nose!”
Suddenly, a young man wearing blue Wranglers, cowboy boots, and a white T-shirt kicked open the side door. His copper-red hair gleamed in the sun. He was carrying a 32oz bottle of Corona.
I dove for the flare gun while my wife grabbed the Alaskan Ulu knife off the mantle. “I’m a weapons expert, you punk” she spat. Red-flecked spittle travelled from her mouth to splatter against the life-sized wood-carving of Jesus Christ leaning against the north wall, giving your Savior bloody tears.
“Wait!” said the young man… something about him seemed familiar. I could tell that my Wife was too far gone in a chemical rage to see the eerie resemblence the stranger bore to… somebody. “Yes! Wait! Let’s talk this through, darling!” I told her. But I cocked the flare gun behind my back anyways, while reaching out my left hand in a placating manner, the way you hold it out in front of a snarling Bull Pitt: ready to jerk it back or wrap it around the tongue and yank if you absolutely have to.
“Huh. I remembered her as being the reasonable one…” the Young Man said stepping into The Compound and holding out the beer. I could feel the saliva pooling up in my mouth. “Where did that come from!? shrieked my wife. “And who are you? And how have you gained entry to The Compound?”
The young man nodded, and I saw that he had a terribly dashing grin, half devilish and half deprecating. I could feel a warm glow suffuse my chest: Ye Gods, I somehow liked this young man. “Oh, I reckon I come from the Future, to tell you both that the beer tree will bear fruit. You just have to Stay On Target.” He grinned at us again before glancing around at the art and book festooned walls. “Wow, it’s good to see the old place. I’ve always had a soft spot for Jesus Ranch- er, I mean ‘The Compound’.” He smiled at us again and left… but we didn’t care. We were too busy opening the bottle of beer.
The Boy crawled into the room a little bit later. He looked very satisfied with himself. I’d better go find whatever he’s killed before it starts to stink.